Dilara’s Winter Reads

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Dilara’s Winter Reads

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1Dilara86
Editado: Dez 30, 2019, 11:19am

Dilara’s Winter Reads: January to March



For my second year in Club Read, I’m going to have quarterly threads because 2018’s yearly one got too unwieldy.
I like literary and speculative fiction. I’m interested in world literature and am always looking for books in translation because I can only read in French and English, although I’m thinking of branching out into Spanish. I’ll be following Reading Globally’s themes again this year. My aim is to read as widely as possible, with a good mix of places and author backgrounds.



Carry-overs from 2018

  1. Histoire naturelle et morale de la nourriture by Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat
  2. Taste of Persia: A Cook's Travels Through Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, and Kurdistan by Naomi Duguid
  3. Les Boîtes de ma femme by Eun Hee-kyung****



Original languages of the books I've read this month:

  • French: 1
  • English: 1
  • Korean: 1




  • Number of female authors: 3
  • Number of male authors: 0
  • Mixed male/female: 0

2Dilara86
Editado: Mar 15, 2019, 12:08pm

Places I've visited so far this quarter:


  • The area covering Ancient Persia, ie Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, and Kurdistan
  • Korea
  • Newcastle (UK)
  • Gandiol (Senegal)
  • The trenches (Western Front - France/Belgium)
  • A fictional African country that shares similarities with Cameroon
  • An unspecified European (Germanic) medieval country
  • Beirut and Zghorta (Lebanon)
  • Morne-Galant and Pointe-à-Pitre (Guadeloupe, a French overseas department)
  • Paris and Créteil (mainland France)
  • Mexico
  • Medieval Levant
  • World War I Europe
  • Every Mediterranean country
  • Ancient Syria
  • Palmyra
  • Damascus and Ghouta (Syria)
  • A housing estate in Belgium
  • Tel-Ilan, a small village in Israel
  • Mayotte, an overseas French department
  • Palestine
  • Algeria x2
  • France (I stopped counting)
  • Vietnam
  • Serbia
  • India
  • A portuguese-speaking country (probably Portugal)
  • Paris and its suburbs (France)
  • Corsica (A French island off the French Riviera coast)
  • Sardinia
  • Sicily
  • Egypt
  • Syria
  • Borrby, Sweden


Places to visit for Reading Globally's Mediterranean World quarter (copied directly from the theme read thread)

In the Mediterranean:
- Malta
- Cyprus (& Northern Cyprus, not internationally recognised)
- and many other islands belonging to countries listed below: Corsica: Une enfance corse, Sardinia: Mal de pierres, Sicily: Le guépard

On the African side:
- Morocco (with two Spanish exclaves: Melilla and Ceuta)
- Algeria - Métisse palissade, Solitude ma mère, L'art de perdre: roman
- Tunisia
- Libya
- Egypt - Le livre des jours

On the Asian side:
- Israel / Palestine - Scènes de vie villageoise, murale, Contes populaires de Palestine, Fleurs d'amandiers et plus loin
- Lebanon - Learning English
- Syria - Rets d'éternité, Palmyre : L'irremplaçable trésor, La marcheuse, Ma circoncision
- Turkey

On the European side:
- Turkey - Anthologie de la poésie turque: XIIIᵉ-XXᵉ siècle
- Greece
- Albania
- Montenegro
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Croatia
- Slovenia
- Italy - Sardinia: Mal de pierres, Sicily: Le guépard
- Monaco
- France - Métisse palissade, Arcadie, L'art de perdre: roman
- Spain
- Gibraltar (UK)

Authors from Mediterranean countries

In the Mediterranean:
- Malta - Oliver Friggieri, Immanuel Mifsud
- Cyprus (& Northern Cyprus, not internationally recognised) - Michalis Pieris, Mehmet Yashin
- and many other islands belonging to countries listed below: Corsica: the authors of Une enfance corse, Sardinia: Milena Agus, Sicily: Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
- Generic - Atlas historique du monde méditerranéen: chrétiens, juifs et musulmans de l'Antiquité à nos jours

On the African side:
- Morocco (with two Spanish exclaves: Melilla and Ceuta) - Abdellatif Laabi, Tahar Ben Jelloun, Mohammed Bennis, Mohammed al-Achaari, Hassan Najmi
- Algeria - Salim Bachi, Boualem Sansal, Habib Tengour, Rabia Djelti
- Tunisia - Abdelwahab Meddeb, Moncef Louhaïbi, Tahar Bekri, Mohammed al-Sghaier Ouled Ahmed
- Libya - Mohammed al-Faytouri
- Egypt - Ṭahâ Ḥusayn, Abderrahman al-Abnoudi, Ahmed Abd al-Moti Hijazi, Mohammed Afifi Matar, Abdelmonem Ramadan, Iman Mersal

On the Asian side:
- Israel - Amos Oz, Avrom Sutzkever, Nathan Zach, Israël Eliraz, Nurith Zarchi, Ronny Someck, Haviva Pedaya
-Palestine - Mahmoud Darwich, Taha Mohammed Ali, Walid Khaznadar, Ghassan Zaqtan
- Lebanon - Rachid El-Daïf - Salah Stétié, Ounsi al-Haje, Vénus Khoury-Ghata, Abbas Beydoun, Issa Makhlouf
- Syria - Abû L-Alâ Al-Ma'arrî, Samar Yazbek - Chawqi Baghdadi, Adonis, Nazih Abou Afach
- Turkey - Gülten Akın, Özdemir İnce, Hilmi Yavuz, Enis Batur, Küçük Iskender, Bejan Matur, Nimet Arzık, Yunus Emre, Pir Sultan Abdal, Gevherî, Karacaoglan, Köroglu, Dadaloglu, Veysel, Asik Ihsanî, Fuzulî, Bâkî, Nef'i, Nabi, Nedim, Galip, Ziya Pacha, Namik Kemal, Abdulhak Hamid, Tevfik Fikret, Djenab Chehabettin, Mehmed Akif, Riza Tevfik, Ziya Geukalp, Orhan Seyfi Orhon, Faruk Nafiz, Nécip Fazil Kisakurek, Ahmed Dranas Muhip, Cahid Sitki Taranci, Nazim Hikmet Ran, Orhan Veli Kanik, Oktay Rifat, Melih Cevdet Anday, Fazil Hûsnû Daglarca, Cahid Kulebi, Behtched Nedjatigil, Nedjati Djumali, Attila Ilhan, Metin Eloglu

On the European side:
- Turkey (see above)
- Greece - Titos Patrikios, Kiki Dimoula, Katerina Anghelaki-Rooke, Michalis Ganas, Athina Papadaki, Yorgos Markopoulos, Stratis Pascalis, Thanassis Hatzopoulos
- Albania - Dritërio Agolli, Ismail Kadaré
- Montenegro - Slobodan Jovalekić
- Bosnia-Herzegovina - Dara Sekulić, Abdolah Sidran
- Croatia - Vesna Parun, Damir Sodan
- Slovenia - Tomaz Salamun, Erika Vouk, Meta Kušar
- Italy - Milena Agus, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, Andrea Zanzotto, Edoardo Sanguineti, Giuseppe Conte, Milo de Angelis, Patrizia Valduga, Roberto Veracini, Valerio Magrelli, Antonella Anedda, Isabella Leardini
- Monaco
- France - Emmanuelle Bayamack-Tam, Andrée Chédid, Praline Gay-Para, Taos Amrouche, Alice Zeniter, Leïla Sebbar, Riad Sattouf, Boris Cyrulnik, Yves Bonnefoy, Lorand Gaspar, Bernard Noël, Jacques Roubaud, Ludovic Janvier, James Sacré, Serg Pey, Jean-Pierre Siméon
- Spain - Antonio Gamoneda, Francisco Brines, Narcis Comadira, Pere Gimferrer, Antonio Colinas, Leopoldo Maria Panero, Jaime Siles, Luis Antonio de Villena, Blanca Andreu
- Gibraltar (UK)

3Dilara86
Editado: Fev 1, 2019, 10:18am

January reads

  1. Frère d'âme by David Diop
  2. Crépuscule du tourment by Léonora Miano
  3. La tour de guet by Ana María Matute
  4. Learning English by Rachid El-Daïf
  5. Là où les chiens aboient par la queue by Estelle-Sarah Bulle
  6. Mexique : le livre de cuisine by Margarita Carrillo Arronte
  7. Le diable dévot by Libar M. Fofana
  8. Rets d'éternité by Abû L-Alâ Al-Ma'arrî
  9. La Grande Guerre des écrivains : D'Apollinaire à Zweig by Antoine Compagnon
  10. Les Poètes de la Méditerranée edited by Eglal Errera
  11. La Syrie antique by Maurice Sartre
  12. Palmyre : L'irremplaçable trésor by Paul Veyne






Original languages of the books I've read this month:

  • French: 6
  • English: 1
  • Spanish: 1
  • Arabic: 2
  • Various languages (French, English, German, Russian, Italian, Arabic, Hebrew, Bosnian, Slovene...): 2




  • Number of female authors this month: 4
  • Number of male authors this month: 6
  • Mixed male/female collaborations this month: 2, 1 edited by a man, 1 edited by a woman


5Dilara86
Editado: Abr 6, 2019, 9:56am

March reads

  1. Le fils de mille hommes by Valter Hugo Mãe -
  2. Comme des fleurs d'amandier ou plus loin by Mahmoud Darwich -
  3. L'Évangile selon Youri by Tobie Nathan (unfinished) -
  4. Atlas historique du monde méditerranéen: chrétiens, juifs et musulmans de l'Antiquité à nos jours by Gérard Chaliand, Jean-Pierre Rageau and Catherine Petit *
  5. Une enfance corse, stories collected by Jean-Pierre Castellani and Leïla Sebbar *
  6. Mal de pierres by Milena Agus
  7. Les femmes au bain by Leïla Sebbar
  8. Le consul by Salim Bachi -
  9. Le livre des jours by Ṭahâ Ḥusayn -
  10. Ma circoncision by Riad Sattouf -
  11. L'impossible paix en Méditerranée by Boris Cyrulnik and Boualem Sansal -
  12. Masculins singuliers by Éric Holder -
  13. Le Guépard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa -
  14. Qui a tué mon père by Édouard Louis -
  15. Dosta ! Voir les Roms autrement by Michaël Guet -
  16. Meursault, contre-enquête by Kamel Daoud (unfinished) -
  17. Comment je suis devenue une beurgeoise by Razika Zitouni
  18. Aphrodite et vieilles dentelles by Karin Brunk Holmqvist
  19. La Méditerranée by Dominique Borne and Jacques Scheibling (unfinished) -
  20. Ainsi parlent les Français by Julie Barlow and Jean-Benoît Nadeau *
  21. La mère by Natalia Ginzburg
  22. Nagori : La nostalgie de la saison qui vient de nous quitter by Ryoko Sekiguchi
  23. Ma mère et moi by Brahim Metiba -
  24. À son image by Jérôme Ferrari -
  25. Le jardinier de Sarajevo by Miljenko Jergović -
  26. Le château de Pictordu by George Sand
  27. Je n'ai pas eu le temps de bavarder avec toi by Brahim Metiba
  28. La voix de Papageno by Brahim Metiba
  29. Ethno-Roman by Tobie Nathan
  30. L'art de la joie by Goliarda Sapienza (unfinished)
  31. Je ne parle pas la langue de mon père by Leïla Sebbar
  32. Œuvres poétiques by Cavafy -
  33. Zigzags dans les orangers by Ersi Sotiropoulos (unfinished)
  34. Comme deux soeurs by Rachel Shalita (unfinished)
  35. Les Français à table : La vie quotidienne des Français de 1900 à 1968 by Sylvie Lagorce
  36. Connaître la cuisine ariégeoise by Francine Claustres
  37. The Food of Asia by Kong Foong Ling





Original languages of the books I've read this month:

  • French: 23
  • English: 2
  • Portuguese: 1
  • Arabic: 2
  • Corsican: a smattering of words and phrases, as well as the odd sentence
  • Italian: 4
  • Swedish: 1
  • Bosnian: 1
  • Greek: 2
  • Hebrew: 1




  • Number of female authors this month: 12
  • Number of male authors this month: 16
  • Mixed male/female collaborations this month: 3


6Dilara86
Editado: Jan 1, 2019, 1:58pm

First of all, happy new year to all!

Here's for the first book I finished this year. Admittedly, I only had a page and a half left to read. I really wanted to finish it before the end of the year, so that I could start the new one with something a bit more upbeat, but it wasn't to be. I did not manage to fit those last few paragraphs in before having to leave for our new year's eve party...

Les Boîtes de ma femme by Eun Hee-kyung, translated by Lee Hye-young and Pierrick Micottis





Writer’s gender: Female
Writer’s nationality: South Korean
Original language: Korean
Translated into: French
Location: Korea, Newcastle (UK)


This is a collection of five short stories by Korean author Eun Hee-kyung. They deal with Korean women’s lack of perspectives outside the home, with a good helping of misunderstandings, disappointments and feelings of disconnection between spouses and family members. I cannot convey how bleak and depressing they are. This is not the best read for a cheerful start to the new year, but it is beautifully written.

7dchaikin
Jan 1, 2019, 10:39pm

Happy New Year. I do hate when time doesn't appreciate the few more minutes I need to finish reading something, but at least your off to a good start this year...and bleak and beautifully written sounds nice.

