Our Holiday Classics
By Megan Powell, Michael Calder, Hannah Spruce and Lucy Carr
As the sun continues to shine many of us will be thinking of our favourite holiday destinations and planning trips. It is safe to assume that after the past few years, everyone deserves a holiday of a lifetime, whether that is going abroad, a staycation or general time off. Many of us in the classic literature team are approaching our holidays and wanted to explore a classic from the country that we are visiting to compile a global classic holiday reading list. Not only will this hopefully spark some holiday reading inspiration but also transportation to many countries through the power of literature – bringing the holiday to you!
Two members of the team are visiting Italy this year! Therefore, we have decided to collaborate in featuring one of our favourite Italian authors and recommending two books by Italo Calvino.
Mr. Palomar by Italo Calvino
Published in 1983, Mr Palomar follows the omniscient titular narrator throughout his complex and thought-provoking contemplations. This novel by Calvino is the perfect companion for summer reading, comprising of twenty-seven vignettes, exploring various themes and settings. There may not be a significant storyline throughout the text, but the unwavering attention to detail in the observations of Mr. Palomar provides numerous experiences of escapism throughout. Calvino masterfully articulates feelings and emotions, putting into words what readers may experience in serious and fun ways. All vignettes offer differing themes and due to the short story nature allows for an enjoyable and light read. However, many of the ideas expressed will leave room for you to also contemplate and make your own judgement alongside Palomar. This inspiring novel will shape the way in which you observe and analyse experiences through connecting with Palomar’s mindful journeys.
Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino
Published in 1972, Italo Calvino’s ninth novel, Invisible Cities, maintains the novelist’s reputation for eccentric, idiosyncratic narratives which explore social and philosophical themes through unconventional mediums.
Based upon the historical encounters between the Venetian explorer, Marco Polo, and Mongol Emperor, Kublai Khan, the novel embeds two narrative frameworks – a primary conversation between the two characters, and an internalised, prosaic collection of city descriptions given by Polo.
While the conversation between explorer and emperor holds thematic significance – demonstrating the seemingly inevitable detachment between imperial rulers and subjects –the extent of Calvino’s excellence precipitates the cities which Polo fabricates. Adopting an abstract, fantastical tone, each of the fifty-five stipulated cities holds unique secrets, passions, and memories locked within.
Some cities, driven by unbridled progression, have forgotten their heritage; others have become stagnant, obsessed with tradition; plenty have transformed into an amalgam of both and struggle for an identity; however, most depict the layered nature of genesis, development, transformation, and destruction, imbuing the cyclical nature of existence and progression within creative, evocative, and relatable passages.
A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen
A Doll’s House is a three-act play written by one of Norway’s most prolific playwrights, Henrik Ibsen. It first premiered in 1879 and gained immediate notoriety for its progressive questioning of a woman’s relationship to the home – exploring themes of female liberation, selfhood, the constructive nature of gender roles, and female sacrifice.
Nora, the play’s protagonist, is married to Torvald Helmer, who relishes his position of authority, both in his new position at the bank, and within his and Nora’s marriage. He regards Nora as a delicate, child-like, naive woman; a precious doll to be admired, rather than an equal. In Act I, the audience learns that Nora once secretly borrowed a large sum of money to help Torvald convalesce after a serious illness. The rest of the play shows the unfurling consequences of this decision, alongside Nora’s growing clarity regarding the stifling nature of her marriage. A Doll’s House is an exceptional and trailblazing example of realism in theatre, with themes that are continually appealing to modern audiences.
After nine months of studying in Montpellier, France, the appreciation for literature and the arts was difficult to ignore. Streets named after influential writers: Hugo, Ronsard, Rabelais and perhaps the most revered, Molière. The Language of Molière is a synonym for the French language, and his impact on francophone literature is comparable to Shakespeare for the UK. Though a favourite of the King, his play Tartuffe mocks the hypocrisy of the upper classes and the clergy, the female characters are presented as the most astute and rational, which sparked outrage. In fact, many of his plays, including Amour Médecin and Écoles des Femmes, portray the patriarch as foolish and ignorant, contrary to social standard. There is a beauty in the way Molière would combine his plays with music or ballet to tell the story and add vibrancy to his eccentric characters. This vibrancy and comedic excellence make his plays easily adaptable and celebrated by modern audiences and solidifies his position as one of the great writers of the 17th century.