Saturday 19 February 2011

Literary Heroine Blog Party (and a very long questionnaire)

There are so many interesting blogs on the internet that it's really hard to keep up with them...
Kellie of A Maiden's Musings came up with another fun blog event and giveaway and I noticed three days after the launch. Fortunately, it lasts till 28th, so there's still a lot of time.

So here are my long answers to her rather long questionnaire. It took a shape I did not quite expect at some places (I certainly did not plan to focus so much on Arthur Ransome's books).

What, to you, forms the essence of a true heroine?I think a true heroine should be good. And capable of correcting herself if she happens to be not that good.
I’d try to say more on various aspects of her life, but, then, it all depends on who the heroine is and what her life is like, so I guess the two things above are really the essence.

Share (up to) four heroines of literature that you most admire and relate to.Titty of Swallows (and Amazons) by Arthur Ransome. Especially in Pigeon Post, when she decided to find water in spite of her dislike and fear of her mysterious abilities... She is imaginative, and yet can be practical. And she likes animals.
And Dorothy from the same books, because she writes stories, and like Titty, is imaginative and yet can be practical (read Picts and Martyrs to see what I mean). I like the careful and supportive relationship she has with her brother, Dick.
Those two I have always related to!
Then there are the characters I wish I were more like.
The rather tomboyish Aravis of The Boy and His Boy. Her character is not 100% good (refer to sentence 2 of my first answer, above), but she has some great qualities, like perseverance and the ability to decide quickly in crisis.
And... I can’t help myself, I’m back at Arthur Ransome. The Swallows' mother, Mrs Mary Walker, is the kind of mother I’d love to be, supportive, imaginative, crafty.

Five of your favorite historical novels?
I do not consciously and deliberately read historical novels – I read various kinds of books. So I’m not sure I can come up with five historical novels, but I’ll try.
Filosofská historie by Alois Jirásek. It’s actually a novella. It takes place around the revolutionary year of 1848. My interest in that time springs from there... It’s quite idyllic, even with the revolutions.
If a long epic poem counts, Pan Tadeusz. Even if it does not.
The Secret of the Kingdom by Mika Waltari.
The fourth could be Quo Vadis by Henryk Sienkiewicz.
One summer, I read a book by James Lorrimer, which, I think, is called Green Brigade in English (Stříbrná růže / Silver Rose in Czech) – it took place during the 30 Years War (1618-1648), partly in my country, and I loved it. I read it only once. I would love to have my own copy of it but, sadly, it was probably only published once, in 1940s, and it’s hard to get hold of. In my memory, it is the ultimate historical novel. Maybe I’m better off not having it, that ideal might be crushed if I re-read it...

Out of those five books who is your favorite character and why?
Probably Robak, the monk, in Pan Tadeusz. No doubt, in part because of the charismatic film portrayal by Boguslaw Linda. And because of Robak’s life’s story and what he did to amend his faults. Again, he’s not 100% good (quite far from it), but acknowledging it and wanting to do something about it, till the last moment.

If you were to plan out your dream vacation, where would you travel to - and what would you plan to do there?
Nowadays, my dream vacations are a bit... diversified.
Right now I wish to go to Estonia in summer, helping in a summer camp, and visiting Latvia before that. Which seems to be quite a possible vacation. It would involve visiting Liepaja and Pilsrundale, and possibly Ventspils, and picking blueberries in the forest. Yes.
But I would also love to visit Helsinki. That’s more to the less possible, but still very likely.
And going to Wales, preferrably taking my father with me, because he’s been to Wales several times and loves the country. Yet a bit less possible, and more dream.
And my old dream vacation is going to the Pyrenées, which is mostly dream. I’d have to find someone who would go with me; someone who has experience with mountains, because I have none.

What is your favorite time period and culture to read about?
I think recently I most enjoy the Czech National Revival movement of late 18th-19th century, through the beginning of 20th century to the creation of Czechoslovakia. I think I’m kind of catching up on my country’s history, to compensate for my childhood and teenage years when I loved to read adventurous stories set in exotic places.

You have been invited to perform at the local charity concert. Singing, comedy, recitation - what is your act comprised of?
Singing. In a choir. Given that we get enough time to practice!

