Wednesday, May 13, 2015



The wife of a young merchant dies and he decides to elope with a young rich woman because the girl's father disapproves of the merchant.  In a small ship, the merchant, the young woman, and several other sailors depart toward the North Pole.  A terrible storm strikes, and the sailors run into two geographic poles which are close together, and everyone except the young woman dies.
The ship crashes in the blazing world and the woman meets some anthropomorphic bears which are also men.  The bear-men take the woman to an island where the woman meets a group of anthropomorphic figures which are all assigned jobs within the community.  Fly-men, worm-men, and fish-men are natural philosophers; satyrs are Galenic physicians; giants are architects; ape-men are chemists; bird-men are astronomers; bear-men are experimental philosophers; in the community there are also spider-men, jackdaw-men, lice-men, magpie-men, parrot-men, giants, geese-men, syrens, colored humans, and many other creatures which the narrator does not recall.  The anthropomorphic subjects of the island inform the woman that they believe monarchy is natural and choose her to be Empress along with the human Emperor.
On the island in the blazing world, no houses are built which have more than two stories because larger houses decay faster and are more susceptible to harsh weather.  After hearing about the anthropomorphous creatures' assessment of the stars in which they argued with her that what she believed was a single star moving about was in fact three stars, the Empress orders the bird-men and the bear-men to break their telescopes.  However, the bird-men and the bear-men promise not to argue about astronomy if the Empress allows the bird-men and the bear-men to keep their telescopes. The bird-men and the bear-men show the Empress lice and flies underneath a telescope which horrifies her, and she expresses sympathy for the homeless who sleep with lice and flies.  The syrens and the worm-men relate their knowledge of the lack of blood in naval creatures to the Empress and explain the mechanism by which frost is made out of a mixture of snow and rain.  Furthermore, the syrens and worm-men assert that every living body must have color and all life proceeds from the motions of nature.
The ape-men, who are chemists, reveal a method for reversing the effects of aging involving a meatless egg and milk diet.  Additionally, the satyrs enunciate the process of proliferation of a plague, which emulates sound living beings and infecting them.  After the lice-men attempt to impress the Empress by weighing air and fail, the lice-men are dissolved as an order by the Empress.  Finally, the Empress begins to exchange syllogisms with the jackdaw-men, parrot-men, and magpie-men.  When the Empress becomes frustrated with the faulty and turnarounds in the logic of the jackdaw-men, parrot-men, and magpie-men, the Empress ends the oral exchange and leaves.
In the blazing world, there are two chapels, one of which is on fire.  The Empress is approached by spirits with whom she discusses philosophy.  While the Empress is keenly aware of the Cabbala, the spirits are not aware of the Cabbala, and assert that the Empress' interpretation of the Cabbala should be infinite, philosophical, scriptural, or literal.  God's essence must be infinite, according to the spirits, because the universe is finite and God must be greater than what God has created.  The spirits believe that all living beings are inside of separate, defined universes.  The spirits tell the Empress that every material being has a soul and that one body may carry multiple souls, but that a soul cannot inspire life in a being where there is no life.  The Empress tells the spirit she is afraid to ask them more questions because she doesn't want to overstep her human limitations, and the spirits leave.
The Empress sends the worm-men and the fly-men looking for the spirits, and the worm-men report to the Empress that the spirits were seen near the core of the earth recently.
A spirit which is the Duchess of Newcastle returns and tells the Empress to write a philosophical interpretation of the Cabbala.  The Duchess believes subjects are more privileged in a monarchy because subjects have less responsibility in a monarchy.  The Empress and the Duchess try to create separate worlds in their respective minds.  The Duchess of the Empress then go to the Duchess' home in Newcastle.  There, the Empress and the Duke share a platonic and intellectual love with each other of which the Duchess is initially jealous but then relaxes.
While in Newcastle, a trial begins where Fortune charges the Duke with favoring Honesty and Prudence, with Truth as the judge.  After Fortune gets up to the stand and makes its charges, the Duchess replies that the Duke did not favor Fortune over Honesty and Prudence and that Fortune assumed incorrectly that the Duke favored Honesty and Prudence over Fortune.  Rashness tells Fortune that Fortune should insult Prudence and Honesty to appear more worthy of the Duke's favoritism.  Prudence voices desire for an agreement to be reached between the three of them, and Honesty also says that the Duke was neutral.  Before Truth can give its judgment, Fortune leaves the court angrily.  After the trial, the Duchess tells the Empress to dissolve all of the societies of anthropomorphous creatures in the blazing world.
The Empress rules in peace until the Empress hears that the country of the Empress' origin is in the midst of a destructive war.  The fish-men pull the battle ships underwater to fit in the passageway between the blazing world and the world in which the Empress was born.  The Empress and the Duchess go with the battle ships to the world of her birth and delivers a speech once there, emphasizing the fact that she is from the world which is currently experiencing war and wishes for peace.  In order to stop the violence, the fish-men explode one army's boats, and make the leader of the country which the Empress was born in leader of the entire world in which the country lies.  After returning to the blazing world, the Empress and the Duchess return and the Duchess spends time with the Emperor and Empress, admiring the blazing world.  Soon, the Duchess returns to Newcastle.

Kabbalah is the belief that an infinite being is connected to a finite universe.  The Jewish philosophy of Kabbalah, or, Cabbala, as it is spelled in Blazing World, intersects with this novel in many interesting ways.  Just as the blazing world and the original world which the Empress was from are connected, the worlds of the Kabbalah are connected.  Additionally, each living being is said to have its own universe in Blazing World, so the connection between all living beings and the finite nature of the universe as it is depicted in Blazing World can be mapped out just as the relationship between beings in Kabbalah can be mapped out.  Also, the God in Blazing World is infinite, just as the Kabbalah's God is infinite.
The trial between Fortune, and Honesty, Prudence, and the Duke is a metaphor for the Duke's ruling philosophy.  The fact that Fortune loses the trial over Honesty and Prudence devalues wealth.  Although the Duke is obviously rich and involves his fortune, it is implied by the trial that he is more interested in being honest and prudent.  Because Fortune leaves the trial without displaying interest in the truthful verdict, the scene implies that Fortune is selfish, because Fortune was only interested in getting a favorable ruling for Fortune.  The trial also indicates that attacking one's opponents is a rash practice to make.
Because the Empress decides to dissolve the separate societies of anthropomorphous creatures after the trial in which different factions bicker, the goal of the Empress' dissolution of the anthropomorphic societies on her island was unity.  Further evidence for this claim is provided earlier when the lice-men attempt to impress the Empress, seemingly in attempt to gain favor over the other factions of anthropomorphic creatures.  However, no mention is made of dissolving the hierarchy which the humans enjoy over all the anthropomorphic creatures in the blazing world.

