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Read The Book Of Ebenezer Le Page (2007)

The Book of Ebenezer Le Page (2007)

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1590172337 (ISBN13: 9781590172339)
nyrb classics

The Book Of Ebenezer Le Page (2007) - Plot & Excerpts

I left Thee in anger, I knew not Thy worth,Journeyed afar, to the ends of the earth,Was told of far countries, the heaven of the hold,Where the soil gave up diamonds, silver and gold.The sun always shone, and ‘Race’ took no part,But Thy cry always reached me, its pain wrenched my heart,So I’m coming home, Thou of all art the best,Returning to greet Thee, Dear Island of Rest. ttt (G. A. Deighton)G B Edwards created through Ebenezer le page, a vehicle to give vent to his own most candid expression, honest to the bone with gravity centered right in the heart of the tale. That is how it is I come to be writing this book. I got to say what I think to somebody: if only to myself. I don’t expect anybody will ever read what I have written; but at the back of my mind I always have the hope perhaps someday somebody will. It is very much a sentimental and deceptively simple tale with its biggest asset lying in its accessibility. Essentially, the tone is comical with no grand heroes, least of all, and confessedly so, our Ebenezer le page, nor larger than life characters, roaming around in their most casual bearings over slippery grounds of their life and morals. And yet all of them combine to create a tasty potpourri, a heartfelt and poignant tale enriched by unforgettable moments to be savored for a long time by one who can see beneath the veneer of it sounding like a sulky, cynical old man cracking Guernsey jokes in French patois, out on his fault finding mission. It may not be the most perfect tale ever but enriches and how well. Guernsey, historically, exchanged hands between the French and the English only to be occupied by Germans during the second world war and inevitably turning into a modern day exotic tourist destination, filling up the coffers of those bothering the least for the means of accrual. And amidst the topsy-turvy undulating tides of time that entwine Guernsey is its most proud resident, a perfect islander who has never really gone beyond the Guernsey waters is our Ebenezer le page. A simpleton who has worked all his life with his two hands mostly as a farmer growing tomatoes and potatoes in his green-house and seen it all happening to his beloved island. I have lived too long. I have lived through two world wars and been no hero in neither. Two is one too many for any man. Now I sit and wait for the third. I wonder if I will live to see it. I don’t believe, I don’t believe, I don’t believe in what the Great Powers do.…………..‘D’you know, Ebenezer, I doubt every word has ever been written or spoken, I doubt my own mind, I doubt my own existence sometimes; but I do not doubt the existence of God.’ I am half-way with him there. I doubt everything I hear, even if I say it myself; and, after the things I have been through and seen happen to other people on this island and known to have happened in the world, I sometimes wonder about the existence of God: but I know I am Ebenezer Le Page.Surprisingly, unmarried all his life and living it on his own terms with his own straight-forward rules or no rules at all. His flexibility and shifting philosophies are all too humorous and endearing to his all too human frailties. He never cared to step beyond his beloved Guernsey or see the world and neither is he one satisfied saint of an individual. In reality, it is just impossible to confine him within a purview of any description, he is just that, Ebenezer le page of Vale. He says,Marriage is a terrible thing, when you come to think of it. Perhaps it’s as well I’ve never married. Mind you, I’ve had it a few times under the hedge. The brush with philosophy is never direct in this book and the most we come close to monologues exploring the layers of the tapestry of life is when our Ebenezer ruminates alone or one of this book’s most lovable character in Raymond is in full flow. His is the picture of saint or as close to one as humanly possible. His honesty borders rashness in practical parlance which results in him being able to deliver only one sermon after studying to become a preacher and ending up arguing on veracity of religious beliefs. The hypocrisy in all things human and even God of humans is a telling blow to him to shun all his training and turn into a simple Guernsey man. He is a disappointment to his parents and is forsaken, not anything that he cares for but he is done a hard deal by all things in life. Raymond from childhood was a picture of timidity and reticence and needed his cousin Horace to complete him, who in turn was his greatest blessing and nemesis rolled into one.Raymond was a boy of deep feelings and never forgot anybody he had once admired. Horace remained first in his heart always. He laments the parent child relation here, thus lamenting his own condition… ‘A father and mother ought to mean more to each other than the children do. If they live only for the children, the children don’t get a chance to live themselves.’ Ebenezer is also his cousin and the moments shared by the two of them are among the most memorable highlights of this work.We hear Raymond and Ebenezer talking thus,‘I made a great mistake when I was a young chap. I used to think girls were human beings like us; but they are not. They are always after something. They are either after your body, or your money, or a father for their children; and, if they are not after your body, or your money, or a father for their children, there is always something they want you to be, or do, that will bring them glory. They are never satisfied to let you be; and be with you.’ I (Ebenezer) said, ‘Well, men are after their own ends too, you know.’Ebenezer loved Raymond the most. The book of Ebenezer le page, laconically stated is an interplay of innuendoes of history and lives of men and women that embellish Ebenezer’s existence with a denouement where he himself alone occupies a centre-stage, slowly fading into oblivion. It is not quite clear early on that why should we endear ourselves to this disjointed story of an islander prattling about this and that on his whims and quirks quite unabashedly but it comes alive with Raymond , Jim, Liza and later on with his German friend Otto and finally Neville and Adele. This is a book of ‘moments’ and I specifically choose these few because its really them that connive to provide some of the most vividly memorable, cathartic ones, among the best, that literature can provide. The exhilaration of the final crescendo, creates such fountains of joy and emotional release that we cannot help joining in. Out of his direct relations its his sister Tabitha, who is most unlike him, is most dear to him. The part where he becomes friendly with Otto during the German occupation is akin to an allegory that seeps in unobtrusively and overwhelms unequivocally, obviously. He writes, Nowadays, when every year there is a celebration of the Liberation, it isn’t so much the cheers and the excitement of when we was freed I think of, though I was as glad and excited as anybody, but of Otto, Tabitha and me sitting round the table eating long-nose. That was Liberation Day. What endears Ebenezer most is his clear and straight laced honesty about himself and his manner of faring in a real simple manner, keeping it untwisted in life. That is most unusual to find in the world we live in and the island metaphor has got a lot to answer for that. He is heard thus, I remember too well how I thought at times when it comes down to rock bottom, I didn’t care tuppence about anything, or anybody, except myself; and that everybody else was the same. If that is true, it is something a man should not know. About Raymond,His conscience was always troubling him about something or another. Thank goodness I haven’t got a conscience is such a nuisance. Perhaps it is better to live more on a level, even if it is on a lower level, as I do, than be like Raymond, up and down. A verdant mass of rock, a big one, and ocean all around, that is apparent but metaphorically an island can be land locked as well or a single man or a group of men. Guernsey very much a geographically defined entity, land and salt water, with Ebenezer, as proud a resident there ever can be. With time it appears, Ebenezer has become Guernsey and Guernsey, him. He is an island within an island and both of them complain when things from far away attack them and their peaceful existences.What we have gained by way of progress, we have lost by way of real life, its purity and groundedness. And the balance is indeed lop-sided, so is it worth it, really. Our elders may have been sulking by habit but not all of that is ill-founded. Yes, Ebenezer is grumpy but a large part of it certainly isn’t ill-founded. Of course I am the one for shaking up old to create new interactions and new combinations, to mow down all the walls and assist the free interplay of ideas and giving complete liberation a chance. Globalization in present parlance is only for assisting the commercialization and ensuring that the coffers remain full, the world goes to the dogs in process. Right here in India, since the 90’s when globalization stepped in, standards have improved cosmetically, in actuality the simple things that were freely shared have become dear, bordering on luxuries. Of course that is a huge price to pay for. No boundaries fall but even more are created in the world where money rules supreme. Starting from big locks on the gates of our houses, guns on the ready, colony gates, ideologies that confine cities, villages, states, countries and what not, aren’t all islands? And that is one solid reason to be grumpy about, what paper work optimism can forever rid the grumpiness, impossible! I wish I could write down the story of this island as I have known it and lived through it for the best part of a century. I don’t think I have changed much; but I think everybody else have. The young people of today don’t know and can’t imagine the difference between living on Guernsey as it was and living on Guernsey as it is now. There is a great gulf fixed between the present generation and mine. I wish I could bridge it; but it is too much to hope. The only ones who might feel as I do are either dead, or old people who, like me, are not very clear in the head and don’t always remember right. …………There are no country parts any more, neither. Guernsey is a factory for the manufacture of tourists now. ………… I think living in this world is hell on earth for most of us most of the time, it don’t matter when or where we are born; but the way we used to live over here, I mean in the country parts, was more or less as it had been for many hundreds of years; and it was real. Towards the end, Ebenezer experiences few of the most euphoric moments of his life and also relents somewhat towards moderation but altogether he has always been sea locked and his disillusionment is understandable. The island (both literal as well as symbolic) rather invites us most pleasingly but only for what it is and expects to be respected in return but it surely is unwelcoming to those who barge in uninvited for the advertised, unrealistic, promised instant utopia and the hellish footprint that they leave with gay abandon. Every which way we may see, pseudo-tourism, pseudo-enjoyment, pseudo-nature with manicured gardens and wild-life only on TV, all of which are very amenable to be shunned and rejected and raise voice against. Even if it is the tide of time, it must not be given a free run, the dykes must be created along with the bridges, incessantly and not just hope but try and make it imperative for the tide to turn. Else, the question that Ebenezer asks will always keep haunting and standing right in front across our paths, Is all one generation can do to set the stage for the comic, sad story of the next? [Have to thank Dolors, most heartwarmingly for guiding this book on to me, I know the chain is long and I hope it to continue here on GR and the joy keeps on finding the deserving souls :)]

