Tuesday, 30 March 2021

Top Ten Tuesday ~ Top Ten Places In Books I’d Love to Live

 

"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.

This week's topic is: Places In Books I’d Love to Live

I lived in four different countries in my life but I've visited many. Most of them, I would happily visit again. Some of them, I didn't want to leave at all, stay forever.

Since Edward Rutherfurd has written some fantastic books about various of those places, I have mainly chosen his books to show the places I'd love to live.

Here are some of the places I loved and wouldn't have minded living (for longer):

Ireland - Dublin
My favourite place of all, it just feels like home. I've been to Ireland, both the country (or rather both countries) and its fantastic capital and it's so beautiful. And the people are the best in the world.

Joyce, James "Dubliners"
Rutherfurd, Edward "Dublin" (aka The Princes of Ireland)
- "Awakening"

England
I lived here for six years. The people were wonderful, the country beautiful, everything was great … until they decided to leave the EU. I still love the country but that's why it moved to #2 on my list.

Bryson, Bill "The Road to Little Dribbling"
Rutherfurd, Edward "Sarum"
- "The Forest"
- "London"

Israel
When visiting Israel in 1986, I absolutely loved everything about the country. If I'd been single, I would have stayed. I have read a lot about the situation in the meantime and even though I don't agree with their politics, I still would love to live there, at least for a while - if it weren't so hot in summer.

Of course, a situation as in "The Lemon Tree" would definitely be preferable and Jimmy Carter has a good plan on how this could be achieved.

LeBor, Adam "City of Oranges"
Tolan, Sandy "The Lemon Tree"
Carter, Jimmy "We Can Have Peace in the Holy Land"

And then there are two cities which I know well and would love to live in.

Brussels
I have lived in Brussels and we have visited it several times every year since we left. Still one of my favourite cities in the world and my son is moving there tomorrow. So, there are more anticipated visits.

Menasse, Robert "The Capital" (German: Die Hauptstadt) (Goodreads)
Sonneborn, Martin "Herr Sonneborn geht nach Brüssel - Abenteuer im Europaparlament" [Mr. Sonneborn goes to Brussels - Adventures in the European Parliament] (Goodreads)
(these two books are on my wishlist, therefore they don't count, right?)

Paris
I have a good friend who lives here and I've seen Paris with the eyes of a local. Its flair is unique.

Rutherfurd, Edward "Paris"

I'm excited to see where the other bloggers want to live.

Monday, 29 March 2021

Rhoides, Emmanuel "The Curious History of Pope Joan"

Rhoides, Emmanuel (Emmanuel Roidis) "The Curious History of Pope Joan" (Greek: Πάπισσα Ιωάννα/Papissa Ioanna) - 1866

With my book club, I read "Pope Joan" by Donna Woolfolk Cross twenty years ago (my, how time flies!) At some point, I bought this older book about the same subject because it was on a reduced shelf in my bookshop.

Same as the first book I read, this didn't really impress me that much. Granted, there might have been a female pope, I can well believe that but the story itself wasn't too exciting. Also, I couldn't detect the humour that some people loved so much.

However, there is some information about life in the 9th century. That's always nice.

Since this was a Greek book, I read it in German. "Die Päpstin Johanna von Ingelheim"

From the back cover:

"'Pope Joan' or 'Papissa Joanna' was originally published in 1886 by the Greek author Emmanuel Royidis. It tells the story of Pope John VIII, the purported ruler of Xendom for a period of two years, five months & four days in the middle of the 9th century. 'Pope Joan' is a comic masterpiece of irreverence towards the medieval Church & the accepted pieties of its revisionist historians. Indeed, insofar as Royidis continued to propagate the legend of Pope Joan, to claim that the work contained only 'facts & events proved beyond discussion', the text itself ingeniously combines history, legend & wit to subvert claims of authority. As Durrell notes in his Preface to his English translation & adaptation, 'the authorities of the Orthodox Church were horrified by what seemed to them to be the impious irony of its author - & no less by the gallery of maggot-ridden church fathers which he described so lovingly.' Not suprisingly, Royidis was excommunicated from the Orthodox Church, his book banned in Greece.

The first three parts of 'Pope Joan' tell of Joanna prior to her arrival in Rome, before she became an historical personage. Set in the 9th century, the narrative captures Europe after the death of Charlemagne, a time when civilization was tenuous & the Church provided one of the few viable social structures. This part is the imagined story of Joanna's life in Germany & then in Greece. After her parents die, Joanna clandestinely enters a monastery where she meets the monk Frumentius & develops a romantic relationship with him. When her gender is surmised, Joanna & Frumentius flee one monastery & then another, eventually ending up in Greece. Joanna soon becomes tired of romance & her intellectual brilliance attracts the attention of Church leaders thruout Greece. She leaves Frumentius & departs alone for Rome, where the legend, some say the history, of Pope Joan begins. She becomes a papal secretary renowned for her intellect &, when Pope Leo IV dies, she ascends to the papacy. Pope Joan becomes pregnant & dies after giving birth during a procession thru Rome.

While the general outline of the narrative may seem only mildly interesting, the translation of Lawrence Durrell, together with the biting, irreverent wit of Royidis, make 'Pope Joan' a work of comic genius. A flavor for this wit & style can be found in a passage describing what ensued after Joan gave birth: 'Great was the consternation when a premature infant was produced from among the voluminous folds of the papal vestments...Some hierarchs who were profoundly devoted to the Holy See sought to save the situation & change horror & disgust to amazement by crying out A miracle! A miracle! They bellowed loudly calling the faithful to kneel & worship. But in vain. Such a miracle was unheard of; & indeed would have been a singular contribution to the annals of Xian thaumaturgy which, while it borrowed many a prodigy from the pagans, had not yet reached the point where it could represent any male saint as pregnant & bringing forth a child.'

