Asterix and the Normans ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Asterix and the Normans
Series: Asterix #9
Authors: Goscinny & Uderzo
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Comics
Pages: 53
Words: 3K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

The story begins with Vitalstatistix receiving a missive from his brother Doublehelix in Lutetia (Paris), to ask for the education of Doublehelix’s teenage son, Justforkix. Justforkix then arrives in a sports car-like chariot. The village holds a dance in honour of his arrival; but he is unimpressed by the traditional way of dancing, snatches Cacofonix’s lyre, and sings and plays in the manner of Elvix Preslix (the Rolling Menhirs in the English version). Some of the younger villagers dance to this new form; but Cacofonix tries to show off his own skills, and is struck down by Fulliautomatix. Justforkix thereupon suggests that Cacofonix’s talents would be better appreciated in Lutetia.

Meanwhile, a Norman crew arrive in Gaul to discover “the meaning of fear”, on grounds that they are fearless to the point of not understanding the concept, but have heard of people “flying in fear”, and believe that being afraid will grant them the ability to fly. Most of the Gauls welcome the chance of a fight; but Justforkix is horrified and decides to return home. Viewing Justforkix as an expert in fear, the Normans kidnap him to teach them; but this fails, and he remains their prisoner until Asterix and Obelix come to the rescue. A small Roman patrol is also involved in the resulting fight. At length, Norman chief Timandahaf orders an end to the battle and explains his mission to the Gauls. To teach the Normans fear, Asterix sends Obelix to fetch Cacofonix, while himself remaining as a hostage. When Obelix reaches the village, he finds Cacofonix gone to perform in Lutetia, and pursues him through a series of tell-tale clues.

Meanwhile, Timandahaf becomes impatient and tries to force Justforkix to teach the secret of flight by tossing him off a cliff. Just before this can be carried out, Asterix challenges the Norman warriors; and seeing him surrounded, Justforkix gains the courage to fight as well — albeit to no visible effect. Obelix and Cacofonix stop the fight, and Cacofonix’s discordant songs are exhibited to the Normans, which provokes their first real fear, and an immediate retreat to their homeland. When Asterix questions the Normans’ interest in fear, Getafix replies that courage is achieved only by having first been afraid, and superseding the fear to the desired effect. Thereafter Justforkix is claimed to have gained courage himself, and the story ends with the customary banquet, but with Cacofonix as guest of honour and Fulliautomatix tied up, with his ears filled with parsley.

My Thoughts:

Goscinny and Uderzo use the “hip young kid who is pretty dumb” trope (I wanted to say “again”, but looking at my other Asterix reviews Justforkix hasn’t been in any of them) and they use it well. Justforkix is the absolute epitome of a 60’s teenager and to be honest, a teenager from almost any modern era. He’s brash, rude, thinks he knows everything and won’t listen to his elders.

The Normans were just as amusing as the Gauls. They were trying to find out what “fear” was and as such they were talking about it like it was an artifact. They thought it could make them fly, as they had heard the phrase “fear gives you wings”. It made for some very amusing back and forth conversations.

Sadly, there were several times where I could tell that the characters were making word play jokes but it completely passed over my head. I couldn’t tell if it was me being ignorant of a situation, the translators doing a bad job or if it was referencing something from the 1960’s that I had no knowledge of. Usually Hock&Bell have done a bang up job of translating the jokes into something a modern reader can understand. And I can’t believe I just wrote that. 1967 is not some ancient and hoary mystical time that we don’t know about. While I wasn’t to be born for another decade, it’s part of the modern age. And since this translation was done in 2005, that really negates the “1960’s is Ancient Mystical History” idea.

But the important thing is that Asterix and Obelix got to do a lot of biff’ing and bam’ing of somebody new (the poor Romans, they need a break from all that thumping after all) and roast boar was enjoyed. That’s pretty much all I really want from these books.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

A House of Gentlefolk ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: A House of Gentlefolk
Series: (The Russians)
Author: Ivan Turgenev
Translator: Constance Garnett
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 228
Words: 62K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

The novel’s protagonist is Fyodor Ivanych Lavretsky, a nobleman who shares many traits with Turgenev. The child of a distant, Anglophile father and a serf mother who dies when he is very young, Lavretsky is brought up at his family’s country estate home by a severe maiden aunt, often thought to be based on Turgenev’s own mother, who was known for her cruelty.

Lavretsky pursues an education in Moscow, and while he is studying there, he spies a beautiful young woman at the opera. Her name is Varvara Pavlovna, and he falls in love with her and asks for her hand in marriage. Following their wedding, the two move to Paris, where Varvara Pavlovna becomes a very popular salon hostess and begins an affair with one of her frequent visitors. Lavretsky learns of the affair only when he discovers a note written to her by her lover. Shocked by her betrayal, he severs all contact with her and returns to his family estate.

Upon returning to Russia, Lavretsky visits his cousin, Marya Dmitrievna Kalitina, who lives with her two daughters, Liza and Lenochka. Lavretsky is immediately drawn to Liza, whose serious nature and religious devotion stand in contrast to the coquettish Varvara Pavlovna’s social consciousness. Lavretsky realizes that he is falling in love with Liza, and when he reads in a foreign journal that Varvara Pavlovna has died, he confesses his love to her and learns that she loves him in return.

