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cutesmart7, April 2, 2009

City is an apocalyptic novel, in which the world ends “not with a bang, but with a whisper.” Reminiscent of Asimov’s I, robot, City is a collection of short stories loosely interrelated written after World War II. It portrays a decadent peaceful almost pastoral world, in which Mankind evolutionates towards its own extinction, replaced first by Dogs and then Ants.

The novel, or rather the first story City, begins with Simak’s version of the aftermath of WWII. After the atomic bomb scare, Mankind has abandoned the cities and secluded themselves in hydroponic farms leading a pastoral self-sufficient life. Without the existence of cities, families have become isolated, each in their farm, where everything is available at the touch of a button (internet).

The second story, Huddling Place follows by expounding on the idea of Mankind’s isolation as portrayed by the Webster family and its robot serf Jenkins. As in Asimov’s I, robot, Jenkins has two main purposes: he serves as the servant of the Webster family, as well as, a machine or computer that keeps all the family’s historical records, somewhat like Star War’s R2D2. Agoraphobia, the fear of the outdoors and unfamiliar places has taken hold of Mankind; as a result, of his escape from the cities and his own destructive impulses.

In Census, Jerome Webster’s grandson operates on Dogs and gives them the power of speech and better eyesight. In an effort to push Mankind further into evolution, Jerome gives these physical talents to Dogs because “2 brains are better than one”. This propels Mankind further into its own extinction, as it is replaced by the civilization of the Dogs. Reminiscent of Asimov’s Foundation series, a mutant robot named Joe helps Mankind in his conquest of the stars by providing the technology of the rocket ship.

In Desertion, Man succeeds in the conquest of Jupiter. Each man of the group and his dog, go out to gather data (in an transformed physical nature in order to adapt to Jupiter’s atmosphere) and never come back.

In Paradise, 5 years after Desertion, Fowler returns to his human form to tell Mankind about Jupiter’s paradise. Tyler Webster interprets this news as a threat to Mankind’s existence as humans. Joe gives humans telepathy, and this propels them to their domination of the Universe.

In Hobbies, Jon Webster is one of the few remaining humans on Earth, after the majority has left to Jupiter. In desesperation to occupy his time, he takes on useless and meaningless hobbies. Jon pulls a switch that encapsulates Geneva, the last city in a protective shield that furthers Mankind’s extinction.

In Aesop, the robot serf, Jenkins is 7,000 years old, and is the overseer of the Dogs, and the few ‘violent’ humans whom he later takes to a parallel world in an attempt to preserve ‘peace on Earth.’ Unlike Asimov’s Daniel-Oliwav, Jenkins is not an entirely loyal serf to the humans, and instead strives to preserve the civilization of the Dogs by facilitating the human conquest of the stars.

In the Simple Way, Earth is now inhabited by the Beasts, watcher robots and ever more intelligent Ants, who are now able to reprogram robots to build their city. Jenkins revives Jon Webster from suspended animation, to learn the ‘simple way’ to kill the Ants, a poison sweetener. Of course, the Dogs would never agree to such ‘mass killing’, so Jenkins lets Nature take its course.

In Epilog, all Beasts are now dead including Dogs and the Ant city has taken over the world. When the Ant city begins to crumble, Jenkins regresses to his original purpose and leaves to Jupiter to help in the survival of the few ‘transformed’ humans. All that remains on Earth of the ‘glorious’ human civilization is Jon Webster in suspended animation.

City was Simak’s masterpiece and he received the National Fantasy award for it in 1953.
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The Trial: A New Translation Based on the Restored Text by Franz Kafka and Breon Mitchell
The Trial: A New Translation Based on the Restored Text

cutesmart7, April 2, 2009

By Georgina H Brandt
February 8, 2003
How did The Trial
give rise to the word ‘Kafkaesque’?
in Kafka’s The Trial