  • Woman elopes with a merchant on a boat with sailors
  • The boat crashes on an island in a new world called the blazing world, and the merchant and sailors die
  • The woman is discovered by the anthropomorphic creatures living on the island and made the island's empress
  • The woman holds intellectual discussions with the anthropomorphic creatures and spirits
  • One of the spirits, which is a Duchess, tells the Empress to write a philosophical Cabbala
  • War breaks out in the Empress' birth world and she goes back with the Duchess and with an army
  • The Empress delivers a speech in the war-torn world and her fish-men blow up one of the warring navies
  • One king from the Empress' country of birth becomes ruler of the entire world in which it's located
  • The Empress returns home with the Duchess, and the Empress lives happily ever after

Cavendish, Margaret. The Description of a New World Called The Blazing World and Other Writings. Ed. Kate Lilley. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1994. Print. Book about a woman who leaves her world to become empress of another world and returns home to save her planet from destruction.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015



Syrena Tricksy is raised in London, GBR by her liaison mother to attract a wealthy husband.  She is trained in acting and deception.  When Syrena is older than 13 and her other friends are beginning to enter into apprenticeships, and other areas of employment, Syrena is sent off to serve as a maid for a wealthy mistress named Mrs. Martin whom she knows through family connections, and is expected to use her newfound position to attract a patron and lover.
Immediately, Syrena is disgusted with the formality of her new family, and begs to be sent home.  Syrena must miss a trip home because it is raining on the weekend, and boasts of deceiving a man into attraction for her on the next day in a letter that was sent on Monday.  The man, named Vardine, vows to give all his money to her the next day.  Syrena's mother who is named Ann applauds Syrena's receipt but cautions her optimism in trusting the new lover, and encourages her to increase the manipulation until the man is powerless.  Syrena discovers the man has no estate and Ann cautions Syrena to shun the man completely.  Because Syrena liked the man, she tricks Ann into letting her leave the Martins by claiming that someone has caught small pox in the house.
Vardine meets Syrena in the park and they go out drinking alcohol together.  Syrena finds a new lady named Mrs. L for whom to serve.  Vardine tells Syrena that he will marry her at any time.  Syrena tricks Vardine into giving her five guineas to repay a fictional debt from Ann to Mrs. Martin;  Vardine only has 2 guineas then, and promises to obtain another 3 by Friday.  On Friday, Vardine sends a note to her that he has been sent to Ireland in the English invading military and does not have the 3 guineas.
Syrena writes to Ann that Thomas L, one of Syrena's new patrons, forced Syrena to kiss him and slipped 5 guineas down her blouse.  Later, Thomas comes into Syrena's room and attempts to force himself on her, but she refuses.  His son, referred to as Mr. L, jumps out of the closet as soon as Thomas leaves and condemns Thomas' behavior while praising Syrena.  Syrena suspects Mr. L and his father are like-minded in their pursuit of her.  Mr. L begins to kiss Syrena without her permission. Thomas accosts Syrena while she is hiding from Mr. L, and promises to show her his good intentions when they are away at the countryside together.  When they go to the country Thomas tells Syrena he loves her, hinting that he will support her if she becomes his unwed lover, but Syrena refuses.  Ann tells Syrena she should be less harsh toward Thomas, but focus her energy on manipulating Mr. L, who tells her that he cannot risk marrying her because Thomas would disapprove.  Thomas draws Syrena a legal offer to pay her 100 pounds cash per year during Thomas' life and 50 pounds per year after Thomas' death, and educate and feed her children; Syrena submits the contract to Ann for consideration.  Ann and Syrena decide to report Mr. L for rape in order to extort the Martins, and show up at Mrs. L's house with Syrena disheveled, offering to drop the charges if he will marry her.  Thomas sends counter-proposals to Mamma, but negate the offers upon the discovery that Mr. L is innocent.
Syrena then focuses on another man named Mr. D, and soon obtains 50 pounds from Mr. D as a sign of his devotion.  Ann meets with Mr. D to prevent Mr. D from going to the other woman whom Mr. D is courting, named Maria, in Lincolnshire. Ann sends an anonymous letter to Maria warning that Mr. D is betrothed to another woman.  Mr. D writes a letter to Syrena and Ann declaring the relationship over, but Syrena goes to his home in London and claims to be pregnant with Mr. D's son so that he will keep her as a mistress for 3 pounds a week, plus an up front bonus of twenty guineas.  Maria writes Mr. D an anonymous letter revealing the Tricksy's deceit.
Syrena goes to a ball and tries to lure a man named Lord R. who discerns her intentions to extort him and reprimands her.  Under the guise of escaping a rapist, Syrena runs into an empty shop and begins a relationship with the Mercer who owns the shop.  The Mercer has an invalid wife and is charmed by Syrena.  Syrena meets another man who writes to Syrena from jail asking for 100 pounds to bail him out of jail.  Syrena tells the Mercer that her father is in jail and obtains 100 pounds from the Mercer who is informed by a spectating coachman that Syrena is not a faithful woman.  The Mercer goes to Syrena that night and tells her that she will not deceive him again.  Afterward, the Mercer plans to commit suicide with a pistol but instead only grazes his head with a bullet, and moves to the countryside.  Syrena's lover attempts to extract more money from her so she goes back to Lord R. who makes her his lover and gives her a bonus of 50 pounds with a salary of 10 guineas per week.  Syrena catches an unnamed Sexually Transmitted Disease from Lord R, and must spend all of the money he gave her for medical treatment, and Lord R severs his contract with Syrena.
Syrena meets an old man named Mr. W who invites Syrena to live with him at his rural estate.  When Syrena gets there, Mr. W does not let her sit with his wealthy guests, but does not seat her with the servants, either, deeming both situations inappropriate.  Syrena told Mr. W that she was previously married to a man who died 18 months prior.  Mr. W kisses Syrena, and breaks down in tears, professing his love for her.  Ann writes Syrena a letter explaining that a man named Mr. Smith is madly in love with Syrena, and encourages Syrena to devote her attentions to Mr. Smith.  Shortly after, Syrena gets a letter from a man named Harriot Manly to whom Syrena has claimed to be a widow.  Mr. W learns of Mr. Smith's offer, and proposes marriage to Syrena.  Shortly after, Mr. W's son comes to visit and claims that Syrena is extorting Mr. W, and Syrena is banished from Mr. W's home.
When Syrena is walking in town a few days later, she sees an attractive man named Mr. P, and pretends to faint in front of him.  Mr. P takes Syrena into a pub to comfort her, and falls in love with her during the proceeding months.  Because Mr. P's father squandered the family fortune, Mr. P is hesitant to marry Syrena.  Syrena sees Vardine walking in a park, and asks Vardine to pretend to pursue her romantically in front of Mr. P.  Mr. P begins to ignore Syrena and she comes to his house some days later and cries before Mr. P until he agrees to take her on as a mistress.  Mr. P's love for Syrena is renewed and he spends money on Syrena until he falls deeply into debt.  One day, Mr. P comes home to find Syrena and Vardine having sex with eachother, and Mr. P's friend prevents Mr. P from killing Syrena and Vardine.  Syrena and Vardine run away together.  Vardine sends Mr. P a letter offering to duel Mr. P, but Mr. P's friend intervenes and Vardine agrees to never see Syrena again in apology.
Syrena goes home to live with her mother.  After meeting a man named Mr. E, Syrena receives a letter from a man named Mr. A.Z. who professes profound love for Syrena.  Syrena moves in with Mr. E as his mistress in exchange for a payment of 500 pounds.  Mrs. E begins exchanging letters with a man named Mr. C who arranges to have Syrena sent to Wales.