After they confess their love to one another, Lavretsky returns home to find his supposedly dead wife waiting for him in his foyer. It turns out that the reports of her death were false, and that she has fallen out of favor with her friends and needs more money from Lavretsky.

Upon learning of Varvara Pavlovna’s sudden appearance, Liza decides to join a remote convent and lives out the rest of her days as a nun. Lavretsky visits her at the convent one time and catches a glimpse of her as she is walking from choir to choir. The novel ends with an epilogue which takes place eight years later, in which Lavretsky returns to Liza’s house and finds that, although many things have changed, there are elements such as the piano and the garden that are the same. Lavretsky finds comfort in his memories and is able to see the meaning and even the beauty in his personal pain.

My Thoughts:

The “official” title of this book is actually The Home of the Gentry. If you search for A House of Gentlefolk on wikipedia, you end up on the page for Home. Obviously Garnett did a bang up job of translating back in the late 1800’s. Which of course makes the rest of the book completely suspect and while it didn’t ruin my read, it did make me cranky and suspicious the whole time that what I was reading wasn’t actually what I was supposed to be reading. I feel like I got gypped out of 99 cents from buying this “Complete Collection” on amazon.

This was ALL THE DRAMA! If you’ve ever seen a spanish soap opera, add a mega-dose of melancholy and nothing working out and you’ll get this story. Lavretsky gets cuckolded, then used by his wife, abandons his daughter, falls in love with a woman only to have his wife return from the dead, and gets cuckolded again. And then the woman he loves becomes a nun and his wife lives her life out in society in Paris or something and the kid either dies or is so sickly that you know she is going to die. And the book ends with Lavretsky returning to his village and having memories. Ugh.

With all of that it would seem that this should have been a 2star book for me. And this is where the power of the russian writing shows its power over me. I enjoyed every second of this book.

In many ways this seemed the opposite of Turgenev’s Rudin. Rudin is brash, impulsive, self absorbed and willing to fight anyone on any point and as such he dies in France in one of their many “revolutions”. Lavretsky on the other hand doesn’t want conflict with anyone, ever, under any circumstances, to the point where he gives his wife a massive amount of money to go live her life and to leave him alone when she first cuckolds him. Lavretsky SHOULD have killed her lover in a duel and then given her the choice of honorably taking her own life or casting her out into the streets ignobly. Then when his wife returns, he has no fire to fight her on any point and just lets her slide back into his life. It was a complete contrast in people and I rather enjoyed that contrast, as a study.

One thing I have noticed is that the russian writers tend to have their women be the ones who are religious and try to convert the men they are interested in. In this book, Lisa is very God oriented and while Lavretsky isn’t, she’s convinced she can lead him to God after they are married. Once again, a lack of knowledge about what the Bible says on a subject seems to form the majority of the religious in these books. They, the characters have an idea that is kind of Biblical, but not actually based on it and then go with it however it seems to fit the circumstances instead of using the Bible as their yardstick and plumbline. I guess that’s what one would expect to see if Christianity was just a cultural thing instead of a personal thing. It is very disconcerting to me though and I suspect it will continue to be that way through all the russian books I read.

I think that’s enough for me. I’m right around the 600 word mark and that seems to be my happy place, at least according to the statistics that wordpress supplies me.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Asterix in Britain ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Asterix in Britain
Series: Asterix #8
Authors: Goscinny & Uderzo
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Comics
Pages: 53
Words: 3K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

Julius Caesar has invaded Britain and succeeded in his conquest; but a single Gaulish village in Kent remains independent. One member of the village, Anticlimax, is dispatched to Asterix’s village to enlist the help of Getafix the druid in providing magic potion for the British rebels. It is decided that Asterix (Anticlimax’s first cousin once removed) and Obelix should accompany him, to help transport a barrel of the potion; but while beating up a Roman galley in the English Channel, Obelix mentions the mission, which is reported to the Roman high command in Britain.

In Britain, the barrel containing the potion is confiscated from a pub cellar owned by Dipsomaniax, along with all the barreled “warm beer” (bitter) and wine in Londinium, by the Romans, who set about tasting the barrels to find the right one. Soon the whole unit assigned to the testing is hopelessly drunk; whereupon Asterix and Obelix steal all the barrels labelled with Dipsomaniax’s name, but Obelix is himself drunk and starts a fight with some passing Roman soldiers. During the commotion a thief steals the cart with the barrels. Anticlimax and Asterix leave Obelix at Dipsomaniax’s pub to sleep off his hangover; but while Anticlimax and Asterix go in search of the thief, the Romans capture the sleeping Obelix and Dipsomaniax, and raze the pub.

In the Tower of Londinium, Obelix wakes up and frees himself and Dipsomaniax out of the jail, and the three heroes, after a search, find the potion in use as a pick-me-up for a rugby team. After this team wins their game, the protagonists seize the potion and escape on the river Thames, where the Romans destroy the barrel and release the potion into the water. At the independent village, Asterix eases the Britons’ disappointment by feigning to remake the potion, with herbs Asterix got from Getafix (later revealed to be tea). With a psychological boost, the village prevails against the Romans, and Asterix and Obelix return home to celebrate.

