Thursday 27 April 2023

#ThrowbackThursday. Night


Wiesel, Elie (Eliezer Vizl) "Night" (French: La Nuit/Yiddish: Un di Velt Hot Geshvign)  - 1958

Elie Wiesel wrote this novel as a report about his life in the concentration camps Buchenwald and Auschwitz/Oswiecim.

Seldom did we agree more on a book than this time. We thought it was shocking and unbelievable. The enormity, the plans, everything was so calculated. Horryfying to see what people are able to do. We could understand that people wouldn't believe it at the time because it is hard to believe even now.

We discussed this in our international book club in March 2007. We had a great discussion and it is definitely worth reading what all the members had to say (see here).  I also added a long list of other books about this topic there.

 Elie Wiesel received the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1986 as he "has emerged as one of the most important spiritual leaders and guides in an age when violence, repression and racism continue to characterise the world". It couldn't have gone to a more deserving recipient.

Read my original review here.

Tuesday 25 April 2023

Fat-Headed Censors

I saw this reblogged post via From Pyrenees to Pennines by Travel Between the Pages, and Brian D. Butler kindly allowed me to reblog.

While I might have worded it a teeny tiny little differently 😉, I totally agree with what the writer says.

This is Nineteen Eighty Four! George Orwell predicted it all. It's rewriting history. We have to remember history in order not to repeat it!!! So, here is my contribution to the lesson.

This wonderful picture is by the highly talented Tom Gauld.

You would have to have been living under a basket to avoid the recent brouhaha over the re-editing of classic books by so-called sensitivity readers and editors. Here in the Colonies we’ve been through this with the books of Dr. Seuss and other popular children’s authors. Now, the UK has gone mad censoring works by Roald dahl and others.

McSweeney’s recently posted a pointed response to this nonsence in an article by Peter Wisniewski aptly titled "FUCK YOU, YOU FAT-HEADED ROALD DAHL-CENSORING FUCKERS."

Dear Fat-Headed Roald Dahl-Censoring Fuckers,

You’re censors. You’re not editors, and you’re not readers. You’re censors. You are exactly what Orwell warned us about.

So fuck you.

Without the author’s consent, you are changing and omitting words that the author wrote. That makes you a censor. An agent of censorship. Only fascists censor books.

What you’re doing is crazy. See? We said it. Crazy. Crazy. Crazy.

You will not take words from the human race. You have no fucking right.

When you censor, you condescend. Fat people call themselves fat because they are not ashamed of themselves. But you are ashamed of us. You think being overweight is something to be ashamed of, so you erase this word, and you erase all fat people. Well, fuck you.

You will not take words from the human race. You have no fucking right.

The most telling example of your condescension is when you removed the word "cashier”"from one of Dahl’s books. Apparently, you think the word "cashier”"is offensive. Well, fuckers, hundreds of thousands of actual people are cashiers, and they don’t agree. They don’t think their mere existence is offensive.

You have no right to diminish their occupation or any other.

You have no right to take words from Dahl or any author.

If you were to get away with what you did - and rest assured, you fucknuts will not get away with it - then every book in human history could be subject to the same censorship. Every book ever published has something in it to offend someone. By the precedent you set, even the most carefully calibrated book written today, censored by censors like you, will be censored by someone else tomorrow.

The problem with censorship is that it has no end. Think of it: you censored Dahl’s books in the United States. What if the Germans wanted to censor them to suit their needs? And then the Chinese to suit theirs?

Get it? Once one group of censors gets to do their filthy work, then everyone will have their go.

If literature is to survive, we have two choices. Either:

a) No censorship, period, full stop, because it’s fascist and horrifying, or

b) Endless, unlimited censorship - a world where every craven group like yours has free reign to mangle every book ever written

No one wants your world.

No one supports what you did.

Roald Dahl would loathe you.

All enlightened readers loathe you.

The history of world literature is against you.

You are anti-art.

You are anti-freedom.