This book was written as a parody for the novel Pamela by Samuel Richardson.  Pamela is an extremely virtuous woman who eventually marries her master, gaining wealth and social respect.  Syrena is contrary to Pamela in that Syrena actively seeks to deceive men into giving her wealth and social dignity, rather than attending to virtue and letting reward come as a result.
It is not in the least bit doubtful that Syrena is gaming her boyfriends in the novel.  While Syrena does admit to feeling attachment toward most of her romantic pursuits, she prioritizes money over truthfulness and compassion in her relationships.  Rather than dating in the pursuit of love, she dated in hopes of gaining riches, and the love came secondary.  Because so many of the men quickly caught on to Syrena's ploys to gain money from them, I gathered that extorting gentlemen for money was an established practice among attractive, low-born women.  The parody of Pamela is, in part, referencing the established practice amongst women to attract wealthy men as Pamela did, but, lacking all of the virtue Pamela possesses.
Ultimately, the reader must decide whether or not to perceive Syrena negatively for her actions.  She grew up without money or high-birth, and had no profession awaiting her in adulthood.  Syrena's extortion of men was her only source of income.  While Syrena's extortion of Mr. P took Mr. P into bankruptcy, Syrena's extortion of other men was within their budget.  Mr. A.Z., Mr. D, Mr. L, Thomas, and Lord R., all wanted Syrena to be their mistress whom they could approach for sex whilst their respective wives were neglecting of them.  Additionally, Mr. L and Thomas forced themselves on Syrena.  Is extorting men who can afford it and also benefit from the relationship by being unfaithful to another person wrong?  Syrena's predicament was symptomatic of an era when women had no rights, as single women or as wives.  However, she did not stop herself from bankrupting Mr. R, who did truly love her, and did not have the respect for him to end their relationship before again pursuing Vardine, so she did not merely respond to her environment.  Syrena, under the tutelage of her mother, developed a predatory attitude and actively attacked people, some of whom happened to be predators themselves.

  • Syrena Tricksy lures a man named Vardine into promising her money, but he pretends the military has called him away and leaves her
  • Syrena serves as a maid in a house where the father and son, Thomas and Mr. L, are attracted to her
  • Syrena attempts to extort the son, claiming he raped her, but is caught and must leave the home
  • Syrena courts Mr. D who decides to go back to his wife
  • Syrena tries to lure a man named Lord R but is hired as a maid by Mr. W
  • Syrena is accused of deceitfulness by Mr. W's son and leaves Mr. W
  • Syrena serves as Lord R's mistress but catches an STD and is fired by Lord R
  • Syrena meets Mr. P and uses Vardine to make Mr. P jealous
  • Mr. P marries Syrena and she drives Mr. P bankrupt
  • Mr. P finds Syrena and Vardine having sex, and vows to kill Vardine, but Vardine agrees to stop dating Syrena, and Mr. P does not kill him, but Syrena leaves without either man
  • Syrena meets Mr. A.Z. whose wife reports Syrena to a man who takes Syrena to Wales

Haywood, Eliza.  Anti-Pamela, or, Feign'd Innocence Detected.  Peterborough, Ont.  Broadview, 2004.  Print.  Book about a woman who dates many rich men and ends up alone.

Saturday, January 24, 2015



Kyaro is a peaceful village in Tanzania.  Saulo is a boy who lives in Kyaro.  One day, Saulo shoots an old man named Kushindwa in the eye with a slingshot.  Kushindwa does not see Saulo, and the entire village is punished as a consequence of Saulo's behavior.  Mugurusi, Saulo's grandfather, is stoned for defending Saulo to the village, and Saulo is ashamed of himself because Saulo respects Mugurusi and Mugurusi has suffered because of Saulo's mischief.
Believing that an evil wind has blown into Kyaro, local mosque preacher, and christian preacher, each bless the village, attempting to cleanse the village of evil spirits.  Mugurusi threatens to kill Kushindwa.  Villagers call the police, and Mugurusi flees to an unknown location.
Saulo meets a girl named Frida whom Saulo proposes marriage to within a letter.  Frida initially ignores Saulo.  Saulo and his friend Kaleju set a trap for a local boy named Mizano together.  Kaleju and Saulo begin stealing many items from the private school both boys attend.  Eventually, Saulo and Kaleju are expelled from school.  Kaleju changes his name to Kidevu.
Saulo and Kidevu are taken in by a friendly shop owner whom the boys rob for 23 shillings, and Saulo and Kidevu hitchhike to Bukoba, TZ.  Saulo and Kidevu board a train where Saulo robs an old woman's purse for 120,000 shillings.  Saulo gives Kidevu 60,000 shillings.  Saulo and Kidevu arrive in Mwanza, TZ, and decide to lodge in a suburb of Mwanza, Kirumba.  Kidevu and Saulo get jobs as taxi drivers and form a musical group in Kirumba entitled 'Hot Boys', with Kidevu providing percussion, and Saulo adding vocals.  Saulo proposes to Kidevu that Saulo and Kidevu fast and attend church in order to augment their spirituality.  A jealous husband named Mike believes that Saulo and Kidevu are trying to make sexual advances on Mike's wife, named Rose, and Mike threatens to kill Saulo and Kidevu, so Saulo and Kidevu leave their rental home in Kirumba, but remain in Mwanza.
A man named Suedi insults Saulo and Kidevu kills Suedi for the offense.  Kidevu and Saulo decide to leave Mwanza, and inform their boss, Mbele, that they are travelling to Bukoba for a funeral.  Saulo and Kidevu buy train tickets for Dar es Salaam.  Saulo and Kidevu befriend a group of Christians during the train rider, and rob the Christians during the middle of the night.  The Christians become aware of the robbery, and the Christians retrieve the stolen items from Saulo and Kidevu's luggage while Saulo and Kidevu are sleeping.  The Christians leave a note for Saulo and Kidevu expressing knowledge of the theft and announcing that Saulo's best pants have been ripped as retribution.
Saulo begins dating a woman named Naomi in Dar es Salaam.  Naomi accuses Saulo of sexual assault, and Saulo is saved from stoning by a woman named Mama Sauda.  Mama Sauda is a woman named Sauda's mother.  Sauda and Tamira, Sauda's sister, have devised a plot with a set of Arabic twins named Kassim and Issa to manipulate Saulo and Kidevu into supporting Sauda, Tamira, and the women's respective boyfriends.  Sauda converts to Christianity to please Saulo and changes her name to Sarah.  Tamira pressures Kidevu into marriage by claiming to be pregnant with Kidevu's child when Tamira is actually pregnant with an Arabic man's child.  Initially, Kidevu resists, but Saulo convinces Kidevu to proceed with the marriage.
Saulo and Kidevu have a joint ceremony as Saulo marries Sarah at the same time that Kidevu marries Tamira.  During the wedding, Naomi approaches Saulo and pours water over Saulo, and then Naomi leaves the wedding.
After the wedding, Tamira gives birth to her child while Saulo and Kidevu wait in the lounge.  The doctor tells Kidevu that Kidevu is not the child's father.  Later, Saulo finds that Sarah is missing and he finds a note from Sarah who is also Sauda, informing Saulo of the plot between the Arabic twins Kassim and Issa and Sauda and Tamira.
Kidevu and Saulo leap to the conclusion that they are both infertile, and decide to kill themselves.  Saulo convinces Kidevu that Saulo and Kidevu should relocate to another town before committing suicide in order to give life another chance.  Saulo and Kidevu have their sperm tested and find that both of them are, in fact, infertile.  Saulo and Kidevu travel to Sinza, TZ, to apologize to Mike.  After Saulo and Kidevu visit a church and decide to devote themselves to spirituality, they plan a final gig under their current band name Nyembe Kali, which means, The Razor Blades.  A woman named Eliza confronts Saulo and Kidevu with the knowledge that Saulo and Kidevu's wives were stolen by Issa and Kassim.  Saulo and Kidevu draw pen knives and murder Eliza.
Saulo and Kidevu return to their home in Sinza and write a suicide note which confesses to the murder of Eliza.  Saulo and Kidevu drink rat poison and pass out, only to wake up in the hospital with police nearby.

