fredag den 31. december 2021

Happy New Year 2022


Happy New Year 2022

Again, we are here, on the last day of the year and again we are saying goodbye to a year that will not be missed. Just as we thought the pandemic was over, heck we even discarded use of masks altogether, it is coming back big time and Denmark is now officially the most infected country in Europe (with a large margin!) and possibly the world. Well, that is just this year in a nutshell.

We started doing online training at the office and that has become so popular that I have done little else since summer. Nobody is going anywhere anymore. For a guy like me who used to travel 7-10 times per year, this is a big change and very sad too.

Having said that, I am grateful that I have lost no one in the family and those who got the virus, got through it easy enough or at least survived. I do hope we are soon through this.

As usual on this day I take stock on what happened on my blogs in the past year and, well, that is mostly business as usual.

I did a total of 59 movie reviews in 2021, which is the same as I did last year. Clearly this is my level of pacing. Of these 49 were List movies and 10 were off-List. This took me from 1972 to 1975. The most interesting event for me being the discovery of the Cinemateket in Copenhagen, which appears to have anything ever released in Denmark. Not the last time I will use that. In case anyone of the staff read this, thank you for kind assistance.  Otherwise, I will not point out anything special from this period except that I am listening to an awful lot of groovy seventies music these days.

On my book blog I have reviewed 11 books in 2021 which is great considering my target is a mere 5 books per year. This has taken me from The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774) to Caleb Williams (1794), which is a neat span of years. The most remarkable thing is how international the List has become with two German books, five French, one Chinese and three British books. I like that the List editors has made this a list of world literature and not just English language books.

I wish all my readers a happy and healthy new year and may the new year bring better times to all.

And remember, as legendary Danish movie critic Ole Michelsen used to say on sign-out: “ Movies should be watched in the cinema”. Cannot wait for them to open again…

torsdag den 30. december 2021

Caleb Williams - William Godwin (1794)


Caleb Williams

With “Caleb Williams”, or Things as They Are; or, The Adventures of Caleb Williams” I am back to British novels. The author is probably more know as the husband of early feminist Mary Wollstonecraft and father of Mary Shelley (Frankenstein), but “Caleb Williams” is sufficiently interesting to stand on its own.

The story is a first-person narrative of a young man, Caleb Williams, who is hired as secretary for Mr. Falkland, a country squire. The first volume tells the background story of Mr. Falkland, how he is a man on noble mind and intention, but fell into a depression after an affair with neighboring squire Mr. Tyrrel. This Tyrrel was a brutal fellow who was deeply envious of Falkland and tormented those who opposed him, such as his niece and a tenant, called Hawkins. After a fight with Falkland, Tyrrel is found dead, and Hawkins is blamed.

In the second volume, Williams cannot control his curiosity but is digging into this mysterious death. Despite several warnings to mind his own business, he finally learns, and Falkland admits, that it was he who murdered Tyrrel and let Hawkins take the rap. As a price for learning the truth, Williams must stay with Williams forever under close guard. Something Williams quickly gets fed up with.

When Caleb Williams insists on leaving, Falkland fabricates charges against him to send him to prison and possibly the gallows. Willams escapes and throughout the third volume we have a cat and mouse game with Williams constantly being pursued by Williams.

The immediate story serves as a thriller. It is tension on high level to follow first Williams playing with fire and then trying to evade his pursuers. Especially the last third reminded me a lot of the movie “The Fugitive”. Those that are pursuing Williams care nothing for his innocence, there is a price on his head and that is all that matters. He is setup by somebody to cover their crime, and as in “The Fugitive”, Willams only finds release when he stops fleeing and faces the real culprit.

Underneath, this is an undisguised criticism of the British legal system at the time and here it is important to keep in mind that the book follows on the heels of the French revolution, with new ideas about the order of society. Godwin’s criticisms are many, but notably the inequality before the law of those of rank compared to the servant class. Mr. Falkland can only be judged by his peers, and he is considered innocent on reputation alone. For a servant to even charge a nobleman with a crime is a felony in its own right, never mind his guilt. In this system, those without rank have no protection from the law. Secondly, Godwin is objecting to the conditions prisoners are subjected to. Life in prison is unspeakably horrible and prisoners are subjected to it without being convicted, but simply for being a suspect.

This is a commendable mission, and one that feels very much in order. I do not get the impression Godwin is exaggerating his examples, he had plenty of friends who felt the vengeance of the legal system. It is difficult not to feel indignation, but it is all plausible, although Caleb Williams is a tad more resourceful than most.

What I did not get was the ending. I read it explained that Godwin had a theory that the system could be reformed, not through revolution, but through understanding and honesty, by people simply talking to each other. Sounds commendable, but also, well, a bit naïve. Godwin is setting up that Willams should face Falkland, but rather than turn the table, they can simply talk it over and then get along. This despite Falkland being represented as a domineering and adamant opponent to Williams, almost a madman in his pursuit of Williams. I don’t know if I buy that.

Until that point though, this was a book I enjoyed reading more than I expected. It is lengthy at times, but especially the last third has a lot of drive, enough to keep me on the edge.

A moderate recommendation from me.