"The Giver" by Lois Lowry
"Herman" by Lars Saabye Christen
Yannis Ritsos
Konstantin Kavafis

 



GERMAN STUDENTS  CRITIC THE BOOK "THE GIVER" BY LOIS LOWRY

 

    Dear readers,

    First we would like to introduce ourselves. We are pupils of a cultural-studies group at the comprehensive school in Kamp-Lintfort. We all attend the 10th form.

    In class we read the novel "The Giver" written by Lois Lowry and on the following pages we would like to present the book to you. We discussed interesting aspects to get a better understanding of the novel. Furthermore we talked about the points we liked and did not like about it. Some of us found it very exciting and stimulating, others thought it was boring.

    If you also know the book, we would be happy to hear about your opinion.

    All the pupils of the cultural-studies group in Kamp-Lintfort

    (Teacher: Heike Siepen)

 

 

Summary

    This novel is about a twelve-year-old boy named Jonas. Jonas is a normal boy who lives in a perfect future world and enjoys his childhood.

    At the Ceremony of Twelve Jonas is selected to be the new Receiver of Memory, which is a very hard and also painful job because he has to take and keep the memories of all people in his community.

    Now everything changes for him, for example heís not allowed to play with his friend anymore. This is one reason why heís very worried about his new assignment.

    During his training, he gets painful but also wonderful memories, f. ex. he has to face war but he also learns what love means. When he realizes what his community would be like if everybody was able to have these memories he decides to go to "Elsewhere" and give the memories to his community.

 

Life in the community

    In Jonasīs community there are many ceremonies. These are meant for children aged 1 to 12 and are very important for all of them because each ceremony changes life step by step.

    We do not want to describe all the ceremonies in detail but we would like to mention the two most essential ones, i.e. the "Ceremony of Twelve" und the "Ceremony of Release".

    The "Ceremony of Twelve" is the most important one. Each child gets an assignment for the professional training in his/her future. The "Receiver of Memory", Jonasīs assignment, is the most outstanding task because the Receiver of Memory keeps the memory of the whole community. After his training, he will be the "Giver" (of memory). Keeping all extreme experiences and memories, he relieves the people from pain but also from quite pleasant feelings.

    The last ceremony in everybodyīs life is the "Ceremony of Release". Then the old people become free. Nobody of the community knows where they will be then! (Find more information about "release" below.)

    Furthermore, there are special rituals in the community. One of the rituals is the dream-telling. lt is a morning ritual. All the members of the family sit together to tell their dreams they had the night before. At lunch they tell their feelings. On the one hand you can say that this ritual supports family life but on the other hand these rituals might also be a way of controlling the people.

    Besides these rituals there are also strict rules. You get punished when you do not respect them.

    The rules of the Receiver are different to the ones of the citizens. For example the Giver is allowed to lie und to be rude. He is prohibited from dream-telling. But he is not allowed to ask for release. Except for illness or injury he is not permitted to apply for medicine during his training. In opposition to the Receiver the citizens are permitted to apply for medicine. They are allowed to ask for release but they are not allowed to lie.

 

Advantages and disadvantages of living in the community

    The society described in the novel is mainly characterized by "sameness". This basic principle influences life in the community both in a negative and positive way.

    In the community there is no racism because of the sameness. Nobody sees colours and so there are no black and white people. There is no sadness either, because nobody has any extreme negative feelings. Moreover, there is no kind of crime in the community. Nobody takes anything without asking because there are no shops, there are no thieves. Finally warfare does not exist because the people don't know what hate is. Therefore they have no enemies and all the people who know something about this prevent that war breaks out. Because of the sameness the people have no different seasons like we have. There is always the same weather and climate. They don't know hills, because the landscape is flat.

    For some of you this world seems to be an ideal one but you have to consider the following disadvantages.

    You can say that the people lack liberty because they can't decide anything by themselves. They get their jobs, their spouse and everything they need from the community. Furthermore the people have no real friendship because they are not allowed to ask private questions. But nobody is interested in talking about private matters any way. Their friendship is only superficial.

    We think the most negative aspect is the fact that in the community exist a lot of rules. When you break a rule you get a second chance but when you break a rule twice you will be realised.

 

Release

    During our discussions "release" was the most controversial topic. Here one pupil tries to explain the term. Note that the view he holds on the issue is his very own one and does not represent the opinion of the whole group.

    To be released means "to die" or "to be killed".

