Tag Archives: faust

BiblioSmiles' Summer Book Challenge 2014

A couple of days ago the BiblioSmiles literature Blog posted a reading challenge for the summer that really sounded interesting:

When I was little, every summer my town library would have a summer book challenge to keep our young brains from turning to mush from all the sunshine and lack of schooling. Or video games. It might have been video games.
For every book you read, you logged it, and you accumulated points, earning little trinkets like those erasers in the shapes of ice cream cones, or wacky pencils, or puntastic posters. Being the little budding lit nerd I was, I was all over that.[…]
So, for summer 2014, here’s the 10 Book Challenge that I’m going to attempt to accomplish between June and August. Ten books has us at 3.3 books a month, which may be ambitious depending on the sort of books we choose. But that’s why it’s a challenge! Based on what books you pick, this can either be really difficult or fairly whimsical and easy.
From: Summer Book Challenge 2014

In short: The challenge consists of 10 categories to choose a book from (and a bonus category) and to read them in the months from June to August.
As I recently started to properly read again (as in: not starting a book and letting it lie somewhere for years) is this challenge also interesting for me to read some of the books that still wait in my shelve(s).
Even though I am a relatively fast reader (200-400 pages are a short read for me), if I would actually try to read ten books in three (by now two and a half) months I wouldn’t really be able to finish the challenge as this time of the year is also the festival season and I’m also otherwise occupied at times.
The beginning of the month was already covered with my Journey Through a bit of Germany and the Metalfest, for which I will add travel logs and report later.
The next one (Rockharz) will follow mid July and maybe another one in August (M’era Luna), taking away time on the weekend that I would otherwise spent reading.
Therefore I picked a book fitting for the category, but I will read them in my own pace and not within the set time limit and post a review linking back to the challenge afterwards.
This way I’ll do some proper reading and be able to add a few book reviews to my Blog.
But let’s have a look at the

The Categories and the Books

I have chosen.
1. A book you always meant to get around to
As my list of unread books is just as long as BiblioSmiles‘ Gabrieles, this one isn’t really an easy choice. But as I am tired of not properly understanding the movies have I chosen „The Lord of the Rings“ for this one, though I am not sure if I’ll also add „The Hobbit“ and „The Silmarillion“ to get the complete grasp of the story.
2. Reread a childhood favorite
This one is actually easy as I just picked the one that first came to mind when thinking about books I read when I was a child/teenager: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. I’m curious already if I’ll like the book as much as I did back then or if I’ll ruin the memory with this. >_<
3. A book someone else picks for you
As many people have recommended it for me I’ll actually start with the „Game of Thrones“ series. The alternative suggestion I got from DarkFairy would be the first book of James Barclay’s „Chronicles of the Raven„, but as I am still missing most of that series this is more difficult to read than the other one.
4. A book in a genre you don’t usually read
I hope young adult fiction counts for this… It still has some Fantasy elements, but it is aimed at a far younger audience. The book I’ve chosen is Melvin Burgess‘ „Tiger, Tiger“ that I’m already reading as it is one of four books I wanted to actually read before they might be swapped in the Book Hotel I’ll be staying at with my mum towards the end of July.
5. Something originally written in another language
Well, so far every book I’ve chosen was originally written in another language (English). We do have a couple of good (fantasy) authors here in Germany, but the majority of books are still translated into German. Nevertheless have I chosen a book that I will also read in English (just like GoT, but that’s mostly because the German versions are all split into two books) and whose special edition I have borrowed from Nazgul: „The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy“ (which incidentally was Gabrieles suggestion for 3.)
6. A book in a different format
This one I have also already started reading before knowing about the Challenge. It’s an Anthology (collection of short stories) that was created for the anniversary of The Forum. It’s called „Unter dem Weltenbaum“ (Underneath the World Tree) and contains stories about the roots, trunk and branches of the Arbor Phantastica or Yggdrasil by different authors. I sent two of my stories (Unterwelt and Erde), into the competition as well, but they weren’t chosen.
7. A classic
As I already have mentioned a couple of times, do I really like Goethe’s „Faust“ (see: Mephisto), but as it stands have I never finished Part Two of the tragedy. But this will be changed by the end of the challenge. 🙂 I might even reread Part One as well, if I can find it…
8. A book by your favorite author that you haven’t read yet
This one is tricky as I don’t really have an author I consider my favourite. There are three of whom I at least have more than one unread book: Stephen King, Terry Pratchett and Marcus Heitz. I am still not sure which book I will choose, but it is highly likely that I will finally finish – more likely begin anew – King’s „The Dark Tower V: The Wolves of the Calla“ as like „Kinder des Judas“ this one is still unfinished for quite some time now.
9. A nonfiction book
A couple of years ago we had a secret Santa at work and the present I picked was Stephen Hawking’s „A Brief History of Time“ and I think it’s about time I get around to reading it.
10. A book either published or a bestseller from the year you were born
This one is tricky as the most books I found in the list for my year aren’t that easily available for me – or simply didn’t sound interesting enough. The one I picked is Ray Bradbury’s „A Graveyard for Lunatics“ that is actually available in my local library. (And now you all know my year of birth and subsequently my age >_<)
Bonus book! 11. A book you haven’t read that was adapted to a movie/TV show
As I am already planning on continuing the series I’ll probably continue with the second part of „The Vampire Diaries“ – the review for the first one is still on my to-finish list though.
Now you know which books I have picked and I will give you a review after I finished them (though maybe not for 8. as that would seem odd without the other ones).
Maybe you want to try it too? Just pick a couple of books and make sure to actually read them. 😉
Edit: You can find my current reading (and review) status here: Summer Book Challenge

