Ja, wirklich! (Regular reader, fear not. This is a one-off. Probably.)
In Oxfords eher unscheinbarem Vorort Headington gibt es vier reizende literaturbewanderte Damen, denen ich im August über einer Tasse Tee einen Blogpost auf Deutsch versprochen hatte. Daher der Sprachwechsel. Mein WeltBuchProjekt (ha, das macht auf Deutsch genauso viel oder wenig Sinn wie auf Englisch) lief in den letzten Wochen eher etwas ruhiger, da ich ja nach Algerien umgezogen bin. Nichtsdestotrotz hab ich es genossen, in die diversen Welten einzutauchen.
147 Germany: William Voltz – Der Terraner (Perry Rhodan Nr.1000)
Perry Rhodan ist ein Phänomen. Eine SciFi-Serie, die seit 1961 wöchentlich läuft, und der ich seit Sommer 1990 mal mehr, momentan eher weniger, regelmässig folge. Den Terraner hatte ich in den späten 90ern als ausgeborgten Heftroman (mit Originalautogramm) gelesen und geliebt, und brav zurückgegeben. Vor ein paar Wochen war der Roman im Sonderangebot als e-Buch erhältich, und … ist noch genauso komplex, humanistisch, fesselnd und gänsehauterzeugend wie vor 20 Jahren.
148 Latvia: Inga Ābele – The Horses of Atgazene Station
Vom Genre her war das Buch schwer einzuordnen, und demzufolge schon spannend. Prosa-poetische-Kurzgeschichtenaphorismenlyrik trifft es vermutlich am besten. Die Autorin reminisziert über ihre Kindheit, das Aufeinandertreffen von Generationen und Sichtweisen, und verliert sich dabei oft in Melancholie. Mir hat’s gefallen, aber es ist nix für schwermütige Wintertage.
149 Palestine: Ibrahim Muhawi and Sharif Kanaana – Speak, Bird, Speak Again: Palestinian Arab Folktales
Ok, ich geb’s zu, ich mag Märchen. Nicht den rosa-getünchten Disney-Unfug, sondern von der Volksschnauze weg. So wie hier. Ich war überrascht, nicht wie brutal die Geschichten waren (das sind die Gebrüder Grimm auch), sondern wie derb der Umgangston war (ein Scheisserli ist da noch richtig nett). Sehr gut fand ich, dass der kulturelle Hintergrund und Kontext zu den Typen der Märchen gegeben wurde. Das Buch ist, auf Englisch, frei im Netz erhältlich.
The eagle-eyed among you might already have noticed that there’s a new feature on the blog: reading through the ages. Of course, WorldBookProject is still going on, but I’ve only just over 100 books / places left to read. Hence my idea of doing something really long-term once I’ve read all the territories on my list. For now, here are the books I’ve read for WBP in the second half of August.
144 First Nations: Joanne Arnott – the family of crow
Long-standing readers of this blog will be aware that I love birds, and corvids are a particular favourite of mine. So it’ll come as no surprise that I was happy to come across this neat collection of crow-related poems and art. It describes the life cycle of the birds in an artistic way and builds bridges that reach as far as Ancient China (http://www.chinese-poems.com/lb13.html). A gem.
145 Jordan: Suleiman Mousa – T.E. Lawrence: An Arab View
If you have a larger-than-life figure like Lawrence, it is really tricky to get through all the layers of legend (or lies) down to what might be called reality. The book did so when it came to all the battles and skirmishes (where Lawrence apparently managed to shoot his camel and knock himself unconscious). However, I still feel no connection to the person behind the sagas. But I do have the feeling that this book makes a better attempt to unravel the mystery than any try from Hollywood.
146 Qatar: Sophia Al-Maria – Fresh Hell
Hm. Well. I don’t really know … This book was odd. Double pages where women spread their legs, followed by an artist explaining why this wasn’t pornography, were then followed by a poignant account of the horrors of the First Gulf War. Several of the essays and visual expressions connected the topic of oil, and the environmental and social disasters it brought with it. I’m not a very ‘arty’ person, but I agree that ‘survival is not sufficient‘ – and this book fits the bill.
Bath is a town full of art and a wide range of architecture. The most famous architectural style is Georgian, like the Circus. The city centre is a world heritage site.
Bath is also the only place in the UK with natural hot springs. It’s possible to go into one of the spas (which I didn’t), or to see how the old Romans did it (which I did). What I admired most at the baths in Bath, however, was a relic of Sulis Minerva, goddess of the hot springs.
My personal highlight was somewhat off the beaten track. Welcome to the Herschel house! Caroline and William Herschel were two astronomers who were famous for their telescopes with home-polished mirrors, and comet hunting. If you feel like walking in their footsteps, you can be a citizen scientist and help with one of the astronomy projects on the Zooniverse platform.
Having left Slovakia, we spent a few days in Thuringia to visit family. Someone had the good idea of going on a day trip, and because neither of us had been to Colditz before, we decided to go there. They have a website (http://www.schloss-colditz.com/index.html), but no information how exactly to get there. So, while we were driving into what we thought as the right direction, a public bus headed towards us, labelled ‘666 Colditz’. Uh-oh.