Throughout the book, Saulo, who is the narrator, compares his struggle for survival to an Olympic athlete's struggles in succeeding at the Olympics.  When he attempts suicide, Saulo announces that he has withdrawn from the game of life as a loser.  This straightforward analogy compares life to a game, and life's struggles to fatigue, adverse conditions, or opponents within a game.
Another straightforward analogy of this novel is the comparison of Saulo and Kidevu to two devils who, despite their best intentions, cannot spread love and peace in the world.  Apparently, the instinctive hatred which is present in Saulo and Kidevu's souls is so strong that neither man can resist his primal urge to commit sin.  Saulo writes at the end of the novel that even mini-devils deserve human compassion.  The solution to all the problems in this novel is a universal sense of compassion which involves no single man having an extraordinarily large burden of compassion placed on him.  If nobody had ever wronged Saulo and Kidevu, beginning with the old man whom Saulo shot a slingshot at, Saulo's primal urge to retaliate would have never taken over, and he would have not been launched down a path of uncertainty where he was prone to be tempted to do wrong.  In a world where everyone is nice all of the time, nobody would hurt others because nobody would have any cause to retaliate against others, and nobody would gain by hurting others.  Humanity as a whole must take the blame for the wrongs of one person if we are to make a serious commitment to treating eachother with respect.
As a side note, the translation of this novel is off in many places, making the novel difficult to read at times.

  • 2 boys run away from their home village after one of them shoots an old man with a slingshot
  • after roaming around Africa, and stealing from people as part of a two-man band, one of the main characters begins dating a woman whom he later breaks up with
  • the two men start dating a pair of twins whom they become engaged to
  • the twins reveal themselves to be part of a plot with a set of Arabic twins and ditch the two main characters
  • the two men decide to kill themselves and, after a brief period of hope, continue with the plan, but are unsuccessful

Kaigarula, Wilson. Mini-devils. Dar Es Salaam: E & D, n.d. Print.

Saturday, January 3, 2015



A police officer named Saneri is married to a woman named Angela who complains that he is too stressed and tells Saneri to go on vacation.  Saneri travels to his hometown of Montelupo to forage mushrooms.  Once Saneri arrives in his hometown, he hears that Palmiro Ridolfi, a wealthy factory owner in the area, has gone missing.  Ridolfi was friends with a man called 'the woodsman' and another man who committed suicide a few years earlier.  While Saneri is in the misted woods foraging mushrooms, Saneri hears gunshots.  When Saneri is back in town, Saneri speaks to the town's mayor and other locals who inform Saneri that Ridolfi was the shooter and the target was Ridolfi's dog.  The people of the town have a celebration during which townspeople steal items from citizens' homes and leave the stolen items in easily accessible places such as the town square.  All of the townspeople, and Saneri, hear gunshots during the celebration.  During another trip into the woods, Saneri finds Ridolfi's festering body hanging from a rope with Saneri's dog.  Paride, Ridolfi's son whom Ridolfi was disappointed by, is found dead.  Saneri goes into the neighboring town where Ridolfi's wife lives and delivers the dog to Ridolfi's wife, but Ridolfi's wife does not want the dog.  While at the home of Ridolfi's wife, Saneri meets Ridolfi's housekeeper.  Ridolfi's wife expresses rejoice at liberation from Ridolfi's wife's confinement with Ridolfi and Paride in the rural town.
The local police of Montelupo quickly assess 'the woodsman' whose real name is Gualerzi, as the lead suspect in the murder of Paride.  Gualerzi exchanges shots with the police, and Gualerzi hides himself in the mist and the thick forest.  Saneri's wife, Angela, comes to join Saneri.  Angela is exasperated at Saneri's obsession with police work when Angela discovers that Saneri has been working on the Ridolfi case during Saneri's vacation.  Saneri is out for a walk when Saneri sees Ridolfi's housekeeper and concludes that Ridolfi's housekeeper has been sent by Ridolfi's wife to spook Saneri off the case.  The next day, Saneri is informed that Gualerzi is dying of cancer, and Saneri meets Gualerzi's daughter, who begs Saneri to talk to Gualerzi and get Gualerzi to return to Montelupo before the police kill Gualerzi.  Saneri talks to the police and is given a short period of time to bargain for Gualerzi's surrender.  That night, an elderly man approaches Saneri and tells Saneri where to meet Gualerzi, in a bar at nine o'clock the next morning.
Saneri meets Gualerzi at the bar.  Gualerzi tells Saneri that Gualerzi did not kill Paride.  Paride was shot by people in a heavy fog so that Gualerzi could not see the killers.  Immediately after Paride was shot, Gualerzi heard police.  Gualerzi tells Saneri that Gualerzi is content to die in the mountains and does not want to return to the village.  Saneri goes back to the village alone.