8Dilara86
Jan 2, 2019, 3:49pm

Thank you! The next novel on the list is even bleaker - in a different way - but also beautifully written. I might need a comforting hot chocolate or two (and a hug) once I finish writing its review.

9Dilara86
Editado: Jan 3, 2019, 3:00pm

Frère d'âme by David Diop





Writer’s gender: Male
Writer’s nationality: French
Original language: French
Translated into: N/A
Location: Gandiol (Senegal) and the trenches (Western Front - France/Belgium)


Well, start as you mean to go on… If Les Boîtes de ma femme was depressing, Frère d’âme was even worse. I cried a couple of times… The title “Frère d’âme” is a play on words between “frère d’armes” (brother in arms) and “frère d’âme” (soul brother). This is the story of the descent into madness of Alfa Ndiaye, a Senegalese soldier in the French colonial army (tirailleur sénégalais) after the death of his age-class brother, fellow soldier and best friend, Mademba Diop. This is the First World War. Alfa and Mademba went over the top together, and Mademba got hit in the stomach. His guts have spilled out, he is in excruciating pain and dying in No Man’s Land. Alfa is by his side, but unable to do anything to end his brother’s suffering. Despite Mademba’s pleas, Alfa cannot overcome his scruples and euthanize Mademba. After witnessing his brother’s painful and drawn-out death, Alfa loses his humanity. He revisits Mademba’s ordeal and his role in it over and over again, mentally but also in the flesh – by abducting enemy soldiers, wounding them, waiting for them to beg for death, then killing them and bringing back their rifles and severed hands as trophies. By the time he brings his seventh hand back to his trench, his fellow soldiers avoid him, because they think he is a witch, and his captain is alarmed enough to send him away to “rest” - ie, get psychiatric help. Needless to say, full recovery is not on the cards. This short book will haunt me for a long time. The African-inflected writing is poetic and entrancing. The plot is not totally realistic (Alfa would have to be half-man half-crane to pluck someone out of a trench with his bare hands, for example), but that’s not important. Symbolically, it makes sense. It's an impressive first novel.* I can see why it won the Prix Goncourt des lycéens.

* ETA: I've just found out it's actually his second. The first one is called L'attraction universelle.

10dchaikin
Jan 3, 2019, 12:56pm

Sounds crazy powerful. Wondering if Mademba Diop was maybe based on a relevative of the author.

11Dilara86
Editado: Jan 3, 2019, 2:55pm

>10 dchaikin: Wondering if Mademba Diop was maybe based on a relative of the author.

I've watched a couple of interviews he gave, including this one. He doesn't say anything about this, although with 200,000 tirailleurs sénégalais fighting on the French side (and 30,000 dead), it's possible...*

I bet this book will be available in translation within a couple of years.

*ETA: In this article, he talks about his maternal great grandfather, who suffered mustard gas injuries (but he wasn't a tirailleur sénégalais).

12baswood
Jan 4, 2019, 11:38am

>9 Dilara86: Thanks for the review, for me thats one to avoid.

13Dilara86
Jan 4, 2019, 2:52pm

>12 baswood: It is quite harrowing and definitely not for everyone! I found it moving, but had I been in a different disposition at the time, I might have found it too over the top. I'm not fond of gory details either. I think what tipped the balance in its favour - for me - was the language and the "soul brother" thematic. I'm not surprised it won the Prix Goncourt des lycéens, though: teenagers tend to like heightened emotions...

14AnnieMod
Jan 4, 2019, 6:29pm

>6 Dilara86: You can always decide that this year you are celebrating New Year's Eve based on the time-zone directly west of you :)

>9 Dilara86: Wonderful review. I wonder how well this book will work in English (or any other language) - even the best translator usually struggles with the atmosphere and the "we all know these stories" things that make up a lot of the power in this kind of books...

15Dilara86
Jan 8, 2019, 9:14am

>14 AnnieMod: You can always decide that this year you are celebrating New Year's Eve based on the time-zone directly west of you :)
LOL. In my case, that would be the UK's and Portugal's.

I wonder how well this book will work in English (or any other language)
If I'm right in my prediction, we'll know in a couple of years' time ;-) Joking aside, I don't think there's anything that can't be dealt with using half a dozen footnotes. Sometimes, readers need the subtext and culture explained to them.... I know some people hate them because they detract from the story. I'm the opposite. The more footnotes there are, the happier I am. Camarade Papa, on the other hand would need a very talented translator with a very wide skillset!

16Dilara86
Jan 8, 2019, 9:15am

Taste of Persia: A Cook's Travels Through Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, and Kurdistan by Naomi Duguid





Writer’s gender: Female
Writer’s nationality: USA
Original language: English
Translated into: N/A
Location: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran and Kurdistan


Naomi Duguid has travelled extensively in the countries that make up Ancient Persia - Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, and Kurdistan – tasting food and learning recipes from locals, especially women. Taste of Persia won the James Beard Foundation Award in 2017. It’s a hefty tome – half cookbook, half travelogue – written for the American reader (quantities are in cups and pounds), full of anecdotes and recipes, along with historical and cultural information about the countries she visits. The recipes are well-explained and detailed. She’s thought of plenty of workarounds and substitutes for rare ingredients and unusual utensils, which helps elevate her book from foodporn to an actually useful recipe collection. I only have one complaint: I wished there were fewer artistic photos of interesting faces, and more pictures showing what the food is supposed to look like. The photos are beautiful, there’s no doubt about that, but I’m a practical sort of person…

17dchaikin
Jan 8, 2019, 7:39pm

Yum. !!

18Dilara86
Jan 9, 2019, 6:05am

La Tour de guet (La torre Vigia – The Watchtower) by Ana María Matute, translated by Michelle Lévi-Provençal





Writer’s gender: Female
Writer’s nationality: Spanish
Original language: Spanish
Translated into: French
First published in 1971
Location: A fictional medieval Germanic land


I thought this novel might fit into Reading Globally’s Mediterranean World quarter, but it doesn’t. The author is Spanish, but the story takes place far from the Med, in a cold, desolate place where people have German-sounding names and the closest enemy comes from the steppes and has a Hungarian-sounding name. This is a coming of age novel describing the young years – from infancy to knighting - of the half-feral son of an impoverished nobleman destined to become a knight. There are bloodthirsty lords, scary ladies, cruel knights and dirty vagrants. And possibly also ogres and dragons, but we’re never quite sure. It’s not straight fantasy, being closer to fairy tales and magical realism in my mind. Getting into the story took a bit of effort, but then I was hooked. Just like in the other novel I’ve read of her (Paraíso inhabitado - Uninhabited Paradise), Ana María Matute creates an ominous, dream-like atmosphere, full of visions, half-remembered memories, uncertainty, uneasiness and disquiet. Loved it.

19LolaWalser
Jan 9, 2019, 11:16am

Sounds terrific. Also, can I just say how much I love the translator's name:

Michelle Lévi-Provençal

There's a whole "Med" story in it right there, from Provence to Greece and the Levant. :)

20dchaikin
Jan 9, 2019, 1:57pm

>18 Dilara86: another intriguing book. Makes me want to read a book with an “ominous, dream-like atmosphere, full of visions, half-remembered memories, uncertainty, uneasiness and disquiet.” : )

21Dilara86
Jan 10, 2019, 11:57am

>19 LolaWalser: It is a wonderful name!

>20 dchaikin: I've only read two books of hers, but the description applied to both of them, and I suspect probably to all of her work!

22Dilara86
Jan 10, 2019, 12:04pm

Learning English (Title for both the French and the English version. Because for once, there is an English version... According to the inside front cover, the original Arabic title transliterates as Lîrningh inghlish.) by Rachid El-Daïf, translated by Yves Gonzalez-Quijano





Writer’s gender: Male
Writer’s nationality: Lebanese
Original language: Arabic
Translated into: French
Location: Beirut and Zghorta (Lebanon)
First published in 1998


The narrator - Rachid El-D – learns about the assassination of his father in the papers. Ensue reminiscences about his childhood, his parents’ life stories, his father’s doubts about his paternity, his mother’s relationship with another boy/man, and his hometown’s (Zghorta) culture of blood feuds. Despite the humour and self-deprecation, the book didn’t really grab me. I wished I could have skimmed it because it rambled a bit in places, but I couldn’t because I had to pay close attention to make sense of it. Things were somewhat confusing, until the last 40 pages or so, when the different narrative strands came together and started to make sense. I don't regret reading it, but I wasn't moved by it.

23dchaikin
Jan 10, 2019, 1:05pm

>22 Dilara86: you always find interesting books I haven’t otherwise heard of. Intrigued by the perspective.

24Dilara86
Jan 11, 2019, 5:06am

>23 dchaikin: That's my public library's doing! Our librarians are doing a great job showcasing new - and old - acquisitions. And they buy quite a bit of translated literature, which suits me very well! In the past, I've lived in places where the local library stocked mostly historical romances, police procedurals and adventure books, and where the librarian would refuse to process interlibrary loans. That was frustrating.

25dchaikin
Jan 11, 2019, 12:54pm

That’s nice. I go to this little local kind of soulless branch of my library. They have displays and I still get excited until I begin to read the titles. But it’s a lot closer than the nice branches.

26lisapeet
Jan 11, 2019, 2:36pm

>25 dchaikin: Aw gee, as your resident library booster, that makes me sad. Then again,

>24 Dilara86: As your resident library booster, this makes me very happy indeed.

27Dilara86
Jan 15, 2019, 2:30am

>25 dchaikin: I've been there in the past. I'm glad I live in a university town now...

>26 lisapeet: What's a library booster? I did google it, but I'm still not sure...

28Dilara86
Jan 15, 2019, 2:33am

Le diable dévot (The pious devil) by Libar M. Fofana





Writer’s gender: Male
Writer’s nationality: Guinea - France
Original language: French
Translated into: N/A
Location: An small village and the capital of Guinea - Conakry


This might be triggering to some people.


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This is the story of Hèra, an obedient, respectful and hard-working CHILD, who is given to a brutal and dishonest pimp by her own father to earn the money he needs to go to Haj. The work is back-door only (her vulva is sown up without anaesthetic just to be on the safe side), so she stays a virgin from their perspective and can be married off to a rich old man in the village. Hèra is basically Cosette and Fantine wrapped into one, and just like in Les misérables, you know exactly what the writer’s morals are: he denounces corruption, fake religiosity, sexual exploitation, FGM, and the conflation of virginity and morality. I’m very happy that the book reflects my own opinions - and that baddies get their comeuppance, whilst our plucky heroine wins the day after a horrifying start and many difficulties along the way, but I must say the way it is done makes for a preachy, tell-don’t-show novel, which is not unpleasant, but feels quite old-fashioned and didactic (think Les misérables again).

29rhian_of_oz
Jan 15, 2019, 10:24am

>28 Dilara86: That sounds ... confronting. May I ask why you read it? I mean that in the sense of what was it that you knew about it beforehand that made you think you wanted to read it.

30Dilara86
Jan 15, 2019, 11:13am

>29 rhian_of_oz: I hadn't heard of this novel beforehand. The book drew my eye at the library because I like the publisher (Continents noirs - they specialise in African and African diaspora literature, which I look out for). The back cover mentioned the tension between morals, ambition and religious duty. It seemed to fit with my interest in the social and cultural aspects of religion, as well as family and social dynamics. I thought the novel would be less graphic, and more of a psychological study about self-deception and the way humans justify the unjustifiable, which I find fascinating.

31LolaWalser
Jan 15, 2019, 7:23pm

Sounds brutal, but still worthy. Although it gets harder, the older and more pessimistic I get, to plunge into harrowing literature, I don't believe in avoiding it altogether.

And I think there's something to be said for even the worst, most graphic descriptions of sufferings, because, the more comfortable we are, the harder it is to imagine how horrible it can be, to even grasp the situation fully. If you think how quick people are generally to discount the suffering of others, to believe it's tolerable etc., and the more readily so the more veiled is the language used, some violence in imagery simply becomes necessary.

32dchaikin
Jan 16, 2019, 1:41pm

>28 Dilara86: As I mentioned before, you always find interesting books that are so distant from what I know. What would a book club say about a book like this? Interesting comments above and really interesting to read your answer to rhian of oz.

>27 Dilara86: I think by “library booster” Lisa just means she really likes libraries and wants to encourage us all to appreciate them too. I don’t think it’s an actual thing, precisely. ?? Maybe there are library fundraising groups somewhere that use the term for themselves.

33lisapeet
Jan 16, 2019, 9:31pm

>27 Dilara86: Oh shoot, I'm sorry I missed your question. I just meant I'm a huge supporter of libraries—my day job is writing about them and covering library news, and they're also a passion of mine in general. I love to hear about libraries that are creative with their collections, that offer patrons goods and services they need and that they didn't even know they needed, and conversely it makes me sad to hear about the ones that are coasting or have given up the fight. I'm a cheerleader without pompoms.

>28 Dilara86: That book sounds... challenging. I don't think I would be up for it, and I have a fairly high tolerance for darkness.