Well, we eventually arrived. There was a diversion, and signposting towards Colditz town or Colditz castle was much sparser than I had anticipated, given how important the place is, especially for British tourists. For the uninitiated: Colditz was an Oflag during World War II, and most of the PoWs were British. Having said that, there were also substantial numbers of Polish, French and Belgian prisoners.
This is what the castle looks like these days:
One can go on guided tours, where there’s a lot to be discovered, but we only went to the permanent museum and the special exhibition. The latter was about the role of Poland during WWII, in particular Polish resistance and prisoners at Colditz.
Have a look at this poem:
‘Kriegsgefangenenpost’ means ‘post for prisoners of war’. We saw more of that in the permanent exhibition.
The major part of this bit of the museum was about all the ways of escaping from Colditz. If you’ve ever watched a film called ‘The Great Escape’ – that did not happen at Colditz, but lots of similar stories did. I was amazed to learn that people escaped from this prison in the middle of Germany and made it through enemy country all the way to Britain or Allied territory! And Colditz today looks probably nicer than in the 1940s …
Of course, there was also some birding to be had, both inside and outside the castle.
All in all, if you’re in Saxony or Thuringia, and don’t know what to do, Colditz castle is certainly worth a couple of hours. There’s plenty of information available in English. And if you don’t have your own transport, you might actually get a chance to go by bus 666. Reward yourself afterwards with a home-brewed glass of beer in the pub Waldhof (on the western main road towards the town of Bad Lausick, closed Mondays and Tuesdays). Prost.
In my quest (and at times it really feels like one), I’ve reached a first big milestone. So far, I’ve read books from 100 countries or territories. 43 were written by female authors, 5 had mixed authors, and 52 were written by men.
I’ve also read some books from countries which I’ve already covered. Most notable here is Alix Christie’s Gutenberg’s Apprentice. Even if you’re only vaguely interested in books, how to produce them and the history behind it, this one is for you. And if not, it’s still a great read as a piece of historical fiction.
98 Antigua and Barbuda: Jamaica Kincaid – The Autobiography of My Mother
Great to be back in the Caribbean. And also great to listen to another audiobook read by Robin Miles (the first one was my choice for Somalia). I found the story engrossing and at times enchanting. The main character was very sensual, at times quite saucy, and her descriptions of the physical world made her surroundings really come to life. The bitter-sweet denouement made for a perfect ending.
99 Lebanon: Hanan al-Shayk – Beirut Blues
Firstly, many thanks to my Arabic teacher Zuzka for recommending me the author. I’m just afraid I chose the wrong book here. It sounded intriguing to read a book of letters from war-torn Lebanon to different people, to the Country or to the War. But I couldn’t connect with the writer of those letters, the addressees or any other character, for that matter. I think I’ll try one of the non-fiction/autobiographical books by the author. They seem to be quite different.
100 Macedonia: Lidija Dimkovska – Do Not Awaken Them With Hammers
And it was time for some poetry. What I enjoyed most about the poems was the author’s sense of humor, which was at times quite cynical. It left me with the reassuring feeling that I’m not the only one who finds modern life a bit confusing every now and then.
The books which I read for my WorldBookProject to represent Cyprus were both very special, for many reasons. But first of all, many thanks to Sophie Papatheocharous and her friend from the Australian High Commission who put me in touch with both authors.
68 & 69 Cyprus North & South
Aydin Mehmet Ali: Forbidden Zones
Lily Michaelidou: Arena
Before I read these two books, I ‘knew’ exactly three things about Cyprus: it’s somewhere in the Med, it’s divided in a Turkish and a Greek part, and people go there on holiday. Time and again, this reading project has opened new doors for me. The same happened here, and on several levels.
Sophie had sent my email to both writers who got in touch, and about a week later I was holding two beautifully designed books in my hands. I immediately loved the bilingual layout of Arena – I can’t read Greek, but it looks just wonderful and invites you to explore. And the strong, clear-cut lines of Forbidden Zones were sending out a message of ‘I’m not to be messed around with, but I’ll be honest and reliable’. It was.
Arena is a collection of poems dealing with a wide range of topics. The arena of life, filled with memories, travel, nature, people and much more, touched me deeply. Actually, one of the poems made me feel quite embarrassed. When it came to choosing a book to represent Greece, my first choice had been Nikos Kazantzakis, but then I decided to go for someone else’s book (it’s on my soon-to-be-read pile). And there was a poem about Nikos, and I was made aware how much he still means to people … Anyway, I found in all poems in Arena a connection to my life, and I very much enjoyed reading them.
Aydin Mehmet Ali has been called the most courageous woman writer in Cyprus, and Forbidden Zones made it clear why. It was certainly not an easy read regarding the topics: war, rape, domestic violence, being gay in a conservative society to name a few. But I felt drawn into them and I had the feeling of being a witness to real events. On top of that, I learned a lot, and not only about Cyprus and its unexpectedly cruel history, but also the writings of Robert Fisk.
Aydin and Lily, thank you both very much for sending me your books, and even more for enriching my life.