While the apologist position has denied the historicity of Pope Joan, there is some suggestion that the legend is factual. As Durrell suggests in his Preface, one telling point is that Platina includes a biography of Pope John VIII in his 'Lives of the Popes'. The Catholic Encyclopedia states: 'Platina's Lives of the Popes is a work of no small merit, for it is the first systematic handbook of papal history. ' Historical disputation aside, however, 'Pope Joan' stands as a brilliant work of comic writing & translation."

Friday, 26 March 2021

Book Quotes of the Week


"Reading is the key that opens doors to many good things in life. Reading shaped my dreams, and more reading helped me make my dreams come true." Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Great words by a great lady.

"It’s what you’re reading that matters, and how you’re reading it, not the speed with which you’re getting through it. Reading is supposed to be about the encounter with other minds, not an opportunity to return to the endlessly appealing subject of Me." Alan Jacobs

I'm a fast reader but I totally agree with this.

"If you write, write about what you do and who you are and you can't be wrong. Don't lie about anything. You are very similar to everybody else in the world. You love, you hate, you have friends, you have enemies. Be who you are." Carl Reiner

Good advice. Carl Reiner is the father of one of my favourite directors and I'm sure he passed on his wisdom to his son.


Find more book quotes here.

Thursday, 25 March 2021

Binchy, Maeve "The Maeve Binchy Writers' Club"

Binchy, Maeve "The Maeve Binchy Writers' Club" - 2010

The topic for this month's Xanadu read is: All Things Irish. I chose a book by an Irish author that had been on my TBR pile for a while. I picked it up on one of those book swap shelves where I left a lot of my books that I sorted out before our move. I thought this might be another book club type book but it was worth checking out.

Well, it was what it says, a book about a writers' club. With many hints for the budding author. And a short story at the end about a writers' class.

One thing I found quite interesting since I don't come across it very often, in week 11, The Writer as a Journalist, Maeve Binchy mentions Esperanto. Always worth a mention, I think.

I guess if you really want to write a book, there is quite some advice this one how to start and how to carry on. I had expected more a book about the club itself, something like a novel. However, it was an interesting read.

From the back cover:

"'The Maeve Binchy Writers' Club' gives an unique insight into how a No.1 bestselling author writes. Inspired by a course run by the National College of Ireland, it comprises 20 letters from Maeve, offering advice, tips and her own wonderfully witty take on the life of a writer, in addition to contributions from top writers, publishers and editors.

Whether you want to write a saga or a thriller, comedy or journalism, or write for the radio or stage, this also gives advice on the best way to get started, and what editors, publishers and agents are looking for.

'The Maeve Binchy Writers' Club' is a fascinating and informative guide to inspire all budding writers as well as entertaining Maeve Binchy fans the world over.

Includes expert advice from Marian Keyes, Alison Walsh, Norah Casey, Paula Campbell, Ivy Bannister, Seamus Hosey, Gerald Dave, Jim Culleton, Ferdia McAnna and Julie Parsons.

Includes a specially written brand new story by Maeve Binchy:

'The Writing Class'"

Tuesday, 23 March 2021

Top Ten Tuesday ~ Top Ten Funny 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.

This week's topic is: Funny Book Titles

When I hear funny titles, I also think funny books. I know the books on this list don't necessarily have to be funny but most of them are. 

There's Bill Bryson who invents British place names that are even funnier than the original ones (which are the funniest in the world). Michael Chabon tries to imagine how the state of Israel would have functioned in Alaska. Philip K. Dick lets androids dream, of electric sheep of all things.

Nora Ephron muses about life of women. If you like "When Harry met Sally", you should read Nora Ephron. Jonas Jonasson invented the funniest hundred-year-old.

Alexander McCall Smith's stories about Mma Ramotswe's No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency are all hilarious but I love the title where he alludes to the "traditionally built" protagonist best. Marisha Pessl's story about a teenager called Blue is not really a funny one but the title of her book is. Calamity Physics, I think we would all love to study that. Saša Stanišić's book about how the soldier repairs the gramophone also isn't funny but the idea that soldiers repair anything differently to a civilian is. That leaves us just with Rebecca Wells who invented the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, a title that's definitely funny.

Bryson, Bill "The Road to Little Dribbling: More Notes from a Small Island" - 2015

Chabon, Michael "The Yiddish Policemen’s Union" - 2007

Dick, Philip K. "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" - 1968

Ephron, Nora "I Feel Bad About My Neck And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman" - 2006

Ephron, Nora "I Remember Nothing. And other reflections" - 2010

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

McCall Smith, Alexander "Tea Time for the Traditionally Built" - 2009

Pessl, Marisha "Special Topics in Calamity Physics" - 2006

Stanišić, Saša "How the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone" (German: Wie der Soldat das Grammofon repariert) - 2006

Wells, Rebecca "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood" - 1996

Monday, 22 March 2021

Jacobs, Harriet Ann "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl"

Jacobs, Harriet Ann (Linda Brent) "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl" - 1861

I never understood how someone could feel comfortable with "owning" another human being. You would think that we know better by now but this is still going on in this world and we have not changed much. Even if someone doesn't hold slaves, the way we treat others is not much further from that.