Art must be free. Art must be unsafe. Art must be controversial. Art must have dangerous words and ideas in it. Otherwise, it’s not fucking art.

At the moment, the right wing of the US is censoring books. They are fighting to keep non-white and LGBTQ+ narratives from kids. They are pulling books from shelves. They are villainizing teachers and librarians.

You are no better than these right-wing assholes.

Both you and these fascist fuckwads are afraid of books. Afraid of ideas. You condescend to everyone by thinking you should be the judge of what is said and read.

Who the fuck are you to decide this?

You have no fucking right.

If you don’t want censorship from the right, you can’t have it from the left.

Here’s how art is supposed to work: Someone writes a book. They write it with passion, with abandon, with honesty and lyricism and even a bit of recklessness. It is of their time, using the words of their time.

Readers respond to this recklessness, this abandon, this rawness, this timeliness. The only books that ever mattered to anyone are raw, are unbridled, are risky, and timely. Then, if a parent or teacher reads the book to a kid, and there’s a part that’s risky or controversial, discussions can be had. If the book is old, then the words and sentiments of that time can be taken into account.

It’s not hard.

That is how we fucking learn.

All art has context.

All art is born of its time. It reflects its time.

People who come to the art later can handle the context, the different words, the different attitudes. People can fucking handle it because we are complex creatures capable of complex thoughts.

Censors think everyone is stupid.

Fuck you, censors.

Censors think it is their job to dumb down every piece of art till it says nothing to anyone.

Fuck you, censors.

Fascists fear art because it frees minds.

Fuck you, fascists.

Left, right: all censors are the same. Period. End of story. Fuck you, censors.

Fuck you,
All the readers in the world who loathe you.

Brian D. Butler, Travel Between the Pages

Monday 24 April 2023

Mahfouz, Naguib "Midaq Alley"

Mahfouz, Naguib "Midaq Alley" (Arabic: زقاق المدق/Zuqaq El Midaq) - 1947

This is my fifth book by Nobel Prize winning Egyptian author Naguib Mahfouz. And every one of them seems to be even better than the last one. But that's probably just because it's the most recent one. They are all brilliant. He was just such a fantastic writer. You get to know the people living in Midaq Alley as if you've lived among them for most of your life.

A war rages in Europe and makes its waves into Egypt, as well, though not the way we might think.

The alley lies in the poorer part of Cairo with its inhabitants belonging to the poorer population, the lower end of the middle class probably. They all have their dreams of a better life, getting out of the street even though most of them know that this is where they belong and that they might not be able to live anywhere else.

It's almost like living in a village. If someone coughs at one end of the street, people on the other side have you dead within five minutes. Everyone knows everyone else's business. That has its advantages and disadvantages, of course.

So, this story could have taken place elsewhere, maybe even on your doorstep but the author tells us the lives of his compatriots. If you haven't read anything by this author, try him.

From the back cover:

"Never has Nobel Prize-winner Naguib Mahfouz's talent for rich and luxurious storytelling been more evident than in Midaq Alley, in his portrait of one small street as a microcosm of the world on the threshold of modernity. It centers around the residents of one of the hustling, teeming back alleys of Cairo. From Zaita the cripple-maker to Kirsha the café owner with a taste for young boys and drugs, to Abbas the barber who mistakes greed for love, to Hamida who sells her soul to escape the alley, from waiters and widows to politicians, pimps, and poets, the inhabitants of Midaq Alley vividly evoke the sights, sounds and smells of Cairo, Egypt's largest city as it teeters on the brink of change. Long after one finishes reading, the smell of fresh bread lingers, as does the image of the men gathering at the café for their nightly ritual. The universality and timelessness of this book cannot be denied."

Naguib Mahfouz "who, through works rich in nuance - now clear-sightedly realistic, now evocatively ambiguous - has formed an Arabian narrative art that applies to all mankind" received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1988.