‘Kafkaesque’ is defined as the helplessness of man in the face of unknown forces that persecute him without reason. In Kafka’s The Trial, Joseph K. is persecuted by the Law (symbolized by the Court) and is not given a reason for his arrest. The entire court system of the Austro-Hungarian Empire during World War I is parodied, as well as the police, who are portrayed as a ‘theater’ act; they were open to bribery and corruption of all sorts while conducting legal procedures that made no sense. Along with this central theme, the novel also denotes the alienation and anxiety of humanity in general ‘in the absence of God’ as revealed by other existentialists such as: Sartre, Camus, Dostoevsky and Kierkegard.
In the first chapter, Joseph K. is told he is under arrest, but his charge is kept secret, for the two men and the Inspector are mere underlings and have no other information. He assumes that his employees at the office are playing some kind of joke on him, but as the fanfare goes along his situation gets more critical. He tells them that he is innocent, but no one seems to be listening to him, he is also told that he is allowed to contact his lawyer (which will do nothing to advance his case). According to the Austrian law of 1873, the accused had the right to counsel throughout all stages of criminal proceedings; however, the function of counsel was extremely limited during the preliminary stages: he could only call matters to the judge’s attention, examine questionable documents, and advice the client on how to respond to the charges, he was not allowed to interrogate the accused or the witnesses; therefore, at this moment his function was practically useless. Afterwards, he decides not to call his lawyer and is told by the Inspector that he could go to work as usual. This is considered normal procedure in the European system of criminal law; the only time pretrial detention is enforced is when: 1) guilt is highly probable, 2) the offense is major, or 3) there is a danger that the accused would flee, tamper with the evidence or repeat the offense, all these factors are apparently not present; although the chosen place for the arrest’s notification is highly inappropriate. Kafka was also a lawyer, worked in a law office during his last term at the University; following his graduation he worked in the criminal courts for a year, then he worked in a large insurance company in Prague (then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, with its capital in Vienna) concerned with worker’s compensation for industrial accidents. Kafka also mentions the strange fact of the secrecy of the laws in his well-known parable The Problem of Our Laws: “Our laws are not generally known; they are kept secret by the small group of nobles that rule us. We are convinced that these ancient laws are scrupulously administered; nevertheless it is an extremely painful thing to be ruled by laws that one does not know.” He also in the same essay makes the following observation: “…and though there is still a possible freedom of interpretation left, it has now become very restricted.” The Magistrate, a judge of an inferior court, had extensive powers to hear witnesses, inspect premises, order domiciliary searches, and proceed with an arrest. The accused would not necessarily be informed at first, nor would the proceedings be made public. Before the authorities would order such an arrest they must be quite well-informed about the reasons for the arrest and the person of the arrestee: “Our officials, so far as I know them, says Willem, never go hunting for crime in the populace, but as the Law decrees, are drawn toward the guilty and must then send out warders. That is the Law.” Joseph K. must therefore be guilty, furthermore, the warder Franz observes later: “See…he admits that he doesn’t know the Law and yet he claims he’s innocent.” He condemns himself by offering his ignorance as proof of his innocence, one who does not know the law cannot possibly know whether it has been violated, although this could not be used as grounds of exculpation, according to the Austrian Penal Act of 1945. Yet, the entire scene can be read as a classic burlesque of the police and their secret practices. This theme returns in a later chapter when K. has accused the warders of attempted bribery and they are then flogged by Whipper in a closet at the Bank, their chief complaint is that now they have lost their chances of promotion to be floggers themselves. The reason for the secrecy is mainly for the protection of the reputation of the accused, and only those charges sound in fact and law go to trial or were made public, as it has been since the Medieval period.
In chapter two, K. is informed that the hearing of his case will occur the following Sunday. When he arrives at Court, he becomes aware of the ‘dimness, dust and reek’ perhaps an allusion to the secrecy of his charge, and the obvious corruption of the Court, which later he discovers is also open to bribery and also that having the right connections matters a lot more than being in the right. The Examining Magistrate commits a typical mistake by confusing K.’s identity with that of a house painter; he then grabs the opportunity to denounce the whole proceeding as senseless and absurd, where innocent people are humiliated in public. He then rushes out of the door, where he is stopped by the Examining Magistrates, who says to him: “ Today you have flung away with your own hand all the advantages which an interrogation invariably confers on an accused man.” This man is more interested in talking with bystanders