Monday, 29 July 2013

Re-Reads for Uni

It’s been a few months since I re-read these for uni, but since I was extremely tired of dissecting them at the time, I haven’t written new reviews. So, for the sake of wrapping up loose ends, here are three mini-reviews of them.

The Trial by Franz Kafka (4.5/5)

First published: 1925 (but written in 1914/15)
Original title:
Der Process, later as Der Prozess, Der Proceß and Der Prozeß

Original language: German
Translation to English by: David Wyllie
Page count: 192

I have little to add to my previous review other than that I found and kept peeling away at more layers of the story on the second read. This was, of course, enhanced by the discussions we had and I found it very intriguing to hear what other people thought of K. and the trial. This is an absurdist’s dream; not having any idea what is going on and never being told.
And jokes.

The main difference between this re-read and my first encounter with The Trial is that I found the ending a lot more intriguing this time. Before I wrote that I found the end poetic, and that’s still true, but it also sort of broke my heart in that why-couldn’t-you-just-have-listened type of way.

Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf (5/5)
First published: 1925
Page count: 288

I loved this a thousand times more the second time I read it because I understood it, and Woolf’s process of writing, a lot better. It would be impractical for me to start a discussion about Woolf’s technique, but I am fascinated by, and in awe of it and I really must read more of her works. I’ve come to realise that some people have problems with the prose, but I love its fluid and seamless nature.
Because I already knew the story and the way it was told, it was easier for me to focus on symbolism and character portrayal (also because I had an exam on it). The emotions were more intense, especially those of Septimus, and where I previously described them as subtle, they now seemed to leap off the page. Instead of focusing on why Woolf was showing us select pieces of the character’s lives, I now focused on what she was leaving out and why.

Moscow 2042 by Vladimir Voinovich (5/5)

First published: 1986
Original title:
Москва 2042

Original language: Russian
Translation to English by:
Richard Lourie
Page count: 444
I wrote an essay entitled Future or Fantasy: Metafictional Narrative in Moscow 2042 where I discussed how Voinovich made use of metafictional devices to make the reader question whether what Kartsev describes is a depiction of the future or his imagination. Surprisingly, I fell in more literary love with Voinovich after this essay, since it gave me the chance to research how absolutely brilliantly crafted this novel is. My defence of the essay didn’t go as well as I though because the opponent didn’t seem to grasp the difference between the novel written by Voinovich and the novel within the novel written by the protagonist Kartsev.

Metafiction: my poison of choice.

Perhaps I did a bad job of differentiating between the two; it became very Inception-y since I was discussing Voinovich’s use of Kartsev as a pawn.
See, I’m still able to spend hours discussing this!

The bottom line is that this was better the second time around since I spent less time trying to figure everything out and focused more on the way the novel was constructed. I found so many ridiculously ingenious plot devices and props to confuse the reader, and what I previously thought of as silly now made so much more sense.
This is satire at its finest.


  1. It's always interesting to compare different readings of a book. Not only that you see more in it the second time you read it, but sometimes you also notice how you yourself have changed between the readings!

    I'm yet to read The Trial for the first time, but I expect to like it. Mrs. Dalloway requires re-reading, because first time with her is TOUGH... I suspect that I have read Voinovich, because the plot sounds extremely familiar, but I'm not really sure. We have such a huge library of Soviet Science Fiction back at home in Russia, that anything can be found there. And I think I've read all of it. So it may be another book with something similar inside...

    1. That is the main reason I like re-reads. Of course, there wasn't much time between my re-reads of these novels since I had to due to school - but when I re-read Crime and Punishment it had been years since the first time and I was a completely different person from the first go.

      I don't find Virginia Woolf as tough as people say she is, and I think that's the same reason I don't have problems with Proust, because I genuinely enjoy the type of prose that uses stream of consciousness. Now, I would never claim that either of them is an easy read, because they're far from it, but I think that most people prefer an omniscient narrator to stream of consciousness (whereas I'm the complete opposite).

      And I dream of a huge library of Soviet sci-fi (or anything Soviet, for that matter).