34Dilara86
Jan 18, 2019, 6:01am

>32 dchaikin: and >33 lisapeet: Thanks for the clarification! Googling “library booster” indeed threw up library fundraising groups AND book gifting schemes for children :-)

I feel like I might have given the impression that Le diable dévot was a terribly harrowing read. It wasn’t really – not past the first half anyway - and I have a low threshold for depictions of violence. I’ll power through them in mainstream fiction if they don’t feel gratuitous, but I don’t read horror or crime fiction for example. It feels more like the author took a leaf out of the Victorian writing book, and piled on the hardships and pathos to pull on our heartstrings and make his points. It didn’t feel voyeuristic though, just overly dramatic (although I’m not naïve enough to believe that these events could not or did not happen in the real world, unfortunately). There were no lingering, pervy descriptions of any of the acts or bodies. As I’m writing this sentence, I’m realizing how rare this is, which is awful. Also, the narrative arc is optimistic even if terrible things happen along the way: the girl gets out of forced prostitution through her own resourcefulness, with a bit of help from friends. Some good people don’t make it, but none of the baddies go unpunished. You can see this kind of story being read aloud to people cheering and booing at appropriate moments! Personally, I disliked the “hamminess” and unsubtle moralising more than anything.

35Dilara86
Editado: Jan 18, 2019, 9:34am

Rets d'éternité (Al-Luzumiyyat) by Abû L-Alâ Al-Ma'arrî, translated by Adonis and Anne Wade Minkowski





Writer’s gender: Male
Writer’s nationality: Syria (then part of the Abbasid Caliphate)
Original language: Arabic
Translated into: French
Location: Poet's local environment (ie, the Levant)



Abû L-Alâ Al-Ma'arrî was born in 973 CE in a town called Maʿarra, near Aleppo and Antioch, in what is now Syria. His poems are classics in the Arab world, and your average educated Arabic speaker will be able to recite at least of few lines of his poetry, which for an author who died 1,000 years ago and whose work was partially lost during the Crusades, is extraordinary. Rets d’éternité contains a selection of poems taken from the Lûzumiyyat, which in its entirety is over 800 pages long. These aphoristic poems were translated into modern, straightforward French by Arabic-language poet and Nobel Prize contender Adonis and his French translator, Anne Wade Minkowski. The original work is written in a now-archaic form of Arabic and follows complicated rhyming patterns, no doubt to the despair of generations of schoolchildren, but reading this evocative prose-poetry translation is effortless. Subject matters feel amazingly contemporary. Al-Ma’arri is a bit of a pessimistic and misanthropic mardy bum. He thinks that the Earth doesn’t need people, and that people shouldn’t have children. Organised religion of any kind is a con, people are hypocrites, and the world is a Valley of Tears. In the foreword, Anne Wade Minkowski quotes Cioran, who speaking about Al-Ma’arri, said “Il nous a tous enfoncés” (He beat us all.) That gives you an idea of what to expect. I look forward to reading more of Al-Ma’arrî’s work.

Some of his poems:

O monde du mal
Nous ignorions que tes orants
Étaient de pieux dévots.

---

Combien de prêcheurs parmi nous ont prêché !
Combien de prophètes se sont dressés sur terre !
Ils ont disparu mais le malheur demeure.
Demeure aussi ton mal incurable.

---

La résidence sur terre m’est ennui.
Je fréquente une nation dont les princes règnent
À l’encontre de son bien.
Ils oppriment leurs sujets,
S’arrogent le droit de les duper
Et négligent leurs intérêts.
Ils sont pourtant leurs serviteurs…

---

Nous sommes dans le non-réel –
L’existence se déroule comme la mort,
Noces et funérailles se valent.


36dchaikin
Jan 18, 2019, 1:50pm

No worries in the pious devil, I think your comments generated interest.

>35 Dilara86: the more I read the less I know. Fascinated by this (I didn’t try the French quotes)

37Dilara86
Jan 28, 2019, 6:13am

La Grande Guerre des écrivains : D'Apollinaire à Zweig, edited by Antoine Compagnon with the help of Yuji Murakami





Writers’ genders: Mostly male, some female
Writers’ nationality: France (including colonies), also Germany, Italy, Russia, UK, USA, etc.
Original language: French, also English, Italian, Russian, etc.
Translated into: French
Location: World War One war theatres (front and rear, mostly Western, some Eastern, Alpine and Mediterranean – nothing about the Asia-Pacific or African campaigns)


This is an anthology of writings (fiction, poetry and non-fiction) about the First World War, from its first warning signs to its aftermath, with the last text – by Roland Barthes (1915-1980) - describing a situation that took place years later, when the author was in secondary school and one of the teachers would read out the names of the all the pupils’ relatives who had died in the war (such as Barthes’s father). All the usual suspects are there (Hemingway, Rupert Brooke, Siegfried Sassoon, Proust, Céline, de Gaulle (as arrogant as ever), Ernst Jünger…) but with 69 authors in total, Antoine Compagnon and Yuji Murakami were able to include a wider range of voices, such as women’s (Colette, Virginia Woolf, Marguerite Yourcenar, Anna Akhmatova) and colonial soldiers' (Léopold Sédar Senghor and Bakary Diallo – granted that’s only two, and Senghor would have been included no matter what). The choice skews French, but does make some room for other nations and experiences. I have one niggle though, concerning the subtitle: “From Apolinaire to Zweig” annoys me. Going by alphabetical order, it should have been “From Akhmatova to Zweig”. I guess Akhmatova isn’t as good a selling point as Apollinaire…
I think this was the last book in my World War One reading spree inspired by my local library’s topical Armistice Day reading list. It was well-made, interesting and I’m glad I’ve read it, but I’m also glad I can move on to something less dark at last!

38Dilara86
Jan 28, 2019, 12:24pm

La Syrie antique by Maurice Sartre





Writer’s gender: Male
Writer’s nationality: French
Original language: France
Translated into: N/A
Location: Syria


Well, that was a dud. This book about Ancient Syria was published in a popular (ie, simple) non-fiction collection. It was supposed to be a primer, but the text was incomprehensible. It was full of non-sequiturs and contextless references, and the book structure did not make sense. It jumped from one point to the next with no rhyme nor reason, like a scholarly game of cadavre exquis. So in the end, I just looked at the pretty pictures – and they were very pretty - and gave up on the text, like a six-year old.

39rhian_of_oz
Jan 29, 2019, 10:28am

>38 Dilara86: Well the book may not have been any good but I liked your review. The last sentence made me giggle.

40LolaWalser
Jan 29, 2019, 12:27pm

Those little Découvertes/Abrams Discoveries can be useful for indicating themes about something but there's little space for detail. I think they are cute--Ladybird for adults.

That's Queen Zenobia on the cover... poor Palmyra, poor everything...

41Dilara86
Jan 30, 2019, 8:54am

>39 rhian_of_oz: :-)

>40 LolaWalser: When they're well-made, they're great because they're easy to digest and they're a good stepping-stone to further reading. And at least, if they're rubbish, they won't have taken too much of my time... I'm pretty sure when I was young (late eighties, early nineties), they were shelved in the children's/teenagers' section of our local bookshop.

That's Queen Zenobia on the cover... poor Palmyra, poor everything...

Speaking of which, I've just started Palmyra: An irreplaceable treasure. I'm a lot more optimistic about this book. It's almost the polar opposite of La Syrie Antique. There are no photos, illustrations or maps, but the descriptions are so clear and detailed, it doesn't matter much.

42dchaikin
Jan 30, 2019, 1:20pm

Palmyra - wow. 2 esdras 15-16 takes the story of Palmyra and makes it into an apocalyptic/Judgement Day kind of vision or description (obscuring the historical references). Without that, I would have never heard of it before here. The book sounds terrific.

43Dilara86
Fev 1, 2019, 8:56am

Les Poètes de la Méditerranée (Poets of the Mediterranean), edited by Eglal Errera





Writers’ genders: All
Minority count: Küçük Iskender is a Turkish poet who’s gay and out. One of his poems in the anthology has a gay theme.
Writers’ nationalities: Every Mediterranean country
Original languages: Greek, Turkish, Arabic, French, Hebrew, Portuguese, Spanish, Catalan, Italian, Maltese, Croatian, Slovene, Bosnian, Serbian, Montenegrin (?), Albanian, Macedonian (?), and possibly other languages or dialects I did not spot

Translated into: French on the right page, with the original poem on the left page
Location: When applicable, the Mediterranean



I found this poetry anthology by typing “Méditerranée” into my local library’s search engine. These poems by 101 contemporary authors (ie, alive in 2010) from every country in or around the Mediterranean Sea were collected by writer and film-maker Eglal Errera, who did a very good job. Every place is represented, even the smallest, such as Cyprus, Malta and Palestine. The poems don’t necessarily have a direct connection with the Mediterranean, but many do, or at least, give a sense of the place. Obviously, I enjoyed some poets and poems more than others, but overall, this was a fantastic book. Since I’ve started reading mostly library books about a year ago, this is the first time I wished I didn’t have to give a book back. And of course, it’s such a perfect fit for Reading Globally’s Mediterranean World quarter, it almost feels like cheating! I get to tick all the countries on the list with just one book! Most authors were unknown to me, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to discover new voices. There were also some famous names, such as Ismail Kadaré, Andrée Chedid, Adonis, Tahar Ben Jelloun, Vénus Khoury-Ghata, Yves Bonnefoy, Jacques Roubaud and Abdellatif Laabi. After adding every name to the list of Mediterranean authors I’ve read so far this quarter (Post #2 above – every author that’s NOT underlined is a poet from this anthology), I can see that the majority have a LT page, and a good number of them were translated into English. There was quite a bit of cross-pollination, with some poets dedicating their poems to another poet in the anthology, or being featured for their poetry and for their translations of other poets’ work. I don’t know whether this is because the poetry world is small, or because Eglal Errera made her choices from a limited and possibly incestuous set of authors… In any case, the poems themselves were varied in tone, style and subject matter. And I loved the anthology’s multilingual approach, with the original poem on the left, and the translation on the right.

44Dilara86
Editado: Fev 1, 2019, 10:55am

Palmyre : L'irremplaçable trésor (Palmyra: An Irreplaceable treasure) by Paul Veyne





Writer’s gender: Male
Writer’s nationality: French
Original language: French
Translated into: N/A
Location: Palmyra, Syria


This slim non-fiction paperback was published in May 2016, following the destruction of Ancient Palmyra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, by Islamic State. It is dedicated to Khaled al-Assaad, Palmyra's head of antiquities who was murdered by IS. The text is a reworking of a long foreword Paul Veyne wrote in 2001 for an art book about Palmyra, Palmyre, métropole caravanière. Veyne’s writing is precise and methodical; his descriptions are clear, detailed and evocative. Stylistically, it reminded me of Lavisse’s history books: it was at once accessible and old-fashioned, with its use of the past subjunctive and its somewhat patronising view of the “man on the street”. Still, it is a very good starting point for exploring the history of Palmyra and Queen Zenobia. It would have been even better with a bibliography and a few photos.

45dchaikin
Fev 1, 2019, 1:24pm

The poetry collection sounds wonderful, but the book on Palmyra sounds devastating. It was destroyed before I even knew there was still a Palmyra left to destroy : (

46Dilara86
Editado: Fev 2, 2019, 9:54am

Such a shame about Palmyra, and Baghdad, and Bamiyan, and all those destroyed world heritage sites, wherever they are...

La marcheuse (Al macha’a - The Blue Pen) by Samar Yazbek, translated by Khaled Osman





Writer’s gender: Female
Writer’s nationality: Syrian
Original language: Arabic
Translated into: French
Location: Damascus and Ghouta
First published in 2017, French translation published in 2018, no English translation at present, but I found a summary in English here: http://www.rayaagency.org/clients/yazbek-samar/the-blue-pen/


Rima is a young woman who lives with her mum and older brother in Damascus, as it descends into war. She has selective mutism and is a compulsive walker who is tied at all times to either a piece of furniture or a relative to ensure she doesn’t run off and disappear into the distance. This is her story, written down with a blue ballpoint pen on spare pieces of paper, in the cellar where she ends up abandoned and unable to untie herself to escape bombs and chemical attacks. I didn’t hate it, but I found this novel unconvincing and I felt manipulated. At least, it was a quick read.

47Petroglyph
Editado: Fev 5, 2019, 11:23pm

Very interesting books you're reading. I might steal a few suggestions for my own TBR pile... Matute in particular sounds like an author I want to explore.

48Dilara86
Fev 6, 2019, 4:53am

>47 Petroglyph: I'm curious to know which books caught your eye!

49Dilara86
Fev 6, 2019, 6:17am

La vraie vie by Adeline Dieudonné





Writer’s gender: Female
Writer’s nationality: Belgian
Original language: French
Translated into: N/A
Location: A housing estate with identikit houses in Belgium
First published in 2018


Another library pick from the last Rentrée littéraire. It took some time to get to me because it was quite popular. I can see why: it’s an easy read and an emotional rollercoaster. No wonder it got the Prix Renaudot des lycéens. It didn’t quite hit the spot for me, unfortunately: I like my novels more reflective and understated. The narrator is a ten-year old girl who lives in a housing estate with her family. There’s her little brother Gilles, her mother who she compares to an amoeba, and her father, a hunting fanatic with a short fuse and a taciturn but violent temperament. One day, the children witness a horrible accident: the ice-cream van man is killed on the job when his whipped cream siphon explodes. From then on, nothing is the same. Gilles becomes sullen, and our narrator realises that the Hyena is taking possession of him, just like it has their father. She can see its malevolent glint in his eyes. There’s only one thing to do to save her brother from the Beast (which is pretty transparently “toxic masculinity”): go back into the past and change it, using witchcraft. When that doesn’t pan out, she turns to science with the eagerness of the desperate who can count on their high IQ (and the help of a quasi-Magical Jew who happens to be a disgraced scientist). Then, puberty hits, and with it, awareness that she has become quarry in the eyes of her father and of men like her father. The narrator’s world is dark and violent, but not without humour. For example, at one point, the narrator gets a puppy who she names Curie, after Marie Curie. Her mother misses the reference and has a collar tag made to Curry. This prompts her to change the puppy’s name to Skłodowska (Marie Curie’s maiden name), shortened to Dovka because what French speaker can pronounce Skłodowska? Her father immediately turns it into Vodka...
The plot was a bit holey in places. For some reason, I was expecting a subtle, metaphoric novel, which it definitely wasn’t. On the contrary, the author built a number of graphic scenes on the back of her metaphors, and she was quite heavy-handed with her symbolism. What saved the book for me was Adeline Dieudonné’s beautiful writing.

