So far, I’ve finished reading books from 22 countries, just below 10% of what I’m aiming for. Here’s now a short summary of my readings during the second half of March. There are fewer books this month, as work kept me busy and most of the books dealt with tricky issues – I’m not the kind of person who reads stories about stoning women to death because of some silly religious rule in one go.
Firstly, the list:
- Egypt: Nawal El Sadaawi – The Fall of the Imam
- Iceland: Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir – The Greenhouse
- Pakistan: various authors – Grant 112: Pakistan
- Slovakia: Peter Pišťanek – The Rivers of Babylon
Sadaawi’s book was actually fairly short, but it haunted me right from the first chapter on, and it did so still weeks after I had finished it. The story is built like a spiral, in a way that a small set of characters lives through the same events (stoned to death, rape, hangings) again and again, with ever more hurtful details and complications. Add a good deal of non-sensical religious laws, hypocrisy, brutality and ignorance. Still, it is worth persevering. I loved the lyrical style of the author and I’ll hope to read more by her.
The rose boy from the title of this post comes from the ‘Greenhouse‘ where he, heavily influenced by his mother, learnt to grow roses. This botanical part of the book struck a chord with me, whereas the other storyline about rose boy’s daughter didn’t quite ring true. On the whole, the book made for an enjoyable contrast after all the killings since the beginning of the month, even if there occurred some deaths here too. The writer gave her characters lots of room to breathe and left a lot to the reader’s imagination, something I quite liked.
The collection of short stories and articles (both fiction and non-fiction) in ‘Granta 112: Pakistan’ was an emotional roller-coaster ride. Again, so much suffering, caused to a great extend by religious laws, but also international politics and greed. There were however, light moments too, plus lots of optimism. It was fascinating to read and I learnt a lot about the country’s history. But my overall impression was, unfortunately, that Pakistan is very close to the bottom of the list of countries I’d like to visit. Anyway, the book itself is very good!
I found my last book for March, The Rivers of Babylon, hilarious. A brilliant parody of life in Slovakia, from what my students tell me and what I can observe myself. The main character, a peasant turned small-time crook turned bigger crook turned politician reminded me a lot of … yes, if you think USA … Pišťanek just nailed it. The same is true for the every-day racism I see in this country – the good gypsies and the bad gypsies are just one example. The novel is the first part in a trilogy, and I’d love to read that one completely.