The Liebster Award

          I’m back in Paris after two weeks away at my parents’. I always vow to take advantage of the holidays to catch up on everything I’ve neglected during the term, including my blog, but of course, I get so caught up in family life that I get very little done at all. This time was no exception, and it was only last night, once I’d settled in again after the trip back north, that I finally got around to reading up on everything that had happened in the blogosphere.

     It turned out there was a surprise in store for me: Victoria/Litlove of Tales from the Reading Room nominated me for this year’s Liebster Award! Thank you Victoria!

     From what I can find out, the Liebster Award (from the German, meaning “dearest” or “beloved”) is granted by fellow bloggers to new blogs with fewer than 200 followers and deserving of recognition and encouragement. The rule is you answer the questions put to you by the person who nominated you, then make up your own set of questions which you send on to those you, in turn, have chosen to nominate. I love the list of questions Victoria came up with!

1. What do you think of literary prizes? Good idea or bad?

I’ve only recently started taking an interest in literary prizes. I used to think that they were designed solely for publishing houses to rake in a maximum of money, and that the winners were always too experimental, too obscure, too heavy-going and pedantic to make for good reading. Now I tend to think that a) publishing houses are struggling enough to stay afloat in the face of the economic crisis and the advent of the e-book, so if they can sell a couple more books thanks to a prize, good for them; b) I wouldn’t say no to winning one of those prizes myself one day in the dreamed-of future, so I’d better not spit in the soup, to translate a popular French saying; and c) it’s quite fascinating to see which writers, and what kind of writing, are deemed important in our day and age. And from time to time, I actually stumble upon something I really do think incredible!

2. If you could write any sort of book, what would you write?

I would hate to have my work labelled, categorized, put into a neat little drawer. Rightly or wrongly, I feel that to label is to restrict and constrain, and thus to reduce the power of a book. I would wish my own work to transcend the conventions and boundaries of genre; to draw on many different sources in order to create a rich and multi-layered texture; to move but also to provoke thought; but most of all to invite the reader to dream; so that opening my book(s) would be like entering a world unlike any other…

3. Describe your ideal home library/study.

First of all, my ideal library/study would be a separate room, with a door that not only shuts out the outside world, but locks it out. Books in the living-room: yes. A desk in a corner or on the landing: no, no, no! I love secret gardens, long-forgotten rooms, towers, garden sheds: encircling, protective walls and a sense of inviolate privacy. A small fireplace, with a crackling fire of pinecones in the grate; a deeply cushioned window seat. A thick carpet on the floor, Aubusson, or a Chinese antique. A colour scheme made up of warm apricots, creams, and deep rose-pinks, with a touch of crimson here and there. A cozy, chintz-covered wing chair to curl up in with a book – and nearby, on the tea table, scones or crumpets or orange sponge cake, and a silver teapot of piping hot tea, the orange flames of the fire rippling across its rounded belly. Books on every wall, in tall bookcases of rich, glossy wood. And an old-fashioned desk with pigeon-holes and an ornate brass key and  perhaps a secret compartment that springs open when you press a particular button.

4. Name two new authors whose work you think will last the test of time, and explain your choices.

I’m sorry but I can only think of one. I also apologise to those who have heard me say this before… In my opinion, the greatest living English writer is A. S. Byatt. She’s not exactly new, but as she is still actively publishing I think she qualifies. I haven’t read all her work, but two hefty novels and a book of short stories have given me a fair idea of her writing and I am lost in admiration. It’s not just a question of telling a great story – though both Possession and The Children’s Book certainly do that – or of mastering an impressive network of historical, mythological, and artistic references. Byatt plays with language like a potter kneads wet clay in his hands: she pastiches, parodies, and re-creates, and in the midst of all that creates something uniquely her own, glorying in the infinite possibilities of language, deepening our understanding of literature past and present, and compelling us to think about what it is to use language, to write, and to be a writer. That is, in my opinion, what makes her timeless.

