Book-a-Day-Challenge Day 12

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This book is filled with short intriguing chapters, each chapter focusing on an important period of history. It starts with the Middle Ages / Renaissance and ends with culture and the world right after the fall of the Berlin wall. The chapters are divided by topics/countries like “Cervante’s Spain”, “Washington Irving’s Europe” or “London in the 1890s”. It is especially great if you have some of the books at hand and start rummaging through while leafing through the atlas. Its a great book if you learn about the background of the authors, the cultural history and how the books influenced their respective generations.

It is a beautifully little gem filled with interesting colourful maps, photos and illustrations, a perfect gem to loose yourself in. I especially like it when I go on a trip, to check out the literary sightseeings and things to do and which novel to pack.

I really would love an updated or extended edition from the 1990s to now.

Maybe I didn’t come across it, but I haven’t really seen anything like the „Atlas of Literature anywhere else. Do you know of a similar book?

Check out Judith Schalansky’s „Atlas der abgelegenen Inseln“ for more maps and another wonderful book to get lost in.

 

Book-a-Day-Challenge Day 11

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Just some adjectives that describe this novel, which is one of my favorites this year:

Tender
Raw
Heartbreaking
Beautiful
Stunning

Ocean Vuong didn’t just write a book; he opened his heart and just let it bleed all over the pages. You can tell he is a poet. Reading this shattering portrait of a family cracked me open and turned me inside out.

“They say nothing lasts forever but they’re just scared it will last longer than they can love it.

The book was published as „Auf Erden sind wir kurz grandios“ in Hanser Verlag.

What was the last book that had this affect on you?

 

Book-a-Day-Challenge Day 10

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Lord of the Flies is one of the most disturbing books I’ve ever read. It was certainly disturbing when I read it the first time and it still is. With a group of innocent schoolboys who are stranded on an island, the author portrays very realistically human behavior in an environment where civilization no longer has any meaning. At the rate we are going at the moment, this might were we are heading.

The book was published in 1954 at the time Britain faced the harsh reality which the country blissfully ignored before that it is not, actually the centre of the universe. The British Empire was actually  transgressing the freedom and the rights of other human beings. In the past British colonialism was often justified in a very self-righteous way to educate and modernise foreign „savages“. So this book was somehow an interesting deconstruction of white, Western supremacy.

There is of course a lot of racism in this book which makes modern readers often cringe.  You have Ralph who is presented pretty much from page 1 as the perfect white, blonde and blue-eyed guy from a private school.  I hope I’m not mistaken that I always saw it as Golding challenging the idea that the savages are the dark-skinned, uneducated people from rural areas who need to be rescued by superior western whites. I thought Golding was trying to show us how these private school boys with silver spoon up their arses are in no way better than the so called savages.

“I agree with Ralph. We’ve got to have rules and obey them. After all, we’re not savages. We’re English; and the English are the best at everything. So we’ve got to do the right things.”

The scary thing about story is how real it feels. The Lord of the Flies is brilliant dystopian fiction with a bunch of very real human characters that show you what might happen when they are thrown into a desperate situation. The line between humans and monsters gets very blurry. Golding shows us that we are not so far away from our primal nature and that it needs only some difficult situation and a little push to wake our darker side.

The story itself can sometimes be a bit confusing, many of the children don’t have distinct personalities, and little character development.

But if you want to read a really good book and are not afraid of being haunted by it for a while after you finish it, this is your book either to read it for the first time or a re-read after some time.

The book was published in German as „Herr der Fliegen“ in Fischer Verlag.

Has anyone seen the movie that was made in 1990? Is it any good?

Book-a-Day-Challenge Day 9

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The story feels like a very reduced film script which I think is very typical of her novels. There is a subtle subdued bleakness and very little that could be described as a plot. It takes some time to find your way around the get an idea of the characters and what is really going on. I really enjoyed the heavy dreamlike atmosphere

The only thing that moves in Laos the French said is the river Mekong and following the pregnant girl from Cambodia to India along the Mekong felt like this. There is this simmering slowly burning mystery to the novel only there is not really a mystery. This made me feel a little bit cheated at the end, like when I was a kid and forced my kaleidoscope open, only to be sooo disappointed when I discovered it’s only a tube of mirrors containing some loose coloured beads …

OK so we the young pregnant girl in Cambodia who is rejected by her family and sent off into the wilderness. She is sleeping rough, begging and eating whatever she finds. Eventually she has to give up her baby. The story than moves on to Calcutta to the Vice-Consul and his relation the the French ambassador’s wife. It’s not really clear what this part has to do with the pregnant girl walking out of Cambodia it’s only somehow clear she will also end in Calcutta.

Marguerite Dumas doesn’t give a damn if her readers understand, she tells the story from her perspective and I read somewhere it’s based on an encounter she once had in India. Not everything is revealed and explained but in order to enjoy the book you need to let the writings flow around you, like a wave.

I can understand that some readers will be turned off by her writing style, I enjoyed this weird little book, but would probably have had some issues if it would have been a lot longer…

Have you read anything by Marguerite Dumas before? Anything you would recommend?

Check out JG Ballard’s „The Drowned World“ if you would like to remain in a feverish sticky atmosphere or the diaries of Anaïs Nin.

Meine Woche

Santa.

Gesehen: „Lost River“ (2014) von Ryan Gosling. Wunderbar verspult, tolle Bilder, großartiger Soundtrack – auch beim zweiten Sehen einfach großartig.

