Tag-Archive for ◊ brighter future ◊

Author:
• Saturday, June 13th, 2015

Mario Vargas Llosa was born into a middle class family in Arequipa, Peru’s second largest city, in 1936. His parents were separated a short time before his birth. Llosa spent his early childhood with his mother and maternal grandparents in Cochabamba in Bolivia, being falsely told by his mother that his father had died. Ten years later his parents reconciled, causing an abrupt change to Llosa’s life because, after being pampered by his mother and grandparents, he now found himself with an authoritarian, severe father. In 1947 Llosa went to the Christian middle school, Colegio La Salle.

Discovering his only child’s passion for writing when in his early teens, Ernesto Vargas, Llosa’s dictatorial father, wanting to prevent him pursuing a literary career – which he considered good for idle rich people – sent him to the rigidly disciplined Leoncion Prado Military Academy in Lima. This period will later be described by Llosa in his first novel, The Time Of The Hero, published in 1963 as “the discovery of hell”.

Living in a country led by an oppressive dictator and having a despotic father will make Llosa fight strongly to condemn any stifling, abhorrent dictatorship that suppresses individual freedom in any shape or form.

After dropping out of the academy, Llosa pursued his studies in Piura, north of Peru, while working as a journalist for a local newspaper. In 1953 Llosa studied literature and law at the National University of San Marcos and in 1958 won a scholarship to study in Madrid and later went to live in Paris. Llosa became a journalist, an essayist and a politician, running unsuccessfully in the presidential elections of 1990.

Mario Vargas Llosa is a prolific writer, having written many novels, non-fiction and drama. He has also received numerous awards and honours including the 2010 Nobel Prize for Literature about which he was informed in a telephone call received in New York when teaching a semester at Princeton University. He has been married twice and has three children from his second wife.

The Way To Paradise recounts, in alternating twenty-two chapters and by moving back and forth, the historical biographical story of two extraordinary destinies: the post-impressionist painter, Paul Gauguin, and his illegitimate, socialist reformer and feminist grandmother, Flora Tristan. Flora was born to a wealthy Peruvian father and French mother and grew up in poverty following her aristocrat father’s death when she was just four years old. At the time, French law did not recognise her parents’ marriage and consequently she did not inherit her father’s estate as she was considered an illegitimate child.

Flora, who died in 1844 at the age of forty-one, never saw her grandson, Gauguin, born in 1848. Although they didn’t know each other and apart from their kinship, they both had one target, namely to aspire to achieve an insatiable and unrealistic dream in order to reach their much-coveted paradise on earth.

Flora wanted a complete change in the society of her time, where workers were poor, crushed and exploited by factory owners who worked them hard for a pittance in an unhealthy environment, while the destitute women and children were earning half a pittance for the same work. Flora was also campaigning for women to have a dignified and better life, whether they were poor, enslaved women workers or enslaved bourgeois women. Her fight for workers’ rights and women’s equality and emancipation from oppression is unprecedented and well ahead of her time.

In order to achieve her goal, Flora doesn’t spare any effort. She abandons her three children and André Chazal, the husband she detests and who made her hate sex. During the last months of her life she tours incessantly all over France for the sake of promoting her cause, travelling from town to city to recruit members for her Workers’ Union and encouraging workers to unite because unity is strength against the exploiters.

She publishes many works, her best-known being: Peregrinations Of A Pariah, published in 1838, Promenades In London in 1840 and her famous final work, The Workers’ Union in 1843, in which she criticises capitalism and its exploitation of workers in France. She is sometimes made fun of, threatened and rebuked but never gives-up her dream.

As for Gauguin, he quits his successful, well-paid job as a stockbroker in Paris in 1884 at the age of thirty-six and decides to become a full time artist. Soon after he abandons his Danish wife, Mette Gad, and his five children. In order to escape the civilised world, he looks for an unspoilt life in rural Brittany, in Pont-Aven then close by in Le Pouldu where he “went in search of the savagery and primitivism that seemed to him fertile ground for the flourishing of great art”. After a short, unfortunate conflictual cohabitation with Van Gogh in Arles, he travels to Panama followed by Martinique then Tahiti, which he finds a disappointment having been defiled by French colonialism.

Frustrated when realising that things are not as easy as he imagines and that his dream might never be fulfilled, and now consumed by syphilis, he goes to Atuona, Hiva ‘Oa in the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia which he thinks has maybe been slightly less spoilt by French colonialism, but to no avail. He spends the last two years of his life there and is buried in 1903 in the cimetière Calvaire, the main cemetery on the island, leaving behind a great collection of paintings, ceramics and wood carvings. Although not given the recognition deserved during his lifetime, after his death Gauguin’s paintings have made him immortal.

