Thursday, 22 October 2020

The Classic Meme 2.0 - October 2020

Apparently, when the Classics Club came into being. A monthly meme was devised to bring clubbers together to chat about classics. New questions were posted from 2012 to 2016 and then again in 2018 to give clubbers an opportunity to talk about literature together. You could write a blog post and leave the link or simply put your thoughts in the comments.

Now, they have revived that idea and the meme for this month is: Ponder about your childhood:

Discuss the classics you read as a child.
Who introduced you to them?
Which ones were you favourites?
Do you still reread them as an adult? Why? Why Not?


"Heidi" was the first book I ever owned. My parents gave it to me when I was seven years old and was in hospital because I had to have my appendix removed.

I didn't think about it as a classic, who does at the age of seven? But I really loved reading about the little orphan who was taken in by her grandfather who lived so remote, they hardly ever saw anyone. I read it several times as a child but never again as an adult. Might be time to do it one day.

Other than that, my parents had a few classics at home and I read them all over the years, probably not as early as seven but certainly before I was ten.

I remember the Bjørndal Trilogy by Trygve Gulbranssen, "Beyond Sing the Woods/The Wind from the Mountains (Norwegian: Og bakom synger skogen, Det blåser fra Dauingfjell and Ingen vei går utenom) from 1933-35. Great novels about the harsh life in the mountains at the beginning of the last century.

And we had fairy tales. Mainly by the Grimm Brothers but also Hans-Christian Andersen, Ludwig Bechstein, Wilhelm Hauff but also Norwegian folk tales collected by Peter Christen Asbjørnsen or Russian ones, collected by Alexander Nikolajewitsch Afanassjew, those I loved especially.

Unfortunately, our library was very small. But I remember reading many books by Swedish author Astrid Lindgren, my favourite series being The Six Bullerby Children and Seacrow Island.

The only series I owned myself were books by German author Martha Schlinkert but at the time they were not classics: "Winnie im Paradies" [Winnie in Paradise]; "Nur Mut, Winnie" [Courage, Winnie]; "Alles dreht sich um Winnie" [Everything revolves around Winnie], all not translated and all from 1966

And then there was Berte Bratt, another Norwegian wirter, my favourite book there was "Slik er Ponny" [Such is Ponny] (German title: Alle nennen mich Pony which means Everyone calls me Pony). I loved this book because "Pony" whose real name is Rita, grew up in a poor family, same as me, and went to school with rich kids, same as me. That was MY story.

Then there are books written for children that most German kids grew up with, "Max and Moritz" by Wilhelm Busch, "Lottie and Lisa" by Erich Kästner, I especially loved the latter.

Thinking about all these books was a trip down memory lane. I noticed that many of these titles were from Scandinavian authors. Interesting. I definitely liked stories about other countries already back then.

Thank you, "Words and Peace", for introducing this to me.

And since I love to see listed books in a list, here we go:
Bratt, Berte "Alle nennen mich Pony" (Norwegian: Slik er Ponny) [Everyone calls me Pony/Such is Ponny] - 1960 Goodreads
Busch, Wilhelm "Max and Moritz" (German: Max und Moritz) - 1865
Grimm Brothers - all their fairy tales
Gulbranssen, Trygve - Bjørndal Trilogy "Beyond Sing the Woods/The Wind from the Mountains (Norwegian: Og bakom synger skogen, Det blåser fra Dauingfjell and Ingen vei går utenom) - 1933-35 Goodreads
Kästner, Erich "Lottie and Lisa" aka "The Parent Trap" (German: Das doppelte Lottchen) - 1949 Goodreads
Lindgren, Astrid "Seacrow Island" (Swedish: Vi på Saltkråkan) - 1964
- "The Six Bullerby Children" (Swedish: Barnen i Bullerbyn) - 1947
Schlinkert, Martha "Winnie im Paradies" [Winnie in Paradise] - 1966 Goodreads
- "Nur Mut, Winnie" [Courage, Winnie] - 1966
- "Alles dreht sich um Winnie" [Everything revolves around Winnie] - 1966
Spyri, Johanna "Heidi" (German: "Heidis Lehr- und Wanderjahre" and "Heidi kann brauchen, was es gelernt hat") - 1880-1881