50Petroglyph
Fev 6, 2019, 8:50am

>47 Petroglyph:
Your comments on these books make me want to pick them up:

Les boîtes de ma femme
La tour de guet
Rets d'éternité
Palmyre

51Dilara86
Fev 6, 2019, 11:05am

>50 Petroglyph: Thank you for satisfying my curiosity :-)

52Dilara86
Fev 6, 2019, 11:07am

Histoire naturelle et morale de la nourriture (A History of Food) by Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat





Writer’s gender: Female
Writer’s nationality: French
Original language: French
Translated into: N/A
Location: nominally, the world, but mostly Europe, with a clear emphasis on France, and within France, Provence.


With over 850 pages, this is a doorstop of a book. There’s a lot of interesting information in it, and I learned a lot, but I’m also not sure that I trust all of it: the anecdote to data ratio is high. It’s a treasure trove of conversation fodder, but I wouldn’t use it for academic papers. For example, did you know that sycophants were the judges in Ancient Greece who decided on the start of the fig harvest and punished anyone who didn’t comply? I didn’t, and TBH, it seems there are many competing theories more widespread than this one. Or have your heard the provençal saying “Poumo d’amour qu’es bono viando” (Tomatoes make good meat - that is: meat tastes good when it’s cooked in tomato sauce)? This leads us to another quibble I have with this book: its Provence-centrism. Provence is the best place on Earth. Their food is second to none. Fruit imported from any other Mediterranean country (including Italy just over the border) is, with a few circumscribed exceptions, tasteless. It’s a bit rich coming from someone who complains about Parisians patronising provençaux (what an alliteration!) Of course, the book is also very francocentric, which made me cringe, but if I’m honest, it wouldn’t have been worth reading if it wasn’t for its insights on French culture (for example, quotes from Ronsard or La Quintinie, anecdotes from French kings’ lives…) It was translated into English, by Anthea Bell no less, but I’m flummoxed as to why it would be. There are British and American food writers working in the same vein… I also found the tone and jocularity very grating. That’s on me, obviously - humour is a very personal thing - but still, this is why it took me months to finish it: I wasn’t always in the mood for it. Not that I regret reading it. I got enough out of it to justify the time investment, I think.

53Dilara86
Editado: Fev 8, 2019, 10:56am

Scènes de vie villageoise (Scenes from Village Life) by Amos Oz, translated by Sylvie Cohen





Writer’s gender: Male
Writer’s nationality: Israeli
Original language: Hebrew
Translated into: French
Location: Tel-Ilan, a small village in Israel peopled with Jews and one Arab student (as well as foreign agricultural workers who are seen but not heard)


This book contains interconnected short stories about the people of Tel-Ilan, an picturesque up-and-coming village in Israel. This is going to invite comparisons with The Collected Stories of Isaac Bashevis Singer. I found the stories moving and well-observed, with a bit of cruelty and sadness – missing connections between people seem to be a recurring theme. One thing lessened my enjoyment of the book: parsing the text was not always straightforward. Some sentences were rather muddled, and I sometimes had to read a passage two or three times to make sense of it. I suspect the French translation was at fault. I might try English translations of his work next time.

54thorold
Fev 8, 2019, 8:12am

I was impressed by the English versions of this and A tale of love and darkness - both are by Nicholas de Lange, professor of Hebrew at Cambridge (presumably emeritus by now?).

55Dilara86
Editado: Fev 8, 2019, 11:43am

>54 thorold: Thanks for the recommendation. I'll definitely look for A Tale of Love and Darkness in English, then!

In other news, I'm listening to Corsican and Sardinian music streamed from the Philharmonie de Paris Website, which I'm accesssing through my municipal library's website. The concert is called Méditerranée 3 : Corse - Sardaigne and features Ensemble Constantinople, Quatuor vocal Barbara Furtuna, Ensemble vocal A Filetta, Paolo Fresu and Daniele Bonaventura. I should be able to stream Méditerranée concerts 1 to 5 (4 features music from the Near-East, and 5 music from Morocco and Andalusia). Speaking of Mediterranean music, there's a Provençal folk music group I love: Lo Còr de la Plana. They've sung songs written around the time of the Marseille Commune, sucha as Libertat (lyrics in Provençal and French) and Sant Trofima (Saint Trophimus, patron saint of communists ;-D). Background info (in Italian - I couldn't find anything in English - or French) and lyrics here: https://www.antiwarsongs.org/canzone.php?lang=fr&id=57522

56LolaWalser
Fev 8, 2019, 2:56pm

If you like early music, Jordi Savall's projects with Hesperion XXI (previously Hesperion XX) are very much worth looking into, they range all around the Mediterranean. They did "Mare Nostrum" (a Roman name for the Mediterranean, AKA mare internum, mare magnum) in 2011--here is a live performance in Venice from 2013: Mare Nostrum. The great thing about Savall is that he's deeply interested in the oriental and African parts of the tradition so they are richly represented.

57thorold
Fev 8, 2019, 4:53pm

I’ve just got back from a concert by Holland Baroque & Dorothee Mields, who were obviously taking a leaf out of Savall’s book - everything from Hildegard to Leonhard Cohen. Fun, but only marginally relevant to the middlesea, with one song by Charles Tessier, which I assumed was in Provençal but on looking him up I see it must have been Gascon.

58Dilara86
Fev 15, 2019, 4:22am

>56 LolaWalser: I'm kicking myself now! I could have gone to that concert (not the one *in* Venice, but the same program), but decided not to, because I was annoyed with Savall. The previous year, he gave a free concert in one of the smallest churches in my town. I was outside with my fellow peasants, waiting to get in, and looking at all the local dignitaries being ushered in through a side door. There were hundreds of us, and only a handful were allowed in, but we were told he'd come back next year for us. He did, but for a paying concert with Hesperion XXI.
I did get to see a number of other artists from the Mediterranean over the years though, such as Dorsaf Hamdani, Waed Bouhassoun and Sirventés. My local theater had a Mediterranean season a couple of years ago, which helped. And with the war in Syria, we've had an influx of Syrian musicians touring Europe, such as the Whirling Dervishes Of Damascus.

59Dilara86
Fev 15, 2019, 8:13am

Murale (Mural) by Mahmoud Darwich, translated by Elias Sanbar





Writer’s gender: Male
Writer’s nationality: Palestinian
Original language: Arabic
Translated into: French
Location: mostly N/A, also the Near-East


Darwish’s poetry is lyrical, evocative and very accessible.

60Dilara86
Editado: Fev 15, 2019, 9:08am

Tropique de la violence by Nathacha Appanah





Writer’s gender: Female
Writer’s nationality: Mauritius, with Indian ancestry
Original language: French
Translated into: N/A
Location: Mayotte (a French overseas department in the Comoros Archipelago, half-way between Africa and Madagascar), especially Kaweni, a shanty town nicknamed Gaza, in the outskirts of Mamoudzou. This is an article Appanah wrote about Gaza in 2016: https://www.liberation.fr/debats/2016/07/05/mayotte-de-l-ile-aux-enfants-a-la-po....


Nathacha Appanah is a Mauritian author who lives in France and writes in French. Although not a Mayotte native, she lived there from 2008 to 2010, then again in 2016, when she was writing Tropique de la violence, at a time of civil unrest in the island, due to poverty, lack of jobs, opportunities and public services, as well as friction between the local Maorais and the ever-increasing Comorian immigrant population (about half the population are foreign nationals, there legally or illegally, and the island has an eye-watering density of 682 inhabitants per km²). Basically, the Comoros archipelago is made up of the Comoros Union – an independent country – and the island of Mayotte, which is a French overseas territory because its population voted to stay French when the other islands voted for independence back in the seventies. The poverty and lack of investment in Mayotte is shocking, but it’s even worse in the Comoros, which is why Comorians have been emigrating to Mayotte, using frail wooden boats called kwassa-kwassa. Then Macron put oil on the fire with his quip about kwassa-kwassa in 2017 (https://www.lemonde.fr/afrique/article/2017/06/05/apres-les-propos-choquants-de-...), and Appanah’s book became topical.
Through multiple narrators, Tropique de la violence tells the story of sixteen-year-old Moïse, who was given as a baby to Marie, a white French nurse, by his Comorian mother just rescued from a kwassa-kwassa. When his adoptive mother dies, he ends up on the street in Gaza and in a gang whose leader he kills. The descriptions of gang violence, dominance struggles, prejudice and poverty have all been done before, but possibly not in a Maorais setting, and this makes a difference I think, as does the quality of the writing.
Interestingly, I’ve only read two books that take place in the Comoros, and they’re polar opposites: Tropique de la violence takes place in Mayotte, where Comorians are seen as trespassers. Its style is gritty and realistic, whereas Anguille sous roche (A Girl Called Eel) by Ali Zamir is dreamy and poetic, and about a teenage girl who lives in Anjouan in the Comoros, and wants to escape to Mayotte.

61Dilara86
Fev 15, 2019, 9:51am

Métisse palissade by Eugène Ébodé





Writer’s gender: Male
Writer’s nationality: Born in Cameroon, lives in France – no idea what passport(s) he has
Original language: France
Translated into: N/A
Location: a house somewhere between Aix-en-Provence and Gardanne, Nîmes (France), Algiers (Algeria)


I chose this book because it takes place on both sides of the Mediterranean: in Algeria (mainly Algiers), Roussillon and Provence. Our narrator, a young doctor whose father is Cameroonian and a writer and whose mother is white, French and Provençale, dissects his parent’s marriage and divorce, his father’s philandering and his father’s subsequent disappearance. It’s pretty clear the Cameroonian Don Juan father is a version of Ébodé himself. The book is quite self-indulgent and inobservant. Dialogues are overwritten and unrealistic. No suspension of disbelief for me.

62Dilara86
Fev 15, 2019, 10:12am

Aya de Yopougon (Tome 1) (Aya) by Marguerite Abouet (writer) and Clément Oubrerie (illustrator)





Writer’s gender: Female
Illustrator’s gender: Male
Writer’s nationality: Ivory Coast
Illustrator’s nationality: France
Original language: French (Ivorian-inflected)
Translated into: N/A
Location: Yopougon an Abidjan neighbourhood, Ivory Coast


In this graphic novel illustrated by her husband Clément Oubrerie, Marguerite Abouet tells the story of three older teenage girls living in Yopougon, a working-class neighbourhood in Abidjan in 1978. Ther’s Aya, the goodie-two-shoes who works hard at school and wants to be a doctor, and fun- and boy-loving Adjoua and Bintou. The story was a bit cliché and nothing to write home about, but the language used in the dialogues was everything! It’s so refreshing to read non-standard French – in this case, Ivorian French. Thank God for the glossary at the end.

63Dilara86
Fev 16, 2019, 11:56am

Poursuites by Andrée Chedid, illustrated by Xavier





Writer’s gender: Female
Writer’s nationality: French (born in Egypt, Lebanese-Syrian Maronite ancestry)
Original language: French
Translated into: N/A
Location: N/A
First published in 2003


Andrée Chedid was born in Egypt of Lebanese and Syrian parents. For some reason, I thought her family was Sephardic, but they’re not: they’re Maronite Christians. She and her husband moved to France after the war and became French citizens. Outside of poetry anthologies, this is the first time I’ve read one of her works since being traumatised by The Sixth Day as a child. I could not understand why a book as anxiety-inducing as this one could exist – or be made available to children... Someone – not me – actually tagged it “Depressing” on LT! I should really read it again: I’m pretty sure I’d like it now – or at least appreciate it more.
Anyway. Poursuites is a book of short and deceptively simple poems illustrated in black and white by an artist called Xavier who I couldn’t find anything about. The drawings didn’t do anything for me, but I liked the poems.

