Tag Archive: writer


Orwell –  a dystopian writer or a socio-realist?

Down and Out in Paris and London” was the first book Orwell ever wrote and therefore it demands some special attention. He wrote it in 1933.

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Who was George Orwell? He was born Eric Arthur Blair 110 years ago, on June 25th 1903. He died on January 21st, 1950, some 46 years later. To me, Orwell has always been an important touchstone, a true pleasure to read since he is different in as much as he combines some traits I find important for any writers: will for social and political justice, very clear language, intelligence, sharp observation, wit and accuracy in the depiction of social realities.

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I’ve read him ever since I was little and funnily enough, at school, we read 1984, just in the year of 1984, when I was 13. Yes, it did make a huge impact on me. I cannot say anything else. We discussed the book. We wrote essays on it. We saw the movie 1984. It was a blatant attack against totalitarianism. That much was clear. And for a classroom with a lot of rebellious hormones flying around, Orwell was just right in showing us what society would be if we allowed ourselves to be let astray. Everyone in class including the teacher was sure that there would never be any similar surrounding, that everything depicted in the book, was pretty much a dark pessimistic fantasy, way out, and that basically this was a dystopia which would never happen.

Now about 30 years later, I am not so sure anymore. I find that Orwell had the unusual talent of absorbing very slight historical tendencies and thinking them till the bitter end and turning it into fiction. Orwell’s fiction is never just fiction. It is a moral signpost that says “Don’t go there. It might happen if you don’t watch out.” On the other hand, he wrote a lot about what happened in real life. He was in no way a writer in his ivory tower. He was pretty much connected and set in the real life of his time and confronted with real-life problems. “His work is marked by clarity, intelligence and wit, awareness of social injustice, opposition to totalitarianism, and commitment to democratic socialism.” That’s what Wikipedia says, and I solidly agree with that.

Orwell. The dystopian writer, the social critic

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There are many books by George Orwell, well worthwhile reading which are hard to come by because of course, 1984 and Animal Farm are the evergreens and the bestsellers that cannot be surpassed.

Retracing his steps, we find that he was basically a middle upper lower middle class son, who was born in India, grew up in Burma, living a privileged life within a well bred family. But as he grew older, and after having returned to Europe, he seemed to have been a wandering spirit. He tried out multiple ways in order to live, he had something inside him, a search of something else, a weariness of everyday life about him. Something that made him seek out adventures. He led an unusual life. Orwell wrote his first book with the title “Down and out in Paris and London” (1933) which I would like to recommend today with all my heart.

In a nutshell, it is a desolate depiction of what the social reality for poor people, for people out of a regular existence, jobless, homeless, sometimes vagabonds and basically impoverished people must have been like. The daily search to get by on a minimum of money is shown with a pinch of salt. It is not someone who is crying into his bowl of water-soup at the workhouse. There is nothing that resembles rage or an accusation against the state or the state of things in there. It just shows the reality of what things were like. Without commenting as much on it. That is Orwell’s English side. And this is what made me have goose pimples all over when I first read the book at 20. It was hair-raising. The cruelty and the sometimes really very harsh if not brutal realities are depicted in a very formal and sometimes offhand manner. It is something hard to digest at first. But that way, the reader gets to the bottom of things, to the places where Orwell leads him, to the darkest corners in pre-war Paris and pre-war London. The reader must ask himself what made Orwell endure all of this. He wanted to be a first-hand narrator. He did not want to narrate the hell of others, of vagabonds, he first wanted to endure it so he could write his books with a totally different stance. Today, we might call him an investigative journalist. Yes, but Orwell was more than that. He was a critic in his way not to criticize anything but depicting every cruel detail of what happens to poor people and what happens if you get to the point where you lose your job, you home and your social framework. Something which in the nineteen-thirties must have been something not so easy to endure.

Another very good book by Orwell is “Burmese Days” where Orwell actually lets us in on the secrets of his upbringing in the colonies. It is an eye opener. Truly recommended.

All in all, I can only recommend George Orwell again and again. I know, that 1984 is a must read for many classes (at school as well at university) but it rightly is so. As well as Animal Farm has become a total classic. However, Down and Out in Paris and London, as well as Burmese Days and his collected Essays should find more readers, the way I see it.

Orwell was a bright man, with a vision.

Ending this post, I would like to point out that in fact, the more I think about it, the more I feel that Orwell is a more than a modern classic, he is a post-modern writer, someone to foresee something sinister that was about to happen. Let’s us all see to it that we can make this dystopia stop before Big Brother and the thought police become reality.

I wonder what Orwell would write if he was alive today.

