The Sundays of Jean Dezert by Jean de La Ville de Mirmont | Book Review

The Sundays of Jean Dezert by Jean de La Ville de Mirmont | Book Review

Jean de La Ville de Mirmont (1886 – 1914)  was killed at the age of 27 during the World War I. He was an author of a collection of poetry, short stories and a 1914 self-published novella, The Sundays of Jean Dezert. Mirmont was a close friend of another French writer and the 1952 Nobel Prize laurate, François Mauriac.

In The Sundays of Jean Dezert, Mirmont outlines a map of his times and shows the nuances of one singular life of an alienated, lost soul in the urban crowd who comes to terms with the banality of own existence. 

The Sundays of Jean Dezert is a tale of urban solitude, alienation, and mundanity of prosaic life. Jean Dézert is a civil servant, an office worker employed by the Ministry of Welfare. We follow his life on the eve of the Great War (World War I) as he strolls through the city of Paris in quest for the meaning of life, something deeper and larger than his own existence. Even though The Sundays of Jean Dezert was written over 100 years ago, many contemporary readers will be able to recognize themselves in the life of Everyman, Jean Dezert. The feelings of no purpose, resignation, total alienation are well known to many of us.

Jean Dezert has a so-called good job and leads a fairly comfortable life in the eyes of many, but this life does not provide him with the emotional equilibrium nor heals his feelings of emptiness. Although his job does not define him, he perceives himself as a servant of nothingness, of empty existence. His occupation pushes him further into depths of depression and resignation. Jean “has never once gone on a long journey in his dreams.” 

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Blue Skinned Gods by SJ Sindu | Book Review

Blue Skinned Gods by SJ Sindu | Book Review

Blue Skinned Gods by SJ Sindu is a compelling, thoughtful coming of age story exploring identity, belief systems, perception of the Other, sexuality, family relationships spanning across two continents, different cultures and traditions. Storytelling is beautiful, extremely moving and emphatic.

The protagonist of the book is a boy with blue skin called Kalki who is raised to believe that he is the incarnation of Vishnu, the Hindu god who has divine healing powers. Kalki’s father takes the advantage of his son’s unusual look to gain wealth and creates the entire narrative around it based on people’s superstitions by establishing an ashram in Tamil Nadu to exploit the desperation of the ordinary people where Kalki serves as a healer. With time the myth and illusion of Blue Skinned God is being dispelled causing Kalki’s confusion and disappointment with those around him. As he enters adulthood, Kalki moves to America to find his purpose in life, to define his own identity. The author also explores here the appeal of America, its culture, social media and the idea of opportunity.

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Quartet in Autumn by Barbara Pym | Book Review

Quartet in Autumn by Barbara Pym | Book Review

Quartet in Autumn by Barbara Pym published in 1977 (and nominated for the Booker Prize) is a poignant exploration of loneliness.

This is a story of four single people in their 60s: Marcia, Letty, Edwin and Norman who have worked together for several years in an office in Central London doing unspecified clerical work. They don’t socialise together out of work, they don’t have any close relatives, they live alone and lead what one could define as a rather quiet life. Romantic love has never been a part of their lives. Despite their advanced age, two of them still live in rented single rooms.

Barbara Pym is an excellent chronicler of an ordinary and unnoticed life with focus on single elderly people and their fate as they face health problems as well as housing and financial insecurity.

Quartet in Autumn has moved me deeply. It is a thought-provoking character study which portrays an emotional baggage of four characters as they grow old facing isolation and loneliness.

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The Wheel by Jennifer Lane | Book Review

The Wheel by Jennifer Lane | Book Review

“In the world we live in, we have been taught from a young age that traditionally masculine traits are what will make us succeed; intelligence is measured logically through tick-box tests, the loudest voice in the room tends to win the debate and we are told to be cruel to fight our way to the top. The world is dog eat dog – fast and hard. But what about those of us who are soft and slow?”

“As someone who is highly sensitive, I am sick of being told to grow a thicker skin or to build my resilience. I am still finding hard to understand why the working world would need this fierce characterisitc to be a baseline requirement for working with others if we are all trying to reach the same goal. Softness and sensitivity hold very little space in a skyscraper office. “

The Wheel is such a beautiful, tender and magical book. It is a truly soul-soothing read which takes a reader on a mystical journey of a (self-) discovery through wild landscapes of the British Isles filled with wonderment, gentleness, and magic. It is a nuanced, profoundly moving exploration of our connection with the nature, contemporary toxic working environment which many of us are forced to be a part of, and the healing power of witchcraft and ancient rituals. The Wheel is such a ray of sunshine, beautifully written, and extremely engaging.

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No Touching by Ketty Rouf | Book Review

No Touching by Ketty Rouf | Book Review

“Today , I don’t exist. Tomorrow, I probably won’t, either. (…)Today is the first day of school.”

“Exhausted. (…) Do your job. Hang on. (…) It is a truly wretched existence, one that drove me to seek stimulation by reading the great philosophers. Where the hell did I get the ludicrous idea of finding happiness in thinking? I wrapped myself up in concepts to forget my own misery, and the misery of existence.”

“(…) when you earn your entire monthly teacher’s salary in just a few nights of dancing, you suddenly forget all those books you’ve read and reread (…). Who said money can’t buy happiness?”

No Touching by Ketty Rouf  published by Europa Editions UK in translation of Tina Kover tells a story of 35-year old Josephine, a high school philosophy teacher in one of the rundown suburbs of Paris. She gets through her day only thanks to antidepressants. Her pupils are uninterested and indifferent to her teaching. Her life appears to be miserable with no hope for any better future. In the evenings she goes for long walks across the city during one of which she visits the strip club where “women [are] exposed without being stripped bare, unassailable in their womanhood.” Josephine decides to sign up for a striptease dance class – “an hour and half when [she] feels alive.” At nights she starts working in a strip club in Paris where she creates strong friendships with other women and her emotional well being is deeply affected by her additional night job :

“(…) no more suffering now. Here I am, stripped naked, finally. I’ve stopped taking antidepressants. No more therapy sessions. The night is my brightest day, a perpetual present of brilliance and well-being.”

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Invisible Ink by Patrick Modiano | Book Review

Invisible Ink by Patrick Modiano | Book Review

“It comforted me to think that even if you sometimes have memory gaps, all the details of your life are written somewhere in invisible ink.”

“I did not want to quantify my life. I let it flow by, like mad money that slips through your fingers. I wasn’t careful. When I thought about the future, I told myself that none of what I had lived through would ever be lost. None of it. I was too young to know that after a certain point, you start tripping over gaps in your memory”.