    Only a few chosen citizens of the community know of this. The citizens think that being released means that they will just go to another place, Elsewhere. The Elders hide the meaning of death from them because it would lead to suffering and sorrow. In reality the citizens are killed and are taken away.

    Although it is not right to kill people as punishment for small crimes, the whole system isnīt completely wrong. Of course, people have the right to know about death but usually they donīt want to. This way, they can enjoy their life without worrying about its ending. They can believe and be happy until they die, which takes a lot of sorrow from the people. So, all in all, it is not right to do it but it also has a good side.

 

 The ambiguous ending

    When being trained to be the new "Giver", Jonas realizes that he does not live in a perfect world as it has seemed to him for a long time. On the one hand he understands that keeping certain experiences from the people relieves their lives but on the other hand he is convinced that they should learn about real love, warmth, friendship and all the other positive aspects of life.

    His uneasiness increases when his brother Gabe, who does not seem to fit into society, is designated for release. Jonas decides to escape with him to save his brotherīs life.

    The story ends ambiguously. It ends when Jonas is on the way downhill on a sled with Gabe. This ending leaves a lot of questions. Do Jonas and Gabriel reach "Elsewhere"? Or is it just an illusion? This is the first alternative which is possible. When Jonas arrives at the bottom of the hill, he might realise that there is just the same landscape as the one passed when he climbed up the hill.

    lt is also possible that he reaches a new society when he arrives at the bottom. The music which Jonas perceives on his way downhill supports this idea.

    But the most probable possibility is that "Elsewhere" is another word for "heaven". On Jonas's journey he suddenly remembers his whole life and all his friends and the community. This supports the view that he is already dead. A lot of people who nearly died tell that they remembered their whole life within a few seconds. When Jonas is sitting on the sled he can't feel anything anymore. He seems to be already dead.

    Furthermore they tell the people are sent to "Elsewhere" when they are released. In fact they are killed. This shows that the people are dead and "Elsewhere" is in fact heaven.

 


"Herman"

    The novel "Herman" is written by Lars Saabye Christensen. It was published in 1988.

    The story is about a little boy called Herman. We meet him during a little period of his life where we hear about his problems and challenges.

    Herman is small and helpless, heís not like the others and he often gets teased. When Hermanís hair starts to fall off, his life collapses. He has to learn how to face and handle his problems. During the story Herman develops from being weak and small into a strong person who stands up for himself.

    The author writes through the eyes of a child, therefore we find many funny points and comparisons. The novel takes up a serious theme, but it succeed of being funny. Itís highly recommended. It is translated into other languages, try to find out if it is translated into your language!

    Greetings from 1D, Ski vgs., Norway


YANNIS RITSOS

(1909-1990)

 

    A short biographical note

    Yannis Ritsos was born in Monemvasia, a beautiful medieval village in south-eastern Peloponnese. He started writing poems in his school years. His first appearance in poetry caused a great impression because of the authenticity of his writing and his expressive wealth. "Let us move aside for you to walk by" Palamas (another major Greek poet) has written, thus acknowledging the importance of Ritsosís work. He is one of the most important delegates of the generation of the 30s. His poetry is exceptional for its linguistic richness and wide thematic variety, especially sociopolitical. His poetic work is published in 11 big volumes. Some of his poems have been translated in many languages.

Vassilis Tsiotas

Translated by Panayotis Igglezos

"Peace"

    The images of the poem

    In the period of peace human soul calms down and relaxes. The only elements which cause stress are the daily problems, those at work and at home. Humans donít feel stressed for their life, they donít hide and they arenít scared, like in a war period. That way, coming back home means relaxation and enjoying a quiet and peaceful Ďsleepí. In this poem, there are many impressive images which are related to invaluable daily life, the fruits of peace. Some of these images are:

Love

    People are given the chance to be more sociable and open. They co-operate, they discuss, they create essential relationships. In this way they feel that love is born in their hearts.

Family warmth

    In the period of peace the whole family is concertrated at home. Nobodyís life is threatened, but they have the possibility to enjoy daily life which is real happiness.

 

 

Friendship

    People, when not feeling fear, agony and unsafety create relationships with people from other countries. They create friendships which come over personal interests and can last for a lifetime. So, problems and differences are solved through dialogue. Individuals make up with each other and with the feeling of fraternization they fight for humanistic values and ideals.

Creativity

    Feeling safe, they make dreams about the future, they build up, they have visions and develop their abilities. So, there is improvement and progress in the different fields of human activity. Let everyone realise that giving their hand to someone else provides a stepping stone against enmity and hatred. The more people shake hands, the more opportunities are created for the establishment of worldwide peace.