My Thoughts:

This was a lot of fun. English, Irish and Scottish people are made fun of quite a bit and I laughed my head off. There is one scene where Asterix, Obelix and Asterix’s cousin order ONE cup of wine to see if it is wine or the missing magic potion. The innkeeper assumes they are Caledonians (scots) because they are so cheap. I roared with laughter. Since this was written well before the movie Braveheart was made, I knew there weren’t going to be any blue bottoms being flashed.

Then you have a scene where Obelix gets drunk testing out all the wine barrels and he turns into a sloppy, sentimental drunk who is afraid that Asterix won’t be his friend anymore. And then jumps a whole patrol of romans because he thinks they are gong to take Asterix away. Once again, I laughed out loud.

I don’t know if this book was actually funnier than previous ones or if the subject of making fun of the English just hit the right note, but my goodness, I was smiling through the whole story. And the whole “how the english became tea drinkers” was great!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Asterix and the Big Fight ★★★☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Asterix and the Big Fight
Series: Asterix #7
Authors: Goscinny & Uderzo
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Comics
Pages: 53
Words: 3K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

The Romans having been humiliated many times by the rebel Gauls, Felonius Caucus, advisor to Centurion Nebulus Nimbus, suggests a single combat between Vitalstatistix, chief of Asterix’s tribe, and the Gallo-Roman Chief, Cassius Ceramix of Linoleum. According to ancient Gaulish customs, the loser would forfeit his entire tribe to the winner. When Ceramix argues that Vitalstatistix would surely win with Getafix’s magic potion of invincibility, Caucus sends a patrol to capture Getafix before the challenge is confirmed. Whilst attempting to scatter the attackers, Obelix accidentally strikes Getafix with a menhir, the impact of which causes amnesia and insanity.

Following Cassius Ceramix’s challenge, Asterix and Vitalstatistix attempt to restore Getafix’s mind by experimenting in potions; but this produces only a whimsical sub-plot, in which the Roman soldier Infirmofpurpus, captured by Obelix as a test subject, is temporarily rendered weightless. Thereafter Asterix and Obelix consult Psychoanalytix (original French name is Amnesix), a druid who specializes in mental disorders; but when asked to demonstrate what caused the problem, Obelix crushes Psychoanalytix with a menhir, leaving him “in the same state as Getafix”. As the two crazed druids concoct a number of skin-coloring potions, Asterix tries to get Vitalstatistix into good physical shape for the fight, mainly by jogging. Meanwhile, the Romans plan to arrest Ceramix after the fight, lest he thereafter challenge their control of Gaul.

As the fight begins, Getafix accidentally makes a potion which restores his mind, and retains sanity despite being hit by another menhir (thrown by Obelix in an attempt to cure Getafix by repeating the cause of the original accident). Getafix quickly proceeds to brew a supply of magic potion. Meanwhile, the fight has turned into a bore: Vitalstatistix, exploiting his superior physical condition, is running circles around the ring while Ceramix tries in vain to catch him. After hearing of Getafix’s recovery, Vitalstatistix defeats his exhausted opponent with a single blow. The Romans do not accept this victory, but are crushed by the Gauls, who had drunk Getafix’s magic potion. When Ceramix is reduced to amnesia by a third menhir that was thrown by Obelix during the battle, Vitalstatistix declines his right to take over Ceramix’s tribe, and sends him home in honour. Psychoanalytix returns to business despite his amnesia, but remains professionally successful despite “side effects” of his medicines. Ceramix, now in the same mental state as Psychoanalytix, becomes “the most courteous chief in Gaul” and the probable originator of French courtesy. His tribe returns to Gaulish ways and the fight against Rome, while Vitalstatistix’s tribe celebrate their victories.

My Thoughts:

While the story itself was no worse than the previous one, I knocked off a star for all the horrible word plays that simply infested this volume. It felt like every other page was an over the top bad joke on purpose. Just read the middle where the soldiers are talking:

Once or twice in the book I can deal with. But almost every other page? Too much.

The story is pretty amusing though. Getafix the druid gets knocked on the head by one of Obelix’s menhirs and loses his memory. The romans decide to take advantage of the situation and shenanigans ensue. It was hilarious. Then Obelix has the bright idea of hitting Getafix with another menhir to fix what he originally broke. Of course, Getafix has just fixed himself with a potion by accident. So there he is, back to normal, when a menhir comes sailing out of nowhere and buries him in the ground. Again. I laughed my head off. Silly situations like that really do amuse me 😀

Mrs B was looking over my shoulder occasionally and pointed out that the good guys all had mustaches and you could always spot a bad guy because he didn’t. Now I’m going to be looking out for that in future volumes. Makes me wonder what Goscinny and Uderzo had against clean shaven’ness? I mention that because I had a mustache in highschool and have a picture of it. Mrs B says it is very “awkward” looking, which is very generous of her 😀

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Double ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Double
Series: (The Russians)
Author: Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Translator: Constance Garnett
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 215
Words: 62K





Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

In Saint Petersburg, Yakov Petrovich Golyadkin works as a titular councillor (rank 9 in the Table of Ranks established by Peter the Great.), a low-level bureaucrat struggling to succeed.