Terry Pratchett: Eric

As I mentioned a couple of times, I want to start reading more again.
So the first book I read for that occasion – and to get my head away from thinking about my thesis that was being reviewed at that time – was Terry Pratchett’s Eric.

What is it about?

3 of 5 stars

Eric is one of Pratchett’s Discworld novels and tells the story of the young demonology hacker Eric Thursley that summons a demon to fulfil him three simple wishes:
He wants to be the ruler of the world, meet the most beautiful woman that has ever lived and be immortal.
It isn’t really his fault that he summons the most incompetent wizard Rincewind that had been trapped in a Dungeon Dimension to help him with this. And it also isn’t his fault that they end up in places – and times – were his wishes might be granted a little differently than he had anticipated.

The reading experience

As you might have figured: I read this in German. Simply because almost every book I own is the German translation/version. Therefore I can’t say anything about Pratchett’s original jokes, as I don’t know which are his and which came through the translation.

The only thing that I can properly say about the reading itself is, that the novel is far too short.
It seemed a bit rushed at times and I am certain there would have been way more stories to tell, but we only got a little glimpse of that. Still a fun read though.

The characters

Eric pretends to be an old and wise demonology hacker, but is in fact barely older than thirteen. Therefore his antics are childish and naive in certain situations, but the more they go through the more he learns that Rincewind more or less knows what he is doing – and more importantly WHEN they should run.
Rincewind is one of the reoccurring characters from the Discworld. His first appearance was in The Colour of Magic and it took me quite some time to not misread his name as Reiswein or Ricewine
Anyway, in this story he is seemingly granted the power to fulfil wishes through snipping his fingers (whereas otherwise he is barely capable of doing simple spells), which in turn leads them to places where his natural flight instinct is rather useful. He shows again that he has a minimum of responsibility for the people he travels with and is capable of knowing exactly when and in what direction he would need to flee. His pessimistic realism is always quite fun to read and of course his often not understood sarcasm. I might even go as far as to say he is amongst my favourite characters (way after DEATH obviously).
And he never is anywhere without the Luggage (which by the way is called „Truhe„/Chest in German). I like Luggage…I just don’t want to ever meet it/him as an enemy…and his role in this novel was again quite a fun one: Eating through armies, hell gates and simply appearing every time his master is in trouble.
The other major character beside Eric is Astgfl the King of Hell. Or rather the bureaucratic King of Hell that cancelled all the fun in purgatory to be replaced with boredom. That alone makes him a quite fun parody. On the one hand you could see that his plans worked, EVERYONE suffered, on the other hand you could see why there might be some controversy towards his methods of sending out memo’s and files and organizing everything. Even if h e just wanted to improve hell…
As with most of the Discworld stuff I can’t really say that there is a character that I don’t like. I might not have gotten a proper connection to some of them, due to the length of the novel and their short appearances, but no one really stood out negatively. Not even the Tezumen tribe and their „god“ or other army people and demons they met. Heck not even the crazy parrot…