Tuesday, 20 October 2020

Top Ten Tuesday ~ Top Ten Books I Read Because Someone Recommended Them to Me


"Top Ten Tuesday" is an original feature/weekly meme created on the blog "The Broke and the Bookish". This feature was created because they are particularly fond of lists at "The Broke and the Bookish".

It is now hosted by Jana from That Artsy Reader Girl.

Since I am just as fond of them as they are, I jump at the chance to share my lists with them! Have a look at their page, there are lots of other bloggers who share their lists here.

Books I Read Because Someone Recommended Them to Me
(tell us who recommended them, if you want!)


This was a very interesting challenge because it didn't just make me think of some great books I read during the last twenty odd years but about the friends who recommended them to me and who are now all so far away.

Barnes, Valerie "A Foreign Affair. A Passionate Life in Four Languages" - 2004
A recommendation by my Australian friend who worked as an editor and a ghost writer for many years and knew I worked in similar positions as Valerie Barnes. It was such an interesting read for me. Thanks, Marianne.

Clarke, Marcus "For the Term of His Natural Life" - 1870-72
That same friend recommended a classic book about her native Australia to me which was a highly interesting read. Thanks again, Marianne

Hamsun, Knut "Pan" (Norwegian: Pan) - 1894
The favourite author of a Norwegian friend. Quite an unusual book but it brings us back to nature and to ourselves. Thanks, Christina.

Holzach, Michael "The Forgotten People: A Year Among the Hutterites" (German: Das vergessene Volk. Ein Jahr Bei den deutschen Hutterern In Kanada) - 1980

A recommendation by a German friend who also lent this book to me. A German guy who spent a year in an ethnoreligious group in the seventies/eighties. Such a different world. Thank you, Ingrid.

Lawson, Mary "Crow Lake" - 2002
A Canadian friend suggested this book. Life in a village in Canada which is not all that different than life in a village in Germany. I loved this book so much; I have read all of Mary Lawson's books shn wrote ever since. Thanks, Mary. We lost you too soon. RIP.

Mitchell, David "Cloud Atlas" - 2004
A US American friend of mine gave me this book when she left the Netherlands and didn't want to take all her books with her. She thought I might find this interesting. And I did. I would never have bought or borrowed it because I don't think I would have liked the idea of it. But it was an exciting read. Thanks, Julie.

Rosendorfer, Herbert "Letters Back to Ancient China" (German: Briefe in die chinesische Vergangenheit) - 1983
A German friend recommended this. What an interesting idea. Imaging yourself being transported from today a thousand years into the future. This is what happens to this Chinese guy from the year 1000 who finds himself in Munich of the year 2000. He sends letters back home reporting about it. Hilarious. Thanks, Helmut.

Shriver, Lionel "We need to talk about Kevin" - 2003
Another book given to me by my US American friend. This would have been a book I would have read anyway and it was brilliant. Still keeps me shivering. Thanks again, Julie.

Skibsrud, Johanna "The Sentimentalists" - 2010
A present from another Canadian friend. Absolutely loved it. A story about Alzheimer but so much more. Thanks, Marianne.

Waltari, Mika "The Egyptian" (Finnish: Sinuhe Egyptiläinen) - 1945
I doubt I ever would have found this book if it hadn't been by a Finnish friend who said he was such a renowned author. This book doesn't just describe the life of an Egyptian doctor several millennia ago but also is a hidden accusation of the politics in Finland (and the whole world) at the time of its publication. Thanks, Kristiina.
 
I carried on reading more books by some of these authors. With others, I would have loved to read more but they haven't published any others. What a shame.