than questioning K., has little authority to control the audience and is easily humiliated, it is all a parody of the Judge and the jury, which at that time was under attack and later abandoned. Restored in 1873, the jury did not gain acceptance by legal scholars, indeed, it was thought to be a Utopian dream, the reasons for this were: 1) the jurors were ignorant of the psychological principles for evaluating proof, 2) grasping the significance of evidence and deducing questions and/or conclusions, and 3) that their political independence was a myth for they were dominated by the government, counsel and the press. Hans Gross, a former judge and a professor at the German University where Kafka graduated as a lawyer and who was a brilliant scholar and whose work on Criminal Psychology is still considered a basic text, criticized the investigative process by saying: “Every fundamental investigation must first of all establish the nature of its subject matter… witness and judge, have not defined the nature of this subject; they have not determined what they wanted of each other….the one did not know, and the other did not tell him.” Neither Joseph K. nor the Examining Magistrate has any understanding about what the other one thinks the inquiry is all about. The parody is made more hilarious by presenting lawyers and judges as a bunch of lusty, lecherous officials more interested in examining pornography than studying their own law books, which exist only to collect dust; upon K. taking a closer look at the Magistrate’s table, he finds a salacious novel and another book that contains an indecent picture. The usher’s wife is being pursued and later raped by one of the law students in the court and has also attracted the Magistrate’s attention, she is then carried off by the law student for the Magistrate which K. tries to prevent to no avail. Emrich, a critic of Kafka, suggested that the role of the usher’s wife is that of Woman living in conflict with the court, contrasted to Woman outside the court (Fraulein Burstner) and Woman defeated by the court’s power (Leni). The subject of bribes returns with the discovery by K. of the flogging of his warders, which he tries to have them pardoned by offering a bribe himself. Bribery was commonplace in the judicial system, K. also makes the observation that it is not for lack of money that the court offices are so poorly housed, but it is because the court officials pocket the money. Another humorous observation is made later when the unbreathable air is explained as the result of “washing their dirty linen.” After this scene, K. becomes progressively isolated and obsessed with his case, to the point where he cannot concentrate on his work, while at the office. His uncle comes from the country and finds him a very competent and influential lawyer, but who does nothing and is later fired by K., because the lawyer is more arrogant and more proud of having connections than of doing anything for his clients; but under Austrian law, pleas could only be entered after the presentation of evidence and only after the investigation led to a trial, which has yet not occurred in K.’s case, therefore, there is nothing his lawyer can do at this point. Judges are represented as vengeful, dishonest, bad tempered, unpredictable, and vain. Before firing his lawyer, K. has a conversation with another of his clients, a tradesman named Block whom he finds in bed with Leni, in this conversation a debate prevalent at that time in the courts (and which to some extent is still extant today) is introduced: according to the Darwinist, Lombroso, man is born with certain features or traits which are hereditary and which can be recognized as criminalistic and also primitive such as disproportionate mandibles and cheekbones (prejudicial to Asian and American Indians); this is contrasted with Enrico Fermi’s theory in which he sets out to show that crime is the product of a variety of physical and social forces; Kafka decides the argument by having Block say: “they take refuge in superstition.”
A minor theme in this novel is that of the alienation and anxiety of humanity in general, as represented by K., who grows more anxious as his case becomes more complicated and also as to its outcome. This is a common theme among all Existentialists, Dostoevsky says: “If God didn’t exist, everything would be possible”, and Sartre further stressed by saying: “neither within him nor without him does he find anything to cling to.” According to Heidegger, anxiety leads to the individual’s confrontation with the impossibility of finding ultimate justification for their choices; the lack of freedom of choice and the inevitably of disproving K.’s guilt is also stressed throughout the novel. Also Heidegger tells us that each individual must choose to follow a goal, aware of the certainty of death and the meaninglessness of one’s life; we discussed earlier the meaninglessness of the Court’s procedures in this novel and therefore we know that eventually K. will be executed for crimes which he has been found guilty before his arrest was even performed.
In Kafka’s The Trial, the entire Austro-Hungarian court system is parodied through the eyes of Joseph K., who is persecuted by unknown forces, even though he is innocent, arrested and executed; without ever his crime being revealed to him. This led to the term ‘Kafkaesque’, which has been used ever since in literature as well as in legal documents. The alienation and anxiety of humanity is also described in the novel, these are also common existentialist themes found elsewhere in literature.

