Tag-Archive for ◊ adult sons ◊

• Thursday, June 17th, 2010

John Banville was born in 1945 in Wexford, Ireland, from a father who worked in a garage and a housewife mother. He is the youngest of three siblings, his older brother and sister are also novelists.

He started his education in a Christian Brothers primary School followed by St Peter’s College secondary school in Wexford.

After leaving school John Banville worked for Aer Lingus in Dublin as a clerk, which gave him the opportunity to travel extensively. He moved on and has worked in journalism since 1969. He was a member of the Irish Arts Council from 1984 to 1988 and literary editor for The Irish Times from 1988 to 1999.

He lives today in Dublin with his American wife whom he married in 1969 and their two adult sons.

John Banville wrote several novels, short stories and plays. His best-known novel The Sea, which is his fourteenth, was published in 2005 and won the Man Booker Prize the same year.

List of John Banville’s novels:
Nightspawn, 1971
Birchwood, 1973
Dr Copernicus, 1976
Kepler, 1981
The Newton Letter: An Interlude, 1982
The Book of Evidence,1989
Ghosts, 1993
The Ark, 1996
The Untouchable, 1997
Eclipse, 2000
Shroud, 2002
Prague Pictures: Portrait of a city, 2003
The Sea, 2005
The Infinities, 2009

The Sea is about Max Morden, a retired Irish art historian and a newly bereaved husband in his sixties. Arriving at a crossroads in his existence, he sought some comfort and escapism by returning to live in the same summer house on the Irish coast, where the Grace family once lived many years ago with their twin-children, Chloe and Myles. They became his friends in that memorable summer of his childhood, when they were all in their early teens.

Max Morden, aware of his old age, his mortal vulnerability and obsessed by death, reminisces about the past and lives in a state of constant reverie tinted with melancholic black humour. He is constantly reviewing his previous life and the time he had spent with his late wife Anna who died of cancer. He also dwells on the unforgettable summer spent with the wealthy and attractive Grace family that changed his life.

As if his recent bereavement rekindled the loss of Chloe and Myles, buried in the sea by drowning a long time ago, their deaths made him aware early in his life about the meaning of love and death, an experience which was thrust upon him as a young boy and continued to haunt him as an old man.

After his wife’s death, Max Morden decides to go back to the same Irish seaside resort of his childhood, but this time at the end of his journey, as an old man, in order to seek some solace for his meaningless existence.

The main themes of this short, subtle, remarkable, deep and powerful novel are love, loss and sad memories. Max Morden’s nostalgic thoughts of the past drift swiftly from one period to another, like the high and low tides of the sea or the waxing and waning of the moon.

The Sea has hardly a plot and no suspense, save the twist at the end, when the reader discovers that Miss Vavasour, the Cedars’ tenant, is the one and same Rose, who was Chloe’s and Myles’ governess some fifty years earlier.

The strength and beauty of the novel lies in its eloquence, intense emotions, elegant, lyrical and poetic prose, which makes it a refined work of art, that compels readers to commence their own meditation.

• Friday, March 28th, 2008

Samia Serageldin was born in the early fifties in Cairo, Egypt, the daughter of a wealthy landowner of a renowned Egyptian family. She married at twenty and went to England where she obtained an M.S. Degree in Politics from London’s school of Oriental and African Studies.

She emigrated with her family in 1980 to the U.S.A. and has lived since then in Michigan, Massachusetts, and North Carolina. She has two adult sons who live in two different continents from hers.

Samia Serageldin worked as a professor of French and Arabic language, an interpreter for an international company, a book columnist, a free-lance writer and as a public speaker on current affairs.

The Cairo House is Samia Serageldin’s first novel. It was first published in the USA in 2000, the UK publication followed a few years later in 2004. It’s semi-autobiographical, a way for the author to reconcile the present with the past. The book is about the changes and developments in Egypt during the decades following the 1952 Egyptian revolution.

Gigi the main character in the book relates her day-to-day life during the time of the four presidents who took power after king Faruk. President Naguib, then Nasser, followed by Sadat, and then Mubarak.

She starts her story in the good old days, the belle époque, of an Egyptian privileged wealthy, landowner family who went through hardship after president Nasser sequestrated their lands in the sixties. From then on, life will never be the same again neither for Gigi, her family, nor for Egypt.

Gihan (Gigi), the narrator and main character, is an introverted, complicated and tormented person. She hastily married a man who is a complete stranger to her, saying that “she was tired of waiting for life to begin.” She was young, inexperienced and believed innocently that life started with wedlock.

The expected happened, her married life was a failure. Her second marriage was not a great success either. Like most expatriates, she didn’t feel at home in the USA and she felt out of place in the new Egypt. She seemed to be helplessly lost until the end of the story, seeking a way out of her dilemma.

Despite that, it’s not easy to feel much compassion for Gihan, her character lacks some depth. The events and turmoil surrounding her life are described more elaborately, although some subjects could have been more developed.

The metaphors of the Chameleon for the constant readjustment between the two worlds, the East and the West, and the kaleidoscope for the change in fate, which are mentioned in several parts of the novel are, of essential importance to the author. It conveys what destiny is about. The slightest change in the kaleidoscope, like a small occurrence, can alter the route of one’s life and therefore make a substantial difference to one’s destiny.

The story of Gihan and her clan in The Cairo House reveals Egyptian culture, traditions, politics and unrest amongst the different classes in society under each new regime. The novel starts with a vivid and rich description of Egyptian society of the time, but as the author moves her character to the western world, the images are fading and are no longer of substance.

The Cairo House is an entertaining book to read. Written by an Egyptian who lived the various events that occurred in her country first hand, it’s valuable historically for the important Egyptian period of the first half of the twentieth century and the significant changes that followed whether in politics, culture, way of life or even the country’s infrastructure.

Samia Serageldin, in one of her interviews, says about The Cairo House : “I’ve been often asked why, since The Cairo House draws so heavily from my personal history, I did not simply write a memoir. It is often said that a memoir is fiction in disguise and a novel is fact masquerading as fiction. For me, at least, I could not have written as freely without the fig leaf of fiction…The great satisfaction of being read comes from taking others with you on that fascinating journey.”

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