Golyadkin has a formative discussion with his Doctor Rutenspitz, who fears for his sanity and tells him that his behaviour is dangerously antisocial. He prescribes “cheerful company” as the remedy. Golyadkin resolves to try this, and leaves the office. He proceeds to a birthday party for Klara Olsufyevna, the daughter of his office manager. He was uninvited, and a series of faux pas lead to his expulsion from the party. On his way home through a snowstorm, he encounters a man who looks exactly like him, his double. The following two thirds of the novel then deals with their evolving relationship.

At first, Golyadkin and his double are friends, but Golyadkin Jr. proceeds to attempt to take over Sr.’s life, and they become bitter enemies. Because Golyadkin Jr. has all the charm, unctuousness and social skills that Golyadkin Sr. lacks, he is very well-liked among the office colleagues. At the story’s conclusion, Golyadkin Sr. begins to see many replicas of himself, has a psychotic break, and is dragged off to an asylum by Doctor Rutenspitz.

My Thoughts:

This was extremely confusing. I’m used to being confused by russian stories as the authors simply think differently than I do but this just felt even more so than usual.

I can chalk that up to 3 possibilities. First, this is a novel about a man going insane and as we’re in his head, the journey to madness makes no sense itself. The second is that this was Dostoyevsky’s second novel and so it was unpolished and not as well put together as his later works. The option is that the translator bunged things up, badly. I really can’t say which option is correct but if all 3 played a part it wouldn’t surprise me one bit.

Reading this so closely after finishing In the Court of the Yellow King was a mistake. That book was all about madness in phantasmagorical terms while this was “real” madness. It simply overloaded me in terms of what I could handle. Many of the situations were supposed to be humorous but they never struck me that way. It was simply sad seeing a man going insane and not knowing what was going on. It rang all too true to life too. I’ve dealt with a couple of people on meds and when they got off their meds they were just like Golyadkin. It was scary.

I am glad this was as short as it was. By the end when Golyadkin is committed to an insane asylum I was ready for this to be over, as I couldn’t handle it any more. Probably a good thing I’m not a therapist or something, hahahahaa 🙂 Despite my issues, I am glad I read this and it has in no way deterred me from continuing on with this Russian journey I have begun.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Asterix and Cleopatra ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Asterix and Cleopatra
Series: Asterix #6
Authors: Goscinny & Uderzo
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Comics
Pages: 51
Words: 3K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

The book begins with an argument between Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, and Julius Caesar. As a triumphant invader, Caesar belittles the Egyptian people and suggests that Egypt, as a realm, is past its best. Infuriated, Cleopatra makes a wager with Caesar promising to build a new palace in Alexandria within three months. Cleopatra summons Edifis, who claims to be the best architect in Egypt. She promises Edifis that if he builds the palace on time he will be covered with gold; if he fails, he will be a meal for the sacred crocodiles.

Edifis responds to this assignment by enlisting the help of the Gauls, Asterix, Obelix, Getafix, and Dogmatix. Thanks to Getafix and his magic potion, the work goes forward on schedule, despite multiple attempts by Edifis’s arch rival, Artifis, to sabotage the construction after Edifis says he doesn’t want his help, claiming Artifis works people too hard. Artifis tells the workers to demand less whipping, which would slow construction. However Getafix gives the workers magic potion. Artifis bribes the stone-delivery man to throw his load away, before Obelix beats him up, causing him to reveal the truth, a henchman tries to lock the Gauls inside a pyramid, but Dogmatix helps them find their way out. He subsequently tries to frame the Gauls by sending a poisoned cake to Cleopatra, but Getafix makes an antidote enabling the Gauls to eat it, then cures the taster and claims eating too much rich food was giving him a bad stomach. Edifis is kidnapped and hidden in a sarcophagus in the house of Artifis, but Obelix frees him. Artifis and his henchman are forced to work on the palace, but without magic potion.

Just before the palace is due to be completed, Caesar intervenes by sending legions to try to arrest the Gauls, after he realises the three Gauls are in Egypt when a spy disguises himself as a worker, and sees the effects of the magic potion. The Gauls fight off the Roman soldiers, but the commanding officer proceeds to shell the building with his catapults. In desperation, Asterix and Dogmatix deliver the news to Cleopatra. A furious Cleopatra then hurries to the construction site to berate Caesar. Caesar’s legions are ordered to fix the damage they caused (without any magic potion to help them) and the palace is successfully completed on time. Cleopatra wins her bet and covers Edifis with gold. Edifis and Artifis reconcile and agree to build pyramids together, and Cleopatra gives Getafix some papyrus manuscripts from the Library of Alexandria as a gift. The Gauls return, but Vitalstatistix criticises Obelix trying to give an Egyptian style point to menhirs.

My Thoughts:

Getafix the druid gets roped into helping an old friend in Egypt build a palace for Cleopatra, which is going to be a gift to Caesar. Asterix, Obelix and the magic potion get involved and hijinks ensue.

