18 / 64 books. 28% read!
Following my reading of July's People by Nadine Gordimer I began to reflect upon my question of the title here. Which book would you choose I wonder? Do comment here and I will post a list next Saturday!
Have edited this as I have just visited Jill over at The Magic Lasso who unbeknown to me is interested in which book you would save from a fire. Go and share with her as well!
Should I be offering prizes to anyone who can guess mine without going over to Jill???
16 / 64 books. 25% read!
This book was so idiosyncratic yet so relevant to all of us - what is it that we value in our lives? Just exactly how important is the 'trivia' in our lives? What will you take when the time comes to flee your home? In common with the woman in this novel I too would probably take a book. Poor Maureen, she was frightened to make a start on hers as 'she did not want to begin it. What would happen when she had read it? There was no other.' Reading on a few lines we find she has indeed made a start but Gordimer allows her to express the very reason we sometimes read and yet for Maureen it was the grim truth.
'But the transport of a novel, the false awareness of being in another time, place and life that was the pleasure of reading. for her, was not possible. She was in another time. place and consciousness; it pressed in upon her as someone's breath fills a balloon shape. She was already not what she was. No fiction could compete with what she was finding what she did not know, could not have imagined or discovered through imagination. They had nothing.'
So this book, written in 1981 set in South Africa is one in which apartheid and the revolutionary uprising of blacks is the backcloth for an adventure that has the white family and black servant role reversed - but in the hands of Nadine Gordimer it is so much more.
Recently I was reading the hype around the 40th Anniversary of the Man Booker Prize here and found myself drawn into the 'best Booker prize debate'. For me there was no debate - Possession by A S Byatt. Totally immersed I enthused, discussed and shared the book in a manner that was unique to me at that time in my life. As we all know the advent of internet blogs, yahoo book groups and challenges has provided another huge audience for us to share our enthusiasms. I try to read widely and enjoy my bookish world but I do have to say that the only other book I have ever felt so passionate about is War and Peace. So Possession certainly had my vote! Well you can't actually vote yet but I posted and it wet my appetite!
Thus armed and browsing in the real world of my lovely local library imagine my interest when I came across a sleek, slim slip of a book The Man Booker Prize - 35 Years of the best in contemporary fiction 1969 - 2003. This little volume was informative, entertaining and full of snippets of information about many of those who have felt so passionately about reading. Ranging from Michael Caine through to Tom Maschler founder of The Prize it is a great collection of thoughts and reflections of those whose lives have been close to the prize over the years. If you are reading the prize winners or are simply curious about the history of this bookish institution enjoy this delightful selection of essays.
Anyway I digress. The Reader by Bernhard Schlink, recommended by and lent to me by a dear friend, who grew up in war time Germany but now lives in France is a point in case. Would I have ever read this book had I not been enthused and inspired by the ever broadening reading horizons afforded me through Library Thing et al? This read was closely followed by Behind The Burqa by Sulima and Hala as I wished to follow up the Nawaal El Saadawi book I had recently read regarding women and their freedom in Egypt. Sulima and Hala recount their story of life in Afghanistan and how they escaped to freedom. I cannot help but reflect upon the Virginia Woolf essay in relation to the lives of these women. What an eclectic path I have trod so far in 2008. Afghanistan to War and Peace via The Lying Days and often in the company of my Benedictine friend!
Time to take stock as we journey on through 2008 … here are my five top highlights so far ;
Albert is a Benedictine monk who, in his sabattical year journeyed widely and wrote forty short mediatations based on vignettes with pencil line drawings of the places he visited. Each day he led me to another destination - from Bolivia to Holland, via Santiago de Compostela and Assisi in Italy. Each day's destination was accompanied with a reflection, a bible verse and a quote from the Rule of St Benedict. Especially wonderful for me was that he visited places with which I was already acquainted and so had a special affinity.
This was an inspiring and delightful companion for my journey through Lent. If you ever think about taking a spiritual journey, be it Lent or not then do try this little volume - you will not be disappointed.
12 / 64 books. 19% read !
War and Peace Leo Tolstoy completed
The Giver Lois Lowry (Newbery, Book Awards) completed
When The Emperor Was Divine (888, Book Around The World) completed
As a wrap up to this adventure I will refer back to the original challenge we were given by Inksplasher in which she suggested the following
' i would like to suggest that we stretch a little. If you normally read fiction, put at least one non-fiction on your list (and vice versa). Or try a genre you don’t usually read. (I may have to read another romance.) Or try a new author chosen totally at random. But most importantly, make your list FUN so you'll want to read!'
My list was certainly fun but more importantly fulfilling. As a quick glance at the list may suggest I did stretch myself in many ways. This was especially evident as I read the Zora Neale Thurston dialect. As for War and Peace this was the most amazing and wonderful book I have ever read - and has motivated me to read the Levear and Volokhonsky version of Anna Karenina. The memoir genre that turned out to be a fiction read after all was another interesting read - probably for all the wrong reasons! Finally the view of war in the USA for Japanese nationals was a complete revelation to me. The joy of this book was that it was a gift from a dear web friend and thus epitomised the pleasure and joy I have discovered since reading along with my new found friends on the web.
Favorite book of the challenge - War and Peace
Least favorite book of the challenge - Surviving With Wolves
Any new authors read in this challenge - Zora Neale Hurston and Julie Otsuka
What I learned - that variety is the spice of life!
Thank you Karlene for hosting!
published when she was only 15. Imagine my frustration as I researched this author and found that she had been on Oxford only last year....
I missed the author who, in 1991 received the following citation for The Nobel Prize in Literature
''who through her magnificent epic writing has - in the words of Alfred Nobel - been of very great benefit to humanity"
Almost every page of Nadine Gordimer's writing drew me in to reflect upon situations and relationships in the context of South Africa of the 1950's. She brings into close juxtaposition the emotional and political climate as her story unfolds. It was no wonder for me as I read that she had been one of the first people that Nelson Mandela met following his release. In addition she has been awarded fifteen honorary degrees from universites in USA, Belgium, South Africa, and from York, Oxford and Cambridge Universities in the UK. She was made a Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (France), and is Vice President of International PEN and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. She was also a founder of the Congress of South African Writers. In 1991 she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, and in 2007, the Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur (France).
‘Learning to write sent me falling, falling through the surface of the South African way of life,’ said Gordimer. It is evident that she has a real affection for her homeland in the deepest sense of the word. This poignantly highlights the political persecution on the lives of ordinary South Africans that she portrays in The Lying Days.
One question I have relates to the WB Yeats poem quoted at the beginning of the book and I quote
The Coming of Wisdom with Time:
“Though leaves are many, the root is one;
Through all the lying days of my youth
I swayed my leaves and flowers in the sun
Now I may wither into the truth”
In this short poem Yeats seems to express an unhappiness about the finality of aging . So we move from three lively, vibrant lines to a dried up final line that suggests a passive, rather beyond my control type of change. As I followed the growing into young adulthood of Helen through the emotional and political landscape of the novel it was not the 'withering into a truth' that was reflected to me. It was more an optimism borne of her choice, a sense of self realisation that I felt with Helen on the quayside as she awaited her departure.
Reading this work led me to become interested in researching more of this amazing lady's life and works. A notable quote, taken from an interview with the author for BBC Radio 3 captured for me Helen's journey; ‘As a white SA you go through a second birth – take privileges for granted round about adolescence you realize there is something very strange and as you get older something very wrong …’ 18th October 1998
11 / 64 books. 17% read!
10 / 64 books. 16% read!