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The Plague (Modern Library College Editions) by Albert Camus
The Plague (Modern Library College Editions)

cutesmart7, April 2, 2009

By Georgina H Brandt

February 25, 2003

How do the events of The Plague
lead Dr Rieux to an understanding
of why man’s existence has meaning?

In Camus’ The Plague its events lead Dr. Rieux to an understanding of the meaning of man’s existence. In this novel, several existentialist principles are illustrated: first, men have freedom of choice; second, we are responsible for our actions and its consequences; third, what each person does he believes is good for all mankind (we become role models or examples); fourth, this responsibility brings anxiety or suffering; fifth, the absurdity of life through the inevitability of death; and sixth, alienation from societal institutions. This novel is divided into five parts like a classical drama.
The first part of the novel is introductory. The town of Oran is introduced as a place where: “…everyone is bored, and devotes himself to cultivating habits. Our citizens work hard, but solely with the object of getting rich. Their chief interest is in commerce, and their chief aim in life is, as they call it, ‘doing business.’ Naturally they don’t eschew such simpler pleasures as lovemaking, sea bathing, and going to the pictures. But, very sensibly, they reserve these pastimes for Saturday afternoons and Sundays and employ the rest of the week in making money, as much as possible….” This description illustrates the limited freedom of the population; as slaves of commerce and habits.
The plague is introduced as a problem through the death of the rats and the efforts of Dr. Rieux and Castell in their discoveries. Its symptoms are described; and the history of several plagues in different countries is retold. At first, Dr Rieux among others engage in a bitter struggle against the authorities who drag their feet about warning the city because they do not want to create panic.
Part II begins with the closing of the city’s gates and the population’s affliction to their imposed exile or alienation from the outside world. This exile is portrayed as: “Still, if it was an exile, it was, for most of us, exile in one’s own home. And though the narrator experienced only the common form of exile, he cannot forget the case of those who, like Rambert the journalist and a good many others, had to endure an aggravated deprivation, since, being travelers caught by the plague and forced to stay were they were, they were cut off both from the person with whom they wanted to be and from their homes as well. In the general exile they were the most exiled; since while time gave rise for them, as for us all, to the suffering appropriate to it, there was also for them the space factor;…” Every person reacted differently: Dr Rieux dedicated himself to his work of saving as many lives as possible (alienating himself from his family); others resorted to loving each other as if they would die the next day; and still others took advantage of the situation by smuggling goods for profit. Father Paneloux calls onto the population to turn to God, for the plague has been sent to punish the wicked; his message run thus: “…to quote a text from Exodus relating to the plague of Egypt, and said: ‘The first time this scourge appears in history, it was wielded to strike down the enemies of God. Pharaoph set himself up against the divine will, and the plague beat him to his knees. Thus from the dawn of recorded history the scourge of God has humbled the proud of heart and laid low those who hardened himself against Him. Ponder this well, my friends; and fall on your knees.’” Dr. Rieux sees it as a test: “…What’s true of all the evils of the world is true of plague as well. It helps men to rise above themselves….”; later Paneloux agrees with him after he sees a little boy die. Solidarity became commonplace, and Tarrou and his friends formed a group of volunteers to help the doctors: “…Since plague became in this way some men’s duty, it revealed itself as what it really was; that is, the concern of all.” At the end of it, Dr Rieux tells us his definition of ‘common decency’: “…it consists in doing my job.”
Part III consists of the devastation of the plague and the fight against it. The town and its population is now portrayed: “…contrived to fancy they were still behaving as free men and had the power of choice…. only a collective destiny,… sense of exile and of deprivation, with all the crosscurrents of revolt and fear…. excesses of the living, burials of the dead, and the plight of parted lovers.” And later as: “…wasting away emotionally as well as physically….” The anxiety caused by so many deaths is portrayed as: “…without hope, they lived for the moment only…. killed off in all of us the faculty not of love only but even of friendship….” and “…the blind endurance that had ousted love from all our hearts.”
In Part IV, the protagonist begins to be victorious as the plague is forced into retreat. Rambert decides to join with them in the fight against the plague: “…a life of idleness to one of constant work had left him almost void of thoughts or energy….” Father Paneloux has a reversal of attitude after he sees a child die and his message changes to: “…time of testing has come for us all. We must believe everything or deny everything. And who among you, I ask, would dare to deny everything?” and “…in periods of extreme calamity He laid extremes demands on it….” The town also experienced an immense weariness after so much death and despair: “…we all have plague, and I have lost my peace….” and “…nothing remains to set us free except death.”
In Part V, the plague is finally but temporarily defeated; nevertheless, the gates are opened, and the town returns to normalcy. Just days before it the population reacted thus: “It must, however, be admitted that our fellow citizens’ reactions during that month were diverse to the point of incoherence. More precisely, they fluctuated between high optimism and extreme depression. Hence the odd circumstance that several more attempts to escape took place at the very moment when the statistics where most encouraging.” Dr Rieux wins the fight against the plague but loses his friend Tarrou to it: “…So all a man could win in the conflict between plague and life was knowledge and memories. But Tarrou, perhaps, would have called that winning the match.” The gates were opened, and people feasted and went to parties; and now Rambert unites with his love, but he is no longer the same person.
The events of the plague, its indiscriminate punishment, the relenting fight against it at times without much hope, and the final return to normalcy were quite an ordeal to the town as well as Dr Rieux. Yet he had won, and he rejoiced that the town was happy; even though, he had lost his wife and also his best friend Tarrou. He decides then to write about the plague, because it should come back he wants to inspire others to fight against it; for inspiration and solidarity do indeed give meaning to a man’s existence.

