samedi 10 octobre 2009

Harlequinades 2009, plus little pleasures for the weekend

This weekend was supposed to be perfect with numourous baking challenges, plus a speech contest, all of which I thought would be a success. Sadly, things didn't go so well in either of those areas and I ended up walking home tonight in the rain without an umbrella and feeling frustrated. Luckily, after some tea, pasta and an Italian film, my mood isn't quite as dark and I'm at last ready to tell you about Harlequinades. It was Rose who suggested I take part; basically the challenge is to read at least one romantic novel (the equivalent in anglophone countries is probably Mills and Boon) and discuss it in an interesting way in order to grasp its philosophical and sociological significance. French speaking readers can find more info here. Some people might raise their eyebrows at my book choice but it's been ages since I read something like this and I had fun doing it. Actually, I thought it might be nice to have a romance in German to see if the clichés are similar. At Dussmann, the choice was surprisingly limited but I did manage to stumble across Frühling und so (Spring and so on) which is not only a Spiegel bestseller, but also set in Berlin. It tells the story of Raquel, a teenager and her sexual and romantic journey over one year in the German capital. Raquel is actually the Spanish version of Rachel which means "ewe" or one of purity so it's ironic that it's the name of our heroine.

The book is actually divided into four chapters, entitled spring, summer, autumn, winter and spring. I wondered whether the journey of the heroine would be one of profound self-discovery as in the beautiful film by Kim Ki-duk which is also called Spring, summer, autumn, winter and spring but each section is not so different, except in the various moods which the changing seasons create. Will Racquel ever be able to get over being left by Noa, her long-term boyfriend? Does the man of her dreams really exist at all? Is it possible to have a physical as well as an intellectual connection?

Raquel is what many would call a typical teenage girl; she worries about her looks and figure, goes out with friends and feels torn between her divorced parents and their separate families. The novel describes the modern patchwork family extremely well. Already though, she has a clear idea of the kind of life she should have in ten years and often expresses disapproval of those who haven't achieved that level. At thirty, for example, you shouldn't simply have an ordinary job on a film set but do something more important in the social hierachy.

She meets men easily and is aware of her seductive powers over them. Yet all too often, they seem to lack her emotional maturity and powers of observation. With sex, Raquel is often able simply to treat her body as an object, something separate from her emotions and is constantly analyzes herself from the outside. One of the nicest aspects of the book is that fact that it combines sexual advantures with the everyday life of Berlin and the many different areas form a backdrop which makes it a refreshing read. Raquel sees the social problems around her relating to Hartz IV, the long-term unemployment benefit many Berlin's citizens live on and alcohol and drug addiction in notorious areas like Kotti.

I won't spoil the ending for you but just want to finish by saying that there are some surprising twists along the way and that the author, Rebecca Martin is certainly good at writing about sex.

And the pictures in this post? So there's no recipe for you tonight but it's late on Saturday night and I had no energy to prepare much - sorry! The pictures are of two things I treated myself to yesterday; perhaps the last good tomatoes of the season - sweet and crisp - which I enjoyed with some good bread and cheese and a concerto torte from Lenôtre in KaDeWe. Maybe it's because I've gotten used to simpler cakes but it was somehow nicer to look at than to eat. In any case, you can savour them with your eyes and I promise you another recipe before I leave for Italy at the end of next week.

11 commentaires:

  1. What a delicious looking treat! I'm sorry about that things didn't go as planned...

    Cheers and have a wonderful Sunday,


  2. Well, it's always possible to dig deep meanings out of anything, right?! Barbara Cartland, here we come... I also read Rose's post about the Harlequinades the other day and found them hilarious... Let's hope the rest of your week end goes better.

  3. It's nice to read that you found a book on Berlin and that you enjoyed this challenge. I wasn't very excited at first about reading that kind of book, but I must recognize reading a romance novel once in a while is funny. I think the best way to find one is what we call here vide-greniers or foire à tout, where you can choose among amazingly important collections, sold by delicious grand-mothers...
    I hope you have a nice Sunday (I could suggest after the Italian film a Bollywood movie, an excellent way to cry and laugh and finally feel better)

  4. Rosa - Yeah, I was a bit put out but am feeling better now - thanks! Sometimes you just have to aceept that things don't go your way.
    Julie - I just love Rose's posts and you should definitely do the challenge. It's totally fun extracting profound meaning from romances and I think you'd do a great job. The week should surely get better as I'm going on holiday on Friday so something to look forward to! Now, I just need to choose my books - Svevo and Bernhard are in there already!
    Rose - Wow, your English is perfect! I agree with you that the challenge doesn't sound so appealing at first but I think you need to find a book that's a bit unusual or special and then it's much more fun. It makes a nice change too not just to read heavy classics all the time. Also, thanks a lot for the tips with the vide-greniers; I hope German grandmothers have nice collections to sell. Sunday here is grey and cold but I'm feeling much happier today. A Bollywood film for tonight sounds like a great idea though :-) Have a good Sunday too!

  5. You are so right- I would too go to kadewe and get a leonotre after that. for how it looks- but not really how it tastes. i love your new banner. your blog just gets better and better. Way to go!

  6. Because of your posts, my English gets better ;)

  7. Belle initiative et j'aime beaucoup ton écriture (je crois te l'avoir déjà dis ;-). Quant aux tomates...

  8. Pardonnée pour le "pas de recette", les photos et l'écriture compensent largement.

  9. Rose - You always say the nicest things at the best possible moments - I'm really touched!
    Dada - Oui, c'est une idée très drôle et intéressante et j'aimerais bien le refaire. Merci beaucoup pour le commentaire. Et moi, j'aimerais bien prendre de superbes photos et faire de beaux plats italiens comme toi!
    Sarah - Merci beaucoup pour tes commentaires si gentils! Mais je te promets une autre recette avant de partir :-)

  10. I juts realized I never read one of those romantic novels.. what's wrong with me ! ?

  11. Pia - Well, they're really good fun and maybe in between lecturing and writing, you could squeeze one in to relax!