If you were to attend a party where each guest was to portray a heroine of literature, who would you select to represent?I think I'd choose a heroine out of one of Božena Němcová's fairy-tales. That could be fun. I'd have a beautiful name (because Němcová had a habit of giving her characters beautiful Slavic names), an opportunity to play dress up (and use one of my historical-costumes-in-the-making), and I would represent an interesting character (because Němcová's heroines are usually strong-willed and skillful).

What are your sentiments on the subject of chocolate?I like dark chocolate. Then cocoa. Then the rest.
Bio and Fair Trade are usually the best.
And less is more. Excluding cocoa.

Favorite author(s)?C.S. Lewis, whose thoughts I am so influenced by that I often do not even realise it.
Karel Čapek, who can be both lighthearted and serious, and in both cases is deep and profound.
J.R.R. Tolkien, especially for his descriptions (ha!).
Arthur Ransome (obviously)
G. K. Chesterton
Neil Gaiman, not always, but often.
Tove Jansson,who's also one of my favourite illustrators :-)
Astrid Lindgren, for similar reasons as Čapek.
Lenka Reinerová (see below)

As a small, imaginative, red-haired damsel might query; would you rather be divinely beautiful, dazzlingly clever, or angelically good? Why?Angelically good...
I’m helping prepare a Czech Christian youth magazine; the March issue will be dealing with angels, and one of the articles says that we, too, can be angels, as messengers of God’s word and will and goodness. I like it. It’s something good to aspire to, which actually means to try to do every day. I cannot try at being divinely beautiful or dazzlingly clever, so the last option is actually the best!

In which century were most of the books you read written?20th. I tend to read children’s/young adult books and that genre, sadly, wasn’t truly invented until 20th century.

In your opinion, the ultimate hero in literature is…
Ultimate? Isn’t that too little to ask? I’d prefer a number of great heroes. :-)
As a child, I would have said Winnetou.
Now I’m not so sure. There are various kinds of heroes.

Describe your ideal dwelling place.A house. With a garden. At the outskirts of a town, with a forest nearby. In the Bohemian-Moravian Highlands, because that’s my favourite part of my country (and I cannot imagine living anywhere else than the Czech Republic).
It’s probably from the turn of the 20th century. It has big windows and lots of light, but still rather thick walls that keep the warmth inside in winter.
It has bedrooms in the attic, with walls lined with wood.
It has a roomy kitchen equipped in light wood. (So that I am forced to clean it regularly.)
It has a cool pantry.
It has a room dedicated only to my sewing.
It has a big library.
- Eventually, it could also be a simple log cabin in the woods, but then I would have to figure out where to put all the books.

Have you ever wanted to change a character’s name?Oh yes... I think now that my English is on a certain level, I'm rather annoyed by English names in non-English books when the author does not get it right.
Or Czech names in non-Czech books (or films) when the author does not get it right or uses a stereotypical Slavic name - usually Russian, Polish or Southern Slavic, seldom truly Czech. A. C. Doyle tried to avoid this by using the only prominent Czech name of his time and naming a semi-villain Dvorak. A. Dvorak. Very clever.
End of rant.

In your opinion, the most dastardly villain of all literature is...Only of all literature I’m familiar with!
I think Iago is truly awful.

Three favorite Non-fiction books?Talks with T.G.M. by Karel Čapek. It’s difficult to say where Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk ends and Karel Čapek begins. It speaks of a special friendship between an old professor (and president) and a young writer. And, of course, it also speaks about Masaryk’s life and opinions, and Czech history.
No Room for Bears by Frank Dufresne – the first piece of (a certain kind of) environmental writing I’ve ever read, and really enjoyed
Kavárna nad Prahou (Das Traumcafé einer Pragerin) by Lenka Reinerová. A book of creative non-fiction/memoirs. Memories of people from the First Republic (Czechoslovakia in 1918-38). Some of them are famous, some of them I had never heard of before. All of them were interesting.
I've learned now, from the Wikipedia article, that Lenka Reinerová died in 2008. And now I'll never meet her and will never tell her how much I loved her books.

Your duties met for the day, how would you choose to spend a carefree summer afternoon?Picking blueberries. Straight into my mouth.
Then sitting in the sun, but not in direct sun, and reading a good book.
And then, moving into the evening and night, a campfire with my friends, and games and singing and fun.
And because my carefree summer afternoon kind of took the shape of a summer camp afternoon, and I remembered one in particular, I must say I would not mind celebrating Christmas in the evening.