In this story, written by a real slave from the 19th century, we learn all the disadvantages of being a slave. The girls who get raped by their masters, the boys (and the girls) who get tortured, the children who are taken from their parents and sold separately, never to see their families again. Awful, terrible, unbelievable. Harriet Jacobs (who first published this book under the name Linda Brent) lived through it all, either herself or her family. As we can see, even if you have a "good" mistress (whatever that means, she owned a slave and didn't even take care that she was set free after her death, don't know what's good about that), this can end from one day to the next.

Since the North didn't really help the slaves, they even sent them back to their "rightful" owners if they caught them, this book was mainly written to open their eyes. Did it help? I doubt it. Maybe some learned from it but many, far too many … haven't learned even today.

A brilliant book written with so much understanding and force. It should be read by everyone at a very early age so that we hopefully will learn from it today.

From the back cover:

"The true story of an individual's struggle for self-identity, self-preservation, and freedom, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl remains among the few extant slave narratives written by a woman. This autobiographical account chronicles the remarkable odyssey of Harriet Jacobs (1813–1897) whose dauntless spirit and faith carried her from a life of servitude and degradation in North Carolina to liberty and reunion with her children in the North.

Written and published in 1861 after Jacobs' harrowing escape from a vile and predatory master, the memoir delivers a powerful and unflinching portrayal of the abuses and hypocrisy of the master-slave relationship. Jacobs writes frankly of the horrors she suffered as a slave, her eventual escape after several unsuccessful attempts, and her seven years in self-imposed exile, hiding in a coffin-like "garret" attached to her grandmother's porch.

A rare firsthand account of a courageous woman's determination and endurance, this inspirational story also represents a valuable historical record of the continuing battle for freedom and the preservation of family.
"

See my other reviews about anti-racism here.

Friday, 19 March 2021

Book Quotes of the Week


"If a nation reads what is good with a good understanding, it gets a good understanding for a good nation building!" Ernest Agyemang Yeboah

And that goes for any nation. Education is the most important thing in the world.

"A classic is something that tends to relegate the concerns of the moment to the status of background noise, but at the same time this background noise is something we cannot do without."
Italo Calvino 

I'm always surprised when reading a classic how little really has changed.

"Well, the house there is about three times as high as my TBR Pile!" Mayersche Buchhandlung

That would be quite a large house. LOL

"The highest education is that which does not merely give us information but makes our life in harmony with all existence." Rabindranath Tagore

True. The more I know about a subject, the better I can avoid the downsides of it. You can see that now with Covid, those protesting most against the measures are not the smartest people. Sorry.


Find more book quotes here.

Thursday, 18 March 2021

McCullough, Colleen "The Ladies of Missalonghi"

McCullough, Colleen "The Ladies of Missalonghi" - 1987

I already mentioned in my review of "Fly Away Peter" by David Malouf, that one of my blogger friends, Brona from Australia published a list of Australian novellas a while ago. I asked her which one she said she'd recommend and she said "Ladies of Missalonghi" by Colleen McCullough.

So, here we are. Like most of the girls of my generation, I have read "The Thorn Birds", so the name of the author was not unknown to me.

The location is a small town called Byron in the Blue Mountains of Australia and the story takes place just before World War I. Like many small towns, it is dominated by just a few people, in this case mainly the men of one large family. The women are the losers, especially the unmarried ones.

Having been born into a small village where my parents didn't grow up and having no family there, I know exactly what Colleen McCullough is talking about. She has retold life in such an environment very accurately.

All in all, this was a good read, a tad easy at times but that's what this sort of book is about. I would recommend it to anybody, no matter what you prefer.

Spoiler:


Apparently, the author was accused of plagiarism as the novel resembles "The Blue Castle" by L.M. Montgomery. I haven't read that one. Should I?

See Brona's review here.

From the back cover:

"The Hurlingford family have ruled the small town of Byron, nestled in the Blue Mountains, for generations. Wealthy, powerful and cruel, they get what they want, every time.

Missy Wright's mother, a Hurlingford by birth, has been shunned by her family since marrying for love, not money. Now widowed, the women live a quiet existence in genteel poverty. Plain, thin and unforgivably single, it seems Missy's life is destined to be dreary.

But then a stranger arrives in town. A divorcee from Sydney. And she opens Missy's eyes to the possibility of a happy ending.

This is an endearing tale, full of wit, warmth and romance, from the bestselling author of
The Thorn Birds."

Tuesday, 16 March 2021

Top Ten Tuesday ~ Top Ten Books On My Spring 2021 TBR


"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.

This week's topic is: Books On My Spring 2021 TBR

Mmmh, this is more or less what I wrote last week (see here). My biggest plan is to get rid of some of the books on my TBR pile. Mind you, I have some new books (and some on my wishlist I intend to buy soon) that are not TBR and I hope to be reading them soon, as well.


Adiga, Aravind "The White Tiger" - 2008
Brooks, Geraldine "Foreign Correspondence: A Pen Pal's Journey from Down Under to All Over" - 1997 (Goodreads)
Jansson, Tove "Moominsummer Madness" (Vaarallinen juhannus) (Finnish) - 1954
Khorsandi, Shappi "Nina is Not OK" - 2016 (Goodreads)
Lee, Min Jin "Pachinko" - 2017
McCullough, Colleen "The Ladies of Missalonghi" - 1987
Obama, Barack "Of Thee I Sing. A Letter to my Daughters" - 2010
Obama, Barack "A Promised Land" - 2020 (Goodreads)
Towles, Amor "A Gentleman in Moscow" - 2016 (Goodreads)
Zusak, Markus "The Messenger" (US: I am the Messenger) - 2002 (Goodreads)

Friday, 12 March 2021

Book Quotes of the Week

"The smells of books, whether they're new and old, are enjoyable and pair well with tea or coffee. People who are loathe to read are missing out on smell-o-vision." Ian *

Who doesn't like the smells of books? Old or new, they both have a certain something. My sons even gave me a candle for Christmas that smells like old books. Totally cool.


