Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Diary of Anne Frank - Anne Frank

I first read this book, as so many of us did, in my early teens. And at the time, I don't think I really appreciated just how significant a document it actually is. So I'm incredibly glad that I chose to reread this book as part of my Classics Club project.

It's always hard to review published diaries, because no matter how well-known they are, the fact remains: the author never intended them to be read by anyone other than themselves. Diaries are a place to dump the emotions you can't discuss with anyone, the thoughts you need to just get out so they're no longer floating around in your brain. Especially when you're a 14 year old girl.

So you'll find hundreds of reviewers out there complaining about how whiny and annoying this book is. Which, in some ways, I understand. Anne's a 14 year old girl. And to some extent, ALL 14 year old girls are whiny and annoying.

But I'd like to see any of those reviewers trapped in a tiny apartment with seven other people for YEARS, constantly fearing for your life, not knowing whether you'd be caught or blown up in an air raid, or starve to death if something happened to the people who were protecting you. I'd like to see those people go through what Anne Frank went through, and still retain the amount of optimism that flows through her writing. Because it really is astonishing.

It's not always an easy book to read. But it is a hugely significant one, capturing not only what life was like for Jewish people in Holland during the early stages of the war, and just how quickly things changed, but in capturing very clearly what life was like for one small group in hiding, and the lengths that people were willing to go to in order to keep them safe.

So yes, Anne was an occasionally whiny and annoying 14 year old girl. But considering that she was a 14 year old girl writing a diary? Her writing was often poignant and astonishing, and this book should remain a must read for everyone.

Have you read it? What did you think??

K xx

Monday, January 4, 2016

Lysistrata and Other Plays - Aristophanes

I first heard of Aristophanes at some point in high school, while studying something cheerful like Antigone or Medea during VCE. And in comparison, Greek comedy sounded like a hell of a lot of fun, which is why I figured I may as well add some to my Classics Club list, especially after hearing Lysistrata referred to as essentially a feminist story.

This collection started with The Achanians, which is essentially arguing for peace during a long war with Sparta. Next came The Clouds, which basically takes the piss out of the Greek philosophers. And finally, I came to Lysistrata, which features the women of the various Greek city states deciding that the quickest way to end a war is to withhold sex.

Of the three, I think The Achanians may have been my favourite. All three featured a hell of a lot of dick jokes, but The Achanians also involved a lot of poking fun at the other city states, which was still pretty damned funny thousands of years later. That said, Lysistrata is definitely a rare classic in that it's very female dominated and revolves around women having agency over their bodies, so it was definitely a pretty great read as well.

I had a few issues with the translation in this one. Obviously, a lot of the humour wouldn't translate well to modern English - thankfully, Penguin always provide plenty of footnotes on that front! - but Alan H. Sommerstein made the decision to make the Spartans have stereotypical Scottish accents and mannerisms, and the Corinthians have stereotypical Irish accents and mannerisms. Which DID work moderately well - it gave a sense of how the Athenians felt about each of their neighbouring city states. But at the same time, it was totally bizarre to have characters with Scottish accents talking about Zeus and Athena and Poseidon.

On the whole, this collection was funnier than I was anticipating - I thought it would be more like Shakespeare's comedies, where they're hilarious in person but on the page, they tend to be pretty dry, so I was pleasantly surprised to find myself laughing out loud while reading it, and I'm definitely glad I put it on my Classics Club list!

Have you read it? What did you think??

K xx
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