Invisible Ink by Patrick Modiano is an enigmatic, dream-like, melancholic, beautifully written novel which contemplates the existentialism of memory, its gaps and its missings that make up one’s existence, growing old and how our perception changes over the years, the connections that we make throughout our lives and how we recall people, places and times written in invisible ink on the pages of our own history.

The title of the book, Invisible Ink is a metaphor for our memories. Our memory is like the page with invisible writing that reveals over time important details about our lives that were previously unnoticed.

On a surface, Invisible Ink tells a story of a private detective, Jean Eyben who thirty years earlier was briefly involved in the search of a missing woman, Noelle Lefebvre who vanished from Paris. That case continues to haunt him decades later. Despite the passage of time, the pieces of Noelle’s life story keep overlapping with the detective’s life throughout the years that follow. As he gets older, Jean learns to notice things he did not as a younger self and slowly comes to the realisation how much of that cold case involves his own life.

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The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak | Book Review

The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak | Book Review

‘Where do you start someone’s story when every life has more than one thread and what we call birth is not the only beginning, nor is death exactly an end?’

‘People on both sides of the island [Cyprus] suffered – and people on both sides would hate it if you said that aloud. Why? Because the past is dark, distorted mirror. You look at it, you only see your own pain. There is no room in there for someone else’s pain’.

The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak set in the 1970’s Cyprus and contemporary London of 2010’s is a tale narrated partly by a fig tree, partly by humans about the transgeneretional trauma,  the burden of the past on the current and future generations when it comes to dealing with wars, pogroms, ethnic cleansing, enforced borders drawn on a piece of paper at one time in history and how it affects the lives of the future generations. 

Elif Shafak has created a beautiful tale of wonder and nostalgia, pointing out to the connections between the past, present, and future as well as between the physical and the spiritual. It is also a profoundly moving ode to the natural world: world of non-human animals and plants. 

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The Memory Monster by Yishai Sarid | Book Review

The Memory Monster by Yishai Sarid | Book Review

The Memory Monster by an Israeli writer Yishai Sarid is an excellent novel, one of the best books I have read on the banality of evil, memory, how we process the past, how we relate to the darkest chapters of the human history, how we understand human brtutality. Do we learn from the history, especially from such tragedies like the Holocaust? When the history becomes just facts and dates? When do we loose human connection with the ones who lost their lives during atrocities?

Although this book specifically deals with the Shoah and the way we contemporarily commemorate its victims, it is also relevant to many other tragedies which occurred in the recent times: the Rwandan genocide, the Cambodian genocide, genocide of Yazidis, Srebrenica, and Soviet Gulags and the list goes on and on.

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The German Room by Carla Maliandi | Book Review

The German Room by Carla Maliandi | Book Review

“No matter where I go, I’m still broken. And now I’m thousands of miles from home, in a place where I barely speak the language and I have no idea what to do.” 

“Even if I crossed the whole world looking for a place to feel at home, I wouldn’t belong anywhere.” 

The German Room by the Argentinian writer, Carla Maliandi published by Charco Press is a beautifully written novel and skillfully translated by Frances Riddle.

The German Room is an exploration of the meaning of exile, home, childhood, and loneliness. It offers a fascinating and nuanced mediation on the idea of exile: a forced versus a self-imposed exile form own life, taking a refuge in the illusionary idea of own childhood, and far from the current notion of reality.

There is this certain feeling of melancholy which is prevalent throughout the story. It evokes the quest for the place we call home, the place where we belong.

The story follows an unnamed Argentinian woman in her 30’s engulfed by the emotional turmoil as she leaves or rather flees her home and job in Buenos Aires for Heidelberg in Germany “with [her] life in a shambles, without having told anyone in [her home] Buenos Aires what [she] was doing”. Heidelberg is the city where the protagonist was born and lived for the first five years of her life where her parents were forced to exile in the 1970’s from the Argentinian military dictatorship.

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The Disaster Tourist by Yun Ko-eun | Book Review

The Disaster Tourist by Yun Ko-eun | Book Review

“Not all disasters catch your eye. The ones that become real issues are distinct. (…) The disaster has to be on a certain scale for busy people to take the time to sympathise or pay attention. (…) The empathy can fade too. (…) If you compared several disasters that had occurred at similar times and with similar intensity, you realised that the scale of harm wasn’t necessarily proportional to donations or public interest. Some ravaged cities appeared in newspapers as a few short lines of text before being forgotten, while others received extended interest (…). “

The Disaster Tourist by the Korean writer Yun Ko-eun is a fascinating, ambitious and unpredictable story. I have immensely enjoyed reading this book. 

The Disaster Tourist offers a thoughtful take on the issues of abuse, exploitation, and predatory behaviour in a workplace, the meaning of one’s professional life versus personal life, dark tourism versus responsible tourism, and perception of the Other in the disadvantaged communities and how one digests news about human tragedies.  

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Fresh Water For Flowers by Valerie Perrin | Book Review

Fresh Water For Flowers by Valerie Perrin | Book Review

Fresh Water for Flowers is the most extraordinary, moving tribute to the resilience of human spirit. I must admit that I don’t remember when last time I was so deeply touched by a story. This book hugs YOU, offers comfort and numerous moments of tenderness, as well as it evokes the spirit of profound emotions filled with many wonderful references to the French music and literature.

This tale evolves around a small graveyard in a small French town, Bourgogne. We meet an array of interesting, nuanced characters, including our main protagonist, Violette. The story of Violette’s life is slowly revealed to us through her own words or through the interconnectedness with the lives of other people: Violette’s difficult childhood, being born with nothing, her tragic marriage to Philippe, her daughter, her life working as a bartender, then as a level crossing keeper and finally her life as a cemetery caretaker.

“A man of fifty-five died from smoking too much (…). They never say that a man of fifty-five can die from not having been loved, not having been heard, getting too many bills, buying too much on credit (…). Noone ever says that you can die from having been too fed up, too often”.

At some point Violette says that others speak about her life as though she did not exist, as though she was a problem to be solved, not a person; as though she was absent from her own story. Throughout her life she was often diminished by others, degraded, mistreated, and looked down . I don’t want to share much about the story itself in order not to spoil the pleasure of reading this magnificent book for others.

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The Last Summer of Reason by Tahar Djaout | Book Review

The Last Summer of Reason by Tahar Djaout | Book Review

“Books — the closeness of them, their contact, their smell, and their contents — constitute the safest refuge against this world of horror. They are the most pleasant and the most subtle means of traveling to a more compassionate planet.”