Efi Chryssikou

Chryssoula Psimouli

Christine Sterpi

 

Translated by Maria-Natassa Daskalaki

 

 

 

    In which way can you, the young people, the worldís "future, become "active participants" and work for the strengthening of the world-wide peace", rather than be"passive observers"? (Fani Voulgarouli, Modern Greek teacher)

    As we are the future of humanity, we, the young people, must not be indifferent to the world-wide peace, because war, which should concern all of us, has stigmatized peopleís souls.

    Thatís why, instead of being simple observers, we must take an active part in the strengthening of the world-wide peace. One way to achieve this is to become members in groups which have this goal.

    In my opinion, peace on earth can be established if there is peace in every family, in every society.This means that firstly we must act regionally and secondly for the rest of the world.

    To conclude, it should be mentioned that the strengthening of the world-wide peace is a common profit to all the inhabitants of this planet. The wars, which take place in front of our eyes, do not prove that people are civilized.

    The absence of peace means absence of civilization.

    If there is no peace man can not enjoy daily lifeÖ..

 

Akis Tzelas

Translated by Polly Gerasi

 

    Peace is one of the most important goods for human life. When lost, deterioration and destruction are brought about and this is the reason why all of us have to work for its establishment all over the world.

    The estrablisment of global peace not only presupposes spirit nourishment and understanding of the meaning and the importance of the issue, but also necessitates publicity and public awareness through action, articles and protestations. So, if we, the young people arenít active for the solution of this problem, then only one thing is sure: we will be led to extinction, because war has no other face, just hatred, pain and deathÖ..

Efi Chryssikou, Chryssoula Psimouli, Christine Sterpi

Translated by Ioanna Argiti

 

My name is Bill Tziovaras and Iím a student of the third class of High School in Schimatari. Ií m l4 years old and in my free time, except playing football, I read stories and poems.

Now letís look into our subject, i.e. the poem of Yannis Ritsos, "PEACE". Reading this poem I canít say that it creates strong feelings to me. I understand that Ritsos is a great poet, he has a very good reputation and everybody loves him. The only thing which impressed me in his poem is that he has the ability to find words and expressions to develop the idea of "Peace", which is in contrast with war (although this is not mentioned in the poem). The peace that should dominate in ours hearts. So, this peace has to conquer the future, with an external image (all over the world) and with an internal image (peace and love in ours hearts). That is to say, that the central message that Ritsos wants to transfer to us is to manage someday to think right and fair, to live in a world full of love and beautiful human feelings. I believe that you will like this poem, in one way or another.

    Thanks for your understanding.

Bill Tziovaras

Translation: Kostas Drakos

word-processing: Yota Kapaka

Konstandina Kouroutou

Spyridoula Komboyanni

Katerina Komboyanni

Christina Lambrou

Vaya Korlou

Sophia Kissa

Marianna Vazoura


 

More about Yannis Ritsos

    Yannis Ritsos, Yannis Ritsos: Selected Poems 1938-1988.

    Edited and translated by Kimon Friar and Kostas Myrsiades.

 

    The achievements of the Greek writer, painter, and dramatic artist Yannis Ritsos across six decades--the 1930s through the 1980s--have been extensive and brilliant.In this handsome, stirring compilation by editors and translators Kimon Friar and Kostas Myrsiades, BOA Editions has gathered what is by far the most wide- ranging and coherent presentation of Ritsos' work available in English. In addition to nearly four hundred pages of poetry there are, as illustrations, xerographic renderings of his paintings on rocks. Blake spoke oi a "universal Poetic Genius," an animating, originating power eternally present in all humans; this book gives evidence of a superb flowering of that spirit during a century that has gone far in trying to kill it.

    

    Ritsos has not been unknown in English. Many of the rnore than four hundred forty poems in this selection have appeared in American journals, and at least fifteen books given to translation of his poetry have appeared in English since 1970. Even so, many readers here may not be familiar with him. One hopes that this new book will serve as a continuing celebration for those who do know him, and that it will be welcomed by those encountering his work for the first time.

 

    I do not read modern Greek, so I cannot comment on the quality of the translations except to say that they read beautifully in English. I can testify that they perform an essential task: they leave rne wishing I could possess, by tomonow morning, a native's command of modern Greek.