In each volume, every time Asterix and Obelix go on a boat they inevitably meet up with a specific pirate. In this volume he’s mortgaged his first born for a new boat and when they see Obelix yoo-hoo’ing at them (he’s bored and wants a fight), they sink their own ship so they don’t have to fight the gauls. Eventually you see the pirate captain chained to an oar of a galley, as that’s all he has credit for. It is very funny to watch their downward slide 😀

The running gag is everybody comments on Cleopatra’s nose, “and a very pretty nose it is”. I wasn’t sure what I was missing, as it wasn’t funny or amusing. I’m wondering if the translators did a bad job OR, and I suspect this is more likely, the humor from creators just didn’t carry through. It wasn’t annoying, it just felt like a joke fallen flat. That kept getting repeated :-/

Dogmatix is now fully part of the team and actually plays an instrumental part in getting them out of a trap in the pyramid. Obelix definitely has a rapport with him and it’s quite amusing to see the juxtaposition of big fat Obelix and little tiny Dogmatix.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Awakening ★★★☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Awakening
Series: (The Russians)
Author: Leo Tolstoy
Translater: Unknown
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 641
Words: 174K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

The story is about a nobleman named Dmitri Ivanovich Nekhlyudov, who seeks redemption for a sin committed years earlier. When he was a younger man, at his Aunts’ estate, he fell in love with their ward, Katyusha (Katerina Mikhailovna Maslova), who is goddaughter to one Aunt and treated badly by the other. However, after going to the city and becoming corrupted by drink and gambling, he returns two years later to his Aunts’ estate and rapes Katyusha, leaving her pregnant. She is then thrown out by his Aunt, and proceeds to face a series of unfortunate and unpleasant events, before she ends up working as a prostitute, going by her surname, Maslova.

Ten years later, Nekhlyudov sits on a jury which sentences the girl, Maslova, to prison in Siberia for murder (poisoning a client who beat her, a crime of which she is innocent). The book narrates his attempts to help her practically, but focuses on his personal mental and moral struggle. He goes to visit her in prison, meets other prisoners, hears their stories, and slowly comes to realize that below his gilded aristocratic world, yet invisible to it, is a much larger world of cruelty, injustice and suffering. Story after story he hears and even sees people chained without cause, beaten without cause, immured in dungeons for life without cause, and a twelve-year-old boy sleeping in a lake of human dung from an overflowing latrine because there is no other place on the prison floor, but clinging in a vain search for love to the leg of the man next to him, until the book achieves the bizarre intensity of a horrific fever dream. He decides to give up his property and pass ownership on to his peasants, leaving them to argue over the different ways in which they can organise the estate, and he follows Katyusha into exile, planning on marrying her. On their long journey into Siberia, she falls in love with another man, and Nekhludov gives his blessing and still chooses to live as part of the penal community, seeking redemption.

My Thoughts:

While I have not committed the same particular sin as the main character, his reaction to it, albeit a decade later, felt like looking in a mirror of my younger days. It was scary because while I wouldn’t react like that now, I remember reacting/thinking EXACTLY like that in my 20’s. It was eye opening and made me much more charitable towards Nekhlyudov and as such, towards young idiots of today 😉

This was pretty heavy-handed in terms of philosophy. Tolstoy uses Nekhlyudov to talk about property ownership and pre-supposes the audience is familiar with some long forgotten european who seemed to be against property ownership. The little bit I was able to figure out was pretty ridiculous at best, and woke guilt at worst. Who knew, you woke folks are just old news recycled 😉

I’ve got so many reviews coming up this month that I’m keeping everything super short. The dangers of being out of work for 10 days. Lots of books get read :-/

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Asterix and the Banquet (Asterix #5) ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Asterix and the Banquet
Series: Asterix #5
Authors: Goscinny & Uderzo
Translators: Bell & Hockridge
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Comics
Pages: 51
Words: 3K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

Inspector General Overanxius arrives in the fortified Roman camp of Compendium on a mission from Julius Caesar to lead the local garrison against the village of indomitable Gauls. Centurion Lotuseatus warns him the Gauls are dangerous, but the attack goes ahead, only to be soundly repelled. Undeterred, Overanxius erects a stockade around the village to prevent the inhabitants from spreading their rebellious ideas through Gaul.

Asterix bets that he and Obelix will escape the village and go on a tour of Gaul, collecting regional culinary specialties for a banquet upon their return. Overanxius promises to raise the stockade if they succeed. Asterix maps out a route, while Obelix fetches a large bag to hold their shopping. The two break through the stockade, while the other villagers create a diversion by attacking the barricade on another front. Overanxius has a rider despatched to alert the entire occupation army to be on the lookout for the pair.

Rotomagus (Rouen): Asterix and Obelix make their way to the Normandy region, where a Roman patrol recognizes them. They flee and escape via a wealthy Roman couple’s yacht up the Seine, while the patrol is stymied by the unhelpfully vague responses of local residents.

Lutetia (Paris): Upon arrival, Asterix and Obelix negotiate the traffic jams and buy a ham from a pork butcher shop, where from this point on, Dogmatix (unnamed until the next adventure) follows the duo through Gaul. Fearing detection by a Roman patrol, they purchase a gleaming used chariot and handsome horse from a dishonest salesman to make their escape. They soon discover the horse is slow and was only painted black, while the chariot loses its lustre and a wheel. The duo gets back on track by knocking out the driver of a Roman breakdown chariot and stealing his vehicle.