Tahrar Djaout (1954 – 1993) was one of the most talented Algerian writers of the 1980s and early 1990s. Having witnessed the rise of the Islamic fundamentalism and religious fanaticism in Algeria, he always strongly supported secularism and freedom of speech. He was murdered by the Islamic extremists in 1993 because of his writing and beliefs. As Alek Baylee Toumi states in the introduction to this book, the spring of 1993 marked the beginning of the genocide of intellectuals in Algeria – the intellectuocide with the lists of people to eliminate posted in the mosques which is also described by Djaout’s in The Last Summer of Reason.  Other prominent Algerian intellectuals murdered by the religious extremists around that time were Hafid Senhadri, Djillali Lyabes, and Laadi Flici.

In 1994 and 1995, Algeria witnessed more journalists being murdered than in any other country in the world. It is important to mention here that Djaout as well as many other murdered writers of that era often considered themselves Muslims, secular, tolerant, open-minded but their belief system did not comply with bigoted worldview of the religious and political extremists.

Tahar Djaout, as Toumi writes, spoke out “a little too well and a little too loud, and he paid for it with his own life”. Tahar Djaout took a courageous stand against exclusion and intolerance. In one of his articles, “Hatred in Front of Us”, Djaout wrote: “If fascism triumphed in Germany at the end of the 1930s, it is not because there were a lot of fascists, but because there were not enough democrats”.

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North Korea Like Nowhere Else by Lindsey Miller | Book Review

North Korea Like Nowhere Else by Lindsey Miller | Book Review

North Korea Like Nowhere Else is a photographic exploration of the life in North Korea from the unique perspective of the Westerner living in the capital city of Pyongyang between 2017 and 2019.

Through a series of evocative as well as informative stories, anecdotes and captivating photos accompanied by the author’s very sensitive, insightful and respectful observations of people, their interactions and emotions, the reader is offered a glimpse into the everyday life of the North Koreans who have now lived under one of the most oppressive totalitarian communist regimes for many decades. The author, Lindsey Miller, is unbelievably emphatic, aware, humble, responsible and respectful observer of everyday life in North Korea.

This is not a book on geopolitics, but rather an attempt to present the humanity of the (North) Korean people. This book is a very touching and so badly needed tribute to the people of North Korea.

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Internat [The Orphanage] by Serhiy Zhadan | Book Review

Internat [The Orphanage] by Serhiy Zhadan | Book Review

Internat also published in English under the title ‘The Orphanage’ by the Ukrainian writer Serhiy Viktorovych Zhadan (Serhij Zadan) is my favourite book I have read so far this year and definitely one of the best books I have ever read. Yale University Press published an English translation of this magnificent novel in April 2021 under the title ‘The Orphanage’ .

Internat [The Orphanage] is a novel about ‘the apocalypse’, occupation, helplessness and living in a constant fear when the reality surrounding us changes unexpectedly..

It is worth noting that the names of Donbas, Donetsk, Russia, or Ukraine are not mentioned in the book even once. However, we can assume that Internat is a portrayal of life in the war – torn Donetsk circa 2015. As per the 2020 OHCHR Report, during the war in eastern Ukraine 13 000 people were killed, 30 000 people were wounded, over ‪1 000 000‬ Ukrainians were internally displaced and around ‪900 000‬ people were forced to flee abroad.

Zhadan’s book is set in some dark, grim, covered in dirty snow and mud war-torn unnamed city [Donetsk, Eastern Ukraine] from which the main protagonist, Pasha, a 35-year-old teacher of the Ukrainian language, sets off from the outskirts to the centre of the city to pick up his nephew from the Internat [Boarding School / Orphanage] and bring him back to their family home. As we follow Pasha through his three-day long journey, we understand that there are some of us and some of them, fighting in every street. There is chaos, fear, hunger, confusion.

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A Bookshop in Algiers by Kaouther Adimi | Book Review

A Bookshop in Algiers by Kaouther Adimi | Book Review

A Bookshop in Algiers by the Algerian writer Kaouther Adimi is a literary feast. This book might be small in size, just under 150 pages, but it is dense with captivating literally anecdotes related to both Algerian and French titans of literature as well as with many unique perspectives on the history and culture of Algeria throughout the 20th century. This book offers a moving portrayal of Algeria, its capital, Algiers and its inhabitants.

A Bookshop in Algiers is told in two timelines: one follows the life of the extraordinary literary figure in the French literature, Edmond Charlot (1915 – 2004), from the 1930s Algiers when he began his career as a bookseller and publisher through WW2, the 1950s / 60s Algerian War of Independence and the 1990s Algerian Civil War; the other plot line is set in the contemporary Algiers of 2017 where a young Frenchman of the Algerian origin, Ryad is hired to clear out the present day bookshop called Les Vraies Richesses in order to make a way for a new bakery. In real life, Les Vraies Richesses Bookshop was founded by Edmond Charlot in the 1930s Algiers.

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A Month in Siena by Hisham Matar | Book Review

A Month in Siena by Hisham Matar | Book Review

“I found something in Siena, for which I am yet to have a description, but for which I have been searching, and it came (…) at that strange meeting point of two contradictory events – the bright achievement of having finished a book and the dark maturation of the likelihood, inescapable now, that I will have to live the rest of my days without ever knowing what happened to my father, how or when he died or where his remains may be.”

“Then we sat in silence that seemed touched by an oblique sort of sadness, as though time itself were a burden that had to be carried doubtfully and with a quiet show of egret in case fate might decide to double the load. We said goodbye” 

A Month in Siena by the American-Libyan author, Hisham Matar explores the relation between life and art. It is also a meditation full of beautiful observations on grief, loss, solitude, belonging, linguistic identity, friendships as well as our relationship with our fathers. The book is full of references to art, music, and literature (Ibn Battuta, Montaigne, Camus, Ibn Khaldun). Art here constitutes a refuge for one’s emotions and the way one can connect with the oneself. Siena as a city offers “that unobservable emptiness” that many might have sought for many years.

A 𝐌𝐨𝐧𝐭𝐡 𝐢𝐧 𝐒𝐢𝐞𝐧𝐚 is a short, gentle read, with accompanying illustrations that Matar reflects on. I highly recommend this book so that you can join Hisham Matar on one of his daily walks and visits to the museums and look at the medieval paintings. While Siena and its art offered solace to this sensitive writer in a time of the great sadness, then his book is incredibly soul soothing for the reader and brings up calmness, even to the most cynical heart.