 

    Ritsos has sustained his efforts during a life marked by upheaval, obstacles, and tragedy. The unattributed biographical note indicates that he has had extended struggles with tuberculosis and has known long confinement in concentration camps and political prisons. Deaths of loved ones from tuberculosis, reminiscent of those that beset the Keats family, have confronted him: two members of his family suffered attacks of virulent mental illness. And in ways that recall Byron, who died In Greece while actively supporting attempts t:o end Turkish occupation, Ritsos has been directly involved in the turbulent political struggles of his motherland.

    

    The biographical note maps out some of the facts:

 

 

    With additional translations bv Athan Anagnostopoulos, Peter Bien, Andonis Decavalles, N.C. Germanacos, George Giannaris, Karelisa Hartlgarl, Edmund Keeley, Thanasis Maskaleris, Gwendolyn MacEwen, Martin McKlnsey, Phllip Pastras, George Pilitsis, Minas Savvas, John Stathatos, and Nikos Tsingos.

Also with Biographical Note; introductory essays by Friar and Myrsiades on the poetry of Ritsos; and Yannis Ritsos: A Chronological Index of Published and Selected Unpublished Work (compiled by Myrsiades).

 

    From 1927 to 1938, Ritsos found himself in and our of sanatoriums, working in the interim as a professional actor, dancer and poet. With the outbreak of World War II in 1941, he joined EAM and followed its guerilla arm (ELAS) . . . to Northern Greece, where in 1945 he oversaw the Popular Theater of Macedonia which extolled the actions of the partisans. From 1948 to 1953, during the Greek civil wars, he was interned as a prisoner in a number of concentration camps . . . because of his continuing political association with the socialists. . . . The coup of Papadopoulos on April 21, 1967 and the junta of the colonels, which once again stifled freedom in Greece, led to Ritsos' further arrest, imprisonment and exile on various Greek islands. . . .During four years ofthe junta, he also spent considerable time in military hospitals because of his recurring bout with tuberculosis. And he was subsequently under house arrest until the revolt of the studentsat the polytechnical institute in Athens brought about the fall of the junta in 1974.

 

    Partly as a weapon against difficulties, partly because he was spurred on by them, he established patterns of intense artistic productivity. The biographical note says that "Ritsos spends virtually every waking hour working, a habit he developed in concentration camps as a means of preserving both his art and his sanity, writing or painting on whatever material he flnds at hand--pads of paper, canvas, cigarette boxes, glass, "stones, bits of wood, bone." It is not uncommon for him to write several short poems a day.

 

 

    Although he has been deeply affected by immediate political concerns, his work is not narrowly doctrinaire. Instead, he has blended his urgent sense of present realities, including an acute sense of the world in front of his eyes, with an awareness of his nation's ancient life and art. His vast output falls into two very broad categories--long poems (some, though none here, exceeding a hundred pages) and short ones (occasionally more then a page long but normally briefer)--and in both kinds, the past and present are often fused inextricably and touchingly. Here for example is the short 1969 poem "To Orpheus," in a translation by Thanasis Maskaleris. (As is true with many of Ritsos'shorter poems, it carries after it a notation indicating the place and date of composition.)

 

    This summer, under the constellation of the Lyre, we remain pensive.What was the use of enchanting Hades and Persephone with your song? Of their consenting to return Euridyce to you? You, doubting your own strength, turned back to re-assure yourself, and she was lost again to the kingdom of shades under the poplars.

    Then, bent by attempting the impossible, you declared to the Lyre solitude as the ultimate truth. For this neither gods nor men have forgiven you. The Maenads tore your body to pieces on the banks of Hebros. Only your lyre and your head reached Lesbos swept by the current.

    What then, is the justification of your song?

    The momentary merging (itself a false image) of light and darkness?

    Or, perhaps, that the muses hung your Iyre at the very center of the stars?

 

    Under this constellation, in the summer of this year, we remain pensive.

 

    Karlovasi, Samos June 27, 1969

 

 

 

    The fusion of Iyricism, bittersweet meditation, reverence, and violence is typical of Ritsos. His long poems, many of them dramatic monologues spoken by flgures from Greek myth (for example, Philoctetes, Orestes, Agamemnon, and Helen), have the same fusion along with complex thematic development andcharacterization. The long poems and sequences in this volume, among them a group entitled "Twelve Poems for Cavafis" and a selection of erotica, are without exception stunning. What follows is from Peter Bien's translation of the twenty-one-page monologue Philoctetes (written 1963-1965):

 

     MotherŮone more shadow, transparent too, weightless and remote: a tenderness present in her constant absence. Just before they reached the house, returning from the hunt, the men would glimpse the west window behind the trees, hanging all alone in mid-air from a branch, it seemed, and inside its sombre frame my mother hanging too (it seemed) and powdered all with gold-dust, as she peered far off into the sunset. They thought she'd been awaiting them, devouring the road with expectation.