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

Friday 21 April 2023

Stein, Gertrude "Paris France"

Stein, Gertrude "Paris France" - 1940

I had expected something else from this book. Childhood memories, there were very few. Observations about France, alright, you might call it that. But somehow I thought some stories about her salon might have been included, so that we could learn more about Gertrude Stein's life in France. Or hear an anecdote about Ernest Hemingway or one of the other frequent visitors, Pablo Picasso, for instance. Or Silvia Beach, Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald, any of her famous friends.

I didn't dislike the book, though. Her style is quite unique, in German we have the expression "she talks without full stop and comma" and that's exactly what she does. For example, here is an excerpt:
"An American who had read as far as this as far as it had been written said to me, but you do not mention the relation of french men to french men, of french men to french women of french women to french women of french women to french children of french men to french children of french children to french children."

One thing did puzzle me, though. The book is supposedly from 1940 but she often mentions things she could only have known after the end of the war, like, how many people were killed from the village she lived in. Or, even when the war ended. How can that be?

I did like her way to describe the French, though. I have always met them as nice, friendly people who love their food and love their history. Well, the food is good but - in my opinion - the food in Belgium is a lot better. And I know what the French will say to that: Quel affront!

I read this as part of the "Read the Year" club.

From the back cover:

"Published in 1940, on the day that Paris fell to the Germans, Paris France blends Stein's childhood memories of Paris with trenchant observations about everything French. It is a witty fricassee of food and fashion, pets and painters, musicians, friends, and artists, served up with a healthy garnish of "Steinien" humor and self-indulgence. For readers who have previously considered Gertrude Stein to be a difficult or even unreadable author, Paris France provides a delightful window on her personal and unique world."

And here is a list of all the other 1940 books.

Thursday 20 April 2023

#ThrowbackThursday. Mary Lawson's first books


I have read all of Mary Lawson's books to date and today I will present you the two first ones that I read more than ten years ago.

Lawson, Mary "Crow Lake" - 2002

I've read this book at least three times, the first time when I borrowed it, the second time when we read it in the international book club and then again with my German book club. I really, really loved this novel.

This is the story of a girl who is raised by her two older brothers and it describes the struggle they go through on their way to adulthood. The book combines everything, tragedy, drama, love story, sacrifices, the "togetherness" of a small community. The characters are well written, and so are the episodes.

We discussed this in our international book club in March 2004 and in my German book club in March 2023.

Lawson, Mary "The Other Side of the Bridge" - 2006

I loved this just as much as Crow Lake.

The biggest topic of the book was the sibling rivalry, two brothers growing up on a farm in Canada in the 1930s, the mother favouring the younger son for various reasons. Then there is the generational conflict, the change of time, farm work now and then, modernization, parents' expectations in their children, small town life, prisoners of war, lots of different issues.

We discussed this in our international book club in September 2008.

You can find the subsequent novels by Mary Lawson here.

Read my original reviews here and here

Monday 17 April 2023

Abulhawa, Susan "Against the Loveless World"

Abulhawa, Susan "Against the Loveless World" - 2020

I've read many books about the conflict in Israel/Palestine and the more I read about it, the more upset I get. I grew up with the story that the Palestinians were terrorists who were just out to destroy the Jews. Unfortunately, the story is not that easy.

This was probably one of the toughest books I read on the subject. A Palestinian woman, born outside of her country to refugee parents, who is imprisoned for fighting for her freedom and that of her people. I try to see both sides but that's not easy. Yes, the Jews had to flee Europe. But they did to the Palestinians exactly what had been done to them, chased them out of their houses, out of their country. Shouldn't they know better?

It's even worse for women - well, when is it ever better for women in any situation? Susan Abulhawa is a fantastic author, this is her third book I've been reading and it won't be the last.

Let's just hope that many people read this book who can change something. Although, I very much doubt it.

From the back cover:

"Nahr sits in an Israeli prison. Many in the world outside call her a terrorist; and just as many call her a revolutionary, a hero. But the truth is more complicated …

She was named for the river her mother crossed when she fled Israel's invasion of Palestine, and grew up into a girl who carried in her bone the desperation of being a refugee.