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Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman | Book Review

Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman | Book Review

If you are not familiar with a wonderful Dutch historian, Rutger Bregman, I would highly recommend you to watch his 2017 TED Presentation: ‘Poverty Isn’t a Lack of Character, It’ s a Lack of Cash.’ Also, I would encourage you to watch his now viral talk at the 2019 World Economic Forum in Davos where he criticised the event and its participants for its focus on philanthropy rather than tax avoidance. Both talks are available to watch on YouTube.

“This is my first time at Davos, and I find it quite a bewildering experience, to be honest. I mean, 1500 private jets have flown in here to hear Sir David Attenborough speak about, you know, how we’re wrecking the plant. I mean, I hear people talking about the language of participation and justice and equality and transparency, but then, I mean, almost no one raises the real issue of tax avoidance, right? And of the rich just no paying their fair share. I mean, it feels like I’m at a firefighters’ conference and no one’s allowed to speak about water, right?”

I previously read Utopia For Realists by Rutger Bregman which was such an insightful, well-researched and interesting book. The idea of the society being in a need of dreams rather than nightmares has deeply resonated with me

In Humankind, Bregman takes a multidisciplinary approach to the history of the humankind using modern findings across from biology, economics, anthropology, history, archaeology, and psychology to demonstrate that human nature is fundamentally good. In my view, this book should be widely read and have its own spot on the bookshelves of every household.

Bregman offers a compelling theory of New Realism backed up by the abundance of scientific research from various disciplines. Modern capitalism, democracy, and the rule of law operate on the premise that people are selfish. Based on the modern research the current political, economic, and social institutions function based on the mistaken model of human nature. Bregman asks if we can design new institutions which will operate on a different, more positive view of human nature. What if our schools, businesses states expect the best of us instead of presuming the worst?

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Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri | Book Review

Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri | Book Review

Whereabouts was originally written in Italian by the Bengali-American writer, Jhumpa Lahiri who also translated the book herself.  

“Solitude: it’s become my trade. (…) It’s a condition I try to perfect”.  

Written in forty-six short vignettes, Whereabouts portrays daily wanderings and inner workings of the narrator’s mind who is a solitary unnamed woman in her mid -40s working as a teacher and living in the unnamed city in Italy. 

Whereabouts is an exploration of urban solitude, alienation, loneliness, growing old, with the narrator’s beautiful ruminations and perceptive thoughts infused with a profound sense of nostalgia veiled in gentle melancholy, on the meaning of living a solitary life, inspired by the locations of daily errands. Reading Whereabouts one feels not merely like an observer of the narrator’s life, but also as if one were an integral part of her life 

Over the period of one year, we follow unnamed woman as she wanders outward from her home experiencing snapshots of daily life: going to the shop, antique fair, swimming pool, the stationery shop, the beautician’s, visiting her mother, sitting in the waiting room at the doctor’s, buying a ticket just for one to see theatre spectacle, travelling by train.  Reader gets a glimpse into the narrator’s childhood and family life, in particular the relationship with her parents, her late father, and her mother for whom the passage of time and solitude triggers a great deal of sadness.  

The narrator is a very sensitive and astute observer of other people’s words, emotions, and gestures. She often reflects on how we cross our paths with others on our daily errands, often without exchanging any words, often just having the presence of other person as a reference point.  The narrator often thinks about people who currently frequent or might have frequented the same places that she does. 

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Anna Langfus | Introduction

Anna Langfus | Introduction

I would like to share with you a lit bit about one of my favourite writers who is almost unknown these days to the anglophone audience. I hope that some of my French followers might have read some of the books by this remarkable author of a profound sensitivity.  

Her name was Anna Langfus (1920 – 1966) who was a Polish – French writer of Jewish heritage. She was a Holocaust survivor; she escaped the Lublin Ghetto and then the Warsaw Ghetto. Her first husband, Jakub Rajs, her parents, and closed member of her family perished during WWII. After WWII ended, she moved back to her hometown, Lublin in Poland but she found herself devastatingly alone there as none of her family members survived. Anna moved to France as a refugee in 1946 where she worked as a math teacher at the Jewish orphanage. In her attempt to rebuild her life, she married her second husband, Aron Langfus in 1948 and settled down in Sarcelles, one of the suburbs of Paris.  

Anna started writing in the 1950s and she used French language which was her second acquired language as a form of expression which is remarkable. She died in 1966 at the age of only forty six due to her heart condition. 

Today, in Sarcelles, where Anna lived, there is a public library named after her name. 

During her short life she published three novels in French and some short plays. All of her work deals with the time after the Holocaust and focuses on the ones who survived and tried to learn to live again in the aftermath

Anna Langfus was one of the first writers who mentioned these issues in literature similarly to Elie Wiesel or Primo Levi.  

Anna won the Swiss 1961 Prix de Charles Veillon for the best novel written in French, Le Sel et le Soufre followed by the 1962 Prix Goncourt, the highest French literary award for Les Bagages de Sable translated into English as The Lost Shore. At that time, she was the fourth woman to win this prestigious Goncourt award for the book written in French (taking into consideration that the Prix Goncourt has been awarded since 1903).

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Hot Stew by Fiona Mozley | Book Review

Hot Stew by Fiona Mozley | Book Review

Hot Stew is the second novel by Fiona Mozley whose debut novel, Elmet was shortlisted for the 2017 Man Booker Prize.

Hot Stew is a wonderful ode to London’s Soho providing a sharp social analysis of life in a modern metropolis. The book tackles the issues of gentrification, social class, stigmatisation, poverty, privilege, London’s housing crisis, the meaning of home, the relation between one’s identity and the place as well as the feeling of alienation and displacement.  

Readers are introduced to the plethora of various characters representing complex and diverse society as well as to the rich and vibrant history of London’s Soho.

Soho is centrally located, former RLD (red light district) of London. Roughly form the 18th century until the 1980s it was considered a hot spot of the UK’s underworld. it was a centre of London’s erotic industry, with many sexually oriented businesses, often associated with exploitation, trafficking, drugs, and notorious crime scene. However, it is also worth noting that for many decades Soho has been a welcoming place offering home to the immigrants, outcasts, and those living on the peripheries of the society. 

Hot Stew evokes a very strong sense of place, with many references to the real places one can locate in this central London district. Soho is portrayed as a separate character, playing an integral role in the lives of all the characters and as a place with its own complex and nuanced personality Soho is a place of greed, viciousness, and ugliness but also of compassion, community spirit, long-term friendships, sometimes happiness covered in a veil of permanent nostalgia. Soho and its residents have created a sort of symbiotic relationship – they are separate organisms containing each other. One cannot exist without the other.