64Dilara86
Editado: Fev 19, 2019, 9:57am

Contes populaires de Palestine by Praline Gay-Para





Writer’s gender:
Writer’s nationality: French (Lebanese origins)
Original language: Arabic, translated or adapted into French directly from the Arabic, or via a previous English translation
Translated into: French
Location: Palestine
First published in 2003


This short book contains sixteen Palestinian folktales from different sources, including Speak, Bird, Speak Again: Palestinian Arab Folktales, translated and/or retold by the wonderfully-named storyteller and ethnolinguist Praline Gay-Para. It was a pleasant read.
I found an interesting interview with Praline Gay-Para in French
« Pour préparer ma thèse de troisième cycle sur les contes libanais, j’ai voulu aller sur le terrain collecter des contes. C’était en pleine guerre, et comme j’étais bien jeune, je pensais que les gens n’avaient que cela à faire : me raconter des contes ! Mais ce n’était pas si évident et j’ai reçu alors la plus belle leçon de ma vie : pour avoir le droit d’écouter des histoires, il faut d’abord en raconter ! »

« Pour ce recueil, j’en ai exploité plusieurs. Je possédais déjà trois recueils édités en Égypte : des contes d’Irak, de Palestine et d’Égypte. J’ai également utilisé un ouvrage formidable issu d’un collectage et publié par des Américains sociologues d’origine palestinienne : Speak Birds, Speak Again. Ce livre est très intéressant parce qu’y figurent les villages où ils ont été recueillis, la date, l’identité des narrateurs enregistrés et, de plus, la traduction est très fidèle. J’ai aussi utilisé un autre recueil où figuraient des contes collectés à la radio dans les années 20 et la revue d’une ONG palestinienne basée à Beyrouth qui, à chaque numéro, publie un ou deux contes. Mais je n’utilise que des collectages et jamais de textes d’auteurs. »


ETA: the striking cover art is by Laila Shawa

65Dilara86
Editado: Fev 21, 2019, 10:16am

Poèmes serbes (Serbian poems) by Sava Mrkalj, Petar Petrović-Njegoš, Branko Radičević, Đura Jakšić, Laza Kostić, Vojislav Ilić, Jovan Dučić, Milan Racić, Vladislav Petrović Dis, Milan Ćurčin, Sima Pandurović, Jela Spiridonović-Savić, Ivo Andrić, Miloš Crnjanski, Momčilo Nastasijević, Rastko Petrović, Rade Drainac, Risto Ratković, Oskar Davičo, Branko Milković, afterword by Milovan Danojlić
chosen and translated by Jean-Marc Bordier





Writers’s genders: Mainly male
Writers’ nationality: Serbian
Original language: Serbian
Translated into: French
Location: N/A, Serbia, Kosovo, Yugoslavia…
First published in 2002


This collection of Serbian poems translated into French was published by a Serbian publishing house called Plato (written with Greek letters, for extra kudos). They were written by 19th and 20th century poets, and as is too often the case with literature from small countries, I hadn’t heard of any of them, apart from Ivo Andrić. With the exception of a couple of works in free verse, the poems were made to rhyme in French, which means they were pretty much doggerel and sounded awful. The name of the game was to change word orders to make each line end with the right sound. It was comical and reminded me of Monsieur Jourdain’s letter-writing efforts in Molière's Le bourgeois-gentilhomme/Bourgeois Gentleman: video in French from Molière (the movie) here and a video in English of the right passage in the play here. I couldn’t take the poetry seriously, which is a shame. On the other hand, it made me think that I should perhaps revisit Molière, now that I'm older and better-read (I hated his plays with a passion at school)!
Link to a page on Serbian literature: https://serbica.u-bordeaux-montaigne.fr/index.php/bibliographie/ecrivains-et-oeu... for future exploration

66LolaWalser
Fev 22, 2019, 12:03pm

Although I don't know what is the original language of the relevant poems in that collection, it may be worth noting that Njegoš was Montenegrin, not Serbian, and wrote in Montenegrin ijekavian language, not Serbian ekavian. Andrić was an ethnic Croat from Bosnia, a convinced Yugoslav (he was a diplomat in the kingdom of Yugoslavia), and wrote in both Croatian and Serbian (or as we might specify today, in Croatian, Bosnian and Serbian). It may be interesting to note that Oskar Davičo was Jewish (not religious though AFAIK).

As for the rest, I've heard of, if not read, most of those poets and they are indeed some of the greatest names in Serbian literature.

Pity about the translation, some of the writers I recognise here have gorgeous works. Poetry suffers the worst... should you happen to be interested in reading more, I can at least recommend the prose of Davičo, Crnjanski and of course Andrić.

67dchaikin
Fev 24, 2019, 4:46pm

Cathing up, such a mix of cultures. Just posting to say I enjoyed these and I’m curious about those Palestinian folk tales.

68Dilara86
Fev 26, 2019, 5:06am

>66 LolaWalser: Thank you, your post was the perfect springboard for exploring the Bosnian, Serbian and Croatian language(s). Incidently, when I looked up "ijekavian" and "ekavian", the result that stood out on Google went "Q: What is the difference between Ekavian and Ijekavian Serbian? - A: What mostly changes are the consonants and vowels." :-D (they then explain in what way, and only a couple of vowels/consonants change, but the sentence reproduced out of context on Google's results page was too funny not to mention.)

>67 dchaikin: Me too! I actually added Speak, Bird, Speak Again: Palestinian Arab Folktales (Touchstones are being uncooperative this morning) to my wishlist. It looks like it contains a lot more tales than the book I read.

69LolaWalser
Fev 26, 2019, 11:45am

>68 Dilara86:

It probably won't surprise you to hear this topic is a minefield. I would approach whatever Google throws up with greatest care and scepticism. The question you quote, while it could be due to ignorance or misunderstanding, packs premises that typically signal a Serbian nationalist/expansionist agenda.

70Dilara86
Editado: Mar 1, 2019, 5:21am

De haute lutte by Ambai, translated by Dominique Vitalyos and Krishna Nagarathinam



(On my screen, the colours on the cover look very shiny and metallic. They’re actually not. It’s all done with some clever grey shading.)


Writer’s gender: Female
Writer’s nationality: India
Original language: Tamil
Translated into: French
Location: Various places in India (including Benares and Chennai), mostly in the South



The four stories in De haute lutte are most probably available in English, but I don’t know whether they were published together, and can be combined with one of Ambai’s English-titled works. Having said that, In A Forest, A Deer: Stories has to contain at least one story from the collection I’m reading : the last one titled La forêt in French.

This is the first book (originally) written in Tamil I’ve ever read, and I’m not regretting it. Translations from Tamil are few and far between, so when I spotted this book at the library, I had to get it even though I’m not fond of short stories. The translation flows beautifully. I did find a couple of spelling mistakes at the beginning, but they did not detract from the story and if there were more further on, I stopped noticing. The author gives a definite South Indian flavour to her female-centered - and in my opinion, feminist - stories, with endless references to concepts, texts, authors and music I wasn’t familiar with (it’s on the highbrow side). I often felt terribly out of my depth regarding cultural references, but the stories resonated with me. And thankfully, there are glossaries at the end of the book. Yes, that’s “glossaries” in the plural: one for forms of address, one for everyday objects, foods and concepts, one for mythology, one for the four stages of life in Hinduism, one for music and dance, and then there’s a list of personalities, poets and singers, and another list for writings. They were all very useful and made googling or searching for stuff on Youtube very easy, but 1) I wished I had noticed them right at the start and not when I was already halfway-through; 2) the problem with separate glossaries and no reference marks pointing to the right endnote is that you have to know to which category the word belongs – and then, hope it’s in there (which it will be: the translators were very thorough). Nine times out of ten, it’s obvious from the context, but sometimes, it isn’t.

Interview with one of the translators – Dominique Vitalyos: https://journals.openedition.org/traduire/659. She pitched the book – and her and Krishna Nagarathinam's translation - to the publisher. I'll be actively looking for her other translations.
Krishna Nagarathinam is also a writer and award-winning translator in his own right. He translated Bonjour tristesse, Le Procès-verbal (The Interrogation), and others into Tamil. The fact that his day job is working in an Indian corner shop makes me sad. Here's an interview: http://www.indereunion.net/actu/chassecroise/interNKrishna.htm

71Dilara86
Editado: Mar 1, 2019, 7:37am

L'art de perdre (The Art of Losing) by Alice Zeniter





Writer’s gender: female
Writer’s nationality: French
Original language: French
Translated into: N/A
Location: France and Algeria


The title is taken from One Art, a poem by Elizabeth Bishop - https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/one-art that starts with this:
The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

(There are a number of other literary references, usually to Mediterranean classics, such as the Eneid and the Odyssey.)


L’art de perdre has been on my radar for quite some time. It won the Prix Goncourt des lycéens in 2017 and was shortlisted for the Goncourt main prize and the Femina. It was probably one of the most publicised books in 2017-2018, no doubt helped by the fact that its writer, Alice Zeniter, is very good on TV.

It tells the story of Ali, an Algerian – and most importantly Kabyle – peasant, his son Hamid, and granddaughter Naïma. Despite having no love for the French colonial forces, Ali ends up on the side of the native collaborators in the Algerian war of independence, having been forced to submit to the French army in order to protect his family and village from the exactions of a rival family close to the FLN (Algerian National Liberation Front). When Algeria becomes independent in 1962, he and thousands of harkis and pieds noirs are repatriated to mainland France, where they are definitely not welcome with open arms. For the most part, harkis* were parked in terrible conditions in work camps, the last of which was closed in the eighties.
There are some very moving pages about the cultural divides and misunderstandings between French mainstream society and Algerian immigrants. Hamid adapts to his new country and in so doing, pretty much rejects his family’s way of life. He marries a French woman and has four daughters, including one of the main protagonists, Naïma, whose first journey to Algeria is the catalyst for the whole novel. The book is a bit of a mixed bag for me. Zeniter isn’t much of stylist (it wasn’t bad, just uninteresting) and I could have done with fewer infodumps and a more original narrative arc, but she does what she (presumably) set out to do very well, which is to shed light on a neglected and misunderstood community - the harkis – by writing a novel that’s, all in all, engaging and very readable.

* There’s a bit about the etymology and meaning of the word harki in the book which I think is interesting. Strictly-speaking, a harki was a member of specific paramilitary groups under the commandment of the French Army. Other Algerians who were unwelcome or even actively threatened after the Independence, such as native colonial workers, should not be called harkis. This is all the more true for their descendants, who took absolutely no part in the war.

A quote :
“À l’école, Annie apprend que la Méditerranée traverse la France comme la Seine traverse Paris.”

72Dilara86
Editado: Mar 1, 2019, 10:35am

À mon âge je me cache encore pour fumer (I still hide to smoke – link to the imdb page) by Rayhana





Writer’s gender: Female
Writer’s nationality: Algeria (and possibly French as well)
Original language: Arabic peppered with French (with French or English subtitles)
Location: a hammam in Algiers (Algeria)


This is a film, but I wanted to include it in the conversation because it is also a published play ( À mon âge je me cache encore pour fumer ) and it is Mediterranean through and through. It is an Algerian, French and Greek collaboration, shot in Algiers and in disused Turkish baths in Thessaloniki, with actors from Algeria, France, Greece, and Israel (Hiam Abbass). Its writer and director, Rayhana, an Algerian actor, playwright and director, had an eventful life. Her father was an Algerian Independence fighter, and she discovered as an adult that her biological mother was a Dutch nurse and not her father’s wife. She left Algeria during the “années de plomb”, that is, the civil war between the government and islamists in the nineties. She was in the news back in 2010 when she was attacked by men who poured petrol over her and tried to burn her alive (they were stopped).

The film takes place mostly behind the closed doors of an Algiers hammam on a women-only day. For that reason, there is a lot of nudity, but none of it is gratuitous or with an orientalist gaze. They’re just women of all ages and body types washing, chatting, arguing, eating, massaging each other and of course, given the film’s title, smoking. Things take a dramatic turn when a young pregnant woman runs to the hammam, seeking shelter and protection from her brother, who wants to kill her because she had sex outside of marriage. Needless to say, the film passes the Bechdel test easily (and the majority of the cast and crew were female). This story will stay with me for a long time.
Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3DS5XbDxaJU

73dchaikin
Mar 1, 2019, 1:35pm

enjoying reading about all this cultural diversity

74Dilara86
Mar 2, 2019, 6:38am

Le fils de mille hommes (O filho de mil homens – The son of a thousand men) by Valter Hugo Mãe, translated by Danielle Schramm





Writer’s gender: Male
Writer’s nationality: Portuguese (born in Angola)
Original language: Portuguese
Translated into: French
Location: Unspecified, but a country where people have Portuguese names


This novel has something of a fairytale. It’s dreamy, timeless and with hints of magical realism. It tells the story of a handful of misfits in an unnamed seaside village and of the way they come together to recreate their own family unit and find peace. There’s Crisóstomo the lonely fisherman whose dream is to have a child, Camilo the teenager, born of a dwarf woman and twice orphaned, the first time at birth, the second time when his adoptive grandfather (another lonely old man whose dream was to have a child) dies, Isaura the unlucky and unloved woman, Antonino the outcast who “has more flowers than an almond tree” – that’s apparently a homophobic slur*-, his mother Matilde, and Mininha the little orphan girl.
There are some terrible pages in this novel: the reader is put through the wringer as the narrator describes the characters’ sufferings. The villagers’ homophobia in particular is gut-wrenching – and also hilariously insane. Homosexuals will turn the world upside-down. They’re scum, just like prostitutes, drug-addicts, surfers and singers. Because of them, babies will be born through “the wrong hole”, they’ll be monsters with cucumber eyes (no I don’t know what these are) and boneless arms and all sorts of deformities. They should be hanged with a stick up the arse by their own parents. (homophobic content hidden behind a spoiler because it’s funny but also potentially quite triggering. Needless to say, gender roles are restrictive and the condition of women is awful. Once the reader is thoroughly depressed, the author endeavours to build up hope again and the book ends on a high note. One the one hand, it’s uplifting, on the other, I felt overly manipulated, which was unpleasant.