Monday, 19 October 2020

Harris, Joanne "A Cat, a Hat and a Piece of String"

Harris, Joanne "A Cat, a Hat and a Piece of String" - 2012

I'm not a fan of short stories. And this book didn't change my mind. In the introduction we are told that some of the stories link together. And they do but only very few and the link is quite small (except for the Faith and Hope stories).

The only stories I liked were those of the old ladies who stood up to the "carers" in the nursing home who cared for nothing but themselves (Faith and Hope Fly South, Faith and Hope Get Even) and the stories about Africa were not too bad, either (River Song, Road Song). I wouldn't have minded a whole book about those characters but like this, it lacked something.

This has been the first book for a long time that I was inclined to abandon. I just always hoped the stories would get better. They did not.

From the back cover:

"Stories are like Russian dolls; open them up, and in each one you’ll find another story.

Come to the house where it is Christmas all year round; meet the ghost who lives on a Twitter timeline; be spooked by a newborn baby created with sugar, spice and lashings of cake.

Conjured from a wickedly imaginative pen, here is a new collection of short stories that showcases Joanne Harris’s exceptional talent as a teller of tales, a spinner of yarns. Sensuous, mischievous, uproarious and wry, here are tales that combine the everyday with the unexpected; wild fantasy with bittersweet reality.
"

Friday, 16 October 2020

Book Quotes of the Week

"Perhaps I shall. Yes, yes, if you please, no reference to examples in books. Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story. Education has been theirs in so much higher a degree; the pen has been in their hands. I will not allow books to prove anything." Jane Austen, Persuasion
Even though she is right about the advantage of men, I still love a reference to a good book. And there are more written by women in the meantime, thank goodness.

"No one ever committed suicide while reading a good book, but many have tried while trying to write one." Robert Byrne
Oh dear, but I guess he is right there. Still, I'm grateful to all the authors who save my life!

"Reading is important because if you can read, you can learn anything about everything and everything about anything." Tomie de Paola
Very important to read and then to learn from it.

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday, 15 October 2020

Whitehead, Colson "The Nickel Boys"

Whitehead, Colson "The Nickel Boys" - 2019

After having read his first Pulitzer Prize win "Underground Railroad", I was thrilled to hear that Colson Whitehead received this award for the second time. Deservedly, very deservedly.

Since I really enjoyed his last book, I knew I'd have to read this one, as well. It certainly was worth it. This is not only a story of a young black boy growing up in the sixties or a book about what happens to young delinquents when they get caught. No, this is the story about how you have no chance in life if you are born with the wrong colour. You get condemned for something you have not done and from there on it goes downhill. And nobody will help you to get up again.

I have read a lot of books about racism (see in my list "Anti-Racism") and prejudices and a lot of time you can experience what those who are condemned suffer. But Colin Whitehead has made it a lot clearer, almost as if you are in Elwood Curtis' position yourself. The details are so well written, you are there with the protagonist.

The judges called the novel "a spare and devastating exploration of abuse at a reform school in Jim Crow-era Florida that is ultimately a powerful tale of human perseverance, dignity and redemption." Well said, very precise. Such a painful account of the life so many people still have to endure

A deep story that will leave nobody who has read it.

Colson Whitehead received the Pulitzer Prize for "The Nickel Boys" in 2020. He is one of only four recipients who were awarded the prize twice.

From the back cover:

"Elwood Curtis knows he is as good as anyone - growing up in 1960s Florida, he has taken the words of Dr Martin Luther King to heart. He is about to enrol in the local black college, determined to make something of himself.  But given the time and the place, one innocent mistake is all it takes to destroy his future.  Instead of embarking on a college education, Elwood arrive at the Nickel Academy, a segregated reform school claiming to provide an education which will equip its inmates to become 'honourable and honest men'.