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The Photographer at Sixteen by George Szirtes | Book Review

The Photographer at Sixteen by George Szirtes | Book Review

“Displacement hits you later than you expect, just when you think you have settled down and become part of the world all over again. That is when it begins to ache, when a certain inarticulable desolation creeps in. Your body is not where your body ought to be (…). It is as if you had ghosted in but left your soul behind.”

“Life, as learned, was composed of relatively brief episodes, each seeming an eternity at the time, none of them suggesting stability, let alone permanence.”

The Photographer at Sixteen by George Szirtes is an exceptional memoir.  It constitutes an exploration of Szirtes’s Romania-born Hungarian – Jewish mother’s life.  The book also provides a compelling commentary on Europe’s darkest chapters from the 20th century and its consequences on a singular life.  

This memoir is a beautifully written, profoundly moving and extremely thoughtful portrait of one woman living through the tumultuous times of the European history. The narrative is a mixture of delicate, sharp prose intertwined with Szirtes’s poetry. Throughout the book, tape recordings photos, letters, and historic facts are used to (re-) construct the life of Szirtes’s mother, Magda (Magdalena).

There is also an exploration of the multifaceted identity – a complex idea especially for the ones, like Magda who lived in Central and Eastern Europe in the first half of the 20th century. Magda was ethnic Hungarian, yet Romanian by birth, born to secular Jewish parents. Magda’s identity was partially created by the political and frequent border changes. As her identity and status kept changing throughout her life, it left indelible marks on her feeling of belonging, loss and lack of security.

The book traces Magda’s life backwards; this form has been inspired by Anthony Hecht’s poem ‘The Venetian Vespers’ in which the poet imagines snippets of life backwards.

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El Excluido [‘The Excluded’] by David San Jose Martinez | Book Review

El Excluido [‘The Excluded’] by David San Jose Martinez | Book Review

El Excluido’ [‘The Excluded’] by the great Spanish writer, David San Jose Martinez.

This book is a wonderful literary achievement, beautifully written with a very rich language, a veil of nostalgia and profound emotional sensitivity. It is a novel but its form – the collection of vignettes, somewhat separated, somewhat connected, is very innovative.

El Excluido is a nuanced character study, exploring the complexity of multilayered relationships, human nature and all the emotions accompanying people while they navigate the alleys of love, friendships and deeper mutual understanding. We witness the protagonists dealing with overwhelming feelings of loss, self-worth, self-doubt, anguish, emptiness, selfishness, jealousy, affection, finding one’s place in the world among others. El Excluido also constitutes the meditation on the identity and its importance on how we relate ourselves to others and how it affects our behaviour.

El Excluido is a demanding and ambitious book that requires a full attention on the reader’s part. In return, the reader can experience a magnificent, compelling and delightful literary feast.

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In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri | Book Review

In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri | Book Review

“Why do I write? To investigate the mystery of existence. (…) To get closer to everything that is outside of me. (…)Writing is my only way of absorbing (…) life.” 

In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri   constitutes an astonishingly beautiful discourse exploring the subjects of identity, the meaning of exile, belonging, cultural displacement, alienation, mixed and ‘third’ culture background, as well as learning a foreign language, and quest for a place called ‘home’ and the language called ‘mother tongue’.  

We witness the author’s anxieties, her self-imposed linguistic odyssey into the depths of Italian language in order to reshape her own personal identity.  

It is a kind of a confessional memoir but with a very few details about Lahiri personal life. It is important to mention that In Other Words was originally written in Italian, Lahiri’s third language which she learnt as an adult. The book was also translated into English by another writer and not Lahiri herself.  

Undeniably, In Other Words is a beautiful ode to Italy, its culture as well as  language and to self-discipline of acquiring a new language.  

By reading In Other Words, we have a privilege of observing an inquiring mind and a sensitive soul of a wonderful writer during her creative process.  

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Cockroaches by Scholastique Mukasonga | Book Review

Cockroaches by Scholastique Mukasonga | Book Review

“Nothing in Rwanda was left in me but a wound that could never be healed.” 

“Humiliated, afraid, waiting day after day for what was to come, what we didn’t have a word for: genocide. And I alone preserve the memory of it. And that’s why I am writing this.”  

“Where are they? Somewhere deep in the anonymous crowd of the genocide’s victim. A million of them, their lives stolen, their names lost. What is the point of counting up our dead again and again? From the thousand hills of Rwanda, a million shades answer my call.” 

This book is a remarkable homage to her murdered family during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and is dedicated to “everyone [who] died at Nyamata in the genocide” .

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The Melancholic Soul of Fernando Pessoa | Reflections

The Melancholic Soul of Fernando Pessoa | Reflections

“Literature is the most agreeable way of ignoring life.”

A few thoughts from “The Book of Disquiet” by Fernando Pessoa (1888 – 1935), a Portuguese writer who is the dearest to my heart. Fernando was a Portuguese poet, considered one of the most significant literary figures of the early 20th century, and one of the greatest poets in the Portuguese language .

Along with Patrick Modiano, E.M. Cioran, Clarice Lispector and Anita Brookner, Fernando Pessoa is undoubtedly my favourite writer.

If you have never read “The Book of Disquiet”, I would encourage you to get a copy of this book in translation of Richard Zenith and read a few paragraphs now and then.

“I wasn’t meant for reality, but life came and found me.”

“I’d woken up early and I took a long time getting ready to exist”.

“Why are there not islands for those who feel uncomfortable here, ancient avenues for the lonely to dream in and that others cannot find?”

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Medallions by Zofia Nalkowska | Book Review

Medallions by Zofia Nalkowska | Book Review

Medallions by a Polish novelist and essayist, Zofia Nalkowska (1884 – 1954) 

Medallions is considered the masterpiece in the world Holocaust literature, deeply influences by Nalkowska’s experience as a member of the Commission for the Investigation of Nazi War Crimes which was established in 1945. During that time, she visited Auschwitz-Birkenau, Majdanek, Treblinka and many other sites of mass killing and extermination. She conducted many interviews, listened to survivors’ and eyewitnesses’ testimonies recorded just a few months after the end of the war in 1945. Nalkowska was profoundly affected by her work as a member of the Commission. 

Medallions consists of eight short reportages in which survivors, eyewitnesses speak for themselves. There is no mythologisation of the victims: they are neither the heroes, nor the martyrs.  In her writing, Nalkowska managed to preserve a deeply personal character of individual experiences. Nalkowska’s style is concise, somewhat laconic, almost economical. The most striking aspect of her reportages is the description of silences where the words are simply too weak to relate the experiences of the protagonists. She records the survivors’ intonations, gestures, postures, emotions of shame, fear, shock as they struggle to relate the atrocities they witnessed.  Nalkowska is aware that much of their experiences is left unspoken as there are no words to describe it. 