i have learned many things over the course of my life. now that i am older, knowledge comes in fits and spurts; and lately i have been seized, shaken like a fist, with new thoughts, and ideas about myself, and the order of things. and i seem to see the reflection of these views everywhere. i see them here, in the book of ebenezer le page, presented as the reminisces of a very old man, who is from the channel island of guernsey, and has watched the world change from his little stone house, as it moves through some of the most chaotic moments in history. the characters relay not only their everyday concerns, but their fears for what the world is constantly becoming, at what progress will do to their little island, and so all the world, in its inexorable march. it is a deeply sad, and nostalgic work, and while there are many moments that are committed to concern about technology, and people, it is at its core, also a fundamentally pragmatic book, echoing the values of the world before. as ebenezer says: Mind you, I am not one of those who say living on Guernsey in the good old days was a bed of roses. I think living in this world is hell on earth for most of us most of the time, it don't matter when or where we are born; but the way we used to live over here, I mean in the country parts, was more or less as it had been for many hundreds of years; and it was real....When I think what have happened to our island, I could sit down on the ground and cry.but as tabitha puts it most directly, "Ah well, there is only one way of living in this world, and that is to go on from day to day, and see what the next day bring." it is the only choice left to anybody who wants to live, even if they fear the changes that inevitably come, that are out of our control.this is also a book that made me cry like a broken-hearted child, and yet it partly hates me, because i am a woman, and so it cannot understand me, or expect me to understand. even when the women in this book claim that men have understood them, they are deceived. liza is as complex as character as i've stumbled across but she is never understood, even by raymond, the radiant and tortured soul at the heart of this book who distrusts women, and rails against them. ebenezer himself, a self-described skirt chaser defends them to raymond, but then spews forth his own rage. i should say this alienation is really only evinced in dialogue. in characterization the women aren't shells, or interchangeable, or one dimensional: they are strong, and brave, and weak, and silly, and wise, and many other things besides. but the author's antipathy to women is never fully submerged even as he presents them with complicated, differentiated characters. in contrast the love relationships between men in this book were a revelation to me. one might at first, see the depth of love between the boon comrades recounted in these pages as homosexual, and there is no doubt in my mind that some of these characters do feel that kind of love. but it also reminds us that there was a time when men felt they could never find an equality in love with women, who were so different than they, and that they shared their lives with other men, who understood them as women could not, who shared experiences with them that women could not. one could perhaps see this as a triumph of the progress feared in the novel, that the women in pants that ebenezer reviles, the women of today, might have been the kind that he could have loved as equally, as companionably, as he did jim.the depth of all these characters, women and men, is a spectacular feat: these characters truly breathe. they are rational, and irrational, and step through these pages as a vivid pageant of complex people that you come to know, as ebenezer did. i went to live with ebenezer when i read this book. i stayed with him at les moulins, and i shared his pain, and his loneliness, and revelled with him at the top of a greasy pole, and whether he wanted me or not, i loved the rascal, and his book too.