"Reading is the life-saving water for our minds. Drink pure words as much as you need and remain alive!" Munia Khan

Reading definitely has saved my life more than once.

"Reading is essential for those who seek to rise above the ordinary." Jim Rohn

Nice thought. I think reading enriches your lives in a why nothing else can.

Find more book quotes here.
 

[* If anyone can tell me the originator of this quote, I'd be very thankful and would happily include the name.

Thursday, 11 March 2021

Elliot, Jason "An Unexpected Light"

Elliot, Jason "An Unexpected Light. Travels in Afghanistan" - 1999

I have read several books about Afghanistan, mostly about the war, some about ordinary people living in the country and/or especially the women. So far, my favourite one has been "The Sewing Circles of Herat: A Personal Voyage Through Afghanistan" by Christina Lamb but this one definitely comes close to pushing it of its podium.

This book was recommended to me by a friend who was taking a world trip with her husband at the same time as the author was in Afghanistan. They spent a while in Peshawar (Pakistan), very close to the Afghan border, and she mentioned that the first part of the book is just how they remember it from that time. Hardly any Westerners got into Afghanistan in those days, so it's a lovely virtual journey to take.

Jason Elliot is extraordinary. Not only did he go to Afghanistan for the first time when he was eighteen and then already explored the troubled country, no, he returned later and travelled everywhere, he even accompanied the Mujaheddin on one of their campaigns, he went into areas where even Afghans wouldn't want to go because it was too dangerous and told him it was worse for foreigners. Quite spectacular.

He has a mind for languages and is as enterprising as any hero in an adventure story. At the same time, he must be a very sympathetic character as he seems to fall in with any kind of person. His interest in other people and their troubles is enchanting and certainly brings many people to tell him about their problems and sorrows. In a war-ridden country, he manages to engage with all sides and report about them. Spectacular.

But even behind the scenes of fights and poverty, he can tell us about the beauty of this country and the kindness of its inhabitants.

A fascinating book. If you're only remotely interested in Afghanistan and its history, this is the book for you.

From the back cover:

"Part historical evocation, part travelogue, and part personal quest, An Unexpected Light is the account of Elliot's journey through Afghanistan, a country considered off-limits to travelers for twenty years. Aware of the risks involved, but determined to explore what he could of the Afghan people and culture, Elliot leaves the relative security of Kabul. He travels by foot and on horseback, and hitches rides on trucks that eventually lead him into the snowbound mountains of the North toward Uzbekistan, the former battlefields of the Soviet army's 'hidden war.' Here the Afghan landscape kindles a recollection of the author's life ten years earlier, when he fought with the anti-Soviet mujaheddin resistance during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

Weaving different Afghan times and visits with revealing insights on matters ranging from antipersonnel mines to Sufism, Elliot has created a narrative mosaic of startling prose that captures perfectly the powerful allure of a seldom-glimpsed world.
"

Wednesday, 10 March 2021

Gogol, Nikolai "The Overcoat. Stories from Russia"


Gogol, Nikolai (Никола́й Васи́льевич Го́голь, Nikolay Vasilyevich Gogol) "The Overcoat. Stories from Russia" (Russian: Шинел/Shinyeliь) (German collection: Gogols Mantel. Erzählungen aus Russland - 1842 et al.

This is a collection of Russian short stories, starting with "The Overcoat" by Nikolai Gogol. As with many of these anthologies, there isn't one with exactly the same stories. But, you can find all these in different other editions which I have tried to find for you.

I always love reading Russian novels. Even these short stories were fantastic. Funnily enough, my favourite was literally the most "fantastic" of them all, "Pkhenz" by Andrei Sinyavsky who wrote under the pseudonym Abram Tertz. Not that it helped him much, the KGB found out who was behind that name and sent him to a labour camp.

When I found the book, I thought it was a book with more than one story by Gogol. It wasn't, there's just "The Overcoat". But the others are all fantastic stories, as well. There was even a Nobel Prize winner among them, Ivan Bunin, who was the first Russian to received that prestigious award.

Gogol, Nikolai (Никола́й Васи́льевич Го́голь, Nikolay Vasilyevich Gogol) "The Overcoat" (RUS: Шинель/Shinel) - 1842
If you're not sure whether you like Russian literature, this is a perfect example. A simple story of a man who buys an overcoat yet there is so much in it about Russia and its soul. Unbelievable. A story I will probably read again and again.
Famous quote by Dostoevsky "We all come out of Gogol's 'Overcoat". Well said.
Blurb: "A sincere young clerk makes great sacrifices to attain an overcoat of untold value and power."