Gehört: „Pain“ & „Fate„- Boy Harsher, „Lost River“ Soundtrack, „Intro“ – The XX, „California“ – Lana del Rey,   „#3„, „Blue Calx“ & „Cliffs“ – Aphex Twin, „wlr-t03“ – Whitelabtapes, „ssi aakt“ – wii

Gelesen: dieses Interview mit Emma Thompson und dieses Interview mit Edward Norton, The politics of fiction, The intelligence of trees, dieses Interview mit der Astronomin Virginia Trimble, the secret life of audiobook stars, Rescuing a shelter dog, sozialer Aufstieg in Deutschland bleibt die Ausnahme

Getan: eine sehr kluge Lesung von Antje Rávic Strubel im Literaturhaus besucht, kurz die Weihnachtsfeier und danach das Konzert von Boy Harsher besucht sowie innerhalb des Büros umgezogen

Geplant: ein Besuch im Dortmunder Büro

Gegessen: vegane Paella

Getrunken: 2016 Alejandro 

Gefreut: mein Adventskalender ist jeden Tag toll, aber besonders klasse ist mein Captain’s Log und über Princess Anne 😉

Geweint: nein

Geklickt: auf das großartige Interview von Theo Koll, eine Studentin hat versehentlich (!) einen Akku erfunden der 400 Jahre hält,

Gestaunt: über diese wandelnden Blätter und dieses Hologramm zum Anfassen

Geärgert: nein

Gelacht (bitter): I’m a woman in my 50s in Hollywood, what am I going to do? Play Sean Penn’s grandma in a movie that features Emma Stone as his childhood sweetheart? I’ll probably need to have a facelift just to play the voice of a wise tree in a Pixar movie, ” Take that old face and go and sit in the dark somewhere…’” (Emma Thompson)

Gewünscht: diese Vitrine, diese Lampe, diese Johnny Walker Edition

Gefunden: nix

Gekauft: 2 Bücher von Antje Rávic Strubel

Gedacht: Time to remember the best voting advice I ever heard: voting isn’t marriage, it’s public transport. You’re not waiting for „the one“ who’s absolutely perfect: you’re getting the bus, and if there isn’t one to your destination, you don’t not travel- you take the one going closest. // Debbie Moon

Book-a-Day-Challenge Day 8

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I met Eliot Weinberger at the International Literature Festival in Berlin 2 or was it 3 years ago, not really knowing him then. I had wandered into a reading, waiting for some other event to start and was mesmerized by his reading of „The Ghosts of Birds“. Afterwards we ended up chatting for a bit, he is a very charming intelligent person who I hear is mentioned often as a possible Noble prize contender.

He is a contemporary American writer, essayist, editor, and translator. His work regularly appears in translation and has been published in around thirty languages.
He gained recognition for his translations of the Nobel Prize winning writer and poet Octavio Paz.

The Ghosts of Birds/Vogelgeister consists of  a variety of essays almost unclassifiable and hard to describe. Almost essays but also almost poems he leaves me searching for words to describe his writings.

Some parts I really enjoyed – it is astonishing how he turns the most mundane topics into brilliant little gemstones of wisdom and knowledge. A books that you need to read slowly maybe preferably near the ocean, where you can hear the waves and the seagulls.

Parts of this book went right over my head but I didn’t mind I just enjoyed the rhythm of the words and the pictures my brain came up with whilst reading.

Check out some more poetry with Wislawa Szymborska’s „Hundert Freuden„, Sylvia Plath’s „Übers Wasser“ or these essays by Rebecca Solnit „Hope in the Dark / Hoffnung in der Dunkelheit“

Have you read anything by Eliot Weinberger before? What else would you recommend him or another writer balancing the fine act between essays and poetry?

Book-a-Day-Challenge Day 7

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One of the most beautiful books I own but then all of Judith Schalanky’s books are incredibly well made and astoningishly  beautiful.

Like the author I loved world atlases and globes as a kid (and still do) and constantly travelled the world flicking through or spinning them whilst lying on the living room floor.

Schalansky grew up in East Germany during the late 80’s and early 90’s, so her atlases were filled with a world that was unavailable to most East German citizens. She went on imaginary trips like probably many of us. When the wall fell,  she was faced with infinite possibilities to travel to these strange lands that had filled her imagination.

Judith Schalansky has produced a wonderful atlas that combines everything that us atlas-nerds love in maps combined with history and interesting stories. I’m also a sucker for good introductions, something I miss too often in German books. Her introduction really gets you into the mood and then we are treated to a multitude of islands arranged by ocean.

Each island has two pages dedicated to it, the right hand page a map at the 1:125000 scale and the left hand page shows the nearest other land and a timeline of discovery and significant events that happened on or around the island.

The stories are really interesting and range from whale hunting, Robinson Crusoes, idyllic atolls, atomic bombs, murder and Penguins to cannibalism.

It is amazing to know that there are still places on earth that are unknown. Visually stunning and perfectly designed, this wondrous book is the perfect gift for yourself or any fellow armchair-traveller that whizzes you off to the far ends of the world in no time.

And I nearly forgot to mention – I have been to one of the Islands in real life *looking very proud“ I visited St. Kilda’s some years ago a tiny island off the Outer Hebrides that had a tiny post office because they have their own stamps. I’m still looking everywhere for them now, I hope I still have my St. Kilda stamps somewhere. You could walk around this little place in no time, it’s always windy and the air tastes of salt. Would love to go back and maybe stay a night or two…

Check out Judith Schalansky’s other books „Der Hals der Giraffe“ and „Verzeichnis einiger Verluste“ and make sure you come by here again when I introduce another beautiful book of maps to you: The atlas of literature – coming soon 🙂