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In the Garden of Iden by Kage Baker
In the Garden of Iden

cutesmart7, April 2, 2009

By Georgina H Brandt

September 18, 2008

Essay on The Garden of Iden
By K. Baker

In the Garden of Iden, time travel is not just a means of transportation but a way to fix history. With the technology of time travel, the Company rescues children from various perils to become its agents or collectors of knowledge for the financial advancement of its Chief, Dr Zeus. This Dr Zeus has all the talents of a millionaire entrepreneur, but none of their vices: no greed, gambling, or any perversion towards women is present.

In the first 5 chapters, the girl Mendoza is kidnapped by Jews in Spain during the Middle Ages, almost put to death by the Spanish Inquisition and rescued by the Company. During her indoctrination, she meets other children who were also orphans or cannot locate their parents like her. They have all been rescued by the Company and sent to brain surgery to turn them into geniuses. They later meet Dr Zeus, are told of their mission of fixing history, and told to emulate great learned people such as: Dickens, Freud, etc. and to try to stay away from war and bloodshed. At the end of Chapter 6, the Mendoza girl is told about her mission: she will be one of the Inquisitors sent from Spain to England to help Queen Mary Stuart to turn her Kingdom Catholic, after nearly 2 generations of England been Protestant. The Mendoza girl has a very slight chance of succeeding at such an enterprise, and she also will be wearing a costume much hated and persecuted by King Edward, only male heir of King Henry VIII.

In Chapter 7, the Mendoza girl arrives to her native Spain and meets her fellow Inquisitors and company colleagues; they are all sent to England to convince the Queen and her subjects of the wisdom of the Catholic faith and to marry the Queen to Prince Philip II of Spain. The Mendoza girl is supposed to develop an exotic plant as a gift to the owner of the Garden of Iden.
Joseph, her Inquisitor company savior, hates religious fanatics, yet is accompanying a group of Catholic fanatics to convert an England all ready
Protestant by Henry VIII’s rule. Queen Mary, persecuted Protestants and burned them at the stake, and now with this marriage will make her rule stronger, to conquer Europe in the name of Catholicism. Unfortunately, she does not survive the shock of losing the battle of Calais to the French.
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Out of Africa: And Shadows on the Grass (Vintage International) by Isak Dinesen
Out of Africa: And Shadows on the Grass (Vintage International)

cutesmart7, April 2, 2009

By Georgina H Brandt

February 21, 2003

Why does Dinesen present
Out of Africa as a paradise
or a fairy tale?