Dostoevsky, Fyodor "A Gentle Creature" (aka The Gentle Spirit) (RUS: Кроткая/Krotkaja) - 1876
Dostoevsky is one of my favourite Russian authors and this short story is just as great as some of his big novels. In this tale he explains the beginning and end of a relationship and how it all happened. Incredible how much you can put on so few pages.
Blurb: "In this compelling study of despair, based on a real-life incident, a pawnbroker mourns the loss of his wife, a quiet, gentle young girl. Why has she killed herself? Could he have prevented it? These are the questions the pawnbroker asks himself as he pieces together past events and minor incidents, changes of mood and passing glances, in his search for an answer that will relieve his torment.
In this short story, Dostoyevsky masterfully depicts desperation, greed, manipulation and suicide.
"

Tolstoy, Lew Nikolajewitsch (Толстой, Лев Николаевич) "The Death of Ivan Ilyich" (RUS: Смерть Ивана Ильича/Smert' Ivána Ilyichá) - 1886
I've read this before since it was in Tolstoy's "Collected Works". Again, a very Russian work. An observation about death and its impact not only on the person dying but also on those near to him. There are people who try to enjoy life as much as they can, live it to their fullest, others who give up and have nothing.
If you want to experience Russian literature at its best but don't like long stories, try this one. It's a great one by this brilliant author.
Blurb: "Tolstoy’s most famous novella is an intense and moving examination of death and the possibilities of redemption
Ivan Ilyich is a middle-aged man who has spent his life focused on his career as a bureaucrat and emotionally detached from his wife and children. After an accident he finds himself on the brink of an untimely death, which he sees as a terrible injustice. Face to face with his mortality, Ivan begins to question everything he has believed about the meaning of life.
The Death of Ivan Ilyich is a masterpiece of psychological realism and philosophical profundity that has inspired generations of readers."

Chekhov, Anton Pavlovich (Антон Павлович Чехов) "The Lady with the Dog" (RUS: Дма с собачкой/Dama s sobachkoy) - 1899
Oh, the problems of the upper class (today we would say first world problems, I guess) who know nothing about the problems of the little man who has to work tremendously in order for his family not to starve. Often we read about the latter but this is a tale about the former. Great writing.
Again, I have read this story before in another collection "Summer Holidays".
Blurb: "This short story describes an adulterous affair between an unhappily married Moscow banker and a young married woman which begins while both are vacationing alone in Yalta. It is one of Chekhov's most famous pieces of short fiction, and Vladimir Nabokov considered it to be one of the greatest short stories ever written."

Babel, Isaac Emmanuilovich (Исаак Эммануилович Бабель) "Red Cavalry" (RUS: Конармия/Konarmiya) - 1926
"Nine prisoners of war are no longer alive."
A witness oft he civil war when Cossack cavalry invaded Poland after WWI, Isaac Babel describes the attack on a train and the subsequent killing of nine prisoners. This is only on of the stories from this collection which must all be great.
Blurb: "Based on Babel's own diaries that he wrote during the Russo-Polish war of 1920, Red Cavalry is a lyrical, unflinching and often startlingly ironic depiction of the violence and horrors of war. A classic of modern fiction, the short stories are as powerful today as they were when they burst onto the Russian literary landscape nearly a century ago. The narrator, a Russian-Jewish intellectual, struggles with the tensions of his dual identity: fact blends with fiction; the coarse language of soldiers combines with an elevated literary style; cultures, religions and different social classes collide. Shocking, moving and innovative, Red Cavalry is one of the masterpieces of Russian literature."

Kharms, Daniil (Дании́л Ива́нович Хармс) "Interruption" (RUS: помеха/Pomeha)
collection: Russian Absurd and Даниил Хармс. В двух томах. Том 1/Daniil Kharms. V dvukh tomakh. Tom 1
article: Three New Decrees (Авиация превращений/Aviacija prevrashhenij) (original: Собрание сочинений в 3 томах/Sobraniye sochineniy v 3 tomakh)
Another short story from a collection of stories. Very futuristic.
This is only a very small story, three pages long. I have found a few collections of short stories by Daniil Kharms and hope it is in one of them.
To my liking, this was far too short, I would have liked to read more.
Blurb: "A writer who defies categorization, Daniil Kharms has come to be regarded as an essential artist of the modernist avant-garde. His writing, which partakes of performance, narrative, poetry, and visual elements, was largely suppressed during his lifetime, which ended in a psychiatric ward where he starved to death during the siege of Leningrad. His work, which survived mostly in notebooks, can now be seen as one of the pillars of absurdist literature, most explicitly manifested in the 1920s and ’30s Soviet Union by the OBERIU group, which inherited the mantle of Russian futurism from such poets as Vladimir Mayakovsky and Velimir Khlebnikov. This selection of prose and poetry provides the most comprehensive portrait of the writer in English translation to date, revealing the arc of his career and including a particularly generous selection of his later work."

Bunin, Ivan Alekseyevich (Иван Алексеевич Бунин) "In Paris" (RUS: в Париже/v Parizhe) - 1943
collection: Dark Avenues (or Dark Alleys) (RUS: Тёмные аллеи/Tyomnyie alleyi)
Ivan Bunin was an emigrant, he saw a lot of Russian culture from the outside. "In Paris" is a story of Russian emigrants - exactly - in Paris, where he lived for a long time.
As someone who lived abroad myself for a long time, I could relate to many of his allusions. This short story is very interesting and I wouldn't mind reading more by this author.
You will find this story in his collection "Dark Avenues".
Blurb: "One of the great achievements of twentieth-century Russian émigré literature, Dark Avenues took Bunin's poetic mastery of language to new heights.
Written between 1938 and 1944 and set in the context of the Russian cultural and historical crises of the preceding decades, this collection of short fiction centres around dark, erotic liaisons. Love - in its many varied forms - is the unifying motif in a rich range of narratives, characterized by the evocative, elegiac, elegant prose for which Bunin is renowned.
"
Ivan Alekseyevich Bunin received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1933 "for following through and developing with chastity and artfulness the traditions of Russian classic prose." He was the first Russian author to be awarded this prize.