5. Which books do you hope to get for Christmas?

The first book I’ve asked Father Christmas for is in French. My very favourite literary figure is the nineteenth-century writer George Sand: her life is a source of endless fascination to me. Two years ago my brother gave me Le dernier amour de George Sand, Evelyne Bloch-Dano’s biography of Alexandre Manceau, a Parisian engraver who was introduced to Sand by her son and who supplanted Chopin in her affections, sharing her life until his death from tuberculosis sixteen years later. This year I would like Solange Sand, ou la folie d’aimer, Christine Drouard’s biography of Sand’s daughter Solange, who married the hugely talented but abusive sculptor Auguste Clésinger, and whose stormy nature and unreasonable demands caused a monumental family quarrel in 1847 and a lasting rift between her mother and Chopin.

The second book I would like is Winter’s Tales by Karen Blixen. I read Karen Blixen for the first time last year, when I received Anecdotes of Destiny for my birthday, and I instantly fell in love with her sensual, lyrical, dream-like prose. I have never read any short stories that could equal hers and she is second only to George Sand in my affections. So I am (very casually!) dropping a hint…

6.  What’s the last book you did not finish and why?

Nightingale Wood, by Stella Gibbons. I bought it at Heffers in Cambridge exactly a year ago, when I went to do some research on Rosamond Lehmann at the King’s College Archives. I had read a lot in praise of Stella Gibbons on various blogs, and was curious. So when I came across Virago’s brand-new re-issue of Nightingale Wood, with its glamorous, ice-blue, vintage-looking cover illustration, I thought I had struck gold. As it turned out, I couldn’t have been more wrong. I’d been promised a 1930s Cinderella story, full of chic and sassy humour. But I wasn’t amused, I wasn’t entertained, I wasn’t even interested. In fact, I was downright bored. I ploughed my way to the middle and then gave up in disgust.  

7. Would you accept 20 books that were absolutely perfect for you and dependably brilliant reads, if they were also the last 20 books you could ever acquire?

What a horrible dilemma! After lengthy consideration, I would have to say no, I would not accept those books. Only twenty more books for the rest of my life?? Call me materialistic and the product of a consumer society if you must, but I’d rather forego those twenty perfect books (and pray, what is a perfect book, anyway?) than the pleasure of browsing in a bookshop and adding a hundred more unsuitable titles to my TBR list!

And here are my seven questions, for Leonore of As a Linguist, Helen of A Gallimaufry, Karen of Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings, Anbolyn of Gudrun’s Tights, and Annabel of Gaskella:

  1. What is your favourite reading spot?
  2. What do you think of movie adaptations of famous books? Do they enhance or hinder your appreciation of the book?
  3. Has a book ever made you want to travel to a particular place?
  4. What is your reaction when someone you know dislikes a book you are especially fond of? Have you ever quarrelled over a book?
  5. Do you like knowing all about an author before you start reading their work or do you think biographical details aren’t necessary to understand and appreciate a book? 
  6. In your opinion, what makes an excellent book review?
  7. And just for fun: Mr Darcy or Mr Rochester?

© Florence Berlioz 2012

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About Miss Darcy's Library

I love books - buying books, reading books, discussing books, and generally admiring them from all angles (except the e-book). I also love tea, roses, and my dogs, and seldom pass up an opportunity to slip them into the conversation.
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25 Responses to The Liebster Award

  1. Bellezza says:

    I can see that our libraries would be virtually identical; I agree with you on every point in your description! And, I was going to put A. S. Byatt’s Possession! I love love love that novel, from the beauty as well as the surprise, and I agree that it will stand the test of time. Thanks for visiting me, it’s nice to meet you. And how I miss Paris…

    • Nice to meet you too, Belleza! I love the header of your blog – so glamorous!
      Possession was indeed incredible – I loved every word of it. Once I’d started it, I couldn’t believe how long it had taken me to buy and read it!