Medallions is not merely a record of one of the darkest chapters in the human history; it is also an incomparable portrayal of the human suffering as nothing else that I have read before.  

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Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman | Book Review

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman | Book Review

“If someone asks you how you are, you are meant to say FINE. You are not meant to say that you cried yourself to sleep last night because you hadn’t spoken to another person for two consecutive days. FINE is what you say.”

“Time only blunts the pain of loss. It doesn’t erase it.”

“I took one of my hands in the other, tried to imagine what it would feel like if it was another person’s hand holding mine.”

– Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine constitutes a meditation about isolation and loneliness among young people in the modern world. Gail Honeyman said somewhere that what inspired her to write this book was reading an article about the experience of one young woman who said that she did not speak to anyone from the time she left work on Friday evening until she was back at work on Monday morning.

For me, the story of Eleanor is very realistic especially after living and working in London for so long. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine portrays a life of a young woman working in Glasgow ; and, it is rather a grim portrayal of the mundanity of everyday life.

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The Readers’ Room by Antoine Laurain | Book Review

The Readers’ Room by Antoine Laurain | Book Review

“Marcel Proust, Iike all writers of genius, had succeeded – and he more than any other – in this transmutation which is the very essence of literature: a spirit and soul embodied in a rectangle of bound paper, living on after them.”

“The Readers’ Room” by Antoine Laurain

This little mystery book serves as a vehicle to escape the current reality of uncertainty. It is a beautiful and overwhelmingly charming piece of writing combining mystery, murder, love, intrigue and ode to literature and writers.

There is this profound tenderness to Laurain’s writing which allows the reader to plunge into the reality of wonder and nostalgia.

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The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri | Book Review

The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri | Book Review

“𝑺𝒐𝒎𝒆𝒕𝒊𝒎𝒆𝒔 𝒘𝒆 𝒄𝒓𝒆𝒂𝒕𝒆 𝒔𝒖𝒄𝒉 𝒑𝒐𝒘𝒆𝒓𝒇𝒖𝒍 𝒊𝒍𝒍𝒖𝒔𝒊𝒐𝒏𝒔, 𝒔𝒐 𝒕𝒉𝒂𝒕 𝒘𝒆 𝒅𝒐 𝒏𝒐𝒕 𝒈𝒆𝒕 𝒍𝒐𝒔𝒕 𝒊𝒏 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒅𝒂𝒓𝒌𝒏𝒆𝒔𝒔.”

The Beekeeper of Aleppo is beautifully written, but it should be mainly read for its subject matter. Christy Lefteri portrays the journey of Syrian refugees in a realistic, emphatic, and respectful manner.

The Beekeeper of Aleppo tells a story of Nuri, a beekeeper from a beautiful ancient Syrian city of Aleppo and his wife, Afra, who worked as an artist. Before the war, they led a peaceful family life surrounded by their loved ones and friends. Then, suddenly everything changes; they lose their son, Sami due to the bomb blast in their garden; they witness beheadings, killings, tortures. Afra due to the blast and shock after losing her child becomes blind. They are forced to flee Syria to survive. We accompany Nuri and Afra as they travel through Turkey, Greece in order to reach the shores of England where Nuri’s cousin, Mustafa lives.

We observe the broken world that Nuri and Afra must pass through in order to find a new ‘home’.  The themes of human trafficking, emotional and physical abuse that refugees are subject to, severe depression, post-traumatic stress disorder that most people fleeing war, conflict, ethnic cleansing experience, child trafficking, unaccompanied child refugees, uncertainty encountered in new countries, dealing with inhumanity of asylum application in the UK as portrayed in the book are explored here.

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Lost for Words by Stephanie Butland | Book Review

Lost for Words by Stephanie Butland | Book Review

My stress levels have been skyrocketing over the last weeks and months due to the current situation related to pandemic. For that reason I have been in need of reading something heartwarming, soul-healing, soul-soothing and gentle.

And, this little gem of a book, Lost For Words by Stephanie Butland brought me solace, so needed moments of joy and peace.

Stephanie Butland
wrote a book which should be prescribed as a medicine to heal one’s soul and to calm one’s heart.

It is an exquisite and profoundly touching storytelling, with many layers of depth and hidden meanings.

Lost For Words
is a tale about an introverted, quiet, withdrawn and sensitive woman, Loveday Cardew who prefers books to socialising with people. Loveday works as a bookseller in a second-hand bookshop, based in a magical town of York, which is the only place where she feels safe – it is her refuge from the surrounding world and the events from her pasts. It is clear from the beginning that she has some deep-rooted traumas. Loveday leads her life with as little human interactions as possible. With the arrival of a box filled with books, she is forced to face the events from her past and as the story progresses we learn more about Loveday’s family and childhood.

Through literature, Loveday connects with the inner self and the rest of the world. This is a tale about the importance of books and bookshops in one’s life.

Lost For Words is a very pleasant, gentle and delightful read. If you are an introvert, a bibliophile, I am sure that this book will become very dear to you.

Lost For Words by Stephanie Butland serves like a balm for a soul.

If you enjoy books such as 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman or The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George, you will also fall in love with Lost For Words by Stephanie Butland.

The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel | Book Review

The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel | Book Review

“At night, here in the library, the ghosts have voices. (…) But at night, when the library lamps are lit, the outside world disappears and nothing but the space of books remains in existence. ”

– The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel

The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel is one of the greatest ‘bookish’ books I have ever read.

The Library at Night is a meditation on the meaning of libraries and the process of reading; it constitutes a homage to libraries of any kind and to the freedom of thought.

Alberto Manguel takes us on a fascinating voyage through the libraries across the centuries and civilizations ranging from the ancient China, Rome, Egypt, Greece, the Aztecs, private libraries of Jorge Luis Borges, Dickens, Aby Warburg, the library of Alexandria, the British Library and many more.

The Library at Night is divided into fifteen chapters, with each one being an essay on a particular meaning of the library as understood by Manguel, ranging from the library seen as myth, oblivion, home, imagination, power, survival, identity

Each essay contains plethora of quotes, anecdotes, wealth of knowledge, magical stories, and yet each chapter overflows with warmth and charm. These comprehensive, meticulously researched essays allow the reader to learn a lot about libraries, its locations, cataloguing systems, including Dewey Decimal System.

Furthermore, The Library at Night offers many reflections on the nature of literature itself and what it means to be a reader.

