First of all, many thanks to Astrid for spending hours poring over second-hand books on what felt like miles of shelves in Oxford bookshops.
I thought all three books in this post were very good, but especially Fantasia and the stories from Guatemala were also gruesome. The wars between France and Algeria are something I had been vaguely aware of in a sense of ‘something happened’, but Fantasia really brought home all the atrocities people must have suffered and the loads their offspring still carry today. Guatemalan history, on the other hand, was totally new to me. This is one of the many fascinating aspects of my reading project – it makes me explore things about the world which I had hitherto been unaware of.
65 Algeria: Assia Djebar – Fantasia
This novel interweaves the lives of women from the middle of the 19th century to our time. It was horrifying and deeply moving to read about their suffering during the wars with France. At the same time, one could spot some rays of hope and reconciliation between the people of the countries involved. I listened to the audiobook in German, but for me personally a print or e-book edition might have worked better. Narrator Birgitta Assheuer did a very good job, but the structure of the book and the jumping between different eras meant it was easy to lose track. Although I guess many of the described experiences and thoughts of the protagonists are actually (and often unfortunately) independent of any era.
66 Basque Country: Bernardo Atxaga – Obabakoak
That the Basque Country has its own language, called Euskara or Basque, was something I learned by reading my book of choice for the Netherlands, Lingo. So it was particularly exciting to read this collection of stories which neatly made up the rich tapestry of Obaba, the village of the title. There were local idiosyncracies connected to Euskara or Basque-French-Spanish history, but I also recognised the village where I grew up. In fact, there were so many allusions in the text, and connections I only superficially recognised that I’ve got to reread this one (and probably several times).
67 Guatemala: Eduardo Halfon, Maurice Echeverría, Denise Phé-Funchal, Javier Payeras – Geschichten aus Guatemala (Stories from Guatemala)
As mentioned above, Guatemala was totally terra incognita for me. So reading these four short stories was exciting and also challenging at the same time. Since all of them dealt with the topic of war, loss of humans, and loss of humaneness, they left me deeply troubled. Yet I immensely enjoyed them, especially the one by Denise Phé-Funchal which had a really unexpected plot-twist.