She was a woman who went to Palestine, and found books, friends, politics - and a purpose.

Nahr sits in her cell, and tells her story.

Other books by her that I read:
"Mornings in Jenin" (aka The Scar of David) - 2010
"The Blue Between Sky and Water" - 2015

Thursday 13 April 2023

#ThrowbackThursday. The Plague


Camus, Albert "The Plague" (French: La Peste) - 1947

My favourite French book of all times.

North Africa, a French town in Algeria, sometime in the 1940s. The rats come first, then the plague follows.

Albert Camus is my favourite French author, the language he uses is fantastic, so precise yet so poetic.

Read my original review here

Albert Camus received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957 "for his important literary production, which with clear-sighted earnestness illuminates the problems of the human conscience in our times".

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

Wednesday 12 April 2023

The 1940 Club

This book challenge takes place twice a year and concentrates on one year and one year only. I call it "Read the Year Club". This time, 1940 was picked. For more information, see Simon @ Stuck in a Book. (Here is the invite.)

If you are looking for inspiration, there are a few books from that year that I read already:
Boye, Karin "Kallocain" (SW: Kallocain) - 1940
Bristow, Gwen "This Side of Glory" - 1940
Hemingway, Ernest "For Whom the Bell Tolls" - 1940
Ingalls Wilder, Laura "The Long Winter" - 1940
McCullers, Carson "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter" - 1940

I also found some other ideas:
Adler, Mortimer J. "How to Read a Book" - 1940 (Goodreads)
Faulkner, William "The Hamlet" - 1940 (Goodreads)
Greene, Graham "The Power of Glory" - 1940 (Goodreads)
Richter, Conrad "The Trees" - 1940 (Goodreads)
Wright, Richard "Native Son" - 1940 (Goodreads)

This challenge takes place from 10 to 16 April 2023.

Sorry I'm late announcing this. As most of you know, I was sick in March, so I missed the announcement. I don't have a book on my TBR pile from that year, either, so I will have to postpone this a litte. But, I will take part and post my review later. Maybe you can do the same.

I picked:
Stein, Gertrude "Paris France" - 1940

Tuesday 11 April 2023

Lagerkvist, Pär "Barabbas"

Lagerkvist, Pär "Barabbas" (Swedish: Barabbas) - 1950

For the The Classics Spin #33, we were given #18, and this was my novel.

Almost a novella, but this novel needs no more pages. We all know Barabbas, the one in whose place Jesus was crucified. But what do we know about him other than his name? Here Pär Lagerkvist thought about what might have happened to Barabbas afterwards.

The story is believable, many early Christians went the way Barabbas goes in the book. There is the wish to believe, the doubt, the inability to come to terms with what happens. Something that still is in every Christian today, I think.

And even if this is not at all what happened to the protagonist, it's an interesting thought to see what could have been.

They even made a film out of the story, Barabbas was portrayed by Anthony Quinn.

From the back cover:

"Barabbas is the acquitted; the man whose life was exchanged for that of Jesus of Nazareth, crucified upon the hill of Golgotha. Barabbas is a man condemned to have no god. 'Christos Iesus' is carved on the disk suspended from his neck, but he cannot affirm his faith. He cannot pray. He can only say, 'I want to believe.'"

Pär Lagerkvist received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1951 "for the artistic vigour and true independence of mind with which he endeavours in his poetry to find answers to the eternal questions confronting mankind".

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

By the way, this is where I heard about the book in the first place: The Content Reader.

Sunday 9 April 2023

Happy Easter!