  2. I love your description of your ideal library – so evocative and beautiful. I felt myself there!
    And I completely agree about A.S. Byatt. She is a genius. I love both Possession & The Children’s Book. Angels & Insects is also a masterpiece.

    Thank you for nominating me for The Liebster! I will have fun answering your questions – hopefully, sometime this week!

  3. litlove says:

    I think we’re all agreed – the only problem with your dream library is that it’s shortly going to be invaded by hoardes of book bloggers! I loved your answers here and I do agree with your last one. I love the feeling of being opened up by a new book, and a perspective I haven’t embraced before, and don’t think I could do without it. Also, I often get a lot of pleasure and interest out of flawed and imperfect books! I also love Karen Blixen and A. S. Byatt – great choices!

    • We’ll have to form a secret society in the best Freemason tradition, and meet regularly in the library :p
      Even the classics can be flawed and it’s their flaws that make for such interesting discussion! My best friend’s favourite book is Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night, which I find full of faults, yet despite my (moderate) dislike of it, we have spent very happy hours discussing it over tea…

  4. Helen says:

    Hello Florence and thank you so much for giving me a Liebster Award, I am very honoured! I shall try to answer your questions this week, and I’m curious to know what your other choices will write.

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your answers and I love the description of your study (especially the secret compartment), I would definitely invade it. And another fan of Karen Blixen here!

  5. Great questions and answers, although I’m sad to hear that you didn’t like Nightingale Wood. That’s been on my To Read list for a while and, like you say, it sounds like it would be a fun and charming read. How disappointing!

    • The problem with focusing on such unrelentlessly dull characters is that you run the risk of being dull yourself – and that’s an unforgivable sin in a book! I’d be curious to know what other readers have made of Nightingale Wood… is it different from her other books, or am I just impervious to the Stella Gibbons charm?

  6. limr says:

    Thank you, my dear, for thinking of me and of such great questions! I will definitely answer those questions, though it probably won’t be until late this week. I am struggling to find motivation to get me through the last 5 weeks of the semester (hurricanes and November snow storms are NOT helping me find it!) which means I ‘wasted’ my weekend by my inability to focus on my work, and now I’ve got to scramble to catch up. My own damn fault, I know, but sometimes a girl just needs to shut down for a couple of days! 🙂

    I adore your vision of a perfect library. Mine would be a separate room as well – solid wood, soft fabrics, window seat, fireplace, hot tea…okay, mine would probably also have martini fixings and some music, but otherwise, we’re thinking of almost the same room. Of course, despite a dedicated library, I’m sure I would still have books in every room of the house. I don’t really like being out of sight of books 🙂

    Looking forward to read what the other Liebsters write in response to your questions!

    • I’m certainly not going to criticize you for “shutting down” over the weekend: I shut down completely during the holidays, to the effect that in two weeks I didn’t mark a single one of the papers I’d taken along with me! I brought the whole lot back to Paris untouched. Hopefully something will occur to recharge your batteries and give you the energy to face the rest of the semester without a sinking heart!

      Of course, I’m in perfect agreement with you about being unable to restrict books to a single room. Is any book lover capable of doing that?? Besides, books give such a warm feel to a room. It’s always a huge shock to me when I walk into a room and there isn’t a single book to be seen! I can’t help judging people for it…

  7. Well hello there. Just completed my responses for Victoria. Amazed – it took most of the afternoon. It was good fun though. i love your questions. It’s amazing in how many directions we can go. I try and read your posts from across the Channel.

  8. Actually will follow you to pick your brains on books and Paris too. I think that is a good result from the award. Also I love your gravitar.

  9. kaggsysbookishramblings says:

    Thanks for the nomination Florence and I have done a little reply! It’s rather nice to have questions set as a kind of prompt – makes a change from just posting reviews!!

  10. Your library is so beautifully described. I can picture it perfectly.

  11. Gautam says:

    I do adore your ideal library. Beautifully evocative and… wistful.

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