General Opinion

As I said: This novel was way too short, but still fun1. It had some interesting ideas in the ways the wishes were granted (including the creation of the universe, a tribe of Mayan like people and a Trojan-like horse).
The thing that stuck with me most was however the boring bureaucratic hell with Boredom as eternal punishment. It seems to be a rather horrible idea if you are the one being punished…or doing the punishing…
It doesn’t really live up to the other novels I’ve read so far. Which is probably due to the shortness and the bare hints at other story lines instead of actually following them like he does with in of his other novels. Still interesting and funny though.

Stuff I’d like to add

This story was alternatively called „Faust“ and was probably some strange variation of the tragedy by Goethe, but I personally can see the connection only with squinting. With Rincewind being Mephisto, Eric being Faust and Astfgl maybe being god and the „most beautiful woman that ever lived“ being Gretchen or Helena. But I don’t really read it as Faust-like tale…but that’s just my opinion, as someone who kind of really likes the original.
© For the cover belongs to its rightful owner.
1 I really like the footnotes in his novels…


One of the most fascinating characters that ever originated in German literature.
Johann Wolgang von Goethe used him as the antagonist for his tragic novel: Faust.

Faust is the story of Doctor Heinrich Faust, who strives for wisdom and uses any means necessary to satisfy his thirst for it. Even making a compact with the Devil –  in this case the devilish character that is Mephistopheles (or short: Mephisto).
An ambiguous man that even describes himself as such:

Part of that Power, not understood,
Which always wills the Bad, and always works the Good.[…]
I am the Spirit that Denies!
And justly so: for all things, from the Void
Called forth, deserve to be destroyed:
‚Twere better, then, were naught created.
Thus, all which you as Sin have rated,—
Destruction,—aught with Evil blent,—
That is my proper element.
(See [PGE])

Or in the old English version:

Part of that power which still
Produceth good, whilst ever scheming ill.[…]
The spirit I, which evermore denies!
And justly; for whate’er to light is brought
Deserves again to be reduced to naught;
Then better ’twere that naught should be.
Thus all the elements which ye
Destruction, Sin, or briefly, Evil, name,
As my peculiar element I claim.
(See [HCE])

Or the ever so great original version:

Ein Teil von jener Kraft,
Die stets das Böse will und stets das Gute schafft.[…]
Ich bin der Geist, der stets verneint!
Und das mit Recht; denn alles, was entsteht,
Ist wert, daß es zugrunde geht;
Drum besser wär’s, daß nichts entstünde.
So ist denn alles, was ihr Sünde,
Zerstörung, kurz, das Böse nennt,
Mein eigentliches Element.
(See [PGG])

Sorry, I simply had to show these different versions.
I personally prefer the last one. Not just because I am German, but simply because I adore the German language so much. If I find the time for it I might record those three quotes to show you verbally the difference in the sound of them, which in my opinion makes the German the outstanding winner – if it would be a competition.

Anyway, by now I am not so sure if the idea for the Mephisto-character really was created by Goethe or even the old stories about the Faust content (the lore about Johann Georg Faust, Christopher Marlowe’s The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus).
Simply by reading quite some bit of Norse mythology made me realize that one „character“ does have quite similar traits…

Mephisto is the master of lies, Lord of the Flies, Rats and what not. Someone who wants the human existence to end. Permanently. By all means he tries to win his bet with god. To win Fausts soul. The ambiguity I mentioned earlier is kind of his trade mark. He tries to win by causing evil deeds, but the result is not always evil. For example does he cause – through Faust’s wish – Gretchen’s tragedy, but instead of wanting his live to end (by saying his catch-phrase: „Verweile doch du bist so schön.“/“Ah, still delay—thou art so fair!“/“Linger awhile! so fair thou art!”) because of the bliss he had with the girl, Faust simply wants more. Knowing more. Experiencing more. Living more. He is not satisfied. Yet he learns what the girl had to suffer through because of him and it makes him realize his mistakes and trying to save her. And even though Mephisto claims the girl to be lost, god claims her soul to be saved.  Faust kind of grows character-wise from this and strives for a different woman – Helena.
The point is: Mephisto tries to get to his goal without a care of what happens to the ones around him: The deaths of Gretchen’s matron and brother, the pregnancy and the punishment of the girl for killing her own child is the content of the tragedy. Yet the devoted girl is still able to ascent to heaven.