* Frohe Ostern * Happy Easter * Joyeuses Pâques * Vrolijk Pasen * Feliĉan Paskon * ¡Felices Pascuas! * Geseënde Paasfees * Зь Вялікаднем! * Sretan Vaskrs! * Честит Великден * Bona Pasqua * Sretan Uskrs * Veselé Velikonoce * God påske * Häid Ülestõusmispüha * Hyvää Pääsiästä * Cáisc shona daoibh * Καλό πάσχα * Hau ʻoli Pakoa * Kellemes Húsvéti Ünnepeket * Selamat hari Paskah * Buona Pasqua * Бақытты пасха* Priecīgas Lieldienas * Schéin Ouschteren * Pasika Elamu * Sveiki sulaukę velykų * Среќен Велигден * Христос васкрсе * Veselé prežitie Veľkonočných sviatkov * God påske * Bònn fèt pak * Maligayang Pasko ng Pagkabuhay * Schööne Oostern * Szczęśliwej Wielkanocy *Feliz Pásco * Paşte Fericit * Христос воскресе * Milostiplné prežitie Veľkonočných sviatkov * Heri kwa sikukuu ya Pasaka * Glad Påsk * Schöni Oschtere! * Paskalya yortunuz kutlu olsun * З Великодніми святами * عيد فصح سعيد * Շնորհավոր Զատիկ: * ഈസ്റ്റര് ആശംസകള്! * 復活節快樂 * חג פסחא שמח * शुभ ईस्टर * 復活祭おめでとう *행복한 부활절 * ईस्टर को शुभकामना * عید پاک مبارک * عید مبارک


Thursday 6 April 2023

#ThrowbackThursday. The House of Mirth

Wharton, Edith "The House of Mirth" - 1905

This is yet another story that gives us an insight in the struggle of women in the past.

The author grew up in the upper-class and became a great critic of the type of lifestyle where you had to getmarried to the right man. A brilliant novel

We discussed this in our international book club in March 2004.

Read my original review here

Tuesday 4 April 2023

Keefe, Patrick Radden "Say Nothing"

Keefe, Patrick Radden "Say Nothing. A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland" - 2018

My son, who did an exchange semester in Belfast, recommended this book to me. We have come to love Ireland very much, both the North and the South. It is a troubled country but the people are ever so nice.

This was a tough read. Not because of the writing, the writing was perfect. The research seems to be impeccable, the understanding for everyone involved very empathic.

It was both tough as well as brilliant. The author managed to show all the terror of "The Troubles" (with a capital T) from all sides. I always had a problem with the description of this civil war as mere troubles. No, it was a real war that has never really led to a good peace agreement.

Patrick Radden Keefe starts with the description of the abduction and subsequent disappearance of a widowed mother of ten children. Then he introduces two sisters and their joining of the IRA with all its implications.

Seamus Heaney, Nobel Prize Winner of Literature in 1995 wrote a Poem about the Troubles: "Whatever You Say, Say Nothing." This is what the IRA members told each other in case they were caught.

One can think about the IRA whatever one wants but, as in most cases, they were not the cause of the conflict. The author highlights this wonderfully in his book. It is not good what they did but neither is the cause of the conflict. And, it is often regarded as a religious conflict because it was Protestants against Catholics. But if you really look at it, it was the Irish against their occupants. As so often, religion is just a protective shield to hide the real causes.

If you want to know more about this, I highly recommend reading the book.

I doubt this country will ever be at peace as long as part of it is occupied by others.

Book Description:

"Patrick Radden Keefe writes an intricate narrative about a notorious killing in Northern Ireland and its devastating repercussions.

In December 1972, Jean McConville, a thirty-eight-year-old mother of ten, was dragged from her Belfast home by masked intruders, her children clinging to her legs. They never saw her again. Her abduction was one of the most notorious episodes of the vicious conflict known as The Troubles. Everyone in the neighborhood knew the I.R.A. was responsible. But in a climate of fear and paranoia, no one would speak of it. In 2003, five years after an accord brought an uneasy peace to Northern Ireland, a set of human bones was discovered on a beach. McConville's children knew it was their mother when they were told a blue safety pin was attached to the dress - with so many kids, she had always kept it handy for diapers or ripped clothes.