In reality, the Nickel Academy is a nightmarish upside-down world, where any boy who resists the corrupt depravity of the authorities is likely to disappear 'out back'.  Elwood tries to hold on to Dr King's ringing assertion: 'Throw us in jail, and we will still love you.' But Elwood's fellow inmate and new friend Turner thinks Elwood naïve and worse; the world is crooked, and the only way to survive is to emulate the cruelty and cynicism of their oppressors.

When Elwood's idealism and Turner's scepticism collide, the result has decades-long repercussions. 
The Nickel Boys is a devastating, driven novel by a great American writer whose clear-sighted and humane storytelling continues to illuminate our current reality."

Tuesday, 13 October 2020

Top Ten Tuesday ~ Top Ten Super Long Book Titles


"Top Ten Tuesday" is an original feature/weekly meme created on the blog "The Broke and the Bookish". This feature was created because they are particularly fond of lists at "The Broke and the Bookish".

It is now hosted by Jana from That Artsy Reader Girl.

Since I am just as fond of them as they are, I jump at the chance to share my lists with them! Have a look at their page, there are lots of other bloggers who share their lists here.

Super Long Book Titles

An interesting subject this week. It was nice to dig through the titles of the books I read. I found a few that are even longer than these but they are all in German and not translated. So, here we go. The list is in order of longest to shortest title.

 
58 letters
Jonasson, Jonas "The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared" (Swedish: Hundraåringen som klev ut genom fönstret och försvann) - 2009

44 letters
Smiley, Jane "The All-true Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton" - 1998
Gavalda, Anna "I Wish Someone Were Waiting for Me Somewhere" (French: Je voudrais quelqu’un m’attende quelque part) - 1999
 
41 letters
Haddon, Mark "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time" - 2003
Dallaire, Roméo "They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children: The Global Quest to Eradicate the Use of Child Soldiers" - 2010

38 letters
Xu, Ruiyan "The Lost and Forgotten Languages of Shanghai" - 2010
Schmitt, Éric-Emmanuel "Monsieur Ibrahim and the Flowers of the Koran" (French: Monsieur Ibrahim et les fleurs du Coran) - 1999

37 letters
Shaffer, Mary Ann & Barrows, Annie "The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Society" - 2008

Can you find longer titles in your lists? I'm sure there must be some. Even though I doubt anyone of us would have read this one:
The longest title of a book according to the Guinness Book of Records consists of 26,021 characters, and was achieved by Vityala Yethindra (India) in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, on 20 March 2019. It starts with "The historical development of the Heart i.e. from its formation from ... Solutions and answers of above questions, material and topics are included and cleared in this book.". (Find the whole title here.)

Monday, 12 October 2020

Dumas, Alexandre "The Count of Monte Cristo"

Dumas, Alexandre "The Count of Monte Cristo" (French: Le comte de Monte-Cristo) - 1844-46

When I was little, they would show a swashbuckling film on German television every Sunday. We called them "Mantel- und Degenfilm" which translates into "coat and épée film". Every Sunday!

This book reminded me of that time and that's probably why I like it. I thought about the Three Musketeers and all those other books and films I saw on that subject.

This book has it all, love and hate, rich and poor, adventure, revenge, death, mystery, murder, plots, history and - of course, the swashbuckling.

Of course, as most classics, it also gives you some insight into the politics of the time. Now, I never find the French history - or any other history - as exciting as that of the Tudors but it definitely has something.

I read this book in the original which gave me some good exercise with my rusty French.

From the back cover:

"Thrown in prison for a crime he has not committed, Edmond Dantes is confined to the grim fortress of If. There he learns of a great hoard of treasure hidden on the Isle of Monte Cristo and he becomes determined not only to escape, but also to unearth the treasure and use it to plot the destruction of the three men responsible for his incarceration. Dumas’ epic tale of suffering and retribution, inspired by a real-life case of wrongful imprisonment, was a huge popular success when it was first serialized in the 1840s."