What do You think about The Book Of Ebenezer Le Page (2007)?

Wow.It has been quite a while since I read a book, which I subsequently wanted to keep a copy of forever.For a start, I couldn't believe it was fiction - all the characters were so substantial (I've since deduced it is semi-autobiographical). It is one of the most real, honest works I have ever experienced.I frequently had to literally pause and close the book, whilst I waited for my emotions to subside. This sounds a bit melodramatic, but parts of this book are so moving- yet in a no-nonsense 'this is life' way - not in a mushy, sentimental way.Ebenezer's memories of Jim, constitute one of the most poignant accounts of friendship I have read.But, like life - it encompasses all emotions, not just melancholic ones. I laughed out loud in many, many places too.It stretches over the time-span of one man's long life on the island of Guernsey, encompassing both world wars - so it was also historically interesting.It will probably come as no surprise that so much of what is said in this book, despite supposedly being uttered many decades ago - is still extremely relevant today; after all, people are people.I read it slowly, digesting every moment, so that I could keep the characters alive with me for as long as possible! It certainly casts a spell, and when I had finally finished, I found that initially I had to force myself not to think about it, as I kept getting so upset! Again- a tad melodramatic methinks (and 'youthinks' too probably), but true.

The Book of Ebenezer Le Page is the kind of novel you don't really know in its truest sense until you've reached the very end. It's something like looking at vast panorama. If you consign your gaze to any particular detail, you inevitably miss the overwhelming sweep and grandeur of its totality. I don't mean to imply that there is some big, unexpected event at the end which changes how the reader understands the events which preceded it, but rather that it is the story of a life—and, yes, even life itself—and it resists all attempts at abbreviation. It requires fullness. Ebenezer Le Page is an eighty-year-old man who has always lived on the island of Guernsey—a geological crumb located in the English Channel between Britain and France, about thirty square miles in all (smaller than the mid-sized city I live in) and, as of 2007, home to about 65,000 residents. A loner, a rascal, and a textbook example of a curmudgeon, Ebenezer gets the itch, in what he assumes are his final days, to write out the story of his life, the people he has known, and Guernsey itself. What results is the hodgepodge of humor, poignancy, and earthy philosophy known as The Book of Ebenezer Le Page. If I say it's a masterpiece—and I certainly do—you might very well say, 'Oh, fine. Sure. Another masterpiece. Guess I'll add it to my 'to-read' shelf. (Or not.)' But I doubt you'll ever think of it again because (let's face it) it sounds very... standard, very literary, very expected. A man in his twilight years recounting the story of life? Not exactly reinventing the wheel. But G.B. Edwards invests his novel with a strong, distinct narrator, a wealth of humanity, and a very personal understanding of Ebenezer's situation. (Edwards himself wrote the novel in his final years, and it was only published posthumously.) The ending of the novel is touching, undeniably transcendent, and painfully honest. It isn't that anything cataclysmic occurs, but rather that we have followed Ebenezer through the joys and sorrows of a life lived, in its entirety, without deficit or remainder, and we feel the weight of all his years ourselves. The novel is resoundingly alive. It's something like being able to live another life, to glean its insights, and to apply them to your own. This makes it sound 'inspirational,' in the degraded or trite sense of the word, but it's more than that. Every night when I read the book before going to sleep, I thought it reminded me of a bright light—and how, after you look at it and close your eyes, you still see the image of it. That's the way Ebenezer Le Page is. Once you meet him, you'll keep hearing his voice and remembering his life.