This was an odd murder mystery, as I was still not sure who the killer was by the end of the novel.  The Ridolfi housekeeper is suggested as a suspect as he was probably sent to scare Saneri by Ridolfi's wife.  Ridolfi is established as a suspect because of Ridolfi's disappointment in Paride.  Ridolfi was a wealthy businessman and Paride was a drug addict who had no prospects.  Given that killing one's son is considered by most ethical people to be a shameful act, it is possible that Ridolfi ordered Paride's death, and then decided to hang himself in shame.
Another scenario is that the townspeople organized a collective killing of Paride.  Ridolfi, as the local factory owner, controlled the economy of Montelupo.  If the factory were left to Paride, the drug addict, the town's economy could be negatively affected.  Thus, Paride may have been killed by some conscientious objectors of the town.
Varesi's manipulation of the standard crime novel format produces the interesting effect of refocusing the novel on small town sovereignty.  The woodsman's plight is explored, as he is a respected hunter, and the police are hated by some of the townspeople for interfering.  If the townspeople did murder Paride to save themselves, was the murder justified?  Varesi raises some interesting questions.

  • wealthy factory owner of rural Italy goes missing, and is found hanged
  • the factory owner's son is murdered
  • the lead suspect, a childhood friend of the factory owner, is hunted into the woods by the local police
  • the lead suspect is found to have cancer and refuses to surrender to police

Varesi, Valerio. The Dark Valley. London: MacLehose, 2011. Print. Book about a suicide and a murder in a rural area.

Saturday, December 27, 2014



A woman named Agnes Browne lives in Dublin in 1970 with her children and Agnes' husband, Redser, died three years before the novel begins.  Agnes' children are named Cathy, Dermot, Simon, Mark, Rory, and Francis.  Francis is the eldest son and prefers the nickname 'Frankie'.  Frankie is  belongs to a gang of skinheads, or, neo-nazis, who target homosexuals because there are no people of color in Dublin during this novel's setting.  Mark is an apprentice at the carpentry business of an old man named Benny Wise.  Rory left school at 14 and entered into an apprenticeship with a hairdresser.  Cathy is in her final year of school, at age 13.  Dermot and Simon are twins and together in their first year at Technical School.  Simon has a severe stutter and is thought to have a vocation for Priesthood while Dermot is talented at carpentry and runs a newspaper route.  Thomas is six years old and is thought to be either intellectually deficient or dyslexic by his teachers.
A man named Sean McHugh who works at Benny Wise's carpentry business asks Mark Browne to participate in a company meeting with a firm called 'Smyth and Blythe' which is pivotal to the future of Benny Wise's carpentry firm.  Browne and McHugh market a product called the 'Elizabeth Suite' to Smythe and Blythe which the British customers believe is named for Queen Elizabeth, but in reality is named after a woman named Elizabeth whom Mark wishes to marry named Elizabeth Collins.
Agnes Browne wins the local bingo game for £310.  Frankie is expelled from school, and Agnes threatens to disallow Frankie to live with Agnes if Frankie does not find a job and pay rent.  Dermot goes shoplifting the next day because Dermot is bored and does not have any money.  Mark witnesses Dermot shoplifting and invents an excuse on behalf of Dermot which Mark tells Agnes, but Mark scolds Dermot for stealing privately.  Agnes goes on a date that evening.
Mark Browne borrows £50 from Agnes Browne and spends all of Mark's savings on carpentry supplies for the 'Elizabeth Suite'.  Mark is successful in building the Suite and secures an order with 'Smyth and Blythe' for as many Suites as Mark can make for a price of £80 a suite.
Manny Wise is an emigrant and the son of Benny Wise and lives in London, selling drugs via younger Irish emigrants who often become addicted to the heroin which they are attempting to sell.  The police are watching Manny closely.
Simon overcomes his stutter to secure a job as a porter in training with the local hospital.  Frankie and the skinheads corner Rory in an alley because the skinheads suspect Rory of being homosexual as a hairdresser and the skinheads, including Frankie, physically assault Rory, injuring Rory badly.  Frankie steals the remainder of Agnes' bingo money and sails off for England.
Frankie assumes the alias of Ben Daly and becomes Manny Wise's right hand man in London.  Frankie begins selling drugs and using cocaine with Manny Wise.  Frankie sends home two £20 notes to Agnes and apologizes for stealing Agnes' business money in an attached letter.  Years pass by.
Cathy Dowdall is a friend of Cathy Browne's and goes on a data with Simon Browne.  Cathy Dowdall attempts to give Simon genital stimulation with her hand while Simon and Cathy are sitting in a theater.  Simon is petrified and Cathy Dowdall is arrested for lewd behavior.  Simon joins the priesthood after Cathy Dowdall attempts to give Simon manual genital stimulation.
Manny Wise is arrested and calls Frankie, whom Wise believes is named Ben Daly, from prison.  Wise sends Daly to Wise's apartment to collect Wise's money for bail.  Instead of only taking out the money necessary for bail, Frankie steals all of Wise's money and an envelope in which Manny Wise kept the deed to Benjamin Wise's carpentry shop.  Frankie goes to the prison and bails Manny out but then makes an excuse to leave Manny.  Frankie stays in England but hides where Manny cannot find Frankie, although Manny sends guards to all the airports and border crossing areas when Manny discovers that Frankie has stolen Manny's money.  Frankie develops a heroin addiction while on the run from Manny Wise and spends almost all of the £3000 stolen from Manny Wise during a three month period in London through a combination of drinking, gambling, and heroin use.
Mark Browne marries Elizabeth Collins in 1978 and Benjamin Wise dies of excitement during the ceremony.  Manny Wise flies into town for Benjamin Wise's funeral.  Benjamin Wise's lawyer calls Mark Browne, Sean McHugh, and Manny Wise into the lawyer's office to read Benjamin Wise's will.  Benjamin Wise leaves Benjamin Wise's home to Sean McHugh, the Wise carpentry shop to Mark Browne, and Benjamin Wise leaves Manny Wise's ego to Manny Wise.  Manny Wise laughs, and claims to have the deed to Benjamin Wise's carpentry shop, making Benjamin Wise's will void.  The lawyer gives Manny Wise three days to produce the deed.
Manny Wise flies back to London and finds that the deed has been stolen.  A former employee of Manny Wise's, named Joe Fitzgerald, assaults Manny Wise in the lobby of Manny Wise's apartment building for heroin, and Manny Wise attacks Joe Fitzgerald, and in the process Manny Wise punctures a foil package of cocaine, which explodes all over the lobby of the apartment building.  Police witness the scene and arrest Manny Wise.
Frankie hides in a cargo freight of a train headed toward London and dreams of Ireland while using his last fix of heroin.  Frankie dies of hypothermia and the coroners find Frankie's body with the crumpled deed to Benjamin Wise's carpentry shop.

