Outsiders

August is the month of Women in Translation. So, while shopping around for more books to include in my reading project, I came across this blog post on the disparity between male/female writers and, worse, translated male/female writers. Shocking! I thought, surely I’m doing better than this and started counting …  shocking again. 19 out of 59 books I’ve read so far were written by women (plus two collections where female writers had contributed). There’s definitely much room for improvement on my part.

On a brighter note, many thanks to Flora Alexander for introducing me to Jean Rhys.

57 Croatia: Zoran Ferić – The Death of the Little Match Girl

I think, this novel has been the first book ever that I’ve read that had a transgender character. So I thought it would be a fascinating new world to explore. Sadly, the underlying stereotyping, and on top of that homophobia, made this book much less fun to read than the cover and blurb promised.

58 Dominica: Jean Rhys – Wild Sargasso Sea

This rather exceptional take on Jane Eyre added a much-needed voice to the choir of characters. I always thought of the Caribbean as a paradise on earth, but I’m beginning to realise how wrong I was.

59 South Korea: Han Kang – The Vegetarian

This novel is probably one of the weirdest books I’ve ever read. It started off quite funny, but then suddenly took a very dark turn. I found it one of these books in which no word is superfluous. It is a disturbing work, however, in my eyes absolutely worth the praise it has got.

Embalmed cats are shipped in waterproof plastic bags

Thanks to having been on holiday, I’ve had ample reading time, also for some books which aren’t part of this project. And thank you also to Michael for recommending Naipaul – I struggled, but persevered, and it was worth it.

54 Bangladesh: Tahmima Anam – A Golden Age

This book is the first part of a trilogy, but when I read it, it made sense as a stand-alone work. I thought that using a family as an example to guide the reader through the Bangladeshi struggle of gaining independence worked well. The characters underwent some unexpected developments, so I’m looking forward to meeting them again in the remaining two parts.

55 Portugal: José Saramango – The Stone Raft

Not an easy read! However, although this novel must be the epitomy of density, it was utterly gripping. The Iberian Peninsula leaving Europe, and the world goes bonkers. Reminds you of something?

56 Trinidad and Tobago: V.S. Naipaul – The Writer and the World

The title of this post comes from this (at times highly amusing) collection of essays. It took me almost five months to finish this book (and this was the second try, the first one failed miserably). I found it in parts enlightening. There were, however, also essays which had me baffled, mostly because of my lack of knowledge of Caribbean history. All in all, I got some fascinating insights into the author’s world during the second half of the last century.

A Geisha, a Manifesto and a Refugee

For my reading project, I read several books parallel, some of which are quite challenging. Yet, step by step, I’m working my way through. So far, I’ve read 53 books out of the 252 which are on my list, but who knows if this number isn’t going to change. I love the variety, and the discoveries I make are marvellous and sometimes scary.

51 Japan: Yasunari Kawabata – Snow Country

A big thank you to my former colleague, Michael Halloran, for recommending this novel to our book club a few years ago. Acutely observed, without a superfluous word, the book is great in its expression of the suffering of its protagonists.

52 Uruguay: Eduardo Galeano – Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent

While listening to this history of South American tragedy I kept asking myself why none of the Latin American countries has tried to take revenge on those who made them suffer over the centuries. I might disagree with Galeano’s appreciation of communism, but the book is a true eye-opener of what capitalism really means for people and nature. I wish there was an updated version for this century available. By the way, there’s an interesting article available on how the writer changed his position regarding this book.

53 Vietnam: Kim Thúy – Ru

This novel tells the story of Vietnamese refugees through the eyes of a child, mixing it with her adult experiences in Canada and back in Vietnam. I found it intriguing how the author explored what it means to live in a country and how your relationship with that country changes. A short book, but very much to the point.