Camaracum (Cambrai): The Gauls stop in a humbug shop to buy boiled sweets, but are spotted by a Roman patrol, which they beat up, trashing the shop in the process. Unfazed by the damage, the shopkeeper says Gauls are aware of the bet and then demonstrates his solidarity by knocking out the patrol leader. Back on the road, Asterix and Obelix get past another patrol by posing as breakdown men, towing a legionary, Spongefingus, in his damaged chariot, only to then cast him aside on the road.

Rheims (Reims): Asterix and Obelix abandon the breakdown chariot and buy some wines. They are found by Spongefingus, who has recovered from his “accident,” but Asterix knocks him down by using a cork exploding from an amphora.

Divodurum (Metz): Leaving Rheims, the pair detours into a forest, where the scent of roast boar leads them to the house of Unpatriotix, who feeds and then betrays them. Roman soldiers come to the house but capture only Asterix, as Obelix is out hunting boar. When Obelix discovers the ruse, he knocks out a legionary to get imprisoned too and rescues Asterix. After beating up the Romans at the prison, Asterix declares it is too late to buy any of Divodurum’s specialties and decides to buy some in Lugdunum. As they leave, the Gauls commandeer a Roman postal cart.

Lugdunum (Lyon): The two Gauls abandon the postal cart and, after crashing through a Roman blockade, meet Jellibabix, head of the resistance movement. He pretends to betray the Gauls to Prefect Poisonous Fungus, but lures the Romans into a maze of back alleys, where the legionaries become hopelessly lost (the prefect’s plan to leave behind a trail of pebbles to find his way out backfires when a legionary picks up the pebbles). Jellibabix gives the duo a parcel of sausages and meatballs, and arranges a chariot for them.

Nicae (Nice): En route to Nicae, Asterix and Obelix become stuck in holiday traffic bound for the Gaulish Riviera and stop at an inn for lunch. In Nicae, they buy salad and are once again spotted by a Roman patrol. They escape by sea and commandeer a vacationing Lutetian’s rowboat.

Massilia (Marseille): The Gauls stop at Cesar Drinklikafix’s inn where, aside from having goat’s milk and boar, they buy fish stew. Again, the pair makes a premature departure when a boy warns of approaching Romans, but Drinklikafix and his friends stall the soldiers by blocking the road with a game of pétanque.

Tolosa (Toulouse): En route to Tolosa, Asterix and Obelix stop for the night, unaware they are in a Roman camp. Next morning, they beat up the Romans, but then surrender after learning the centurion intended to take them to Tolosa by cart. The Gauls are chained up, but repeatedly break their chains, much to the blacksmith’s dismay. Out on the road, the centurion rides on ahead to bring over the prefect, but in his absence, Asterix and Obelix beat up the Romans again, make off with the cart, and buy sausages in Tolosa.

Aginum (Agen): The Romans announce a 50,000 sestertii reward for information leading to the arrest of Asterix and Obelix. An unscrupulous innkeeper, Uptotrix, invites the two Gauls to his inn, where he gives them a bag of prunes and serves them drugged boar. Suspecting betrayal, Asterix orders Uptotrix to taste the boar, which causes him to fall unconscious, although Obelix is unaffected despite eating the rest of the boar. The pair leaves the cart in Aginum and takes the horses, one of which collapses under the combined weight of Obelix and the shopping bag.

Burdigala (Bordeaux): En route, the Gauls rest for the night by a roadside, where their bag is stolen by two Roman highwaymen, Villanus and Unscrupulus. The next morning, Asterix and Obelix pursue the thieves, who are caught by a Roman patrol and mistaken them for the Gauls. In the town square of Burdigala, General Motus shows the “Gaulish outlaws” to the public, only to realize he has the wrong men when Asterix and Obelix arrive to reclaim their bag. The public attacks General Motus and his men while the heroes regain their bag and buy oysters and white wine.

Gesocribatum (Le Conquet): Before leaving Burdigala, Asterix and Obelix spy a ship offloading menhirs and meet Captain Seniorservix, who is honored to let them aboard as Obelix helps unload the menhirs before the ship’s departure. At sea, the ship runs into the recurring pirates, whose own ship is sunk by the Gauls. On arrival in Gesocribatum, Seniorservix smuggles the Gauls ashore in sacks. Asterix and Obelix get out when a Roman patrol is passing by, but they beat up the Romans and escape.

Eventually, Asterix and Obelix reach the stockade outside their village and, after beating up the Romans yet again, give them a message to tell Overanxius they have won their side of the bet. That night, Asterix shows the food and wine to Overanxius and Lotuseatus, before demonstrating the village’s specialty, ‘the uppercut’, which knocks out Overanxius. Moments before the punch, Dogmatix barks for the first time, making Obelix notice him. Dogmatix is given a bone and the villagers enjoy their banquet.

My Thoughts:

I think I have settled into the rhythm of this comic. Considering that each comic tells one story, that’s a good thing. I’m not looking for anything deeper now, just brawling Gauls having fun 🙂

That is all that there is to this. I think that is the secret to its staying power too. It’s not complicated, it isn’t based on any politics or ideas of the day (which age books and stories extremely fast), it is just Asterix having light hearted adventures with his best friend Obelix. In one of the earlier reviews I mentioned the formula for these books. As long as I don’t pay attention, that formula works perfectly.