Family values are heavily underpinned in this novel.  Frankie and Manny are disrespectful toward their respective parents and both Frankie and Manny experience unfortunate endings.  Mark, who scolds his brothers Frankie and Dermot for misbehaving, is rewarded with vast riches.
This book is an excellent example of religious cohabitation in Ireland.  Benjamin Wise is Jewish and the Brownes are Catholic.  While Jewish burial customs confuse Dermot, everyone is happy to honor Benjamin Wise's wishes at Benjamin Wise's funeral.  This book provides a realistic contrast to the public media image of Ireland as presented by British sources in a sectarian light.  While sectarian conflict has been part of Ireland's history, the progress made on this front is totally underestimated in the international media.  Rather than political dissenters and civil rights activists, Catholics who resist British oppression are depicted as religious fanatics in the British media, while the British Episcopalians are depicted as merely defending the British culture.  Why the British culture needs to be defended against a group of people it has oppressed for hundreds of years and continues to oppress today, is unknown to me.
Ranting aside, this book is iontach craic, or a lot of fun as bearla, or English.  Brendan O'Carroll fills the book with sly jokes and likable characters.  The plot twists and drama make The Chisellers very enjoyable.

  • a boy in Ireland beats up his brother and flees to England
  • a brother of the boy who flees to England becomes a successful carpenter
  • the boy who flees to Ireland steals from his drug dealing boss
  • the carpenter gets married and the drug dealing boss' father dies, leaving a carpentry business to the successful carpenter
  •  drug dealing boss must produce a deed to keep the carpentry business
  • drug dealing boss is arrested and the boy who fled to England dies of hypothermia

O'Carroll, Brendan. The Chisellers. New York: Plume, 2000. Print. Book about an Irish family in 1970s Dublin.
Part 1 of Vice's British biased, hyperbole-ridden documentary on terrorism in Ireland.

Thursday, December 25, 2014



The unnamed narrator grew up in an oppressive household.  As a child, he moved to Madrid to live with his grandfather, Seńor Casaldáliga, who was very strict.  The narrator was not allowed to leave the bedroom while Casaldáliga was away, and Casaldáliga was not financially supportive of the narrator, although Casaldáliga was financially successful.  The narrator develops a talent for opera singing whilst living with Casaldáliga.  Later on, the narrator falls in love with a woman named Berta.  The narrator marries Berta and Berta and the narrator move into a home together.
After some time, the romance in Berta and the narrator's relationship fades.  The narrator visits prostitutes while on tour with the opera, and when the narrator returns home, the narrator is more concerned with attempting to fall back into a routine of home comfort than with connecting to Berta, emotionally or physically.  Berta and the narrator divorce, and the narrator leaves some books at their formerly shared home during the narrator's departure.  Berta remarries to a man whose name is either Noriega, Noguer, or Navarro, and the narrator cannot remember the exact name of Berta's second husband.
Just as the narrator is inwardly lamenting at the loneliness opera singers feel in each new city visited on tour by opera singers, the narrator meets a man named Dato and a woman named Natalia Manur in Madrid.  Dato complains to the narrator that Dato feels as though Dato's marriage has become dispassionately ritualistic.  At this juncture, the narrator professes to stop thinking about the narrator.  Natalia is the wife of the director of the opera.  During one rehearsal, the director of the opera, known simply as Manur, flies into a rage at the entire cast of the opera and then becomes enraged at the venue's staff.  That night, Natalia Manur comes home from a late night with Dato and the narrator and Manur expresses his jealousy.  Natalia ignores her husband and rolls away from her husband's grasp in bed.
The narrator realizes his sexual attraction for Natalia Manur and decides to ease his tension by hiring a prostitute on the first night after the opera opening, which is atypical for the narrator to do on opening night of the opera.  The narrator goes to the front desk and arranges for a prostitute to be sent to the narrator's room by the hotel's concierge.  When the prostitute, who is named Claudina and claims to be Argentinian while speaking in a Spanish accent, arrives, the narrator decides to sit and chat with the prostitute rather than have sex with the prostitute.  During the narrator's interaction with Claudina, the narrator tells Claudina that his name is Emilio, but thinks that this is a lie.
The next morning, Manur comes to the narrator's hotel room, and Manur asks the narrator for a private dialogue over breakfast in the narrator's room.  During the dialogue between the narrator and Manur, Manur accuses the narrator of calling Manur's house with the intent of speaking to Natalia Manur after midnight.  Manur suspects that the narrator is having an affair with Natalia Manur, and forbids Natalia Manur from speaking to the narrator.  Manur reveals that Manur is blackmailing Natalia Manur into the Manur's marriage because Manur is financially supporting Natalia Manur's brother, Roberto, who is a fugitive.
Manur informs Dato of Manur's suspicions regarding the narrator's intentions.  After the narrator becomes intoxicated and vomits on a fellow opera singer who the narrator feels uneasy in the company of, Dato summons the narrator to Dato's room.  Dato tells the narrator that Natalia Manur is waiting to speak with the narrator.  The narrator goes to meet Natalia Manur and Natalia Manur and the narrator begin dating.  Natalia Manur divorces her husband Manur.
After four days, Manur shoots himself.  Natalia Manur insists on keeping Manur company during Manur's final days, and, after Manur is deceased, Natalia Manur returns to the narrator.  Rather than stay at home while the narrator is touring with the opera as Berta did, Natalia Manur accompanies the narrator while the narrator is touring with the opera.
After some time, the narrator and Natalia Manur have grown apart.  Natalia Manur does not speak to the narrator when Natalia Manur is in the narrator's hotel room, and Natalia Manur does not tour the city and is lonely in each town she visits, just as opera singers are lonely in each touring stop.  Natalia Manur demands that only Spanish be spoken during the trips.  Four years after the narrator first met Natalia Manur, Natalia Manur ends her romantic relationship with the narrator by leaving the narrator during an opera tour, despite the narrator's desperate plea to Natalia Manur to keep the relationship together.
The narrator receives a letter from Berta's second husband, but doesn't learn the husband's name from the letter.  Berta's second husband informs the narrator that Berta has died and that Berta's second husband is willing to send the narrator the narrator's old books, if the narrator desires to reclaim the old books.  The narrator takes the fact that Berta kept the narrator's books as a sign that Berta cared for the narrator more than the narrator originally thought.  The narrator does not want the old books and has a flashback spanning the past four years and his relationship with Natalia Manur.