* This is the most poetic slur I’ve ever heard. And by the most beautiful coincidence, I’ve been reading Almond Blossoms and Beyond, a book of poems by Mahmoud Darwish at the same time as this book!

75Dilara86
Mar 2, 2019, 12:32pm

Comme des fleurs d'amandier ou plus loin (Almond Blossoms and Beyond) by Mahmoud Darwich, translated by Elias Sanbar





Writer’s gender: Male
Writer’s nationality: Palestinian
Original language: Arabic
Translated into: French
Location: N/A


Poems mostly about love, colours, seasons. I liked Mural better.

76baswood
Editado: Mar 3, 2019, 5:26am

Interesting to read about the term Harkis, which I have not come across before.

77Dilara86
Mar 3, 2019, 11:17am

Atlas historique du monde méditerranéen: chrétiens, juifs et musulmans de l'Antiquité à nos jours (Historical atlas of the Mediterranean world : Christians, Jews and Muslims from Antiquity to the present) by Gérard Chaliand and Jean-Pierre Rageau, maps by Catherine Petit





Writer’s gender: Male writers, female cartographer
Writer’s nationality: French
Original language: French
Translated into: N/A
Location: The Mediterranean world
First published in 1994


I borrowed this book from the library because I thought I could do with a concise refresher course on Mediterranean chronology and geography. And I like atlases. Each double page consists of a few paragraphs summarising a given subject on the left and a map on the right. Unfortunately, the text is neither clear nor helpful. Its information is too simplified to be correct, and it reads like someone else’s class notes. The maps only contain three shades each of orange and green, just like in sixties and seventies schoolbooks, which is not great for readability. Useless.

78Dilara86
Editado: Mar 4, 2019, 12:03pm

Une enfance corse stories written by Anne-Xavier Albertini, Francis Beretti, Marco Biancarelli, Jérôme Camilly, Michèle Castelli, Jean-Jacques Colonna d'Istria, Jérôme Ferrari, Jacques Fusina, Olivier Jehasse, Annette Luciani, Catalina Maroselli-Mattéoli, Dominique Memmi, Petru Santu Menozzi, Gaston Piétri, Jean-Baptiste Predali, Jean-Pierre Santini, Constant Sbraggia, Jean-Paul Sermonte, Minna Sif, Paul Silvani, Jeanne-Marie Siméoni, Jacques Thiers, Marie-Jean Vinciguerra and collected by Jean-Pierre Castellani and Leïla Sebbar





Writers’ genders: Male and female (skews male)
Writer’s nationality: French
Original language: French, with a smattering of Corsican
Translated into: N/A
Location: Corsica


Jean-Pierre Castellani and Leïla Sebbar asked twenty-three authors and journalists to write about their childhoods in Corsica. Stories are divided between those who lived there all year long, and those who lived on the continent, but spent their summer holidays in their ancestral villages. With one exception – Petru Santu Menozzi, born in 1987 – every participant was born in the sixties or earlier (down to the twenties). That means we get plenty of reminiscences about fetching water, riding donkeys, answering nature calls al fresco, old ladies in black, etc. All very quaint and evocative, but obviously not particularly relevant to modern Corsica. It was a quick and pleasant read. Some authors were much better writers than others, as is generally the case with this type of book. It bumped Jérôme Ferrari’s novel The Sermon on the Fall of Rome to the top of my To-Read list. The man can write.

79Dilara86
Editado: Mar 6, 2019, 9:14am

Ma circoncision (My circumcision) by Riad Sattouf





Writer’s gender: Male
Writer’s nationality: French (French mother, Syrian father)
Original language: French
Translated into: N/A
Location: Syria


This graphic autobiography tells in more detail the story of Riad Sattouf’s circumcision, already described in The Arab of the Future.
As the only non-circumcised boy in his Syrian village, Riad is picked on by his peers, who suspect him of being Israeli, which is the worst thing you can be. So, when his father announces that he is going to have him circumcised, he is at once scared and relieved, especially since he is promised a giant Grendizer toy robot (Goldorak in French). Many pages are devoted to the little boy’s theories about what will happen to him - his understanding of the procedure is quite hazy and nobody will explain. Things do not exactly go to plan: his wound gets infected and he misses two and a half months of school, the toy never materialises, and he learns that Jews are circumcised too, meaning that he’ll have to find another way of proving that he belongs in the village. A wince-inducing, funny, tender but also critical look at Syrian life in the eighties.

80raton-liseur
Mar 6, 2019, 10:15am

>59 Dilara86: At last dropping by in your thread!
I have discovered this poet not earlier than last week...
There is an adaptation of two of his texts in prose available on France Culture at the moment.
If you like this poet and you don't mind audio book, it might be an interesting reading. It did not work very well with me, but that’s because I am not a lot (not too say not at all) into poetry, alas.

81Dilara86
Mar 6, 2019, 11:24am

>80 raton-liseur: Thank you for the link to the France Culture broadcast! My interest in poetry varies over time, but I'm on a poetry kick at the moment!

Le consul by Salim Bachi





Writer’s gender: Male
Writer’s nationality: Algerian
Original language: French
Translated into: N/A
Location: Bordeaux and Hendaye (France)


This novel was inspired by a real hero of the second world war, Aristides de Sousa Mendes, the Portuguese consul in Bordeaux who defied direct orders and issued passports and 30,000 to 50,000 visas to refugees fleeing Nazi Europe, after which he was forced to retire by the Salazar régime. It is told in the first person as a long address to the main character’s second wife (and former mistress). As he lays on his deathbed at a Franciscan monastery, Aristides recalls his life, and in particular the visa incident. I would have been happy just reading the introspective parts of the novel, when he reflects on fate, good and evil, religion and other lofty subjects. When the author injected a bit of action or reported dialogue, the results often felt forced and sounded contrived. It could have been so much better…

82Dilara86
Editado: Mar 8, 2019, 12:01pm

Masculins singuliers by Éric Holder





Writer’s gender: Male
Writer’s nationality: French (that’s Éric Holder the French writer, not Eric Holder the US Attorney General)
Original language: French
Translated into: N/A
Location: Various localities in France, with a majority in the depressing confines of Île-de-France


I hadn’t heard of Éric Holder before January this year, which is when he died and gained a bit of visibility, with my local library showcasing his work. Not that he was an obscure writer – in fact, one of his novels – Mademoiselle Chambon – was made into a movie in 2009; it’s just that my knowledge of contemporary French authors is fragmentary, as I’ve only recently started reading them. I’ll definitely be reading a lot more of him. I’m not fond of short stories in general, but the book’s premise – a study of men’s inner life – caught my eye. I realised I had almost never read books about men’s feelings and male friendships, and I was curious. The stories are all about men, all sorts of men: old, young, agricultural workers, builders, media types, single, married, gay, straight… It’s slow, quiet, understated, generous, melancholic, and almost hypnotic. Also slightly anxiety-inducing, as misunderstandings unfold. Holder has a very distinctive style that mixes the odd slang word with formal grammar – he’s not afraid of the imparfait du subjonctif. It could have been annoying, but somehow, he made it sound natural and moving. Loved it.

83thorold
Mar 8, 2019, 12:16pm

>82 Dilara86: Perfect pick for international women’s day! :-)

Sounds interesting, though. Noting.

84Dilara86
Mar 8, 2019, 1:02pm

>83 thorold: I did choose my day, didn't I!

85raton-liseur
Mar 11, 2019, 7:29am

>84 Dilara86: And I discover this author with your review. Not heard about him, even this January...
I am worse than you are on contemporary French literature (either male or female authors)...

86Dilara86
Mar 11, 2019, 12:22pm

>85 raton-liseur: Heh. Apart from reviews and recommendations from LT members whose judgment I trust, I mainly look at whatever's being showcased on my town's library website, and at what might fit Reading Globally's current theme... Oh and the odd newspaper article or France culture / France Inter programme. But these days, I try to rely on the library as much as possible, which is why my reading skews French and contemporary.

Le consul by Salim Bachi





Writer’s gender: Male
Writer’s nationality: Algerian
Original language: French
Translated into: N/A
Location: Bordeaux and Hendaye (France)


This novel was inspired by a real hero of the second world war, Aristides de Sousa Mendes, the Portuguese consul in Bordeaux who defied direct orders and issued passports and 30,000 to 50,000 visas to refugees fleeing Nazi-overrun countries, until forced to retire by the Salazar régime. It is told in the first person as a long address to the main character’s second wife (and former mistress), as he lays on his deathbed in a Franciscan monastery. Aristides recalls his life, and in particular the visa incident. I would have been happy just reading the introspective parts of the novel, when he reflects on fate, good and evil, religion and other lofty subjects. When the author injected a bit of action or reported dialogue, the results often felt forced and sounded contrived. It could have been so much better…

87Dilara86
Mar 13, 2019, 1:39pm

Mal de pierres (Mal di pietre - From the Land of the Moon) by Milena Agus, translated by Dominique Vittoz





Writer’s gender: Female
Writer’s nationality: Italian
Original language: Italian
Translated into: French
Location: Sardinia (Italy), including Cagliari, and Milan (Italy)



This short novel by Sardinian author Milena Agus describes the life of three generations of Sardinians mainly through the story of the narrator’s grandmother, a “lunatic” – hence the English title - who suffers from kidney stones – hence the French and Italian title. The grandmother is a wonderful and complex character, a thwarted writer with an overactive – and quite romantic – imagination who left a very interesting “diary”. She might also be unreliable as a narrator… I loved this novel and wished my review could do it justice. Thankfully, there are plenty of very good and thorough member reviews on its work page.

88Dilara86
Editado: Mar 14, 2019, 12:26pm

Aphrodite et vieilles dentelles (Potensgivarna) by Karin Brunk Holmqvist, translated by Carine Bruy





Writer’s gender: Female
Writer’s nationality: Swedish
Original language: Swedish
Translated into: French
Location: Borrby, Sweden


Aphrodite et vieilles dentelles (ie, “Aphrodite and old lace”) is the French title of Karin Brunk Holmqvist’s first novel, called Potensgivarna in the original Swedish.
Tilda and Elida Svensson are two stereotypical old maids in their eighties. They live dull lives in their parents’ old house, they make jam, they go to bed early, they’re terribly frugal and take pains to avoid being the butt of gossip. One day, they notice that when animals eat their neighbour Alvar Klemens’s plants, they become very frisky indeed. This might be due to the fact that Alvar dumps the grounds from his special-recipe alcoholic coffee around his plants… The two virginal spinsters decide to sell that special coffee* as an aphrodisiac only available by mail-order through a postal box, so as to protect their reputation. With the money they’ll be making, they might be able to have a flushing toilet installed in their house instead of their freezing outside toilet. Meanwhile, their younger brother Rutger is having marital problems. Well, you probably guessed where this is going… It was funny and undemanding, but not without clichés. The French translation was a bit clunky.

* In case you’re curious, the recipe seems simple enough: just add a drop of Angostura and some vodka to the water used in the coffeemaker. Don’t hesitate to report back if you try it ;)

89thorold
Mar 14, 2019, 12:49pm

>88 Dilara86: Interesting title translation going on there - the Swedish publishers go straight to the point whilst the French ones prefer to reference an old American film. There’s nothing like confirming stereotypes, is there?

90Dilara86
Mar 14, 2019, 1:29pm

Ah, don't talk to me about stereotypes! I've started The Bonjour Effect: The Secret Codes of French Conversation Revealed for some reason. Not good for my blood pressure...

91Dilara86
Mar 15, 2019, 10:49am

Le Guépard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, translated by Jean-Pierre Manganaro





Writer’s gender: Male
Writer’s nationality: Italian
Original language: Italian
Translated into: French
Location: Sicily


I’d been meaning to read this novel for years, but I could never find it in the library! I now know why: I was looking for it on the L (for Lampedusa) shelves, when I should have been looking in the Ts for Tomasi... Anyway, I got hold of it eventually. There was a borrowing queue, no doubt due to the fact that the revue Europe dedicated its last issue to its author, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa. I have now joined the thousands of LT users who have catalogued it, and I won’t feel like the only person who hasn’t read it anymore!

In many of ways, it’s like reading a Barsetshire novel. The writing style and the subject matter are rather old-fashioned – almost Victorian. I was quite surprised it was written in the fifties. The main character, Don Fabrizio, is a nobleman who manages to be whiggish and conservative at the same time. He is witnessing the end of an era, and really, the politics of the time - the novel starts with the arrival of Garibaldi’s troops in Sicily in May 1860 and the subsequent unification of Italy – are as important to the novel, if not more, as the love and marriage shenanigans that move the story forward. I learned quite a bit about Italian history (that is, I had to look things up in order to make sense of the novel) and it was quite an enjoyable read, if on the snobbish side, which again, ties up with the Victorian feel of the novel.

NB: My copy came with two postfaces. The first one was very useful. It was written by Gioacchino Lanza Tomasi, the author’s adoptive son who inspired one of the novel’s main characters – Don Fabrizio’s nephew Tancredi, and it contains enlightening passages from the author’s letters. The second one, written by the translator, was almost unreadable, I’m sorry to say.

