Tag-Archive for ◊ vivid imagination ◊

Author:
• Saturday, April 12th, 2014

Sam Savage was born in Camden, South Carolina,USA in 1940. He graduated from Yale University in 1968 and received his Ph.d. in philosophy from the same university in 1973. He was also a teacher at Yale for a short time.

Prior to writing, Savage worked as a bicycle mechanic, carpenter, a shellfish fisherman and letter-press printer. In 2004 Sam Savage moved to Madison Wisconsin, USA, where he now lives with his wife.

Sam Savage has written five books to date but he is known for his best selling first novel Firmin, published in 2006 and translated into several languages.

The novel is narrated by a skinny, erudite, sensitive, extraordinary rat called Firmin. He is a very special rodent who can read by an unknown miracle. He is born with an unusually large head and ugly features and is the runt of a numerous litter of twelve siblings. Firmin’s birth takes place in what he calls, “a mausoleum of books, a museum of forgotten treasures, a cemetery of the unread and unreadable”, the basement of Pembroke bookshop in Scollay Square, an old, insalubrious part of Boston which is about to be pulled down as part of an urban reconstruction scheme.

Firmin was born in the sixties to an alcoholic, overweight mother of easy virtue named Flo, who cushions her litter’s nest by making confetti out of James Joyce’s big novel, Finnegans Wake, “The biggest book she could get her paws on”.

Soon after his birth, Firmin learns quickly that he has to fend for himself. He owes his survival to books, becoming figuratively very fond of literature for nourishing his highly curious intellect as well as literally nibbling books when desperately hungry and when he has nothing else to eat.
Firmin finds out that no matter how keen his intellect can be, his stomach also claims its due.

He also finds comfort in his loneliness and in his hunger in the Rialto Theater where he gorges himself watching the “lovelies” – the exquisite naked actresses shown in late night films – as well as Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers films, while at the same time gorging on the food dropped by spectators.

Due to his extensive reading and film-watching, Firmin acquires knowledge and a philosophical, critical mind. He becomes remarkably cultivated and therefore feels more affinity with humans than with rats. In fact he considers himself a human at heart which creates a chasm between him and the other rodents.

After observing Norman, the bookshop owner, for several days, Firmin develops some fondness for him to the extent of wanting to befriend him. Sadly, things go wrong through a misjudgment on both sides when Norman tries to poison Firmin, regarded as a vermin squatting his bookshop. Henceforth Firmin will distance himself from Norman and mention him only by his family name, Shine, since he is no longer considered a friend.

Depressed, forlorn, frustrated and disappointed by being unable to fulfill his dream of communicating with people, despite his hopeless efforts and eagerness, Firmin finds his salvation with his new friend, Jerry, an alcoholic, marginal novelist who hosts him in his humble room above the bookshop before dying in an accident and leaving Firmin once more to fend for himself.

As Firmin is about to pass out under the rubble of his beloved bookshop, he thinks as he always did, how lucky he is to have been a very special rat, enjoying reading and dreaming about books to the point of ecstasy and to the point of substituting himself with the characters from his books or the film stars watched in the Rialto Theater. Even if he was estranged by his own family and disconnected from other rodents, he felt the urge to fulfill his exceptional destiny.

For Firmin, books were his only solace and a mine of enrichment during his short existence. He says: “Even though I consider myself lucky to have lived the life I did, I would not like to be that lucky twice”. Firmin feels inconsolable and caustic. He says: “ O bitter ending! They’ll never see. Nor know. Nor miss me […] Dry and cold was the world and beautiful the words”.

A very imaginative, endearing, touching and original bittersweet novel, funny in parts, about a rat who, during his short life, attains a great deal of culture and knowledge coupled with a vivid imagination. Regrettably all his acquired knowledge, culture and philosophical views are to no avail. A thought provoking subject.

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Author:
• Sunday, September 26th, 2010

Carlos Ruiz Zafon was born in Barcelona in 1964. He started his writing career with four fiction books for young adults and in 1993 was awarded the Spanish Edebé literary prize for one of them: The Prince of Mist.

His first fiction for adults and big success, The Shadow of the Wind, was published in 2002 and translated into several languages. Zafon, also a screen writer, has been living in Los Angeles since 1993, but has kept his house in Barcelona.

The Angel’s Game, published in Spanish in 2008 and in English in 2009 and translated into several other languages, is reminiscent of Zafon’s first successful novel, The Shadow of the Wind. The two books have in common the Gothic atmosphere, the world of literature which involves the love of books and the book-selling universe, plus the cemetery of forgotten books.

The story, charmingly and humorously narrated with sarcasm in parts by the leading character, David Martin, is set in Barcelona. It starts in 1917 and ends in 1945, but the main series of events take place in the 1920s.

David Martin, born into a poor family, had a tormented childhood with a violent father and a mother who abandoned him. He found solace in books and became a book-lover and an ardent reader at an early age. Later he became an acclaimed writer because of his sensational stories of the doomed citizens of Barcelona. Just like Zafon, Martin was influenced by the nineteenth century writers and especially his favourite English novelist, Charles Dickens, who portrayed destitute Londoners and wrote about the importance of reforming the society of his time.

Martin was approached by a mysterious recluse French publisher, Andreas Corelli, who made him a financial offer he couldn’t refuse. He had to write a book like no other, a book about a new religion, a book that will take hold of the populace’s heart and mind. Martin accepted the deal without suspecting that he was selling his soul to the devil, it is a Faustian bargain with all it entailed, a high price to pay. Martin finds himself going through a dark labyrinth of an eerie universe involving tragic intrigues, murders and deceptions, in a supernatural environment of mysterious adventures and unfulfilled tragic romance.

The Angel’s Game is a book about the power of books and their consequences on some people’s lives, a lyric apologia for books, book reading and book writing. It is a densely dark novel about good and evil with regard to the human soul. A highly complex plot, teeming with characters and events, evolving in a supernatural world.

Despite the lengthy and wearisome theological debates between Martin and Corelli and the disappointingly melodramatic rushed epilogue, The Angel’s Game remains an enthralling novel conceived with intensely vivid imagination. The rich, detailed description of the City of Barcelona gives some depth to the story and makes the city stand out as another character in the novel.

In one of his interviews, Zafon has mentioned that The Shadow of The Wind is about redemption and the Angel’s Game is about damnation. Then he stressed that “our choices make us who we are”. It is up to any person to decide if he wants to think for himself or if he would rather surrender to other people’s beliefs.