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Happy New Year, folks.

I hope you are more or less back to normal. I certainly have been pushing my limits quite hard lately, I kind of feel exhausted.

Nevertheless, I wanted to say thank you to all those who have been by my side, virtually, or physically the last 12 months, or much longer than that, for that matter. It does seem to me that 2012 was a pretty important year for me.

I have two reasons why I wrote this text today. One is because I have been confronted with some misconceptions about why I wrote something, a novel, in Catalan. And still really think it could be worth publishing one day.

Second, I was kind of fed up of repeating myself over and over again. In that respect I tend to be rather a lazybone.

That’s why I copy & pasted an entry from facebook here for you to see how I feel about the whole writing business.

“Re-editing my novel for the zillionth time around… I wish I was less selective, less fussy with language. The plot is no worries. It is mostly language, expressions, register, the lack of authenticity of used language. Some sentences simply don’t compute. Fuck… I need a language coach. Else the novel will die a horrible death. You know how writers tend to be cruel.”
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    Klaus Faulenbach Sorry, dear, I can see and understand the challenge writing seriously in a foreign language but did Goethe write in English, Shakespeare in Italian, Cervantes in German? Why are you making this so tough on you?
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    Chryssula Kokossulis I second that thought, dear. Although… It’s the way I started though. Every language has a particular sound, melody, rhythm and such. I kind of started to write subconsciously and the novel is beyond anything that I wrote so far in German or English. If I can work this one out, I will know that I made the right choice.
    It’s a book set in Ibiza. The people in it are Ibicencos. Why wouldn’t they speak Catalan?
    By the way, all of the quoted writers were well capable of reading literature in other languages.
    Anyway, you know me. When I put my mind to an idea, I will follow through. Stubborn, headstrong and incorrigible.
    Actually, by now, I see it as a challenge. I’ve come this far, why should I give in?
    PS.. Thanks for comparing me to the Swan of Avon, Goethe and Cervantes. That’s a bit over-reaching but still thx 😉
    PPS.. Another thing is… I cannot change the language at this point. This would be such a cowardly thing to do.
    No. Now it is catalan, all the way through. Once it has been edited, proofread and so on I will translate it though.
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    Klaus Faulenbach Written language only has that particular sound, melody, rhythm and such when one is fluent in it. And reading or writing a foreign language are two different cups of tea. You can and you should practise your Catalan as much as possible, no doubt about it, but giving you constant headache over words and expressions and frequently reaching out for language support for what you consider an important work of yours shouldn´t be the way to improve that language nor writing the thoughts of your soul.
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    Chryssula Kokossulis It’s not a lost battle. I may be perfectionist and I may be over-critical but this is just to find the right people. What’s so wrong with going after one’s dream. I already met very nice people on my way. But sometimes there is a thing that you need to resolve by yourself.
    And please… Every writer writes from his soul. Well ok there may be other bodyparts. 😉
    But once you’re ready to leave the ivory tower and share your thoughts with other people… That’s exactly when you show yourself as a vulnerable creature… So?!? What’s the worst that could happen? I could get hurt. Yes. True.
    But believe me, i’d rather run the risk than watch my novel – which yes, is super important to me – fade into obscurity. If I fall, I shall fall.

    Don’t worry about me too much. I’ve had worse situations than just writing and searching for language coaching.
    By the way, the good thing about being poised like that is that you create an amazing energy and kind of see which people can really relate to who you are.
    Becoming a writer is in that respect painful since you need to overcome privacy.

Right now, I don’t really have much time to appreciate what is happening right now, but there is this faint feeling at the back of my head that some day, maybe in a couple of months’ time or so, I will look back to what is happening right now, and know that this time (starting with May 2012, around that time or so) my life shifted, and I found a new perspective. Which in itself is quite exciting, that much I must tell you.

Those of you who also read my other blog in catalan what I’m talking about here. Well. I don’t want to mystify it for the others either. I started a novel around that time. And i wrote the first draft in between May and beginning of September.  Yesterday, I finished an in-between draft which surely is not the final draft but I seem to be making progress. Well that’s my feeling anyway.

Right now, the whole writing business, staying up countless nights, it all seems so crazy, a bit obsessed and a bit like a thing that no-one else but me could probably understand WHY I HAD to do this, and WHY I had to do it LIKE THAT. I sometimes ask myself how did I do this? How did I find the energy, the hope and also the way not to despair?

I don’t know.

I guess, that’s what writing and passion for writing really does to you. I cannot go without it.

There is some extent a love-hate relationship in there as well. It makes you swear. It makes you get to know yourself better. It makes you go and reach out for your personal limit.