92Dilara86
Mar 15, 2019, 11:33am

Qui a tué mon père (Who Killed My Father) by Édouard Louis





Writer’s gender: Male
Writer’s nationality: French
Original language: French
Translated into: N/A
Location: Northern France


I had a few reservations about Édouard Louis’s first novel, En finir avec Eddy Bellegueule (The End of Eddy). I tought it was moving and talked about important things, but I found it a bit immature and possibly not quite as sincere as it could have been. This was not the case with Qui a tué mon père. His style has evolved: it’s simpler, less formal, less concerned with using the correct subjunctive tense and the right sociological term. I think he might have done an “Annie Ernaux”: he wrote a short book using simple language as a political act – to connect with “his people”. In fact, the whole book is – rhetorically at least – addressed to his father, in the second person singular and in the present tense. His father was a very difficult adult in Édouard Louis’s life growing up, and it feels miraculous that they were able to bridge their differences later in life. The love and empathy he feels for his father shines through the whole book. It is also a bit of a political pamphlet. Louis lists a number of recent political decisions that had a very concrete negative impact on the health and livelihood of working-class people, and gives the names of the politicians involved, which is a very powerful way of forcing them –and the voters who voted for them - to confront their actions.
Édouard Louis’s thesis is that the people who care about politics, namely the elite and more generally, the middle class, are not actually impacted by it at all – they’ll survive whatever the situation -, whereas the disenfranchised working class take the full brunt of whatever is decided in Parisian ivory towers. Funnily, I read The Leopard just before Qui a tué mon père. In it, Tancredi says that "For everything to stay the same, everything must change" – he sides with the revolution in order to safeguard his privileges. From the other side of the social divide, Louis has a different take: "Les dominants peuvent se plaindre d’un gouvernement de gauche, ils peuvent se plaindre d’un gouvernement de droite, mais un gouvernement ne leur pose jamais de problème de digestion, un gouvernement ne leur broie jamais le dos, un gouvernement ne les pousse jamais vers la mer. La politique ne change pas leur vie, ou si peu. Ça aussi c’est étrange, c’est eux qui font la politique alors que la politique n’a presque aucun effet sur leur vie."

An excellent 14-minute interview (well, the interviewer is annoying and slightly unpleasant, but Édouard Louis is engaging and insightful) that is really worth listening to if you understand French: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A7fZJMcUvI0
Also, I couldn’t help thinking of J’ai tué ma mère(I killed my mother) by Xavier Dolan, another young gay prodigy (he was 19 when he made this film) because of its portrayal of the social and cultural divide between him and his working-class mother, with all the frustration, shame and embarrassment he directs towards her.

93thorold
Mar 15, 2019, 12:19pm

>91 Dilara86: That’s one I haven’t read for many, many years. I saw the Visconti film in a university film club screening in an uncomfortable lecture-hall (not when it was first released!) and I remember thinking that it actually felt longer than the book. Possibly time for a re-read!

94baswood
Mar 16, 2019, 4:17am

>92 Dilara86: I wonder if Édouard Louis is a Gilets Jaunes. Enjoyed your review.

95Dilara86
Mar 18, 2019, 5:56am

>93 thorold: I'll be curious to know what you think if you re-read it!

>94 baswood: Funny you said that. My hunch was that he would be sympathetic to the disenfranchised people who make up the gilets jaunes, but that he wouldn't be one himself because of their links with the Front National and the numerous racist slip-ups of some of their members. Also, he's probably a lot more anticapitalist than they are - they're interested in having cheaper consumer products and being taken seriously by the "elite", he wants to change society. I had a look online to see if he said anything on the subject, and it turns out he actually wrote an open letter to Les Inrockuptibles that you can read here. I'm not sure he goes as far as endorsing them, but he certainly is on their side - and he thinks the racism and homophobia can be eliminated from the movement, which is optimistic! This is the first time in years I've read something from this magazine: I've thought for a long time that they're part of the problem. I hope the readers realise that *they* are the people Louis is criticising.

96Dilara86
Mar 18, 2019, 4:05pm

Nagori : La nostalgie de la saison qui vient de nous quitter (Nagori : a longing for the departing season) by Ryoko Sekiguchi





Writer’s gender: Female
Writer’s nationality: Japanese
Original language: French
Translated into: N/A
Location: Japan, France, Villa Médicis (Rome, Italy)


I borrowed this book under the impression that it was a translation from the Japanese. This is not the case: it was written directly in French by Ryoko Sekiguchi, a Japanese author, poet, translator and organiser of culinary events who lives in France and writes in both French and Japanese. He name did not ring any bell but it should have, because she’s been on several France Culture programmes over the years, as a poet and as a Japanese food specialist (see https://www.franceculture.fr/personne-ryoko-sekiguchi.html). This book is a poetic and thought-provoking reflection on a Japanese word – nagori – its meaning and its place in Japanese culture, where it is part of the triad sakari (the start of a season) / hashiri (its acme) / nagori (its end). The author writes about the way this notion can shape the way we think about the world and about food. She also examines the concept of seasons: what they are, what they mean in different places, whether they are universal or not, the central role they play in haikus, and whether our obsession with seasonal products is warranted or not. A little gem of a book.

Interview in French with the author. She has the habitus of a well-bred French female academic down pat. It’s uncanny! Her mannerisms, the way she speaks (sentences and word choice) and the way she pauses and emphasises some words are all pitch-perfect...

97raton-liseur
Mar 18, 2019, 4:49pm

>96 Dilara86: Interesting. I was reflecting this morning about how, now that I have left the city and finally managed to live in a tiny village, how I am mindful of the seasons and the changing in scenery, lights, etc. This books resonnates so much with my current state of mind, it might be serendipity!
Nice review, I'll see if I let myself be tempted.

98baswood
Mar 18, 2019, 7:21pm

>95 Dilara86: Thank you for the link to Les Inrockuptibles, which I found very interesting. He is right in saying that it is difficult to separate the racism from the working classes, but of course this is not the point because à mon avis it is the politicians and the press who encourage the racism because there has always got to be somebody to blame: a scapegoat is always needed.
We wait to see the results of the Gilets Jaunes and the Grande Debate.

99lilisin
Mar 19, 2019, 3:08am

>96 Dilara86:

Have you read Une langue venue d'ailleurs by Akira Mizubayashi? It was featured all over bookstores about 5 years ago which is when I picked it up. It's Akira's reflections on his passion for the French language and how the transition from Japanese to French transformed him. I loved the book so perhaps you'd be interested in it as well.

I'll check out Nagori for myself next I'm in France (which might be in May).

100Dilara86
Editado: Mar 19, 2019, 7:22am

>97 raton-liseur: I think you might like it! Let us know how you found it if you do give in to temptation ;-)

I was reflecting this morning about how, now that I have left the city and finally managed to live in a tiny village, how I am mindful of the seasons and the changing in scenery, lights, etc.
Oooh. What's the scenery like? I recently moved from a town house to a 10th floor flat, and I do miss my garden a bit, especially the blue and coal tits playing in the rose bushes and the blackbird patrolling the wall. On the plus side, I get a lot more natural light and I have a nice view over the trees in the garden below.

>98 baswood: it is the politicians and the press who encourage the racism because there has always got to be somebody to blame: a scapegoat is always needed.
Yes. And they can then turn around and blame the working class when their racism is expressed in an ungenteel, unseemly way. But having said that, you can't infantilise the working class and give them a free pass. Everyone is responsible for their own behaviour.

>99 lilisin: I haven't read Une langue venue d'ailleurs, but I'm interested. I was concerned it might be an exercise in stroking French speakers' egos (and as a nation, we're so anxious for validation about our language and culture, it's embarrassing), but having read the two LT reviews, it looks like it's not. Would you agree? I'm disappointed my library doesn't carry it. They only have Mélodie. Chronique d'une passion, the book Akira Mizubayashi wrote about his golden retriever.

101Dilara86
Editado: Mar 19, 2019, 8:33am

La mère (The mother) by Natalia Ginzburg, translated by Chantal Moiroud





Writer’s gender: Female
Writer’s nationality: Italian
Original language: Italian
Translated into: French
Location: Italy


I discovered Natalia Ginzburg recently, thanks to an article in The Guardian. This book contains five of her short stories, spanning her whole writing career. As the book’s title suggests, they’re centred on female characters in family settings. It’s well-observed psychological fiction. The first three stories could have been written by the Maupassant of A woman’s life. I sincerely hope that the world she shows – with very young women in arranged marriages or marriages of convenience – was not the norm in early twentieth-century Italy.

102Dilara86
Mar 19, 2019, 9:08am

Ma mère et moi by Brahim Metiba





Writer’s gender: Male
Writer’s nationality: Algerian
Original language: French
Translated into: N/A
Location: S. in Algeria (possibly a fictional version of Skikda)


This is a book about bridging divides – between a man who lives in France and his Algerian mother, between a gay man and his reflexively homophobic mother, between a progressive man and his conservative mother, between an atheist man and his reflexively religious and anti-Semitic mother, and more generally, between Jews and Muslims. In order to get closer to his mother, to express things that he cannot say out loud to her*, and to perhaps sow the seeds of tolerance for the Other – namely Jewish people (they love their mothers too and their mothers love them, you know!) but also gay people, the narrator reads Book of my Mother** by Albert Cohen to his illiterate Muslim mother over the course of twenty-three days. It’s very short and sparse and understated – and all the stronger for it. There is no epiphany. The mother responds to the pathos in the book, and she’s definitely on the side of the mother, but she tends to equivocate when prompted to renounce her prejudices. And the narrator doesn’t push her. Every time things get awkward, they start to sing to diffuse conflict– usually Asmahan’s 1944 song about Vienna being paradise (good for them if they’re able to hold all the notes! - lyrics here), which of course is in itself a bridge between East and West.
I loved this fictional autobiography, and I will definitely read the other two books that make up Metiba’s family trilogy.

For those of you who would like to start reading in French, but don’t know where to start, this would be a good choice: it’s very short (57 pages) and easy to understand. It’s mostly written in the present tense with simple, concise sentences, but it’s also literary and grown-up.



* This made me realise how rare it is that works of fiction describe the way people use works of fiction to express their feelings to others or work out problems between them, when it seems to be a pretty widespread mechanism where I am.

** I have a bone to pick with Book of my Mother. I thought it was self-centred and condescending towards the mother. If you find your mother small-minded, uneducated and not too bright, and you’re going to put these things in writing for others to read, do it the way Metiba does it, and not Cohen – his feelings of superiority drips off the page. But then, Cohen cries what feels to me like crocodile tears about the fact that he neglected her and now she’s dead, whereas Metiba makes the effort to reach out to her and try and engage her, which has to be healthier as well as nicer.

103lilisin
Mar 19, 2019, 9:21am

>100 Dilara86:

I don't recall any ego-stroking at all so I think you're safe. Hope you get your hands on it somehow!

104raton-liseur
Editado: Mar 20, 2019, 4:21am

>100 Dilara86: Difficult to describe the scenery in a couple of sentences. I live in a flat to hilly area, with some marks of bocage still visible. At the moment, some trees are blooming. First there were the prunus, now the trees with catkins while other are still bare. The light is as changing as the weather, with pale pink and blue some evenings and a camaieu of greys the others, all those lights woven into with the different trees and their foliages. This morning, I was passing the Rance dam to go to work, and it was all foggy on the river side and all clear with green-turquoise water on the sea side, a strange vision I had not experienced before.
I love the place I live. Of course, the village library might have less books than I have at home, but there are good bookstores not too far (including the first village of used books bookstores in France...) so a good combination according to me!

>101 Dilara86: and >102 Dilara86: Interesting reviews, from authors I had not heard about. You seem to have found interesting books while following the reading globally quarterly theme.

105Dilara86
Mar 20, 2019, 1:24pm

>103 lilisin: Thanks! I'll wait a bit; the library might yet acquire it. Otherwise, it seems to be available in paperback.

>104 raton-liseur: Brittany is such a beautiful place!

106Dilara86
Mar 20, 2019, 1:34pm

Le Château de Pictordu by George Sand





Writer’s gender: Female
Writer’s nationality: French
Original language: French
Translated into: N/A
Location: the fictional château de Pictordu, near Saint-Jean-du-Gard, and Arles (Southern France)


This is a novella-length supernatural tale taken from Contes d’une grand’mère, George Sand’s last book, written for her granddaughters. It is available in English, in The Castle of Pictures: A Grandmother's Tales. The whole book in French is in the public domain and downloadable for free at https://fr.wikisource.org/wiki/Contes_d%E2%80%99une_grand%E2%80%99m%C3%A8re/Le_C...

On their way from Mende to Arles, the coach in which little Diane and her father Mr Flochardet are riding overturns in the middle of nowhere, stranding them for the night. Thankfully, a lady invites Diane into her dilapidated castle. Except that where Diane sees a veiled lady, Mr Flochardet sees a statue… They spend the night there, and the veiled lady takes Diane on a dream-like tour of the castle, which is richly decorated and full of dancing mythological figures. This is the start of a succession of events that will help Diane come into her own, as a person and as an artist.
Nineteenth-century children’s fiction doesn’t always age well. Often, girls have to be meek and mild, say their prayers, suffer in silence and serve the men. This is different; Diane is meek and mild, but she’s also quietly tenacious, educated, and by the end of the story, able to earn a living. In fact, she outperforms her own father as a professional artist!

