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 …

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 …

For Whom the Bell Tolls, Hemingway

I didn't think much of For Whom the Bell Tolls at first, but it pulled me in and left me heartbroken. Somehow, with sparse descriptions and repetitive words, he made me feel the love between Maria and Robert with a clarity that made me feel sick for them. He made me despise Pablo and respect …

What strange dialogue

I started listening to For Whom the Bell Tolls recently, and am wondering why everyone is so enamored with Hemingway. The story so far is engaging and well told, but it seems so... prosaic... which is not what I expected from one so universally praised. I'll give it time though, it is drawing me in. …

Phoenix (2015)

I'm not usually very interested in war movies. In fact war is the least interesting genre of any entertainment to me. But AV Club had this movie near the top of their best of 2015 list, so I checked it out on a whim. Phoenix is about a woman who escaped from a concentration camp …