A Novel About Esperanto

A while ago I was reading about the Ido-schism when I noticed several Wikipedia pages referenced a book named A Curable Romantic by Joseph Skibell, in which the schism was portrayed. As it’s rare to see reference to Esperanto in English, let alone a book about it, I bought the book straight away. It’s not the only English language novel that has Esperanto in it, for example in the Yiddish Policeman’s Union, the main character lives in Hotel Zamenhof which includes a few Esperanto signs like lifto (lift) and one character exclaims “What’s Esperanto for a pile of shit?” (I would suggest fekaĵaro). However, unlike others in books, Esperanto isn’t just mentioned in a throwaway line, it forms a core part of the story.

The book is essentially about three Jewish men and three cities at the turn of the century. Sigmund Freud, L.L. Zamenhof and Kalonymos Kalmish Szapira, in Vienna, Paris and London from 1894-1940. Following this structure the book is divided into three parts, with the middle one heavily focusing on Esperanto. The main character becomes a passionate Esperantist and there are many conversations in and about Esperanto. So is the book any good? Continue reading “A Novel About Esperanto”

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Esperanto and Ethnic Conflict Since 1887

Two books have been in my mind lately. Firstly, this week was the 130th anniversary of the publication of the Unua Libro, the first book in Esperanto, which makes it one of the few languages in the world to have a birthday. On the 26th of July 1887, L.L. Zamenhof created an international language that he hoped would bridge the divide between people and reduce ethnic conflict. The second thing is that I have been reading The Vanquished: Why The First World War Failed To End by Robert Gerwarth. The book details the enormous amount of ethnic conflict that erupted after the end of the First World War and continued simmering until erupting again in the Second World War. Continue reading “Esperanto and Ethnic Conflict Since 1887”

Are The Discworld Books Overrated?

Terry Pratchett is one of the most famous British writers and his Discworld series has been read by millions. He has been praised by many as one of the funniest writers and master of the fantasy genre. His books have been hailed as literary classics and it has even been said that Terry Pratchett’s Discworld Might Be The Highest Form of Literature on the Planet.

So naturally hearing such praise (and being a fan of Douglas Adams and fantasy), I gave it a go. While I found them enjoyable, I wasn’t blown away. They were good but nothing great. So, I thought maybe I was missing something and wasn’t appreciating him fully (Pratchett hardly has critics so the problem must be with me). Or maybe I just haven’t got to the best book yet. So, I kept reading and in total, I’ve read 13 Discworld books, 7 in the City Watch series (up to Thud!), 3 in the Death series (up to Soul Music), the first 2 of the Moist von Lipwig books and Small Gods (also Good Omens which half counts).

Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely brilliant elements, clever ideas and hilarious moments. I have a taste for absurd humour and I love political commentary, so there’s a lot I did like about the books. Yet, I began to suspect that Discworld might be overrated. Such a thought is blasphemy, so I kept it to myself until I read enough books to see that while there are some very good books, there are also plenty of mediocre ones. Continue reading “Are The Discworld Books Overrated?”

How Many Books Will It Take To Finish ASOIAF?

One of the most eagerly anticipated books at the moment is “The Winds of Winter” by George RR Martin, part of the hugely popular A Song of Ice and Fire (ASOIAF) series. Millions of people are on the edge of their seats waiting to see what happens next in the series and the book will undoubtedly be a bestseller upon release. However, the long waiting time for each book has become legendary as fans grow weary waiting to find out what their favourite characters get up to. It seems the final resolution of this famous and much loved series is always receding further into the distance.

Martin has said that there will be seven books in the series, so after The Winds of Winter, A Dream of Spring will be the final book. However, considering everything that must happen, there is growing doubt as to whether this is true. Looking at the vast number of subplots, character arcs and other events that must happen, it seems impossible for all of it to be wrapped up in just two more books. So how many books will it really take to finish A Song of Ice and Fire? Continue reading “How Many Books Will It Take To Finish ASOIAF?”

What Went Wrong With The Gentlemen Bastard Series?

When The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch was released in 2006 it was a massive hit. Not only did it become a bestseller, but it is also considered something of a modern classic. It won high praise and Lynch was counted among the most promising writers in the fantasy field, standing shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Brandon Sanderson, Patrick Rothfuss and Joe Abercrombie. This was an amazing achievement for a first novel, so expectations were high for the rest of the series. Did we have a new classic before us?

Yet, the follow-up books were something of a disappointment. Instead of soaring high, the rest of the series went downhill. Complaints began to pile up about the flaws in the newer books and even fans admitted some problems. Something was missing, some of the brilliance had been lost. Of course, all opinion is subjective and there are probably those who really liked the follow-ups. Yet no one would claim that they are as good as the first one.

Myself, I absolutely loved Lies and consider it one of my favourite novels, yet I was underwhelmed by Red Seas Under Red Skies and Republic of Thieves (although the names are fantastic). The original magic was gone and the plot seemed to wander directionless. A fourth book will soon appear and to be honest, I’m not sure if I’ll bother to buy it.

So, what happened? Where did it go wrong? Continue reading “What Went Wrong With The Gentlemen Bastard Series?”

An Esperantist Reviews “Bridge of Words”

Esperanto isn’t a common discussion topic, certainly not in the English speaking world. There’s rarely articles and hardly any books about it, so naturally I was excited about the new history of the language, “Bridge of Words” by Esther Schor, which is billed as the first book about the whole history of Esperanto. The book narrates the history of the language, the ideas behind as well as the personal experience of the author who spent years in the Esperanto community.

Hopefully this will generate interest in the language and provide a valuable resource to people who want to learn more about the language. So far, there have been some reviews in leading journals which will introduce the language to many people for the first time. However, these reviews are written by outsiders who know little about Esperanto (so there is a lot of the inevitable ‘Esperanto failed’ nonsense) and in fact the author herself was an outsider before she wrote this book. So I decided to write a review from an insider’s perspective, from the view of a committed Esperantist. Continue reading “An Esperantist Reviews “Bridge of Words””

Atlas Shrugged Is A Ridiculous Book

Atlas Shrugged is a hugely popular book among American conservatives and libertarians who see it as a symbol of resistance to government tyranny. This is surprisingly because it is a horrendous book containing cardboard characters, over necessarily long speeches, absurd plot lines and at least 500 pages more than it needs. Continue reading “Atlas Shrugged Is A Ridiculous Book”