    We understood much later: she was never there at all, but actually hanged.

 

    Her face betrayed the noose's shadow imperceptible as she corrected her expression, once the hunters could be heard along the road. Banishing with her hand a coal-black curl on pretext it blocked her vision, that noose's shade is what she pushed aside. We learned this later, as horns blared out their last above the lake in twilight, and stucco from our home's facade peeled off in noiseless bits, as trees' blue phantoms joined pink and golden mists rising everywhere above the plain, and exhausted dogs, despite their hanging tongues, trod lightly, as though climbing in ecstasy to heaven.

 

    Brilliant plumage quickly fllled the evening; colorful feathers of slaughtered birds lay there upon the table top of stone, outdoors, with purple, red and amber grapes on overflowing platters, and cooling water from the well. Mother always smiled with sorrow then;

    "And to think you wanted to be a bird!" she'd say to me,

directing the servant-girls to pluck the fowl for dinner

in the yard behind the house, where mountain-shade already

fell like scintillating molten iron, and giant cypresses, austere,

reclusive, dark,

assumed a mute, inexplicable initiative.

 

      But although Ritsos has a strong awareness of the past, his short and long poems can be focused squarely on the present. In the short poems, thiss insistent concentration can give dream-like vividness to rapidly sketched scenes or an evanescent but intense state of feeling. The immediacy of the moment is sometimes underscored, as I noted above, by the poem having a place and date inscribed beneath it. These short poems are not uniformly compelling: a few seem to have an impermanence or shallowness that could come from Ritsos' relentless composing But perhaps one simply hasn t caught the mood or angle of a particular sketch. In any case, many of the short poems seem powerful indeed. Kostas Myrsiades translates "Sluggishy" ( 1975):

 

     We measured the place. flung the dead in lime,

then climbed into the rowboats under the waning moon;

the fourth man held the iron box on his knees

wholly withdrawn in himself as if being warmed

by some secret private flre of his own. The smoke

stood low over the water; it would not rise.

 

     At its most profound, Ritsos' concern with urgent, present reality links him, through the power of the concrete universal, to all generations of humans. I want to cite a passage from what seems one of his most moving works, the rather brief 1953 poem "Peace" (Kimon Friar's translation).

Ritsos has seen war, he has understood peace. He knows what nourishes spirit and what does not. He conveys this in simple, common images, that have anything but simple or trivial impact.

 

    When wounds heal on the world's face

and in the pits dug by shellfire we have planted trees

and in hearts scorched by conflagration hope sprouts its first buds

and the dead can turn over on their side and sleep without complaining

knowing their blood was not spilled in vain,

this is peace.

 

    Peace is the odor of food at evening,

when an automobile stopping in the street does not mean fear,

when a knock on the door means a friend,

and the opening of a window every hour means sky

feasting our eyes with the distant bells of its colors,

this is peace.

 

    Peace is a glass of warm milk and a book before the awakening child. When

wheatstalks lean toward one another saying: the light, the light, and the

horizon's wreath overbrims with light,

this is peace.

 

    When jails have been made over into libraries,

when a song ascends from threshold to threshold in the night

when the spring moon emerges from a cloud

like the worker who comes out of the neighborhood barber shop freshly

shaven on a weekend,

this is peace,

 

    When a day gone by is not a day lost

but a root that raises the leaves of joy in the night

and is a day won and a just sleep,

when you feel again the sun hurriedly tying its reins

to pursue and chase sorrow out of the corners of time,

this is peace.

 

 

    Dignity, immediacy, and timeless resonance: Yannis Ritsos calls to the human community across continents and centuries.

 

Richard Simpson

 

Tar River Poetry

Peace by Yannis Ritsos

Eirini eine ena potiri zesto gala ki ena vivlio
mbrosta sto
paidi pou ksipnaei.
Tote pou ta stahia gernoun tona st allo legontas: to
fos,
to fos, to fos,
kai kseheilaei i stefani tou orizonta fos
einai i eirini.

 

Peace is a glass of warm milk and a book before the awakening child. When

wheatstalks lean toward one another saying: the light, the light, and the

horizon's wreath overbrims with light,

this is peace.

 

 

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