I devour all the books written by Elif Shafak. I deeply connect with the way she tells her stories and how she always attempts to approach all the difficult themes in her books. Elif’s writing compels me to stop and to ponder on the subjects of immigration, diversity, minorities and female issues. I am very much looking forward to reading 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World … well, I have already started reading it and I love it so far. Beautiful. A longer post is available here.
I will be rereading An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine. The book tells a story of a 72-year-old woman, Aaliya who lives in Beirut. She is a recluse who lives her life through literature. As she is ageing, Aaliya reflects on the meaning of her life. This tale is a confession of an introvert, a love letter to literature. This book is full of reflections on loneliness, disconnection, treatment of the outsiders by the society. In one of the interviews, I have heard Rabih Alameddine mentioning Bruno Schulz, a great Polish-Jewish writer whose story partly inspired Rabih to ponder on what one defines as a ‘necessary’ or ‘unnecessary’ life and what makes someone’s life valued.
Reading An Unnecessary Woman about the life defined by one’s relationship with literature is a very moving experience. I will write a longer post on this book soon but if you have not read it yet, I would highly recommend An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine. It is truly something special. More thoughts here.
This is a little book, just over eighty pages long. It is a story about friendship between two young boys, Konrad and Hans growing up in Germany of the 1930s, where a political landscape was changing drastically. Although the friendship between these two young men constitutes the basis for this story, the themes covered are unbelievably diverse and plentiful which include: the rise of anti-Semitism and its social acceptance; different attitudes towards ‘the other’: hatred and indifference; the perception of ‘the other’; the question of responsibility for the actions of the members of the group that one is deemed to belong to; the importance of learning about the past and, at the same time, what kind of history is passed on; the importance of not imposing ideas, religious beliefs, the identity on others, including your loved ones; the authority versus cultural norms; our relationship with the suffering of ‘the other’; the meaning of ‘home’, ‘ country’, ‘belonging’, mixed background; the plurality of identities and its importance not only at the individual level, but also at the level of community; the importance of storytelling in order to humanise or re-humanise ‘the other’. I am still processing this book – it hits your heart like a shrapnel, and it requires rereading to understand fully the message that Uhlman wants to convey. A more detailed review on this book can be found here.
The Emigrants by W.G. Sebald
I read The Emigrants by W.G. Sebald some time ago and I remember that it had a huge impact on me. In Sebald’s, I finally found someone who can express, in a nuanced manner, all these emotions of the anxiety associated with exile, immigration. Therefore, I have decided to read it again and to reflect more about the experience of being a foreigner in a foreign land, being alienated and deprived of ‘own belonging’. I am an immigrant myself and I have always had a profuse appreciation for Sebald’s ability to put into words all these difficult emotions so compassionately. I have a special fondness for his style which is nostalgic, tender, melancholic, somewhat dreamlike, like a soft, gentle whisper. I will write more about my thoughts on this book in due course.
My Michael by Amos Oz
My Michael by Amos Oz has been on my reading list for a very long time. I have read other books by Amos Oz including My Judas and A Tale of Love and Darkness. I have always loved the way this wonderful writer was able to depict human nature in its all complexity and fragility. I look forward to reading My Michael and to sharing my thoughts with you.
Bookshops by Jorge Carrion
It is a sort of a travelogue about bookshops and their importance on shaping our cultural ideas and literature in general. To me, a bookshop is a place where I go to find calmness and re-connect with myself. It is an oasis of peace and intellectual stimulation. I cannot wait to start this journey across the globe to learn more about all these magical places. On a separate note, in Carrion’s book, there is a special reference to Stefan Zweig’s story, Mendel the Bibliophile which already makes my heart full and my soul so chuffed. I will follow up with a longer post soon.
If you have any interesting book recommendations, please comment below. At the moment I am particularly interested in the books based in the Middle East, Central Asia and continental Europe with the action taking place in the 20th century or contemporarily.