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Anita Brookner | Introduction

Anita Brookner | Introduction

Let me introduce you to one of my favourite writers, Anita Brookner (1928 – 2016) 

Anita Brookner was an English novelist and art historian, born into the Polish – Jewish family in North London. She was appointed as Slade Professor of Fine Art at the University of Cambridge in 1967 and was the first woman to hold this position. Anita became a laureate of the 1984 Man Booker Prize (then the Booker-McConnel Prize) for her novel Hotel du Lac which was also beautifully adapted into a 1986 TV movie featuring Anna Massey in the leading role.

Brookner spent most of the 1950’s living in Paris and completing her doctoral studies at the Ecole du Louvre on the French government scholarship.  She never married and cared for her parents as they aged. In one of her interviews, Anita famously called herself “the loneliest woman in London”.

 Anita started writing considerably late in life. Her first book “A Start in Life” was published in 1981 when she was 53. She wrote a total of twenty-seven novels and I have given myself a task to read all of them. 

Loneliness, solitude, the position of single women and men in the society as they get older, complex, and multi-layered family relationships, including the ones between older children and their elderly parents are the recurring themes in Brookner’s novels.  

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The Distance by Ivan Vladislavić | Book Review

The Distance by Ivan Vladislavić | Book Review

The Distance by a wonderful South African novelist, Ivan Vladislavic is a magnificent and stunning literary achievement. This is a remarkable, thoughtful read and a real feast for all the bibliophiles. This book is both, global and local; universal and South African – Praetorian; ordinary and surreal; alien and familiar. The ‘distance’ in the book is both, metaphorical and real.

The Distance is a profoundly moving study in family relations during the political and social changes offering a very intimate insight into snippets of the South African society of the 1970s, as well as that of the present day. The story features the variety of themes including love, memory, loss, immigration, our own perception of who we are and its impact on how we perceive the world, race relations in the 1970s and a present-day South Africa and the limitation of language.

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Madonna in a Fur Coat by Sabahattin Ali | Book Review

Madonna  in a Fur Coat by Sabahattin Ali | Book Review

‘When we walked side by side, did I not feel his humanity most profoundly? Only now did I begin to understand why it was not always through words that people sought each other out and came to understand each other.’

I was profoundly moved by this gem of a book. In ‘Madonna in a Fur Coat’, Ali portrays the deepest corners of the human soul. We, the readers, witness the development of the feeling called ‘love’ from the perspective of a young, extremely sensitive Turkish man, Raif Efendi.

Ali’s writing offers probably one of the best description of a sensitive man, deeply emphatic soul.

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6 Compelling Autumn Reads

6 Compelling Autumn Reads

A Start in Life by Anita Brookner (‪1928 – 2016‬)

“Dr. Weiss, at forty, knew that her life had been ruined by literature” is one of the boldest opening sentences I have ever read. The main protagonist, Ruth, turns to books for comfort while navigating through many ambiguities in her daily life such as taking care of her elderly ailing mother, failed relationships, finding the meaning to her life. Brookner’s prose is as always profound and illuminating, portraying the inner life of the protagonist in the most exquisite manner. Published in 1981, it is Brookner’s first novel which delights with poetic language, beautifully crafted sentences, and painfully authentic characters.

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Returning to Reims by Didier Eribon | Book Review

Returning to Reims by Didier Eribon | Book Review

‘Returning to Reims’ by Didier Eribon moved me profoundly. This book is about suffering, pain and shame related to one’s social background. Through showing his personal story of social exclusion, cutting ties with his working class origins, Eribon explores a number of important themes including the history of France over the last 100 years, how France political sphere has changed, how working class people moved from voting for the left-wing to now the right-wing parties.

‘Returning to Reims’ is partially a memoir, partially a sociological study.

Eribon was born into a working class family in a small town in France. He left it to pursue an academic career to become a well known social theorist.

A large part of this book is dedicated to the issue of shame related to one’s SOCIAL IDENTITY in context of SOCIAL and ECONOMIC INEQUALITIES.

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This Blinding Absence of Light by Tahar Ben Jelloun | Book Review

This Blinding Absence of Light by Tahar Ben Jelloun | Book Review

“For a long time I searched for the black stone that cleanses the soul of death. When I say a long time, I think of a bottomless pit, a tunnel dug with my fingers, my teeth, in the stubborn hope of glimpsing, if only for a minute, one infinitely lingering minute, a ray of light, a spark that would imprint itself deep within my eye, that would stay protected in my entrails like a secret. There it would be, lodging in my breast and nourishing my endless nights, there, in the depths of the humid earth, in that tomb smelling of man stripped of his humanity by shovel blows that flay him alive, snatching away his sight, his voice, and his reason.”

‘This Blinding Absence of Light’ by a Moroccan writer, Tahar Ben Jelloun narrates a story of political prisoners who took part in a failed coup against King Hassan II of Morocco in 1971. This story is based on real events and author’s interview with a former prisoner Aziz Binebine.

Following the attempt to oust the King, sixty people were incarcerated for eighteen years in a secret prison called Tazmamart which was located in the Sahara Desert. The conditions in that prison were horrid, atrocious. The prisoners were literally buried alive, kept in a complete darkness in a single underground cell of five foot high and nine foot long where they could not stand up nor sit up; scorpions and other insects occupied the cells with the prisoners, with one small hole for air and another hole in the ground used as a lavatory. They only received enough food to make it until next day. The only time they were allowed to go out was to bury other prisoners.

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Distant View of A Minaret by Alifa Rifaat | Book Review

Distant View of A Minaret by Alifa Rifaat | Book Review

“Distant View of A Minaret” by Alifa Rifaat (1930 – 1996) is a collection of fifteen short stories depicting lives of women within a traditional Muslim society.

Rifaat shows Muslim women who wish to adhere to strict religious teachings and they see men as the ones who do not follow their religious obligations towards women. She challenges this behaviour but her criticism is far from the feminism as perceived in the Western world.

The main subjects in these stories are marriage, death, sexual fulfilment, physical and emotional abuse, loneliness of loveless life, the inability to communicate one’s feelings to others, ageing and relationship between husband and wife from woman’s perspective portrayed within the religious norms and moral values of Islam. Those themes were dealt with such frankness that I have not seen in many contemporary books. Rifaat’s stories shows women who have views, opinions but still within a religious conservative framework.

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The Black Notebook by Patrick Modiano | Book Review

The Black Notebook by Patrick Modiano | Book Review

“Many years later I tried to find that hotel I hadn’t recorded its name or address in the black notebook, the way we tend not to write down the most intimate details of our lives, for fear that, once fixed on paper, they’ll no longer be ours”.