Because the narrator receives news about his first wife at the same time as a long term relationship has ended, the two relationships are juxtaposed naturally as the narrator is forced to think about the relationships during the same time interval.  While Berta did not accompany the narrator on opera trips, Natalia Manur did.  The narrator knew Berta when he was young and innocent and vying to escape from his oppressive grandfather's home.  The narrator knew Natlia Manur when he felt sickened by the egotism and dishonesty the narrator felt was rampant in the opera industry, culminating in the narrator's vomiting on an opera singer who reflected the negative traits of the opera industry.
The narrator began to grow apart from Berta when the narrator used prostitutes, and toured incessantly.  However, when the narrator dated a woman who was involved in the same industry, he still grew apart from his partner.  When the narrator expresses happiness that Berta kept the narrator's books and therefore must have cared more than he thought about him, the narrator realizes that the opera singing industry has corrupted him and he should not have allowed the profession to drag him away from a woman whom he says made every effort to be a good partner.
When the narrator met people, including Natalia Manur, in a strange city, he said he stopped thinking about himself.  After Natalia Manur left, the narrator began thinking about himself again.  The narrator complains that during long road trips, he was given too much time to think about himself in the hotel rooms of strange cities, surrounded by strangers.  The narrator was too busy thinking about himself because he traveled alone to appreciate his first wife, Berta.
It is not the opera itself that is blamed for the narrator's corruption, but the personality traits acquired by the narrator in the process of traveling from city to city in solitude and developing an ego around a crew of similarly affected, conniving performers.  Rather than try to make his life fit the opera singer's lifestyle by dating a woman in the same industry, the narrator discovers that he needs to make his profession fit his life, and not become corrupted by his work.

  • oppressed child becomes an opera singer
  • opera singer marries a woman whom he later divorces
  • opera singer falls in love with the wife of the director of an opera he is starring in and dates the director's wife
  • the opera director commits suicide
  • opera singer's second long-term partner leaves him
  • opera singer receives a letter informing him that his first wife is dead

Marías, Javier. The Man of Feeling. Trans. Margaret Jull. Costa. New York: New Directions Pub., 2003. Print. Book about an egotistical man who loves and loses two women during his opera singing career.

Sunday, December 14, 2014



As a young child, Zakhar is splitting wood with a hatchet, and accidentally splits his fingernail with the hatchet.  He feels tears coming to his eyes, but Zakhar hides his crying from his grandmother, and Zakhar bandages himself in secret.
While Zakhar is in his late childhood, he plays tag with other children from his neighborhood in an abandoned lot.  One of the children Zakhar plays tag with is named Sasha.  Sasha has run away from home.  Someone finds Sasha's dead body in a freezer where Sasha was attempting to take shelter from the cold.
In the summer, Zakhar goes to visit his grandparents in a small village, where Zakhar's grandfather is proud to own one of the village's largest huts.  Zakhar's cousins, Rodik, Sasha, and Syuska, live nearby.  Zakhar is sexually attracted to his cousins Sasha and Syuska, and Rodik is a younger child who does not speak much.  After Zakhar awakes one morning at his grandparents' house, he goes to his cousins' house to spend time with his cousins.  Zakhar's cousins and Zakhar walk to Zakhar's grandparents' home.  Sasha and Zakhar get into a tickling match, which Sasha enjoys, but Zakhar insists that Sasha stop tickling because Zakhar is afraid that he will become aroused.  Night falls, and Zakhar's grandfather invites Sasha, Rodik, and Syuska to spend the night at Zakhar's grandparents' home.  The invitation is accepted, and everyone lays down to sleep, with Zakhar lying close to his cousin Syuska, and again, Zakhar struggles with the attraction he feels for her.  Rodik begins calling for his mother, and Zakhar eagerly places Rodik between Zakhar and Syuska.  Zakhar decides that sleeping with the goat will be more comfortable, so Zakhar goes to the barn to sleep with the goat, and feels that he has overcome attraction for his cousin.
After Zakhar finished school, he stayed at home with his brothers to work in the family gravedigging business.  Zakhar and his brothers steal vodka from the funeral receptions of their clients and drink the vodka outside in the cold.  One day, Zakhar decides that drinking in the cold is too unpleasant, and Vova, Zakhar's friend and fellow mortician, suggests that Zakhar drink in one of Vova's classmate's apartment building.  Zakhar drinks in the apartment building of Vova's female classmate, and one of the building's residents unleashes a vicious dog on Zakhar, driving Zakhar out of the building.  As Zakhar is leaving the building, he tears the railing off of the wall, and worries that he has offended Vova's female classmate.  Zakhar returns to Vova's house and gives Zakhar's telephone number to Vova's female classmate so that the two can arrange a date, but Vova's classmate is repulsed by the fact that Zakhar wrote his telephone number on the back of a picture of a dead woman which Zakhar collected at the funeral reception.  All of the morticians go home and the next night, after drinking with the other morticians, Zakhar stumbles across the railroad tracks.
Years later, Zakhar has a girlfriend who takes him to an art exhibit where Zakhar meets a man named Alexei.  Alexei is fat and Zakhar is muscular and lean.  After Zakhar breaks up with his girlfriend, he also quits his job as a bouncer to join the military.  Zakhar excels in basic training and eagerly awaits deployment, as Zakhar is poor and needs money from military service.  Zakhar meets Alexei by chance and the two men begin drinking together in the park and browsing, but not buying, books in book stores.  Zakhar and Alexei grow fond of one another and Zakhar writes part of a novel starring Alexei, but Zakhar doesn't use Alexei's name in the book.  Alexei reads Zakhar's novel at Zakhar's request.  One night, Alexei and Zakhar have an argument, which ends with Alexei expressing jealousy for Zakhar.
Alexei moves away.  After a few months, Zakhar begins to work at a loading dock.  One night, Zakhar receives a phone call from Alexei, and Alexei is slurring words and expressing a feeling of betrayal in response to Zakhar's neglect to ask about Alexei's welfare.  Zakhar hangs up and, a few days later, Alexei and another man appear at Zakhar's loading dock.  Alexei and Alexei's friend want to take shelter inside of the store to which the loading dock belongs, but Zakhar tells Alexei that nobody can enter the building until Zakhar's boss leaves in an hour.  Zakhar, Alexei, and Alexei's friend begin talking to one another at the loading dock, and Zakhar and Alexei's friend, who are both fit men, decide to box eachother with open hands.  Alexei's friend breaks the agreement and punches Zakhar with a closed fist, sending Zakhar reeling to the ground.  Alexei, standing over Zakhar, says in a flat tone that Zakhar fell down.
Zakhar begins dating a new woman named Marysenka.  Marysenka and Zakhar find a group of 4 stray dogs and shelter the dogs in their home.  Although Zakhar and Marysenka are poor, they are happy, and they have sex frequently.
A local Jewish man named Valies is a respected actor in the local playhouse and, as Valies is growing older, Zakhar wishes to interview him.  Zakhar interviews Valies and is disgusted by the amount of gossip Valies discusses during the interview.  After the interview, Zakhar goes home and types up the story, and drops off a copy of the story at Valies' house.  The next day, Valies calls Zakhar and tells Zakhar that Valies does not approve of the interview and that Zakhar should not print the interview in its current form.  Zakhar adheres to Valies' request, even though Zakhar and Marysenka are starving.  Marysenka is frustrated and offers to interview Valies on Zakhar's behalf.  Zakhar agrees, and Marysenka interviews Valies and Zakhar writes an article based on Marysenka's interview.  Valies approves of the new interview and Zakhar and Marysenka are able to get money to buy food.  Valies begins calling Marysenka every day, and asks Marysenka to marry Valies.
 One day, one of the stray dogs which Zakhar and Marysenka shelter escapes and Zakhar chases after the dog.  Zakhar follows the dog into a poor neighborhood, suspecting that poor people are planning to eat the dog.  Zakhar eventually finds the dog in an apartment which is shared by several poor men.  After threatening the men, Zakhar leaves the apartment with the dog.
Valies dies.  Zakhar and Marysenka give away all of the stray dogs to new owners whom Zakhar and Marysenko trust.  Zakhar and Marysenka attend Valies' funeral.  Eventually Zakhar and Marysenka marry and have children.
Zakhar works as a bouncer again.  A man who Zakhar describes as a poser is sitting at the bar.  A group of tough men who are bodybuilders come to the bar, and Zakhar and the other bouncer, Molotok, don't feel that they can physically overpower the tough men.  Borisych, Zakhar's boss, comes to the club, and informs Zakhar that Borisych will be hiring another bouncer for the bar.  At one A.M., a fight breaks out between a Caucasian and a Russian.  Then, a man takes a woman's purse and Zakhar demands that the man return the purse to the woman, but the man who took the purse refuses, saying that the man who took the purse knows the woman to whom the purse belongs, and that Zakhar does not need to interfere in the two people's relationship.  An expensive car full of Moscow teenagers pulls up in the parking lot, and the group of tough men come out and fight the Moscow teenagers.  During the fight, the man who Zakhar described as a poser emerges from the bar, and using a subtle fighting move, incapacitates all of the tough men and the Moscow teenagers singlehandedly.  Zakhar approaches the poser to talk to the poser, and the tough men and the Muscovites take the opportunity to drive away.  A woman emerges from the club to flirt with Zakhar.  Zakhar rejects the woman.  Molotok and Zakhar go back inside the club where the poser disrespects them and the poser spills wine on Molotok's shirt.  When the poser leaves the club, drunk, the poser hails a taxi, at which point Zakhar recognizes that the poser is drunk and punches the poser in the face, incapacitating the poser.  Zakhar leaves the poser lying in the parking lot and Zakhar goes home to his family.
One night, Zakhar lies awake looking at his children, named Ignat and Gleb, thinking about how much he loves the children.  Zakhar receives word that his grandmother died and Zakhar plans to drive back to the small town in which Zakhar grew up and where Zakhar's grandmother lived.  Although Gleb and Ignat are sad that Zakhar is leaving, Zakhar begins to drive toward the small village where the funeral for Zakhar's grandmother will be held.
Zakhar is called by the military to service again.  Eventually, he becomes a Sergeant.  One day, when Zakhar's unit is covering a shift at an outpost, the next unit does not arrive to relieve Zakhar's unit.  An enemy unit steals Zakhar's jeep and Zakhar's unit hides in the bushes, following the jeep as the enemy unit is driving slowly.  Eventually, the enemy unit pulls up to an abandoned building of a town which the enemy army has pillaged, and the enemy unit go into the abandoned building.  Zakhar's unit recapture the jeep, and hotwire the jeep, and Zakhar runs the jeep into an enemy soldier who emerged from the building to investigate the noise.  Zakhar drives back to the base and Zakhar's unit enters the home base.  There is a loud explosion, and Zakhar looks back and sees a disfigured soldier with mutilated eyes limping toward him.

