The Transposed Heads by Thomas Mann

Thomas Mann subtitled the novella An Indian Legend as the story is based on an old folk tale from India.

Two friends Nanda and Shridaman see the lovely Sita bathing in a local pool and each of them falls in love with her. She marries Shridaman and has a child with him, but she also loves Nanda, so there is a love triangle in operation within the story.

Six months after the wedding, the married couple set off to visit her parents accompanied by Nanda. On the way they stop at a temple to the goddess Kali where Shridaman goes to pray. In a fit of religious fervour, he commits suicide by chopping off his own head. When Nanda finds Shridaman in this state, he is bereft and does the same thing.

The goddess Kali appears to Sita and informs her what to do to bring them both back to life. The title of the book tells you what happens and the ending is traditional though still shocking.

Fantastic Fables by Ambrose Bierce

This book was written in 1898 and comprises 245 fantastic fables from Ambrose Bierce.

These tales lampoon greedy politicians, judges, holy men, poets and many others.

I would suggest the meaning in some of the stories is connected to the era in which the book was written and so might not mean too much in our present day.

The tales are satirical, acerbic, and sometimes sarcastic, but in most cases I think I saw the point Bierce was making.

The tales won’t provide belly laughs but might make you smile and will make you think.

Pincher Martin by William Golding

William Golding won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1983. His first novel, Lord of the Flies, is probably his best known work.

Pincher Martin is on a navy vessel escorting a North Atlantic convoy during WWII. His ship is torpedoed and sinks, but Martin is the sole survivor and ends up on a rock on his own in the middle of the ocean. The book is entirely set on this rock.

He is exposed and isolated surrounded by the sea, the sun, the cold and his evident isolation. He is injured, he is hungry, but it’s his thoughts that are the most terrifying as he remembers incidents from his past that he regrets and perhaps wishes he’d handled differently. He organises a pool of rainwater for drinking and eats shellfish which give him food poisoning. He gives names to features of the rock to make it homely, but there’s no escape from himself.

The Transposed Heads by Thomas Mann

Thomas Mann subtitled the novella An Indian Legend as the story is based on an old folk tale from India.

Two friends Nanda and Shridaman see the lovely Sita bathing in a local pool and each of them falls in love with her. She marries Shridaman and has a child with him, but she also loves Nanda, so there is a love triangle in operation within the story.

Six months after the wedding, the married couple set off to visit her parents accompanied by Nanda. On the way they stop at a temple to the goddess Kali where Shridaman goes to pray. In a fit of religious fervour, he commits suicide by chopping off his own head. When Nanda finds Shridaman in this state, he is bereft and does the same thing.

The goddess Kali appears to Sita and informs her what to do to bring them both back to life. The title of the book tells you what happens and the ending is traditional though still shocking.

Fantastic Fables by Ambrose Bierce

This book was written in 1898 and comprises 245 fantastic fables from Ambrose Bierce.

These tales lampoon greedy politicians, judges, holy men, poets and many others.

I would suggest the meaning in some of the stories is connected to the era in which the book was written and so might not mean too much in our present day.

The tales are satirical, acerbic, and sometimes sarcastic, but in most cases I think I saw the point Bierce was making.

The tales won’t provide belly laughs but might make you smile and will make you think.

Tolstoy – Selected Stories

Leo Tolstoy was born into an aristocratic family in 1828. His real name was Count Lyov Nikolayevich Tolstoy. Both his parents and two guardians died before he was 12. Leo and his siblings ended up living in Kazan with an aunt.

Reckless behaviour at the university in Kazan meant Leo never finished his studies. He joined the Russian army and took part in the Crimean War between 1853 and 1856. Shortly after, he lost all his money gambling in Paris and returned to Russia, started a school, got married, and began writing.

The stories vary from a daring thriller in the Caucasus when a Russian soldier is kidnapped by Tartars, to the benefits of not having any wealth, via a parable on how to go on pilgrimmage and the perils of trying to grab too much land at once.

All the stories have a meaning and are very well written without any smugness or pretence. The translation is excellent with clear, simple words and descriptions.

Tolstoy – Selected Stories

Leo Tolstoy was born into an aristocratic family in 1828. His real name was Count Lyov Nikolayevich Tolstoy. Both his parents and two guardians died before he was 12. Leo and his siblings ended up living in Kazan with an aunt.

Reckless behaviour at the university in Kazan meant Leo never finished his studies. He joined the Russian army and took part in the Crimean War between 1853 and 1856. Shortly after, he lost all his money gambling in Paris and returned to Russia, started a school, got married, and began writing.

The stories vary from a daring thriller in the Caucasus when a Russian soldier is kidnapped by Tartars, to the benefits of not having any wealth, via a parable on how to go on pilgrimmage and the perils of trying to grab too much land at once.

All the stories have a meaning and are very well written without any smugness or pretence. The translation is excellent with clear, simple words and descriptions.

Freddie the Buddhist Cat

Do you need something to smile about in these dark days?

Meet Freddie.

Freddie treats everything with respect. People, animals, birds, plants, even his breakfast.

Freddie finds Buddhism. Saved from the shelter by John and Mary a new life begins. Then he meets Gemma.

She regards humans as oppressors as they took her kittens.

Gemma thinks Freddie is soft in the head but sees his approach brings rewards as Freddie wins friends, gains knowledge, stops thieves, and helps a squirrel fly further from a children’s slide.

Your Inner Hedgehog – Book Review

Another wonderful story concerning Professor Dr Dr Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld by Alexander McCall Smith.

I’m not reading these books in the correct order, but it doesn’t matter too much as they stand on their own more or less. Talking of standing, Professor Unterholzer’s sausage dog is mentioned in this book and is the reason Unterholzer might be prosecuted for operating a vehicle on a pavement.

The main antagonist at the beginning of the book is Dr Hilda Schreiber-Ziegler, the new Deputy Librarian at the Institute of Romance Philology in Regensburg. She takes exception to being barred from the Senior Coffee Room and complains to The Rector of the university, who decides the Institute should have a Director. Two people put their names forward and there’s an election.

Before the election, Von Igelfeld goes on a visiting fellowship to Oxford for three weeks and meets two antagonists, a visiting academic from the USA called Dr Schneeweiss and an MI6 agent called B.

Dr Scheeweiss returns to Regensburg as she is a big fan of Von Igelfeld and his masterwork Portuguese Irregular Verbs.

Somehow, everyone manages to come out of the story a winner including Dr Schreiber-Ziegler and Dr Scheeweiss. Von Igelfeld also has to admit to himself that in two instances he’s been a little greedy in terms of self promotion and decides to revert back to how things were when the book started.

Freddie the Buddhist Cat

Do you need something to smile about in these dark days?

Meet Freddie.

Freddie treats everything with respect. People, animals, birds, plants, even his breakfast.

Freddie finds Buddhism. Saved from the shelter by John and Mary a new life begins. Then he meets Gemma.

She regards humans as oppressors as they took her kittens.

Gemma thinks Freddie is soft in the head but sees his approach brings rewards as Freddie wins friends, gains knowledge, stops thieves, and helps a squirrel fly further from a children’s slide.