A similar ambiguity can be seen in the myths concerning the Norse god of mischief: Loki.
If you look at the story about Balder’s death for example you can see a similar tragedy.
When everything except the mistletoe had vowed to not harm Balder and everyone was throwing things at him, Loki simply did what he considered fun: He disguised himself and talked Balder’s blind brother Hodur into throwing a sharpened mistletoe at his brother, while guiding his hand. Never intending to kill the beloved god he caused his death by this, as the twig went right into Balder’s heart. As everyone mourned for him they hoped to fulfill Hel’s (Loki’s daughter’s) condition for Balder to return to the realm of the living. Only one person – a giantess who is said to be Loki in disguise again – did not care whether he returned or not, thus Balder would have to stay in the realm of Hel (Helheim) till Ragnorök, where he would be one of the sole „survivors“ and creators of the new world, after the end of everything.
In short: Loki tries to mock the Aesir’s behavior regarding Balder’s invulnerability and causing the biggest tragedy in the Edda, still his „victim“ later has a new role in the recreation of the world, which wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for the trickster.
On a German (unofficial) page [LGM] about the Norse mythology it is even concluded, that his doings, despite their evil intent, caused more good things then bad. And that sounds fairly familiar. 😉
Even though I only display shortened versions of both „stories“ and there would probably be a more fitting one for Loki (e.g. the tale of Mjölnir), you might be able to see my point nevertheless: Two characters – one from German lore, one from Norse mythology, who display the same mind set. Doing how they please to accomplish what they want. Making intentionally evil deeds that cause more good than ill. Characters that play with the people around them, to trick them into doing what they see profit in.
Neither of them is (completely) evil (hence the ambiguity). They both just follow someone else’s plan. Bound to act according to it, regardless of all their effort to act on their own „free“ will.
(And seemingly I was not the only one who came to this conclusion, though I did not find an official source [UPG] either…)

I find this characterization quite fascinating and not just for me it is the source for inspiration for characters with similar traits. It is hard for me to grasp – let alone explain – why I like it, but I am mostly compelled to favourite them over the simple minded or less complex characters. Therefore one of my favourite characters in the book I’m co-writing is not even based on/inspired by Mephisto, but will also get a scene that is inspired by the myths concerning Loki – looking forward to officially writing that one.

Reading Faust and being taught of it by a teacher with so much passion for this piece, simply made me inherit this passion. Therefore I think I can claim it one of my favourite books.

Still other authors used Mephisto in their work as well. Not just in Marvel Comics did he became „real“ again (which is pretty funny, as they also have a Loki…), no also a quite new Manga series has a character named „Mephisto Pheles“ (honestly: Took me a while to get that one, as I’m too used to the short version …). I am talking about Kazue Katou’s „Ao No Exorcist“ (Blue Exorcist).
A story about two brother’s whom discover their heritage as sons of Satan. One of them (Rin) who has inherited their father’s (blue) flames and the other (Yukio) already being an Exorcist, who is now guiding his brother to become one as well.
Mephisto is the (demonic) headmaster of the Exorcist school and seems to have his own plan(s) concerning the brother’s. He puts them into several trial fights to see how they are able to cope, even using his own (demonic) brother as bait.
He is capable of using magic. Even going as far as to turn himself into a small terrier like dog. (Another trait all three characters share: Shape shifting 😉 )
In the Anime-version there even is an episode where it is said, that he is the Mephisto Faust made the compact with, though I still prefer the Manga-version…
My fascination for this series – and the kind of character – caused me to write this: Not His Day
A little parody about Mephisto. (Some more information on the creation process can be found, if you follow the above link to the story on Fanfiction.net.)

One thing is clear to me: If I ever would get to own a poodle, I’d call it Mephisto – just for the heck of it. 😀