WorldBookProject – It’s Half Time!

Yep, reason to celebrate: I’ve read half of the books I set out to read in this project. So many wonderful discoveries in all those countries and territories – there are plenty of places I want to explore further, as well as many more authors whose books are all waiting to be read. In this post, we’re doing a bit more island hopping throughout the Atlantic and the Pacific. Many thanks to the Star-Wars-fan in the Balfour Library who used his Librarian Superpowers to find a misplaced book and to Ian Alexander for providing me with choices for Malta.

123 Jamaica: Erna Brodber – Jane and Louisa will soon come home

Hm. Who are Jane and Louisa? Why did they leave? Where to? Why do they want to / have to come home? I have no idea.

124 Malta: Stephen C. Spiteri – The Great Siege: Knights vs Turks MDLXV Anatomy of a Hospitaller Victory

That book could easily have been used as a brick in one of the forts under siege. The chapters about weapons and armor were not so exciting for me. However, I found it fascinating and was horrified by the human interest side of things. Seems to me that people haven’t changed that much – religion is still used as a smokescreen for ambition and power.

125 Niue: John Pule and Nicolas Thomas –  Hiapo: Past and present in Niuean barkcloth

A poet and an anthropologist write about an almost forgotten form of art. What a little treasure this book was! I shall walk through museums or exhibitions about the Pacific with new eyes.

126 Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha: D.M. Booy – Rock of Exile: A Narrative of Tristan da Cunha

Books or actually any reading materials from this British overseas territory are few and far between. I was glad I found this account of a soldier in a far-flung outpost during WWII. It was very much of its time – dominance of men, and specifically men from the British Empire. However, I liked to learn a bit about the local dialect of Tristan da Cunha: ‘Don’t cruelize the cat.’ is something you don’t hear everyday (luckily, for the cat!).

127 Svalbard: Ajahn Amaro – The hush at the end of the world: a pilgrimage to the Arctic wilderness

This book is a tale of what happens when three Buddhist monks go on a ritual journey North – not much, and that very peacefully. I loved how their calm and the silence of the places they visited came to life through the pages.

128 Tokelau: by different people or by groups of people for whom one person acted as a scribe – Matagi Tokelau: history and traditions of Tokelau

Finding written literature from cultures with an oral tradition is always a bit tricky. So I was glad that I stumbled across this collection by unknown authors while looking for something else. Most interesting and also terrifying was what is in all likelihood one of the earliest accounts of the effects of rising levels due to climate change: a flood, in 1987.

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WorldBookProject – Burkina Faso, Puerto Rico and Tonga

After a short reading break during March, I’m continuing with WorldBookProject. It isn’t always easy, but most often very enjoyable to dive into a book = a new reality = a different way of seeing the world. This was definitely the case for the three books mentioned in this post.

104 Burkina Faso: Malidoma Patrice Somé – Of Water and Spirit: Ritual Magic and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman

I was fascinated by the author’s autobiographical account of his initiation. It was very short, yet at the same time really intense (maybe also because he narrated the audiobook himself). His points about linguistic colonialism were of particular interest to me. I think what I liked most is his ambition to reconcile the ways of perceiving reality in different cultures.

105 Puerto Rico: Rosario Ferré – The House on the Lagoon: A Novel

This audiobook was well narrated by Silvia Sierra. It followed the story of a Puerto Rican family through the 20th century. It took me a while to get to grips with the enormous number of characters, but eventually I just went with the flow and enjoyed their experiences. It was equally exciting to learn about the local history, especially attempts to  gain either independence from the USA or statehood.

106 Tonga: Epeli Hau’ofa – Rückkehr durch die Hintertür (Tales of the Tikongs)

I haven’t read much of the Pacific yet, but what always seems to come up are these themes: abusive families, hypocritical clergy, and corruption (usually in connection with aid programmes). In this collection of short stories, all of this and more was beautifully wrapped in the cloak of jokes and satire. So, despite some sad and bleak events, I found myself laughing. I think this is a hallmark of good literature: it puts difficult occurrences into comprehensible and digestible language, so we can deal with the dark stuff on an emotional and a rational level.

WorldBookProject – Argentina, Luxembourg and Thailand

Yes, I’m still reading happily away until I’ve read at least one book from each country or territory on my 257 places long list. You might have noticed though that at the moment, there are a number of books appearing on the list which are labelled ‘non-project reads’. The reason for that is that we’re moving, and are not taking all of our printed books with us. So I’m trying to finish some of those before we say goodbye to them.

The one book that recently stood out from this non-project crowd was Petinah Gappah’s The Book of Memory which I listened to. Not printed, but …! The narrator was Robin Miles, who had also narrated my book of choice for Somalia, and she did a brilliant job. I especially loved how she portrayed all the different characters by giving each of them an identifiable voice. The story itself was equally gripping, in particular when it came to the relationship between Memory and Lloyd.

Now, here are the project books I read of late:

101 Argentina: Jorge Luis Borges – Collected Fictions

That one needed a lot of stamina. It’s a collection of short story collections, and yes, that’s as demanding as it sounds, but also quite fulfilling to look back on each finished collection.  Well, I had to go quite slowly, because even a rather short story by this author needs plenty of thinking time, but this is something which I enjoy. I have to admit that I haven’t quite finished the whole book yet, but have completed A Universal History Of Iniquity (1935), The Garden Of Forking Paths (1941), Artifices (1944), and The Aleph (1949).

102 Luxembourg: Margret Steckel – Nachttage 

This book, Night Days in English, left me in a rather melancholic state of mind. I enjoyed reading it, but didn’t like the characters. They came to life on the page wonderfully. However, they were not the kind of people I’d like to hang out with in real life, especially Margit. What I particularly enjoyed was how the Irish landscape, in which most of the story is set, grew out of the pages. Magic realism!

103 Thailand: Thongchai Winichakul – Siam Mapped: A History of the Geo-body of a Nation 

Now, here’s a book that was something I had not expected. It was a piece of academic writing which explored how the ideas of nation and landscape influence identity, and also how the fact that humans perceive themselves as parts of an ‘us’ influences maps, and what they show, and how. The style of writing was rather dry, but the content more than made up for that. I’ve got this feeling however, that someone who wouldn’t have to think too much about Thailand’s lese majesté laws might have made some different points about historic royal participation in map-making. But that’s just a guess.