Pula – Croatia between the Romans and Tourism

Situated on the southern tip of Istria, Croatia, Pula has a lot to offer. There is a substantial colosseum with an amphitheatre inside, all in very good repair.

colosseum PulaThe overall amount of Roman ruins or monuments was surprisingly high, but small wonder, since Pula was a centre of administration back then as it is now. If you look closely, you can see a plaque on the yellow building – this is where the writer, James Joyce, used to teach.

gate and James JoyceWith so many treasures to admire it came as no surprise that the town was crammed with tourists. I can highly recommend going there, but avoid the summer menumonths. The mild climate should make for a nice trip during winter, too. Oh, and if you’re vegetarian, pay close attention to what’s on offer:

 

 

Pula delighted not only with its Roman remains, but also with a lot of modern history, even spaceflight. Mr Hermann Noordung (or Potocnik), a local, developed ideas for space stations. NASA recognizes his work on their website: http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/imagegallery/image_feature_1217.html

Mr NoordungPula also has a shipyard and big marina. On the north side of the harbour there is an old military area earmarked for touristic development, but at the moment one can still go there, find large green lizards and enjoy a walk between more recent ruins and pine trees. Pula northern side

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Aruba?, Iran & Hongkong

Dear readers, I need your help. My quest to read a book from each country or dependent/contested territory continues. I’ve recently spent a few hours sourcing possible reads from all places starting with ‘A’, and I’ve been mostly successful. However, I couldn’t find any writer from Aruba (a Caribbean territory of the Netherlands). I’d very much appreciate if you could help me here – you can suggest a writer or a book (ideally in English or German translation) in the comments or tweet to @teacherkristina. That’d be absolutely fantastic!

60 Iran: Shahriar Mandanipour – Censoring an Iranian Love Story

What a compelling read! A love story, the issue of censorship and self-censorship, an introduction to Iranian literature and history, this book has it all – and so much more. You can read this work on many different levels (e.g. the semiotics of Kafka’s Trial both as a book and film and how it relates to Iranian books and films). I found it totally engrossing and am already looking forward to rereading it. Hopefully, more of this author will be translated soon.

61 Hongkong: Xu Xi – Access

As often the case with story collections, some you like and some you don’t. What I really appreciated was that fact that many of the characters were not some teenagers or people in their early 20s, but middle-aged or elderly people. Generally, I find people older than 40 or so woefully underrepresented as main characters. They usually are a detective with an alcohol problem or appear as an advisor and then die in the next chapter. So, this book made a notable and commendable difference.

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.