In Dinesen’s Out of Africa the writer describes the land as if they were living in a paradise or in a fairy tale. There are two main reasons for this: first, the land, animals and natives complement each other; second, natives and animals when given the choice between freedom and oppression, they will themselves to die rather than to live without freedom. A minor theme of this novel is that whites and natives complement each other, so that one cannot live without the other.

First, the land, animals and natives complement each other as thought they were living in a paradise. In Part I, Chapter I, the author introduces a setting of tremendous beauty: “…combined to create a landscape….There was no fat on it and no luxuriance anywhere; it was Africa distilled…like the strong and refined essence of a continent…. or a heroic and romantic air…whole wood were faintly vibrating….Everything that you saw made for greatness and freedom, and unequalled nobility.” “…: Here I am, where I ought to be.” She later describes the mountains: “The hill country … is tremendously big, picturesque and mysterious; varied with long valleys, thickets, green slopes and rocky crags.” In contrast, on page 299, Dinesen alludes to the Bible and the story of the Garden of Eden when she talks about snakes: “…Only to the godly man this beauty and gracefulness are in themselves loathsome, they smell from perdition, and remind him of the fall of man. Something within him makes him run away from the snake as from the devil, and that is what is call the voice of conscience….” The Natives are introduced as workers on the land or squatters on page 9: “…the squatters are Natives, who with their families hold a few acres on a white man’s farm, and in return have to work for him …” In Part I, Chapter IV, a deer named Lulu joins the household and on page 76 this union is described as: “It also seemed to me that the free union between my house and the antelope was a rare, honorable thing. Lulu came in from the wild world to show that we were on good terms with it, and she made my house one with the African landscape, so that nobody could tell where one stopped and the other one began….”
This novel is an example of pastoral literature, in which mankind is pictured as being connected to the earth and its animals for food and shelter. A pastoral place allows us to understand ourselves better. It gives us a means of placing the complex into the simple so that we can better understand our world.

Second, natives and animals when given the choice between freedom and oppression, they prefer to will themselves to die. This is most apparent with the Masai, who are described thus: “The Masai …had never been slaves….they cannot even be put into prison. They die in prison if they are brought there, within three months, so the English law of the country holds with no penalty of imprisonment for the Masai, they are punished by fines. This stark inability to keep alive under the yoke has given the Masai, alone among all the Native tribes, rank with the immigrant aristocracy.” On Part IV, Chapter I, Kitosch’s story illustrates the principle of the will to death of the Natives like this: “….when he goes by his own free will and because he does not want to stay….” “By this strong sense in him of what is right and decorous, …with his firm will to die,…In it is embodied the fugitiveness of the wild things who are, in the hour of need, conscious of a refuge somewhere in existence; who go when they like; of whom we can never get hold.” And later, the same will to die is wished by the author on the giraffes being taken out of their natural habitat: “Good-bye, …I wish that you may die on the journey, both of you, …”
There is also a rather modern theme for the times, which is that Natives and whites complement each other. This is apparent in Part IV, Chapter I, when: “The tales that white people tell you of their Native servants are conceived in the same spirit. If they had been told that they played no more important part in the lives of the Natives than the Natives played in their own lives, they would have been highly indignant and ill at ease.” And, “If you had told the Natives that they played no greater part in the life of the white people than the white people played in their lives, they would never have believed you, but would have laughed at you….” Also, when Dinesen talks of pride she tells us the following on Part IV: “…The barbarian loves its own pride, and hates, or disbelieves in, the pride of others. I will be a civilized being, I will love the pride of my adversaries, of my servants, and my lover; and my house shall be, in all humility, in the wilderness a civilized place.” “Pride is the idea that God had, when he made us. A proud is conscious of the idea, and aspires to realize it. He does not strive towards a happiness, or comfort, which may be irrelevant to God’s idea of him. His success is the idea of God, successfully carried through, and he is in love with his destiny. As the good citizen finds his happiness in the fulfillment of his duty to the community, so does the proud man finds his happiness in the fulfillment of his fate.”
The pastoral style of literature is emphasized throughout Out of Africa. In this style the land is described as if it were a paradise. There is also a minor theme, which is that; Natives and whites complement each other, so that neither is complete without the other.

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