Tertz, Abram (Абрам Терц), Abram/Sinyavsky, Andrei Donatovich (Андрей Донатович Синявский) "Pkhenz" (RUS: Пхенц/Pkhenz) - 1959
collection: Fantastic Stories 
A science fiction story. Not normally my thing though I have read a few that I really liked. As I did this one. Probably the story that will stay with anyone longest who reads this collection.
I can see the comparison with Kafka though I really prefer this one.
Blurb: "Abram Tertz is the pseudonym of Andrei Sinyavsky, the exile Soviet dissident writer whose works have been compared to fabulists like Kafka and Borges. Tertz's settings are exotic but familiar and as compelling as those of lunatics and mystics. This edition contains the nightmarish 'Pkhentz', a story missing from the first English edition."

I contribute to this page: Read the Nobels and you can find all my blogs about Nobel Prize winning authors and their books here.


Tuesday, 9 March 2021

Top Ten Tuesday ~ Top Ten Spring Cleaning Books


"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.

This week's topic is: Spring Cleaning Freebie
(for example, books you're planning to get rid of for whatever reason, book’ you'd like to clean off your TBR by either reading them or deciding you're not interested, books that feel fresh and clean to you after winter is over, etc.)

We moved almost two years ago and I got rid of a lot of books I was never going to read. So, what's on my TBR pile now is mainly that: to be read.

There are plenty of books on my TBR list. Not only do I have a huge pile (well, tbh, I have two shelves full of books that I want to read), I am member of an online book club and have entered several challenges to reduce my pile this year.

Reading Challenge - Chunky Books 2021

Helmet Reading Challenge 2021

The World Reading Challenge

Xanadu Reading Challenge 2021

2021 TBR Pile Reading Challenge

Classic Challenge 2021



These are the books I plan to read until June (if nothing comes in between):

Binchy, Maeve "The Maeve Binchy Writers' Club" - 2010
Dickens, Charles "The Old Curiosity Shop" - 1840
Elliot, Jason "An Unexpected Light. Travels in Afghanistan" - 1999
Gogol, Nikolai (Никола́й Васи́льевич Го́голь/Nikolay Vasilyevich Gogol) "Gogols Mantel. Erzählungen aus Russland" (Der Mantel - The Overcoat - Шинель/Shinyeli) - 1842
Jacobs, Harriet Ann (Linda Brent) "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl" - 1861
Judd, Naomi "Love Can Build a Bridge" - 1993 (Goodreads)
Lahiri, Jhumpa "The Lowland" - 2013 (Goodreads)
Rhoides, Emmanuel (Emmanuel Roidis) "The Curious History of Pope Joan" (aka The Papess Joanne) (GR: Ἡ Πάπισσα Ἰωάννα/I Papissa Ioanna) - 1866
See, Lisa "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" - 2005
't Hart, Maarten "Het woeden der gehele wereld" (The fury/rage/raging of the whole world) - 1993 (Goodreads)

So, hopefully, this will help me getting rid of a few of my books.

Monday, 8 March 2021

Six Degrees of Separation


 Abstract cubes ~ Image credit: Separation abstract cubes via pixy.org

I discovered this challenge on one of the blogs I follow, Carol from the "Reading Ladies Book Club". Thank you, Carol.

The first month, I put together all the rules of this challenge as well as the history of "6 Degrees of Separation". Since I don't want to repeat them every month and also keep a list with the link to all the lists I will post in future, this is my future reference.

#6Degrees of Separation

Feb 2021: (original post)
from Redhead By the Side of the Road (Goodreads) to Palace Walk.
Mar 2021: (original post)
from Phosphorescene (Goodreads) to Against Hate.
Apr 2021: (original post)

from Shuggie Bain (Goodreads) to Dream of the Red Chamber.
May 2021: (original post)
from Beezus and Ramona (Goodreads) to Samuel August from Sevedstorp and Hanna from Hult.

* * *

#6Degrees is a monthly link-up hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. I love the idea.

Each month, a book is chosen by Kate and we get to go on from there, no matter how, the book just have to be linked to six other ones to form a chain. Any book only has to be connected to the one before them.

Rules:

  •     Link the books together in any way you like.
  •     Provide a link in your post to the meme at Books Are My Favourite and Best.
  •     Share these rules in your post.
  •     Paste the link to your post in the comments on Kate’s post and/or the Linky Tool on that post.
  •     Invite your blog readers to join in and paste their links in the comments and/or the Linky Tool.
  •     Share your post on Twitter using the #6Degrees hashtag.
  •     Be nice! Visit and comment on other posts and/or retweet other #6Degrees posts.

This is what Kate says (check here).

Annabel Smith and Emma Chapman began the 6 Degrees of Separation meme in 2014 (and Kate took over in 2016).

The meme was inspired by Hungarian writer and poet Frigyes Karinthy. In his 1929 short story, Chains, Karinthy coined the phrase 'six degrees of separation'. The phrase was popularised by a 1990 play written by John Guare, which was later made into a film starring Stockard Channing. Since then, the idea that everyone in the world is separated from everyone else by just six links has been explored in many ways, from 'six degress of Kevin Bacon' to the science of connections. And now it’s a meme for readers.

So, to the meme. On the first Saturday of every month, a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. Readers and bloggers are invited to join in by creating their own 'chain' leading from the selected book.

How the meme works
Books can be linked in obvious ways – for example, books by the same authors, from the same era or genre, or books with similar themes or settings. Or, you may choose to link them in more personal ways: books you read on the same holiday, books given to you by a particular friend, books that remind you of a particular time in your life, or books you read for an online challenge.
A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the ones next to them in the chain.

