Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Summer reading

Have had lots of time to read, in different languages. Including
  • Ismael Beah's 'A long way gone' (in Spanish). A harrowing tale of a child soldier in the wars of Sierra Leone, including moments of almost unbelievable cruelty, escapes, wars catching up on him, an event at the United Nations in New York while he was still a school boy (in the middle of winter when he had never seen snow) and final escape to the next country, Guinea. The book appears to have been discredited a little, but is still a very useful source document for anyone who has to do with the resettlement of traumatised children.
  • Haruki Murakami's 'Kafka on the Shore', his best yet, as far as I am concerned. It's unputdownable! It's about a boy who runs away from school, an old man who was involved in a strange accident at the end of the war and who can talk to cats, the boy's friend who turns out to be a female-to-male transsexual (or perhaps intersexual, in this case), various other people connected in mysterious ways, and some, quite frankly, spooks. There's a murder and some strange tale about disappearing cats, the story travels from Tokyo to some far flung island - and to the end you don't know what has happened or what is going to happen. Brilliant, and a good, long read. I hear Murakami is due to have another book out soon. Can't wait!
  • Donna Leon's 'Death and Judgment' (in Spanish); one of her usual books which I had not read before. Very nice with the descriptions of Venetian footpaths, bridges and so on. To some degree her books are much of a muchness, what with corruption and socially important people always playing a role. But nice to read, especially with her sense of irony.
  • Lilly Brett's 'Too many men', the predecessor of her book 'You gotta have balls'. Story of a neurotic woman and her Auschwitz-surviving father returning to his roots in Poland. It's nice, and interesting, but frankly, I thought that the balls book is better. 'Too many men' is divided up by (imaginary) conversations with Hoess, the head of Auschwitz (probably portrayed in 'Schindler's List'), which, while adding information for those readers who don't know much about it, breaks up the story. After a while one becomes inclined to flick over these conversations. But still quite funny and also a good read.
  • Colum McCann's 'Zoli' has been lying on my desk for some months, waiting for a comment. It's about a Roma woman who in the 1950s, as the then Czechoslovakia becomes communist, gets involved in politics and becomes political flavour of the month, before the regime changes, and she is effectively excommunicated from her community for fraternising with the enemy. So she has to leave the country. It's a bit weird - there's some English guy in it who after a while fades out; the story jumps backwards and forewards and every time it does so it takes some time to sus out where it's at. Not all that riveting.