So the novel? I sometimes despair, but I guess, it is coming along. I have been reading, re-reading and yet reading it again at least a zillion times now and I can see that the structure itself is not really bad. I don’t want to trash it. I think there are still passages that need working on. But basically, it is a story that I would personally go out and read.

Well, the process about writing, editing, reading and re-reading is kind of painful sometimes, and you notice that style is something that you cannot do without. I guess, the whole language business is kind of workable, but like I told a friend of mine yesterday, “it’s not a lost battle” and no, I still feel not ready yet to be happy with or gratulate myself is the language, and the style. But on the whole, I can say, I finally got my head around the idea that I am a writer. Full stop. That to me was the seventh world wonder. I never knew this for sure. I thought, yeah, writing is my hobby. I am a philologist, so surely, I read and write. It just went without saying.

So, there you go. I’ve come out of the closet. As a writer. I am a writer, I openly admit it. And guess what? I write stuff, I swear, I shout, I sometimes make myself an idiot, and I am proud about it.

Sure, there is probably no way you can live on writing. So in effect, the whole thing boils down to being a translator / salesperson to make money while your vocation is being a writer, but not being a salesperson / translator, who sometimes writes. To put it more clearly: A writer who does sales and translation to survive. Being a writer: That was something I kind of denied all these years. I felt that you could only call yourself writer when you’ve got like three or four books to show for yourself.

I did make an effort and had some small publications in the year 2000 (Stiller, Mein Heimliches Auge, Konkursbuchverlag) and 2003 (Race of Rats, Tränen – Anthologie, Geest Verlag) and 2004 (noch weiter im text, 1980 – 2004, 24 Jahre Autorenwerkstatt Uni Köln), I did do some lectures of poetry 1994 (Heretic Heritage) and 1995 (Night’s Little Fiends) and 1998 (My short trip to your stinky planet), I was part of a writers’ group at uni 1992 – 1996 (AutorenWerkstatt Universität Köln), and I was alwyas the first one to enter a bookshop. But I kind of thought it more a natural thing to be since I was studying letters so of course, I would write in my free time just like I had years before uni. It felt right, but I did not have to place a name tag on it.

Ok, back to 2012. Why was it an important year?

1) I wrote a novel. One I am not ready to trash yet.

2) I had my first exhibition with “Dark Vila” as a joint project with Oliver Janssen a photographer from Germany. It was located in Sant Josep in the Can Jeroni gallery. We got some really nice comments, there were people who really liked the exhibition which is a bonus, I guess. Right. I could say something here and now, but I won’t do it because that would be over-reaching.

3) I continue to learn Catalan. I have made a point to learn more insults and profanity, which to me funnily enough reveals as much as the soul of the language.

4) I got to know some really fun and interesting people who make it very worthwhile to keep at it and not to throw the towel once you hit rough waters.

5) I started playing scrabble in Catalan. It might seem trivial to some, but it does help you build new synaptic connections and that’s why it is used against alzheimer’s as well. I don’t use it for that purpose, I just happen to love that game, and being a learner of catalan, makes me want to play it in Catalan. To anyone who wants to learn a language quicker, I would seriously recommend this game.

6) After many many years, we – the family of four – made the decision to go to Scotland for some time. This is a long lost dream, we had scheduled for 1997 long before the kids were born. That’s what life does. It does overthrow planned things and makes you re-schedule. Somehow, the trip got to be 15 years later since the journey was planned for summer 1998 and now it will happen in winter 2013. But anyway, I am so much looking forward to it. And if freeze in the snow, it does not matter, this will be Scotland, so it will be wonderful.

7) I have learned to be more understanding, more human (I hope) and less perfectionist. I know this may sound a bit tiresome and also perhaps arrogant, but I do believe that being a writer makes you understand your own limitations and to help you accept them and live with them. I sometimes wish that I would just say, shit, just let’s go with the flow. As long as people can understand it, this shit is ok. Sorry, that is not gonna happen. I cannot be like that. I will rather spend a night working on one particular small chapter and kind of re-fitting words, playing with sentences, characters around, and exchange words and single phrases. It sometimes brings me to the verge of a nervous breakdown. But when I read a chapter I feel happy with, that really makes me happy. I know this sounds pretty silly, but people are so different in what they believe who they are and who they really are. This discrepancy goes for each and everyone. This is the reality gap. The black whole of conception and reality. I would like to keep that gap as small as possible. But it also makes me understand that as much as I want to deny it, I do have limits. Limits are good, without them, I might wake up and not know who I was. Admittedly, sometimes I go out of my way and try to break them. Limits that I try to break and overcome each and every time, like the numbers of hours I tend to sleep lately. But hey, I guess, that’s just me. And I learn the hard way. 😉