What that does mean though is that pretty soon, my “reviews” are going to consist of the synopsis and me saying something like “Yep, I liked it” and that’s it. I’m not looking forward to that time I have to admit. I like to be able to write something about each book I read, to make it stand apart from the thousands of others I’ve read but some times that desire meets the cold cruel wall of reality head on.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Taras Bulba (The Russians) ★★★☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Taras Bulba
Series: (The Russians)
Author: Nikolai Golgol
Translater: CJ Hogarth
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 170
Words: 46K





Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

Taras Bulba’s two sons, Ostap and Andriy, return home from an Orthodox seminary in Kyiv. Ostap is the more adventurous, whereas Andriy has deeply romantic feelings of an introvert. While in Kyiv, he fell in love with a young Polish noble girl, the daughter of the Governor of Kowno, but after a couple of meetings (edging into her house and in church), he stopped seeing her when her family returned home. Taras Bulba gives his sons the opportunity to go to war. They reach the Cossack camp at the Zaporozhian Sich, where there is much merrymaking. Taras attempts to rouse the Cossacks to go into battle. He rallies them to replace the existing Hetman when the Hetman is reluctant to break the peace treaty.

They soon have the opportunity to fight the Poles, who rule all Ukraine west of the Dnieper River. The Poles, led by their ultra-Catholic king, are accused of atrocities against Orthodox Christians, in which they are aided by Jews. After killing many of the Jewish merchants at the Sich, the Cossacks set off on a campaign against the Poles. They besiege Dubno Castle where, surrounded by the Cossacks and short of supplies, the inhabitants begin to starve. One night a Tatar woman comes to Andriy and rouses him. He finds her face familiar and then recalls she is the servant of the Polish girl he was in love with. She advises him that all are starving inside the walls. He accompanies her through a secret passage starting in the marsh that goes into the monastery inside the city walls. Andriy brings loaves of bread with him for the starving girl and her mother. He is horrified by what he sees and in a fury of love, forsakes his heritage for the Polish girl.

Meanwhile, several companies of Polish soldiers march into Dubno to relieve the siege, and destroy a regiment of Cossacks. A number of battles ensue. Taras learns of his son’s betrayal from Yankel the Jew, whom he saved earlier in the story. During one of the final battles, he sees Andriy riding in Polish garb from the castle and has his men draw him to the woods, where he takes him off his horse. Taras bitterly scolds his son, telling him “I gave you life, I will take it”, and shoots him dead.

Taras and Ostap continue fighting the Poles. Ostap is captured while his father is knocked out. When Taras regains consciousness he learns that his son was taken prisoner by the Poles. Yankel agrees to take Taras to Warsaw, where Ostap is held captive, hiding Taras in a cartload of bricks. Once in Warsaw, a group of Jews help Yankel dress Taras as a German count. They go into the prison to see Ostap, but Taras unwittingly reveals himself as a Cossack, and only escapes by use of a great bribe. Instead, they attend the execution the following day. During the execution, Ostap does not make a single sound, even while being broken on the wheel, but, disheartened as he nears death, he calls aloud on his father, unaware of his presence. Taras answers him from the crowd, thus giving himself away, but manages to escape.

Taras returns home to find all of his old Cossack friends dead and younger Cossacks in their place. He goes to war again. The new Hetman wishes to make peace with the Poles, which Taras is strongly against, warning that the Poles are treacherous and will not honour their words. Failing to convince the Hetman, Taras takes his regiment away to continue the assault independently. As Taras predicted, once the new Hetman agrees to a truce, the Poles betray him and kill a number of Cossacks. Taras and his men continue to fight and are finally caught in a ruined fortress, where they battle until the last man is defeated.

Taras is nailed and tied to a tree and set aflame. Even in this state, he calls out to his men to continue the fight, claiming that a new Tsar is coming who will rule the earth. The story ends with Cossacks on the Dniester River recalling the great feats of Taras and his unwavering Cossack spirit.

My Thoughts:

I had a couple of thoughts about this story and so you get to be the spectator today as I lay them out, like pearls of great price. So don’t be a swine! 😉

First, this was pure propaganda of the highest order. There is Nationalism and pride of country, but Gogol takes us beyond that and into propaganda territory. The Cossacks are the best, the brightest, the bravest, the most devout, the most fervent, the loyalest, the fiercest, the most honest and just, just THE BEST EVAH! and don’t you forget it. At first it grated but then it just became so ridiculous as the cossacks own behavior put lie to what Gogol was claiming that I simply had to grin.

Second, it was hard to tell if it was Hogarth’s translating, but I really didn’t care for Gogol’s style. I do think it was Gogol himself, or at least this specific story, because I’ve enjoyed most of the other Russian literature I’ve read and I believe a lot of it was translated by Hogarth as well. This was the first book I’ve read by Gogol and I’m not really impressed. I’ve got a Complete Works of Gogol so I’ll be giving him a couple more chances to impress me, but I’ve got that DNF axe ready and it won’t take much for me to let it fall and for heads to roll.