How to Join the Meme
Each person’s chain will look completely different.  It doesn’t matter what the connection is or where it takes you – just take us on the journey with you. Don’t worry if you haven’t read the first book either: you can always find ways to link it based on your expectations/ideas about it.

Join in by posting your own six degrees chain on your blog and adding the link in the Linky section (or comments) of each month’s post. If you don’t have a blog, you can share your chain in the comments section. You can also check out links to posts on Twitter using the hashtag #6Degree.

Saturday, 6 March 2021

Six Degrees of Separation ~ Phosphorescence

Phosphorescence

Baird, Julia "Phosphorescence: On Awe, Wonder and Things That Sustain You When the World Goes Dark"

#6Degrees of Separation: from Phosphorescene (Goodreads) to Against Hate.

#6Degrees is a monthly link-up hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. I love the idea. See more about this challenge, its history, further books and how I found this here.

This month’s prompt
starts with Phosphorescence by Julia Baird.

I haven't read this book or anything else by the author. So, I had to go with the description of the book. It's a sort of self-help/memoir book.

I'm not much into self-help books but the word "memoir" triggered a book by a woman I greatly admire. Michelle Obama is a woman who managed to get from nowhere to a highly professional position. Through her marriage to wonderful man, she became first lady of the USA but her own achievements are just as great.

Obama, Michelle "Becoming" - 2018

So, I can't think about Michelle Obama without thinking about her husband, Barack Obama, the 44th president of the United States. Even though I have read two of his books ("Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance" and "The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream") I have chosen a book that gathers his speeches because they are just fantastic. I am also looking forward to his newest book, "A Promised Land".

Dionne jr. E.J.; Reid, Joy-Ann "We are the Change We Seek" - 2017

Of course, speaking a bout Barack Obama, I have to think about his VP who has become the newest president of the United States. I admire him just as much. He has been through a lot and it has only made him stronger. He is a hope for the whole world.

Biden, Joe "Promise Me, Dad. A year of hope, hardship, and purpose" - 2017

And this brings me to his chosen Vice President, a wonderful woman who is strong, smart and overall a great choice for this post. I only read her book recently but it might be the best one I read this year.

Harris, Kamala "The Truths We Hold. An American Journey" - 2019

Speaking of a strong woman, another American lady comes to mind who has also achieved a lot and done much for her country. I have also read her recent one ("What Happened") but have chosen her biography because it links more to the other books in this chain.

Clinton, Hillary Rodham "Living History" - 2003

Talking about American politics, I have to think about a strong German woman, a journalist who received the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade. She wrote a brilliant anti-war book ("Echoes of Violence: Letters from a War Reporter") but this book here fits better. I think anyone should read that before making any kind of political comments, especially if it means putting down the opposite side.

Emcke, Carolin "Against Hate" (German: Gegen den Hass) - 2016

Yes, quite a political chain there but I felt these books went best with this month's challenge. I hope many of you will read at least one of those books because they are all brilliant. Happy Reading!

I'm looking forward to seeing what others came up with. 

Look for further monthly separation posts here.

Friday, 5 March 2021

Book Quotes of the Week


"Write what should not be forgotten." Isabel Allende 

The more we write, the less we forget.

"Too little information and you're blind, too much and you're blinded." Stuart Turton

Depends on where you get your information from. People with too little information can be more dangerous than those with too much, especially if they think they know it all.

"Every book is a different hood, a different country, a different world. Reading is how I visit places and people and ideas. And when something rings true or if I still have a question, I outline it with a bright yellow highlighter so that it’s lit up in my mind, like a lightbulb or a torch leading the way to somewhere new. It’s usually enough to make me forget I’ve barely left Bushwick." Ibi Zoboi, Pride

I totally agree. Except for the yellow highlighter. I would never do that to a book!

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday, 4 March 2021

Mann, Thomas "A Man and his Dog"

Mann, Thomas "A Man and his Dog" (aka Bashan and I) (German: Herr und Hund. Ein Idyll) - 1918

Anyone who knows me is aware of the fact that I love Thomas Mann. And that I'm not a fan of short stories. So, here is a short story by one of my favourite authors. 95 pages. In German! Which means it has probably fewer in English. (I could only find editions with extra writings, so I have no idea how many pages are left of the actual story.

Bashan is called "Bauschan" in the German original. Not a name I have ever come across anywhere. I am not an animal person, have never owned a single one and if I would want one, I'd rather have a cat than a dog, so I probably would not have touched this story if it hadn't been for the author.

The subtitle in German is "an idyll". Is it really that idyllic? Well, at least Thomas Mann manages to describe it like that. Long walks with his dog, beautiful landscape descriptions, a great tale of how a man and his dog grow together, the psychology of his dog. And of the owner. It's a feel good "story". Nothing much happens but you can follow them through their everyday life and imagine you are their on their walks.

The book was written and published in 1918, just when people had to get over WWI, maybe not a bad time to come up with a novella like this.

As for the cover pictures, I prefer the German one, it reminds me of Monet and other impressionists. Well, it's by Henry Moret, a French impressionist painter. I hand't heard of him so could google more of his works and they are beautiful. Lots of seascapes which I always like.

This was our book club read in February 2021.

Some thoughts:

  • It was again a completely different book than what we have read before, and the style of writing also totally different.
  • Many thought the language was too long and difficult, with too much detail. Like a monologue you listen to, where you want to ask about what else is going on in life outside the picture, but you are unable to.
  • Some really enjoyed some parts of the descriptions of scenery but felt very sad for the dog in much of the story.
  • The contrast how we love and care for dogs nowadays compared to how Bashan was cared for back in those days felt enormous.
  • The book made me curious about how it compares to Mann's other works, and what else was going on in life at the time.