107raton-liseur
Mar 20, 2019, 3:49pm

>106 Dilara86: Interesting pick. George Sand is a great writer that ought to be more famous (and not boiled down to a rustic writer - even if there is nothing bad in being a rustic writer).
Thanks for reminding me that I should read more from her.

108Dilara86
Editado: Mar 21, 2019, 9:33am

À son image by Jérôme Ferrari





Writer’s gender: Male
Writer’s nationality: French
Original language: French
Translated into: N/A
Location: Corsica (France), Bosnia



A novel about Corsicans, the Corsican independence front (FLNC), photography, war photography, death, war in general, and the Bosnian war in particular, diffracted through chapters describing a number of photographs, interspersed with chapters named after the parts of the funeral mass said by her godfather and officiating priest for Antonia, a Corsican photographer who did a stint as a war photographer during the Bosnian war. Those describe the life of Antonia and of the men in her life: her godfather, her Corsican independentist boyfriends and Dragan, a Serbian soldier. It’s well-written, and its structure pitches the book at a level that’s slightly challenging, but not overwhelming. For some reason, this novel did not move me very deeply, despite its subject matter. Well, The remote, clinical writing about gruesome war photographs and the fact that we end up knowing a lot more about the men’s feelings than the female central character’s didn’t help.

109Dilara86
Mar 21, 2019, 9:58am

Le jardinier de Sarajevo (Sarajevo Marlboro) by Miljenko Jergović, translated by Mireille Robin





Writer’s gender: Male
Writer’s nationality: Bosnian, Croatian
Original language: Bosnian
Translated into: French
Location: Sarajevo, Bosnia


A forgettable short story collection about wartime Bosnia. There are 29 stories, aiming for a kaleidoscopic picture of Sarajevans, but I can only think of one centred on a woman, which has to be some kind of record. The French translation doesn’t have the most realistic tone, especially in direct speech – too many simple pasts and imperfect subjunctives. Hopefully, the English translation reads better.

110raton-liseur
Mar 21, 2019, 11:47am

>108 Dilara86: Have you read other books by Jérôme Ferrari? did you get the same impression as this one?
I remember being quite disapointed after having read Où j'ai laissé mon âme. I wonder if you had the same feeling.

111Dilara86
Editado: Mar 23, 2019, 5:56am

>110 raton-liseur: No this is the first one. I was going to borrow Sermon sur la chute de Rome (The Sermon on the Fall of Rome), but it was out, so I plumped for this one instead since it fit the Reading Globally theme as well. I've read your review of Où j'ai laissé mon âme (Where I left my Soul). We seem to agree on Ferrari's style!

112Dilara86
Mar 23, 2019, 5:57am

Je n'ai pas eu le temps de bavarder avec toi by Brahim Metiba





Writer’s gender: Male
Writer’s nationality: Algerian
Original language: French
Translated into: N/A
Location: Paris (France)


This is the second novel in Brahim Metiba’s fictional autobiography trilogy. The first one was about his relationship with his mother. This one is about his relationship with his father, or lack thereof.
The book starts with an absence. The narrator’s Algerian father has gone home after a visit, leaving a metro ticket and a note: “I haven’t had time to chat with you, I’m leaving you this metro ticket. Your father”. Brahim will use this ticket to travel from his home in Clichy-la-Garenne to the Gibert Joseph bookshop in Saint-Michel in the centre of Paris, using only buses. He describes the neighbourhoods along the way, and gives us the gender and ethnicity of every bus driver he encounters, all the while reflecting on the difficulties he has communicating with his father, with a bit of back story. The writing is as sparse and moving as in Ma mère et moi.

113Dilara86
Editado: Mar 26, 2019, 11:50am

La voix de Papageno (Papageno's voice) by Brahim Metiba





Writer’s gender: Male
Writer’s nationality: Algerian
Original language: French
Translated into: N/A
Location: Stipra, Haz (fictional places in the Near- or Middle-East reminiscent of Palmyra)


We’re getting to the end of the Mediterranean quarter, and by happy coincidence, La voix de Papageno's epigraph is taken from one of the first works I read for this theme: Palmyre : L'irremplaçable trésor by Paul Veyne. La voix de Papageno comes last in Brahim Metiba’s autobiographical trilogy and it is very different from the other two, which were straightforward and grounded in reality. This one is an allegorical, dream-like novel based on Mozart’s Magic Flute, transposed in a place ruled by Islamic State. Papageno is Tamino’s admiring little brother. He loves Tamino’s girlfriend, Nadja, whose father was an archaeologist beheaded by IS. Together, they will have to travel to the temple in Haz. The novel is stylistically close to a prose poem. Reading it requires more effort than his other two books, but it is rewarding. Having a bit of previous knowledge about The Magic Flute, IS and Palmyra is probably not absolutely necessary, but it helps because it gives more depth to the book. At the end is a short discussion between Brahim and his editor, in which he says – among other things – that he identifies with Papageno.

114Dilara86
Editado: Abr 6, 2019, 9:21am

Hmm. I haven't had a lot of free time recently, and when I did, my brain was so fuzzy I didn't feel up to writing anything. So, here's a quick recap of my end-of-quarter reading, before I start another thread for spring.

Ethno-Roman by Tobie Nathan





Writer’s gender: Male
Writer’s nationality: born in Egypt in a native Jewish family who had bought their Italian nationality for convenience; naturalised French
Original language: French
Translated into: N/A
Location: Cairo (Egypt), Gennevilliers, Saint-Denis, Paris (France), Burundi, Israel, Brazil, etc.


Tobie Nathan was born in 1948 in Egypt. He was mentored in ethnopsychiatry/ethnopsychology by Georges Devereux and is now a leading figure in this field. I really liked his non-fiction book Nous ne sommes pas seuls au monde : Les enjeux de l'ethnopsychiatrie, and wanted to know more about his life and work, which is why I put a hold on his autobiography - Ethno-Roman - a couple of months ago. By the time it got to me, I had tried and failed to read his novel L'Évangile selon Youri (he is definitely not a novelist!) and therefore wasn’t as enthusiastic about starting a book of his with “Roman” (ie, “novel”) in the title, but I’m glad I did because I loved it. Nathan tells us about his background, his life and his intellectual pursuits – all the things that make him the ethnopsychologist he is today. It’s enlightening and felt candid, despite the fact that the use of the word "roman" in the title warns us that this may not be strictly autobiographical.

115Dilara86
Abr 6, 2019, 8:29am

L'art de la joie (The Art of Joy – L'arte della gioia) by Goliarda Sapienza, translated by Nathalie Castagné





Writer’s gender: Female
Writer’s nationality: Italian
Original language: Italian
Translated into: French
Location: Sicily


At first, I thought: this is Game of Thrones in Edwardian Sicily. There’s sex in all its forms – including adultery, lesbian sex, incest, partners with a huge age difference, sex with a man with Down’s syndrome - and violence, murder, religion, power plays and a scheming teenage girl who’s wise beyond her years.
It was partly engrossing, and partly annoying. There’s only so much heightened emotions and histrionic, manipulative back-and-forths I can take before I just want to let the characters to their own devices, and have a cup of tea instead. That was for the first part of the book. The second part was just tiring. It had so much dialogue, Sapienza started presenting it like a play. None of the discussions felt natural, and they went on and on and round and round, until I lost the will to live. Finishing this novel which is over 600 pages will take more effort and abnegation than I’m prepared to give it. I gave up on page 474.
On the positive side, the French translation is very good in the first part of the book. It flows perfectly, and it gives an idea of the differences in speech between the classes without sounding artificial.

116Dilara86
Editado: Abr 6, 2019, 9:07am

Je ne parle pas la langue de mon père (I don’t speak my father’s language) by Leïla Sebbar





Writer’s gender: Female
Writer’s nationality: French
Original language: French
Translated into: N/A
Location: Algeria

Leïla Sebbar was born in 1941 in Algeria. Her mother was a French teacher from mainland France (Algeria was a French colony at the time), and her father was an Algerian teacher working in the French colonial education system. Leïla grew up in the microcosm of her parents’ school, where everybody spoke French, even though it was situated in the middle of an indigenous neighbourhood where everyone spoke Arabic – her father’s mother tongue. In Je ne parle pas la langue de mon père, Leïla Sebbar tells us about her childhood in Algeria, her relationship with her father before his death, and in particular his unwillingness to talk about some subjects and their difficulties in communicating with each other. She also reflects on her relationship with the French and Arabic languages, and with the people who spoke these languages. This is in the typical Sebbar style: meandering and impressionistic.


-----------------------------------------

Œuvres poétiques (Complete poems) by Cavafy, translated by Socrate C. Zervos and Patricia Portier





Writer’s gender: Male
Writer’s nationality: Cavafy belonged to Egypt’s Greek minority. At the time of his birth, Egypt was part of the Ottoman Empire. It then became a British protectorate.
Original language: Greek
Translated into: French
Location: N/A but a lot of poems are set in Ancient Greece, including Alexandria, in modern-day Egypt

Gorgeous.

-----------------------------------------



Zigzags dans les orangers by Ersi Sotiropoulos, translated by Clio Mavroeidakos-Muller and Michel Volkovitch


Writer’s gender: Female
Writer’s nationality: Greek
Original language: Greek
Translated into: French
Location: Greek

I could not get on with this book and gave up after twenty pages.



-------------------------------------------------------

Comme deux soeurs by Rachel Shalita, translated by Gilles Rozier




Writer’s gender: Female
Writer’s nationality: Israeli
Original language: Hebrew
Translated into: French
Location: Tel Aviv, Israel

I stopped halfway-through. It wasn’t serious and I felt I was wasting my time.


117Dilara86
Abr 6, 2019, 9:45am

Les Français à table : La vie quotidienne des Français de 1900 à 1968. by Sylvie Lagorce



Writer’s gender: Female
Writer’s nationality: French (probably)
Original language: French
Translated into: N/A
Location: France


A hardback popular history book about the way “we” (ie, mainland French people) used to eat. Pleasant, interesting and accessible, but obviously not for the academic-minded.

-----------------------------------------------

Connaître la cuisine ariégeoise by Francine Claustres





Writer’s gender: Female
Writer’s nationality: French
Original language: French
Translated into: N/A
Location: Ariège, a department in Southern France, close to the Spanish border in the Pyrenees


This is a collection of traditional Ariégeois recipes. They’re typical Southwestern French peasant fare, with plenty of duck and pork, stews and soups, including a local version of cassoulet called mounjetado.

-------------------------------------------------------

The Food of Asia by Kong Foong Ling





Writer’s gender: Female (as per her LT page)
Writer’s nationality: Unknown – the book’s publisher is based in Singapore, Hong Kong and Indonesia
Original language: English
Translated into: N/A
Location: Asia (Burma, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam)


A book about Asian food written by Asians for Asians. Recipes are arranged by country, and it’s a reasonably thick book, but because so many countries are covered and the photos take up a bit of space, there’s not much choice in each category. In the end, the book is interesting, thanks in good part to the introductions about each cuisine, but it will not replace separate cookbooks about each individual country.

118lilisin
Abr 7, 2019, 4:08am

>115 Dilara86:

My mother really liked this book so I have her copy on my TBR pile but I haven't once been inclined to read it. Haven't even checked what it is about but upon reading your reaction I think I'll continue waiting until it inspires me if it ever does.

119Dilara86
Abr 7, 2019, 4:26am

>115 Dilara86: Yes, you probably have to be in the right mood for it!

By the way, do you have recommendations for Japanese SF/fantasy novels? I couldn't come up with much in the Speculative Fiction from around the World thread, which is frustrating because I'm sure there are loads!

120raton-liseur
Abr 7, 2019, 6:25am

>115 Dilara86:: There was a lot of hype around this book a few years back, but I could not resolve to read it. Your review will not help me to take the plunge. But it was an effective rview, thanks!

121raton-liseur
Abr 7, 2019, 6:38am

>116 Dilara86: and >117 Dilara86: You seem to have had a series of bad luck with books. Good that there is the culinary books to spice it up a bit!

122Dilara86
Abr 7, 2019, 11:58am

>121 raton-liseur: And Cavafy's poetry!

123lilisin
Abr 8, 2019, 3:52am

>119 Dilara86:

That's a hard question as I've only recently started my transition from realist Japanese fiction to other genres and what I have read hasn't been translated yet.

Looking through the books I've read in English I can only come up with the below.

Haruki Murakami
- his major fiction works all contain magical realism

Kobo Abe
- all of his works are surreal works that enter that realm of what's real and what's not real

Yoko Tawada's The Last Children of Tokyo*
- *UK title; the US title is The Emissary
- dystopian fiction where Japan has closed itself off to the rest of the world after a devastating event and only the elderly are surviving while the young die young

Otsuichi
- writer of horror
- has a collection of short stories translated called ZOO

Yasutaka Tsutsui's Hell
- experimental magical realism about a character going through a horrible traumatic leg injury and meeting the perpetrators of this injury when they all end up in hell

124ELiz_M
Editado: Abr 8, 2019, 7:18am

>119 Dilara86: Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids? It's realistic, but might be considered a dystopia/utopia?

125Dilara86
Abr 12, 2019, 10:34am

>123 lilisin: and >124 ELiz_M: Thank you very much! I'll add them to the list (if you haven't already!)

126Dilara86
Abr 16, 2019, 1:19pm

By the way, I've started a new thread for Spring because this one was getting a bit unwieldy.