This book is written in nonsequential short stories, allowing the emotional value of each story to be emphasized rather than its chronological placement within a larger plot.  The narrator for all of the short stories excluding the final story is a first person narrator named Zakhar, which is the same name as the pen name of the author of the novel, however, Sin is not an autobiography, but a work of fiction.  Additionally, Zakhar Prilepins birth name is not Zakhar.  The final story is told by a third person narrator and Zakhar is the main character.
Zakhar's inner monologue discusses the feeling of weight and interaction between Zakhar and food frequently during Sin.  During a few intervals of Zakhar's life, Zakhar has been starving, but fitness has been a constant for him.  Zakhar explains that he feels light as a bouncer, watching many heavy people frequent the bar, but also complains that he himself feels heavy as a soldier, comparing the weight he feels on his body to the added grief Zakhar feels in his mind.
The relations between Caucasians, or, people from the Caucasus mountain area, and Russians, is described as being slightly hostile in the book.  Additionally, Zakhar recognizes Valies' facial features as being Jewish and sneaky.
In the bouncer story, Zakhar interestingly misjudges the poser's fighting ability by the poser's slight stature.  There does not appear to be a philosophical message to the bouncer story, but the reader learns several interesting items from Zakhar's experience: men are not proportionately talented fighters to their muscular size; all men are vulnerable when drunk; the smartest fighter wins.  Zakhar and Molotok allow the poser to disrespect them, so that the poser will let his guard down and become drunk so that Zakhar can hit him.
The story with Alexei is similar to the bouncer story in that it contains fighting advice.  Because Alexei is not surprised and not sympathetic that Zakhar was knocked out by Alexei's friend, it is probable that Alexei planned the attack.  If this is true, then Alexei outwitted Zakhar by luring Zakhar into a false sense of trust and, although Alexei is not as strong as Zakhar, Alexei ultimately stood over Zakhar after Zakhar was punched to the ground.
Poverty in Russia is juxtaposed in this novel with national pride.  Zakhar, who was a soldier, expresses hatred for Stalin at leading his beloved homeland astray.  The reader sees gripping poverty in Russia, and sees that the Russian army manages its soldiers poorly in the episode about Zakhar as a sergeant.  Zakhar expresses that he loves Russia but feels betrayed by his government.

  • Zakhar is born in a small village in Russia
  • Zakhar has a crush on his cousins who live in another village one summer but does not visit again
  • One of Zakhar's friends freezes to death in Russia after running away from home
  • Zakhar works as a gravedigger and is rejected by a girl who finds his profession disgusting
  • Zakhar works as a bouncer
  • Zakhar quits his job and makes a friend who is jealous of Zakhar and then moves away
  • Zakhar works as a loader and the friend returns with another man who incapacitates Zakhar while Zakhar is unsuspecting
  • Zakhar finds a girlfriend
  • Zakhar interviews a local actor who becomes obsessed with Zakhar's girlfriend
  • The local actor dies and Zakhar and his girlfriend get married and have kids
  • Zakhar works as a bouncer again and learns how to win fights by cunning
  • Zakhar is forced to leave his happy home to return to his small, depressing village of origin to attend his grandmother's funeral
  • Zakhar is forced to return to the army where he becomes a sergeant
  • Zakhar's unit jeep is stolen and he and his men return it to the base where Zakhar sees a horribly disfigured soldier limping toward the base with mutilated eyes
Prilepin, Zakhar. Sin. Trans. Simon Patterson and Nina Chordas. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print. Book about a man named Zakhar's journey from childhood to adulthood in Russia.