I can understand these points. My favourite book by Thomas Mann is still is "Buddenbrooks".

I read this in the original German edition.

From the back cover:

"Bashan and I is the moving story of Thomas Mann's relationship with his spirited German short-haired pointer. From their first encounter at a local farm, Mann reveals how he slowly grows to love this energetic, loyal, and intelligent animal. Taking daily walks in the nearby parkland, Mann begins to understand and appreciate Bashan as a living being, witnessing his native delight in chasing rabbits, deer, and squirrels along with his careful investigations of stones, fallen branches, and clumps of wet leaves. As their bond deepens, Mann is led to contemplate Bashan's inner life, and marvels at the ease with which his dog trusts him, completely putting his life into his master's hands.

Over time, the two develop a deep mutual understanding, but for Mann, there is always a sense of loss at never being able to enter the private world of his dear friend, and he slowly becomes conscious of the eternal divide between mankind and the rest of nature. Nonetheless, the unique relationship quietly moves to the forefront of Mann's life, and when master and companion are briefly separated, Mann is taken aback by the depth of his loneliness without his dog. It is this deep affection for another living creature that helps the writer to reach a newfound understanding of the nature of love, in all its complexity.

First published in 1919 and translated into English in 1923,
Bashan and I was heralded for its simple telling of how a dog became a priceless companion, an animal who brought meaning to the author's life."

Thomas Mann received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1929 "principally for his great novel, 'Buddenbrooks', which has won steadily increased recognition as one of the classic works of contemporary literature".

I contribute to this page: Read the Nobels and you can find all my blogs about Nobel Prize winning authors and their books here.

Tuesday, 2 March 2021

Top Ten Tuesday ~ Characters Whose Job I Wish I Had


"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.

This week's topic is: Characters Whose Job I Wish I Had
(maybe not even because the job sounds fun, but maybe the co-workers are cool or the boss is hot?)

This is a topic quite close to my heart. I would have loved to be a teacher. Unfortunately, my parents didn't have the means to support me and they were too afraid to let me do it on my own since they didn't grow up in academic circles. That's one of the reason why I'm such an advocate for free education, makes it a little more equal and easier for kids growing up in families that can't help them.
However, I have helped out a lot in school when my boys were there and I even "taught" some support classes plus I taught religion at church, so I know a little bit about the job to know that it's not all fun and games.

A lot of the books I read have teachers in them. I have searched for some extraordinary stories surrounding those who chose the profession. Sometimes, they are put in a difficult position (e.g. Lamb, Nafisi, Shriver), sometimes they find great ways to teach their children something spectatular (esp. Rhue). If you are looking for more books with a teacher, go to my "Teacher" link here.



Agnes Grey
Brontë, Anne "Agnes Grey" - 1847
Lucy Snowe
Brontë, Charlotte"Villette" - 1853
Caelum Quirk
Lamb, Wally "The Hour I First Believed" - 2008
Frank McCourt
McCourt, Frank "Teacher Man. A Memoir 1949-1985" - 2005
Azar Nafisi
Nafisi, Azar "Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books" - 2003
Hannah Schneider, Gareth van Meer
Pessl, Marisha "Special Topics in Calamity Physics" - 2006
Ben Ross
Rhue, Morton "The Wave" - 1981
Dana Rocco
Shriver, Lionel "We need to talk about Kevin" - 2003
Viktor Schengeli
Ulitzkaya, Lyudmila "Imago" or "The Big Green Tent" (Russian: Zelenyi shater/Зеленый шатер) - 2010
Clara Callan
Wright, Richard B. "Clara Callan" - 2001

My hero of all these teachers is Ben Ross though some of the others have been pretty great, as well.

Monday, 1 March 2021

Happy March

Happy March to all my friends and readers

New Calendar picture with this
beautiful watercolour painting by Hanka Koebsch


"Danke für die Blumen"
"Thank you for the flowers"



I can't believe two months of the year have passed already. There were no big Covid-related changes. Germany is still in a lockdown and we are eagerly awaiting that it will be our turn to be vaccinated soon. 
 
* * *

The official name for March in Low German is " Lenzmaond". "Lenz" is an Old High German name for spring.

Of course, spring begins this month, so that's a perfectly sensible word for it. Whilst the meteorologic start of spring is on the 1st of March, the astronomic one is only on the 20th.

But we've already had the beginning of spring in February. After about three days of snow, it started to get warm. People were wearing summer clothes see leftover snow while taking their walks. A town in German (Göttingen) experienced the the largest temperature difference within a week since the weather records began. It moved from -23.8° (Celsius) to 18.1°, so 41.9° in total. Mind you, our thermometers didn't show a huge difference to that.

So, we have the first flowers in the garden and can take nice walks in the sun as long as it doesn't get too hot.

* * *

Weather lore (or farmers' rule) for March: "Snow in March hurts the seeds." (Märzen-Schnee tut den Saaten weh.) The English say "When March blows its horn, your barn will be filled with hay and corn." So we need a lot of thunderstorms but no snow. After all, we all want to eat.

* * *

Have a happy, safe and healthy March with this beautiful watercolour painting by Hanka Koebsch. Aren't the flowers ever so pretty?



You can find many more wonderful pictures on their website here.


You can also have a look under my labels Artist: Frank Koebsch and Artist: Hanka Koebsch where you can find all my posts about them.