Overall, this was a story of a man who grew up fighting, raised his sons to fight and died fighting. I can’t say it is a good advertisement for the Warrior Lifestyle though. While the Cossacks were presented as The Best Evah, it was only to their own kind. Bulba considers it as a mark of how good Christians the cossacks are that they don’t steal from each other or cheat other cossacks. But when it comes to someone who isn’t a cossack, well, there simply aren’t any rules. It made me wonder how much of what Bulba thought of as “Christian” was from culture and what he’d heard in church instead of actually reading from the Bible. That is why even our pastor says “Don’t take my word for it, go look it up in the Bible”.

With only one more full novel, Dead Souls, then a large body of short stories collected in various editions, I should be able to make my mind up about Gogol relatively easily. It looks like Garnett did the translating for the majority of the short stories so once I get to those it should be easier to tell if it is the translator or the author I don’t care for 😀

Gogol is the last of the Russians that I have on tap, so now I begin the cycle anew. I’m pretty pleased overall with how this is going and while it is a bit more spread out than say my Dickens read, I just can’t read the Russians as intensely as I can Dickens.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Asterix the Gladiator (Asterix #4) ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Asterix the Gladiator
Series: Asterix #4
Authors: Goscinny & Uderzo
Translators: Bell & Hockridge
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Comics
Pages: 51
Words: 3K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

While stopping at the Roman Camp of Compendium, Prefect ‘Odius Asparagus’ wants one of the indomitable Gauls as a present for Julius Caesar. Because none of the others can be captured, Centurion Gracchus Armisurplus decides on Cacofonix the bard. Soldiers sent by the centurion, although driven away by Cacofonix’s singing at first, counteract this by stuffing parsley in their ears and capture him easily. A young boy named Picanmix from the village raises the alarm to Asterix and Obelix, and the Gauls attack Compendium; but learn that the prefect has already left in his galley with Cacofonix.

Asterix and Obelix therefore board a ship with Ekonomikrisis the Phoenician merchant, who agrees to take them to Rome after they save him from the pirates. In Rome, after Cacofonix has subjected the slaves in the prefect’s galley to his bad singing, the prefect presents him to Julius Caesar; but when Caius Fatuous, the gladiators’ trainer, declares Cacofonix unfit to serve as a gladiator, Caesar decides to throw the bard to the lions. Upon arrival in Rome, Asterix and Obelix befriend Instantmix (a Gaulish chef working in Rome) and visit the public baths. There, Caius Fatuous decides they would be perfect candidates for the gladiators’ fights in the Circus Maximus, and he arranges to have them captured. That night, Asterix and Obelix visit Instantmix in his insula, where he identifies the location of Cacofonix. The next morning, the Gauls’ first attempt at rescuing the bard fails when they raid the Circus prison and discover that Cacofonix has been transferred to a lower basement. Caius Fatuous has his men try to ambush them in groups of three, but Asterix and Obelix defeat them with ease, and apparently without taking notice.

Caius Fatuous then offers a reward of 10,000 sestertii to any citizen who captures Asterix and Obelix; but the two of them volunteer as gladiators to infiltrate the following Games, and Fatuous places them in training under his assistant Insalubrius. Soon, the Gauls demoralize Insalubrius and irritate Caius Fatuous by having the other gladiators play guessing-games instead of training. Later, when Fatuous plans the Games to Julius Caesar, the Gauls go on a stroll, with Caius Fatuous (reluctantly) as their guide. On the eve before the games, Asterix and Obelix visit Cacofonix in his cell and inform him of their intentions to free him and the gladiators.

The next day, during the chariot races, Asterix and Obelix substitute themselves for an inebriated contestant, and win the race. As Cacofonix is put into the arena to be killed by the lions, he sings to the Romans, and thus frightens the lions into retreat; whereupon Caesar orders the gladiators’ competition to begin. When Asterix, Obelix, and the gladiators introduce Caesar to their guessing-game, and Caesar insists on a martial contest, Asterix challenges a cohort of Caesar’s own guard, and the two Gauls win easily. Seeing that the audience are amused, Caesar releases the three Gauls and grants them Fatuous as a prisoner. Soon afterwards, the four men meet back up with Ekonomikrisis, and Asterix surprises him and his men by having Caius Fatuous row the ship back to the Gaulish Village alone. After a brief journey (plus a second run in with the pirates, which sinks their ship), the Gauls arrive home and Ekonomikrisis keeps his promise to return Caius Fatuous to Rome. The villagers then celebrate the return of their heroes with a banquet, only with Cacofonix having to sit it out bound and gagged after offering to sing a song to celebrate his triumphant return.

This book is noteworthy in the Asterix series as the first in which Obelix says his famous catchphrase “These Romans are crazy!”

My Thoughts:

Fun. Cacofonix the Bard gets kidnapped, only to be shut up time and again every time someone hears him sing. Even Asterix and Obelix threaten to not take him back to Gaul if he tries to sing to them at the end of the book. How can that not make you laugh?

The running gag for this story is Obelix playing a game of “hit the romans” and using their helmets as proof that he knocked them out. You seem him constantly with a huge pile of roman helmets lined up like soup bowls in his arms every time he meets a new group of them. There were a couple of word plays that went right over my head, as I didn’t see what what was supposed to be funny, but missing a joke here or there isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Overall, a good way to spend the evening.

Rating: 4 out of 5.