I read Patrick Modiano‘s books whenever I feel overwhelmed with life as his storytelling has this dream-like quality which helps me to transport myself into a different time and epoch.

Shadowy, atmospheric, sublime multi-layered and mesmerising….

The Black Notebook is a tale of M E L A N C H O L Y, loss, disappearance, identity, the passage of time and remembrance. It deals with the fragility of memories, the relationship with people who ‘visit’ our lives for a short period of time but they influence the rest of our journey.

The main protagonist, Jean wanders the same streets of Paris he used to roam forty years earlier as a young man in the company of a young woman called Dannie. Jean is trying to re-trace her life in Paris to understand who she was. His perception of Dannie differs to the picture of her life that comes to light as he re-visits the places they both used to frequent. There is no easy answer to apparently the most mundane questions which is common in Modiano’s prose.

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84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff | Book Review

84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff | Book Review

This a little uplifting book recommendation from my side for anyone in need of magical and cosy stories.

“84 Charing Cross Road” by Helene Hanff provides one of these pleasant reading experiences. It is a true story written by real life events; this tale is both life-affirming and sad but still a real treat for all the bibliophiles.

This gem consists of letters written between an American writer, Helene Hanff and a British bookseller, Frank Doel and other employees of Marks & Co Bookshop in London which was based in Charing Cross Road. Their correspondence overspanned the period of twenty years, between 1949 and 1968.  Sadly, Frank died in 1968 without ever having an opportunity to meet Helene in person.

This little book is about developing a long-distance friendship between two people by the means of letters. Over two decades, they had exchanged gifts, recipes, ideas on books and current world events. What started as an inquiry about one book that Helene was unable to find in New York City, it turned into a magical relationship between two unique souls connected by their love for words and stories.

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Exit West by Mohsin Hamid | Book Review

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid  | Book Review

“(…) but that is the way of things, for when we migrate, we murder from our lives those we leave behind”.

 “(..) to love is to enter into the inevitability of one day being able to protect what is most valuable to you”.

“We are all migrants through time”.  

“Exit West” by Mohsin Hamid is a tale about migration, through places, time, cultures. The story of the main protagonists, Nadia and Saeed,  explores many intersecting themes including the position of women living independently in a patriarchal society, a portrayal of destruction and mass violence caused by wars, the meaning of home, of belonging, of being a refugee, migrant through time and places, a portrayal of grief after losing the loved ones and over relationships ending, a relation with one’s family, culture, the significance of our personal dreams and of objects in one’s life and its association with the lives of others, the meaning of religious and cultural rituals, a portrayal of loving and nurturing relationship between parents and their child and the list goes on.

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A House of My Own: Stories from My Life by Sandra Cisneros | Book Review

A House of My Own: Stories from My Life by Sandra Cisneros | Book Review

“I feel fortunate at least to open books and be invited to step in, if that book shelters me and keeps me warm, I know I’ve come home”.

“I’m fascinated with how those of us who live in multiple cultures and the regions in between are held under the spell of words spoken in the language of our childhood. After a loved one dies, your senses become oversensitized. Maybe that’s why I sometimes smell my father’s cologne in a room when no one else does. And why words once taken for granted suddenly take on new meanings”.

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French Lessons by Alice Kaplan | Book Review

French Lessons by Alice Kaplan | Book Review

 “I have been willing to overlook in French culture what I would not accept in my own for the privilege of living in translation”.

French Lessons by Alice Kaplan is an interesting book. The author elaborates on such themes as living life through an acquired language and its impact on one’s course of life; the reasons as to why people want to adopt a different culture, the question of acceptance by so-called ‘native speakers’ but also there is a question as to who defines who is a ‘real’ native [speaker]. The book also discusses the reasons related to French intellectuals being attracted by fascism during the 1930s and 1940s and it explores the idea of freedom of speech and ethics related to it.

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The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov | Book Review

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov | Book Review

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov is one of my favourite books I have ever read. This book holds a special place in my heart as it depicts beautifully with all the necessary nuances the most important characteristics related to Russia and Eastern Europe during the course of the tragic 20th century. Having an Eastern European heritage, Bulgakov’s book has always resonated with me at a personal level as no other book ever had.

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Honeymoon by Patrick Modiano | Book Review

Honeymoon by Patrick Modiano | Book Review

‘Honeymoon’ by Patrick Modiano is an evocative, melancholic tale, and, at times, it resembles a frame from “film noir” of the 1950s. Modiano presents the lives of the protagonists from the point of an observer, never depicting the reality in a straightforward manner, but rather showing different angles, playing with the memory, the passage of time and changeability of place we used know. The reader must remain focused and to reflect on the past, presence and future to appreciate the full artistry and emotional sensitivity of Modiano’s writing.


Melmoth by Sarah Perry | Book Review

Melmoth by Sarah Perry | Book Review

Melmoth by Sarah Perry is a tale of moral complexity related to the human condition. Perry’s book draws upon Melmoth the Wanderer by Charles Robert Maturin written in 1820 which once was a well-read book with a greater significance.

Perry retells the legend of Melmoth, the loneliest being in this world who wanders across the times and places to lure away the ones who committed the acts of an unconceivable cruelty to wander alongside her for eternity. The guilty who are followed by Melmoth must make a choice between being led into the darkness or living with what they have done or what their actions led to.


An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine | Book Review

An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine | Book Review

“I would be reading at my desk, something she deemed part and parcel of my job, and considerate as she was, she kept me company but left me undisturbed. We were two solitudes benefiting from a grace that was continuously reinvigorated in each other’s presence, two solitudes who nourished each other.”

“I identify with outsiders, with the alienated or dispossessed. (…) I like men and women who don’t fit well in the dominant culture, or, as Alvaro de Campos calls them, strangers in this place as in every other, accidental in life as in the soul.”

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No Place to Lay One’s Head by Françoise Frenkel | Book Review

No Place to Lay One’s Head by Françoise Frenkel | Book Review

“It is the duty of those who have survived to bear witness to ensure the dead are not forgotten, nor humble acts of self-sacrifice left unacknowledged.  (…) I dedicate this book to the MEN AND WOMEN OF GOODWILL who, generously, with unfailing courage, opposed the will to violence and resisted to the end.”

Françoise Frenkel, No Place to Lay One’s Head, 2019, Pushkin Press

If you love literature and, in particular, books by Patrick Modiano, you will love this compelling beautifully written memoir, No Place to Lay One’s Head (Rien ou poser sa tete) by a Polish-Jewish enigmatic writer, Françoise Frenkel (1889-1975) with a preface by Patrick Modiano.

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