The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, by Yukio Mishima

In this beautiful and dark novel, we read about a young man's obsession with the famous Golden Temple in Kyoto, Japan. Mizoguchi, who is unpopular and ostracized for his stuttering, is introduced to the temple by his father, and eventually becomes an acolyte there. After seeing the temple every day, he becomes more and more …

The Train Was On Time, by Heinrich Böll

In another war novel by Böll that does not feature battle or action, a young soldier, Private Andreas, boards a train and is immediately overcome with the certainty that he will soon die. As the train rolls on, Andreas' certainty grows, and he even begins to narrow down exactly the time and place that he …

The Silent Angel, by Heinrich Böll

I bought this based on W.G. Sebald's recommendation, and it did not disappoint. Set in Germany, in the weeks after the war has ended, the story follows one soldier as he wanders the wreckage, looking for food, shelter and love. The writing is continuously subtle and deft, and the imagery almost always seems to be …

The Loser, by Thomas Bernhard

The rambling, obsessive, internal thoughts of a bitter loser... who'd have thought they'd make such good reading? The Loser is about three piano virtuosos who meet in their early 20s at a music school. All three have great talent, but one of them is Glenn Gould (a real piano virtuoso--this story mixes some fact in …

On the Natural History of Destruction, by W.G. Sebald

In World War Two, 131 German cities and towns were bombed by the Allies, and many were entirely destroyed, leaving over seven million homeless, and 600,000 dead--twice the number of all American casualties in the war. The subject of this book is to ask, given the sheer scope of this destruction, why did rarely any …

The influence of Dostoevsky

I've been reading The Idiot, and the same as with Crime and Punishment, I am now seeing its influences on everything. I will share just one example, early in the novel. Prince Myshkin, the protagonist and titular 'idiot,' is a very open and guileless person, which leads many people who encounter him to doubt his …

700 year old emoji

I'm reading Purgatory by Dante, and came across this passage: The sockets of their eyes were gemless rings; one who reads omo in the face of men, could easily have recognized the m. My eyes widened a bit and I thought, that can't possibly mean what I think it means. But I checked the historical …