Patrick Radden Keefe's mesmerizing book on the bitter conflict in Northern Ireland and its aftermath uses the McConville case as a starting point for the tale of a society wracked by a violent guerrilla war, a war whose consequences have never been reckoned with. The brutal violence seared not only people like the McConville children, but also I.R.A. members embittered by a peace that fell far short of the goal of a united Ireland, and left them wondering whether the killings they committed were not justified acts of war, but simple murders.

Saturday 1 April 2023

Spell the Month in Books ~ April


Reviews from the Stacks

I found this on one of the blogs I follow, Books are the New Black who found it at One Book More. It was originally created by Reviews from the Stacks, and the idea is to spell the month using the first letter of book titles.

This month, we have a Freebie. And I chose "unusual titles"

April: Freebie

Since there are only four letters, I thought I might go for books with just one word in the title and found some with rather unusual ones. Or do you use the words Anathem, Pachinko, Ragnarok, Inkheart of Labyrinth often? 😉


Stephenson, Neal "Anathem" - 2008
The expression denotes a condemnation by a church that is associated with the exclusion from the ecclesial community. A science fiction book that takes place on the planet Arbre.
(I have used this one before but it is such a great title for this topic.)

Lee, Min Jin "
Pachinko" - 2017
This is a Japanese mechanical game that is mainly situated in game arcades.

Byatt, A.S. "
Ragnarok. The End of the Gods" - 2011
In Norse mythology, Ragnarök is a series of events, battles, deaths of numerous great figures, natural disasters, and the submersion of the world in water. I'd compare it to our Apocalypse.

Funke, Cornelia "Inkheart" (GE: Tintenherz) - 2003  
A book about magic and the middle ages where people believed in it. And - more importantly - a book. There is a beautiful library and some interesting characters that make the story gripping.

Mosse, Kate "Labyrinth" - 2005
A story about history and architecture, a story that spans over 800 years. Historical events from the 13th century are described. And probably the only title that means something to more than a few people.

Happy Reading!
📚 📚 📚

Six Degrees of Separation ~ From Born to Run to Number One in Heaven


#6Degrees of Separation:
from Born to Run to Number One in Heaven

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

This month's prompt starts with Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen (Goodreads)

While I have not read the starter book, I have in my possession another book by the author which I dip in from time to time, just to enjoy ever single piece of it. I will use that as my starter book:

Obama, Barack; Springsteen, Bruce "Renegades: Born in the USA" - 2021 (Goodreads)
And since I read several books by his co-author of this edition, I have to mention one of my favourites by him:

Obama, Barack "A Promised Land" - 2020
So, I could have gone from here to his wife, Michelle Obama, to Hillary Clinton and her daughter, Jo Biden, Kamala Harris, I read books by all of them. Or books about other politicians from other countries.

But I thought, I'd stay with music:

Dylan, Bob "Chronicles. Volume One" - 2004
There is even a link between the two authors,
Barack Obama the Nobel Prize for Peace in 2009, Bob Dylan received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016. Totally deserved.

And while I list a book by probably the greatest singer-songwriter of all times, I really have to mention my favourite. Neil Diamond wrote the soundtrack to the film of this book:

Bach, Richard "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" - 1970
I should probably try to find a good biography about him. Any suggestions?

And to stay with music, this is a nice description of a musician who, at the height of his career, left one of the greatest bands at the time and emigrated to Spain:

Stewart, Chris "Driving over Lemons" - 1999
Chris Stewart was the drummer of Genesis. If he hadn't left, we might never have had Phil Collins, so that's the positive side of this.

Since I can't mention all the musicians I love and haven't read books about all of them, I still have to go to this great collection of
Rock & Pop icons that have left us far too early due to an untimely death:

Simmonds, Jeremy "Number One in Heaven - The Heroes Who Died For Rock 'n' Roll" - 2006
Apparently, the author worked eight years to put together all the facts, He didn’t miss anybody.


The link between the first and the last book - as between most of them - is music.