The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. This is a poignant and heart-breaking glimpse into the mad world of 1920s. In this book, Jay Gatsby reunites with Daisy, whom he left years ago in pursuit of wealth. He returned, hoping to impress his lost love, in the midst of the roaring Jazz Age – a time when the morals became looser and alcohol cheaper. Naiveté and sincerity of Gatsby found no place at this time of transient pleasures and long parties. Soon the whirlwind would pass leaving behind the unfortunate ones who taken it all too seriously. The book fills with light sadness and longing and is important in understanding of the concept of American Dream. I loved it, because it simply makes you feel.
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. As one of my friends said “A bad translation, probably”. I did not have the heart to correct him. Although he is a Polish writer, Joseph Conrad is surely a virtuoso of English language, the whole book is like a slow leaking boat on the way to nowhere.
No doubt, this goes well in hand with the idea and a plot, but it does not make a reader to suffer any less. The main character is travelling up the river Congo into the heart of Africa to meet an ivory trader Kurtz. On the way there, he sees many horrible images of native people’s exploitation. The book is far from being straightforward, however. The author did not seem to draw any conclusions. At times, a character seems mesmerised by the violence and shocking pictures, and his fascination with Kurtz is eerie, even if it is a subtle and a way-too-clever critique of the western attitudes.
Overall, the book is unsettling, and while it is invaluable in pointing out the horrors of imperialism, I can hardly find anything else that would make me to come back to this ambiguous and tedious piece.
Arcadia by Tom Stoppard. Ever since ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead’ I never cease to be amazed by Stoppard’s witticism and the scope of his writing. Here, again, he explores the helplessness of a human being against the strange and unpredictable laws of universe.
He juxtaposes modern time and the beginning of 19th century by showing an old house and scholars studying the papers left on the table. Then the scene changes and we see actual people writing these papers many years ago. Stoppard plays with dualities of rationalism and romanticism, chaos theory and order, leaving the reader strangely refreshed and enlightened (especially if you were reading ‘The Heart of Darkness’ before that).
Morality Play by Barry Unsworth. I must admit, Umberto Eco has spoilt me. After his books that so cleverly combine mystery and real historical background, all other attempts in the same direction by the other authors seem laughable. ‘Morality Play’ appears to be only a pale imitation and very fairly so – Umberto Eco is first of all a medievalist, while Barry Unsworth is first of all a writer.
It is a small book, without deep observations on the characters’ psychological states of mind. And so it leaves us with a hurried and rather perfunctory plot about the travelling players who encountered a mysterious murder in the village where they were performing. The interesting idea of how original plays in theatre came about could surely have a more skilful realisation.