Gauguin believed that art had to be subjective to represent the artist’s vision and what goes through an artist’s mind and soul, he said when he was in Le Pouldu near Pont-Aven in Brittany: “Art is abstraction; draw art as you dream in nature’s presence, and think more about the act of creation than about the final result”.

The two lives had their differences: Flora was more concentrated on awakening the working classes to their rights in order to forge a better, brighter future for them, while her grandson, Gauguin, was searching everywhere for the unspoilt, “uncivilised” past. Nevertheless, Gauguin’s life was more colourful and interesting than his grandmother Flora’s, who spent a great deal of her time indefatigably touring in France, organising endless workers’ meetings to recruit support for her workers’ union.

They also had their similarities: Flora and her grandson Gauguin, both rebelled against the establishment and had one objective in mind, their endeavour to liberate themselves from the traditionalist society of their time. They were both obstinately tenacious in their quest, stoically enduring the hardship they encountered as well as both suffering lingering illnesses leading to their deaths. In order to reach their ideals, they both courageously reject the comfortable, bourgeois existence they could have both lived and opt instead for the hard struggle in the hope of attaining their idealistic life.

The Way To Paradise, although slow-moving and repetitive at times, is a well-researched novel. It is a fascinating double biography of a grandmother and her grandson who, through their eagerness, strong ambition and obstinacy, were unstoppable in their endeavours thus leaving their mark on the history of humanity.

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Author:
• Saturday, February 26th, 2011

Susan Isaacs was born in 1943 in Brooklyn, New York. She received her education at Queens college. She worked as a senior editor at Seventeen magazine, which she had to give up after the birth of her first child and worked from home as a freelance.

Her breakthrough came with her first novel Compromising Positions, published in 1978 which was chosen by the Book of the Month Club, became a best seller and was later made into a film. In the 1980s she wrote the screenplay for Paramount’s.

She received Writers for Writers Award, The Marymount Manhattan Writing Center Award and the John Steinbeck Award. She is the chairman of the board of literary organisation, Poets and Writers and was a president of Mystery Writers of America. She is also a member of the National Book Critics Circle, the Creative Coalition, PEN, The American Society of Journalists and Authors, the International Association of Crime Writers and Adam Round Table.

Susan Isaacs, New York Times best selling author and critically acclaimed, has written several novels which were translated into many languages. She has also written essays, screenplays and political articles. She has reviewed books for The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and Newsday.

She married a lawyer in 1968 and became a mother of a son who is now a corporate lawyer and a daughter who became a philosopher. She now lives with her husband in Long Island.

Any Place I Hang My Hat was published in 2004.
Her latest novel, As Husbands Go was published in July 2010

Any Place I Hang My Hat is about Amy Lincoln, who is the main character and also the narrator.
Amy Lincoln is an intelligent, hard working, self made, witty young woman. After obtaining degrees from an exclusive boarding school and excellent universities, such as Harvard and Columbia school of journalism, by acquiring scholarships, Amy succeeds in winning a good job as a political reporter in the serious, prestigious weekly magazine, In Depth. She manages to take herself in hand, pull herself out of the dreary and poor beginning she had and propels herself into a brighter future with a promising stature.

Life hasn’t been kind to Amy, she was abandoned by her mother soon after birth and separated from her father, Chicky, who was constantly in prison due to petty theft. Amy was brought up in one of the poor areas in New York by her shoplifter paternal grandmother, Lil, a part time leg waxer in a beauty saloon for privileged women.

Due to the harsh reality Amy had to face since her birth, she became vulnerable as well as lonely but neither helpless nor without resources. Covering a political fund-raising event, Amy discovers a college student, Freddy Carrasco, who claims to be an illegitimate son of a Democratic presidential candidate, senator Bowles. After meeting with Freddy Carrasco, befriending him and listening to his story, Amy’s long buried yearning to find out the whereabouts of her mother and her maternal family, grows stronger. Now that she is approaching her thirties she goes hunting for the truth and seeking answers about her past before starting a family of her own.

Through her quest and using her reporting competence, she finds a way to arrange a meeting with her grandmother and then her mother. After the confrontation, Amy will discover who she is and what she is, which will help her psychologically and mentally to find “a place to hang her hat”. This place will be with her ex-boyfriend, John Orenstein, the documentary film maker, that she has been longing to go back to.

Susan Isaacs explains to her readers the meaning of the novel’s title when referring to her friend Tatty going back to live with her parents after her failed marriages, although they didn’t care about her. Tatty “claimed she’d come back for the kitchen where she made her cakes. I’d often suggested she was still seeking the love these two ought to have had for her, being her parents. But maybe it was simpler. Everyone needs a place to hang her hat.”

In her book the author adopts a great deal of sarcasm, stereotype characters and sometimes very funny passages to illustrate the interesting personality of her heroine. Despite being anticlimactic, Any Place I Hang My Hat is a pleasant, light hearted, easy to read novel.

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