Create a verbal sketch of your dream hat - in such a way as will best portray your true character.I have already shared two visual images of my dream hat, including some verbal description. But a bit more words won’t hurt.
My hat is a wide-brimmed straw hat. It shades me from the sun, so that I keep cool in summer heats. It is also fun and pretty to look at, because the brim is embroidered with small flowers. They are ordinary but colourful flowers, daisies, poppies and cornflowers, entwined with ears of grain. It’s a summer hat, and brings summer back into shadier days.

Share the most significant event(s) that have marked your life in the past year.Probably the decision to participate on the Christian youth magazine. It seems right now it’s taking me somewhere I never imagined to be... in a way, finally truly part of my church. It’s a bit scary. Just a bit.

Share the Bible passage(s) that have been most inspiring to you recently.Inspired by Hannah of Sequoia and Me, I'm trying to learn Psalm 119. I'm very slow, still at verses 1-8 (memorising things has never been my strong point). But even those eight verses are fascinating.

And lastly, as I am a rather businesslike hostess, may I ask you your views regarding those adorable little items - namely pin back and mirror back buttons? 1). Where would you choose to display a button badge to best showcase your unique style? 2). What image and/or sentiment would most make you smile were it inscribed on your very own compact mirror?1) On my Marimekko shoulder bag. If I had one, which I don't. :D
2) I'd be greatly amused by a mirror that would carry this inscription:
The judge leaned back in his chair with a luxuriance in which it was hard to separate the cynicism and the admiration. “And can you tell us why,” he asked, “you should know your own figure in a looking-glass, when two such distinguished men don’t?”
Father Brown blinked even more painfully than before; then he stammered: “Really, my lord, I don’t know unless it’s because I don’t look at it so often.”
– G. K. Chesterton: The Man in the Passage
Except that this would hardly fit on a compact mirror.


  1. Nice! I could not find a full Narnia book that would fit in the box but I have a very good idea of a book I think you would like from reading this post. (Although, I am debating getting a larger box.)

  2. This is interesting, Hana.

    Quo Vadis! I've read it more than once - what a story!!

    If you ever get your dream home, I'll come and visit, if I may.

    Why would anyone name a villain (or semi-villain) A. Dvorak? I like him.
    As for a real villain, Iago is about as bad as they get. A spartan dog - more fell than anguish, hunger or the sea!

  3. Stephanie: Thank you! Funny, I did not realise it could be useful in this way. :-)

    And of course, after I've written this I realised most of C. S. Lewis' writing is also non-fiction. But I guess it says more about my tastes this way.

    Lisa: Quo Vadis, what a story indeed! The first time I read it, I first sat in my congregation's little library, and forgot all about the world, so I borrowed it home and did not stop until I finished it, which was in my bed, around 3 AM...

    I don't understand why did Doyle do that either. It makes me respect him less as a writer. It was lazy, he could have easily just switched the A for another letter.
    And I like Dvořák a lot. His Messe in D maj (or whatever it'd be called in English) is awesome. And the rest is great, too.

    Iago is really the worst I can think of. Most other villains are trying to kill the heroes, or something along the lines of it, but Iago is turning the heroes bad, eugh.

  4. Yes, he's like the devil himself. Diabolical.

  5. There are many books here that I have not yet read - I'm always excited to discover good new reading material! The Green Brigade/ Silver Rose sounds intriguing. I wonder if I will ever come across a copy. . . :)

    Your dream travels sound wonderful! I would love to visit the Pyrenées, also, though I agree that I would want a companion who has experience with the terrain.

    Concerning chocolate - "less is more. Excluding cocoa." Perfect! I completely agree...=)

    Your dream hat sounds wonderful! You captured the imaginative quality of describing your character while sharing the hat you love most in just the way I was thinking of when I wrote that question.

    I haven't read very much Doyle, but I think that's a shame that he used Dvořák's name as a villain- Dvořák 's Nocturne in B major is one of my favorites! :)

    I could go on and on, but suffice to say I loved reading your post, and I'm so glad you joined the party!


  6. Kellie, there's another reason why you would like Green Brigade/Silver Rose - the heroes are Scottish! :D