Three Goats For A Scot

Thanks to my colleague Daniel, my project to read a book from each country in the UN plus from various dependencies and territories now has a name: WorldBookProject.

This is the current situation for mid-April, countries and territories #24 to #30:

  • Afghanistan: Khaled Hosseini – The Kite Runner
  • France: Émile Zola – The Fat and the Thin
  • Ghana: Taiye Selasi – Ghana Must Go
  • Isle of Man: Elizabeth Cookson – Mylecharane: The popular and most ancient Manx National Song
  • Navassa: The National Grand Tabernacle, Order of Gallilean Fisherman – The Navassa Riot
  • South Africa: Lauren Beukes – The Shining Girls
  • Zimbabwe: Tendai Huchu – The Hairdresser of Harare

Ever since its publication, I had avoided the Kite Runner, just because of the hype. But then, I needed a book for Afghanistan, and this one was available in the library of the language school where I work. It didn’t disappoint. However, I thought a few fewer coincidences and a bit more subtlety would have been better.

Zola’s book Le Ventre de Paris came in a rather odd translation. The translator left footnotes in which he admitted to having changed or omitted parts of the text! Nevertheless, this being my first book by Zola I’d certainly like to read more. Maybe once I’ve learned to do so in French.

Adjoa Andoh’s performance of the audiobook of Ghana Must Go was, as was the book, spellbinding. In parts the writing reminded me of Ulysses, especially the first part of the story.

Reading Mylecharane opened up completely new worlds. I learned that the life of a Scot was worth three white goats, that the killing of wrens was a pastime on the island, and that German poets Heine and Uhland are part of the national legend. For all interested in Manx language and literature, there is a lot more available online.

Navassa is a tiny island in the Caribbean claimed by the USA. Nowadays uninhabited, it was used for guano mining more than 100 years ago. Conditions must have been awful, and some of the workers rioted. The booklet I read is available online, an informative piece on the history of this riot and the court of law which followed.

So far, I’ve read three novels by Beukes, and I liked the Shining Girls best. Even if I think that it could have done  with a little less gore. In addition, it was good to read some sci-fi again, although it wasn’t easy to keep track of who was when and where.

Last, but certainly not least, the Hairdresser of Harare. When I read this book for the first time, I was more than halfway into the story before I realised where it was heading. Now that I knew, it was still a great read. As one of the characters said: ‘homosexuality between consenting adults behind closed doors harms no one’.


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