“The great rocks was not rocks, nor the sea sea, yet they was real as real; and the clouds was gates of glory, and every way I turned my eyes the view was waves of joy and golden light.”(480) There is a place where waves of two seas meet, to blend the water of their different shades, the grey ones barging in from insulated shores, embrace the foam of the silver redemptive sea.Ebenezer Le Page sits in Les Moulins, his granite house where he has lived all his life on the Channel Island of Guernsey, and writes. The fact that he has left Guernsey only once in his life for a day trip to the neighboring island of Jersey or that his misanthropic, opinionated and grumpy character has made a loner out of himself or that his favorite novel is opportunely Robinson Crusoe, the quintessential story about all types of isolation, fall into oblivion when this living sculpture, emblem of another era, pours his soul on a blank page trying to summon a long gone past back to life.Like the tides of Lihou Island, where Ebenezer and his beloved friend Jim got stranded for a night, memories come and go blending with a present that this almost extinct “Guernsey donkey” refuses to come to terms with, tourism and commerce his worst enemies.“I think living in this world is hell on earth for most of us most of the time, it don’t matter when or where we are born; but the way we used to live over here, I mean in the country parts, was more or less as it had been for many hundreds of years; and it was real. The way people live over here now is not real: at least, it is not real to me. The people are not real.” (219)With roots that run deep into the island, Ebenezer appears as the embodiment of custom, he equally distrusts lawyers, doctors, banks and women. He is wary of religion, either “Church”, having witnessed what it did to his literate cousin Raymond, or “Chapel”, seeing how it shaped his austere and reprobate mother. Family secrets and quarrels, everlasting friendships, bitter betrayals, love glimpsed and love lost, many sermons and little forgiveness.The layers that compound the soul of this man are relentlessly bared in his detailed chronicle of an uneventful and in many aspects unappealing life while offering a subtle reckoning with the traumas of the twentieth century, as his words invoke both the men lost to the Great War and the German Occupation of Guernsey during World War II. There is a spark of blended hilarity and refreshing irony in the apparent flat tone of this almost spoken narration, or should I say confession. As Ebenezer ages and his wealth increases, his happiness and peace of mind decline and his alienation grows exponentially seeing the people of his own generation dissolve into the dusk of life, while his flood of words reveal a golden heart disguised in a cantankerous façade and a nature that is neither sullen nor unsociable but the product of obstinacy and circumstance.As life ebbs from him, Ebenezer starts searching for someone who will provide a continuity of his outlook on life, which seems to be fading everywhere else in the island.What does it mean to write a life?Can one atone for the past writing it? Can one purge obliqueness silently confessing to the blank, non judgmental page?Writing as a catharsis. Writing to exorcize one's demons.Writing as a necessary task to acknowledge the shadow aspects of oneself to begin the process of forgiveness.Let future and fate atone for the past blindness and misdeeds. A blank page becomes a blank canvas in which one can paint a reconciliation in colorful brushstrokes getting an irredeemable glimpse of the world as God made it.Close your eyes now and let your tears drop and feel the black sand and salty tongues of surf, far out to sea and further still, all the way to the horizon separating light blue from dark, sky from water.A wave has broken free, changing everything, recreating a forgotten landscape, leaving nothing and everything as before.******Note: I have read this novel with Ema in an informal joint reading that has provided me with the equally wondrous and unknown joy of sharing a reading experience in real time, a total novelty and a treasure to me. So, thank you Ema very much for having been my companion in this literary journey.

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