8) What about the whole Catalan business?
Friends have asked me this and I ask myself sometimes too why did I have to write it in Catalan? Well the answer is: because. It just happened that way. I cannot reverse it and take the reverse gear.
Do I do this to make myself more interesting or what?
No, I absolutely don’t. I would much rather just write, and be left in peace. But maybe, this is a cosmic lesson. In as much as I hate to go out and state that I am a writer, I kind of had to do it, since I could not achieve the class and the quality of what I usually write in Catalan. This kind of triggered other people to respond or not to respond to me. Here again, I was faced with the question of would I sustain my wish against all odds?

9 ) Yes, I did. I am still here. I still write. I still stick to the plan of finishing the novel which is such an important piece of my personal biography. Not because it is in catalan, but rather because I write it and do not feel afraid to ridicule myself since this is an authentic wish and this is an authentic piece of me. There is a lesson to be learnt here.

But I have come this far, I really cannot go back now. I know, this novel needs to be written in catalan. Maybe, it will be my only one I write in Catalan. Maybe, I will finally manage the pronoms febles, and the fucking difficult verb forms, who knows? But the point is: I finally took myself serious in what I do best: describe things, describe mental or emotional states. Describe people in their complexity.

Well, maybe I should not say that cos it might sound a tad arrogant, I do not believe that I am such a great writer yet, I am still at the beginning, but what I do know is that I have found something that kindled my passion.

Why else would I stay up night after night? I may be a passionate person, but I am not trying to kill sleep itself. I do feel wrecked, I do feel tired. And I know that I cannot keep going this way. I need to slow down. I seriously need a break. I do know that.

10) Facing up to who you are. However, those of you who already tried, will know that writing a novel is a bit like hitting puberty again. You go through all the stages again: the fear, the sometimes heightened and sometimes frail ego, the obsession, the theatre, the lust, the crying, the scratches, the love-bites. Um. That’s just me? Ok, then that’s just me. 😉

I do find it hard to relate to the state I was before.

I wrote all my life, but I never told anyone. It was something I used to keep to myself.

11) Writers must be eccentric, at least in one respect: Topic, style, language, or presentation. Sometimes, all of them at the same time. Writers do not belong to the standard lot. Otherwise, in case they would just obey the rules, they would be plain, dead boring and pretty stuffy. I’d much rather be weird, eccentric and juicy.

12) I accept and love myself as a writer, as someone who has come out of the closet. For being such a weird, and strange little girl.

http://youtu.be/QnWVCWNnkQE

Happy new Year. Make it happen!

What is it that I wish for?

1) That I don’t stop here. That I don’t lose the speed, the va-va-va-voom. That one editorial person, one publishing house can see through the grammar and expression mistakes that are surely there and still give me a chance to publish.

2) That I don’t give up writing in Catalan – no matter what, even though there is still a long way to go I guess. (both in terms of grammar, and in terms of vocabulary, expression, register and so forth)

3) That the people who I virtually as well as physically met throughout 2012 will remain by my side. There is not one of them, I would like to go without. I don’t need to name you, you all know who you are. 😉

4) That there will be new and exciting art projects along the way. I do hope so. There might be another Dark Vila or other thingy coming up. Who knows?

http://www.dark-vila.com/

http://ib3tv.com/20121124_190901-dark-vila-mostra-una-eivissa-ben-diferent.html

5) That I finish my first translation piece of a non-fiction book translation and there will be more fiction or non-fiction pieces to translate.

http://graceperiod21.wordpress.com

6) That Scotland will give me time and peace to recharge my batteries.

7) That I will learn more each and every day.

8) That I might start learn Greek, the language, my father was too lazy to teach and told us we would not speak Greek with him.

9) That I can be a good example for my kids, well, at least in some ways.

10) That my husband will not kill me because I am always writing, checking articles, reading, reading, and editing and studying. He really is a patient character (just the opposite of me) and sometimes I don’t know how he can bear up with me, being the way I am, some strange little girl.Image

PS: yeah, right, I forgot to mention that in 2011, I saw all the X-men movies, but last year, in 2012, I saw many more Hugh Jackman movies and have to say that he is way more than just Wolverine. Check out his performances. He is a great character man, very versatile. This picture above is from Correlli, an Australian mini series where he plays a character that is in prison and falls in love with the prison psychologist.

But he was also particularly brilliant in Paperback Hero and The Prestige (also starring Michael Caine).

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