Honoré de Balzac: A writer for all seasons

Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) is recognized as one of the great French novelists. Gustave Flaubert, Marcel Proust, and Henry James all acknowledged their debt to this prodigious observer of social manners and critic of human behaviour. Continue reading Honoré de Balzac: A writer for all seasons

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More on the quirkiness of English spelling

It is a paradox that English has become a global language while being so difficult to learn. English is widely studied as a second language as well as being the official language of several countries and world organizations. It is now the third most natively spoken language in the world, after Mandarin Chinese and Spanish. Continue reading More on the quirkiness of English spelling

The Crumpet Wars: Are you for Marmite or Bovril?

In this extraordinary world of ours there are Marmitians and Bovrillians and never the twain shall meet – unless on the field of battle. Marmite is that brownish, glutinous stuff that comes in black jars with yellow lids. Bovril, on the other hand, is an ebony, viscous relish (scrumptious on hot buttered crumpets) that comes in black jars with red lids. Continue reading The Crumpet Wars: Are you for Marmite or Bovril?

“Tyger! Tyger! Burning bright” – but not for much longer

“The Tyger” is a poem by the English painter and poet William Blake, published in 1794 as part of his collection Songs of Experience. Blake may never have seen a tiger (London Zoo only opened the year after his death), but he would have deplored the callousness of a world that allowed them to become extinct. Continue reading “Tyger! Tyger! Burning bright” – but not for much longer

From global village to social isolation

What will it be like never to have to step outside the door, never to have to see, hear, or touch a real person? Today’s technological wizardry lies in digital communication that is available 24/7. How is it transforming the way we live in society? And at what cost to human contact? Continue reading From global village to social isolation

“Music, when soft voices die…”

When Franz Schubert died in 1828, his brother Ferdinand consigned his manuscripts to a cupboard, where they gathered dust. On a visit in 1839 the composer Robert Schumann unearthed the “Great” C major symphony, subsequently given its first performance by Mendelssohn. Little did they know there was much more to be discovered. Continue reading “Music, when soft voices die…”