3 Books Set in the Middle East by Andre Aciman, Elif Shafak and Naguib Mahfouz

3 Books Set in the Middle East by Andre Aciman, Elif Shafak and Naguib Mahfouz

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Reflections: Mendel The Bibliophile by Stefan Zweig

Reflections: Mendel The Bibliophile by Stefan Zweig


Below I am sharing with you this quote that I really love about the magic of books, reading and literature. If you have a chance to read a moving short story: ‘Mendel The Bibliophile’ by Stefan Zweig, I would very much encourage you to do so.

“Just as an astronomer, alone in an observatory, watches night after night through a telescope the myriads of stars, their mysterious movements, their changeful medley, their extinction and their flaming-up anew, so did Jacob Mendel, seated at his table in the Café Gluck, look through his spectacles into the universe of books, a universe that lies above the world of our everyday life, and, like the stellar universe, is full of changing cycles.”

– Mendel The Bibliophile by Stefan Zweig
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Book Review: Amour. How the French Talk about Love by Stefania Rousselle

Book Review: Amour. How the French Talk about Love by Stefania Rousselle


“I am single today, and I have been struggling with my thoughts. And after so many years, I want to know what it is just to be two. United. One. I’ve never had that experience. People say they ‘fall’ in love. That word is so negative. I want to ‘rise’ into love. That’s exactly what I want to do. I want to rise and fly.”

Ketty Amacin, 57, beautician


Amour. How the French Talk about Love was written by a French-American journalist, Stefania Rousselle who has spent most of her professional life reporting on terrorism and the bleakest events of the recent years. Following the terrorist attacks in Paris in November of 2015, the loss of her friend during the massacre in Bataclan and her relationship breakdown, overwhelmed by pain and sadness, Stefania set out on a journey across France in search of so-called L O V E.

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Book Review: Returning to Reims by Didier Eribon

Book Review: Returning to Reims by Didier Eribon

‘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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Reflections: Yes to Life In Spite of Everything by Viktor E. Frankl

Reflections: Yes to Life In Spite of Everything by Viktor E. Frankl


I thought to share a little post about ‘Yes To Life’ by Dr Viktor Frankl (1905 – 1997) as it might help some of you out there who currently go through personal struggles especially due to the pandemic.

You might be familiar with the name of Dr Frankl from his other well-known book: ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’.
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‘Yes to Life’ is the newest publication in English of Dr Frankl’s lectures that he gave in March and April of 1946, just nine months after being liberated from the Nazi concentration camp. Dr Frankl spent three years in death camps such Auschwitz, Dachau and others. He lost his parents and his pregnant wife during the Holocaust.

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

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

“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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Book Review: Distant View of A Minaret by Alifa Rifaat

Book Review: Distant View of A Minaret by Alifa Rifaat


“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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Book Review: Three Daughters of Eve by Elif Shafak

Book Review: Three Daughters of Eve by Elif Shafak

Three Daughters of Eve by Elif Shafak tackles many different topics including religion, or rather the meaning of God in one’s life, how cultural and political circumstances shape lives of the individuals and the position of women in Eastern and Western societies.

The story does provide an insight into Turkey’s turbulent past such as military coup in the 1980s and how life looked like during the rule of the military. There are descriptions of house search, torture, imprisonment of the individuals for holding different opinions to the ones accepted by the government and society. We also see what the years of torture, imprisonment and humiliation can do to the individual life.

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Book Review: Elsewhere, Home by Leila Aboulela

Book Review: Elsewhere, Home by Leila Aboulela

Leila Aboulela is a Sudanese writer living in Aberdeen, Scotland. She was born in Cairo, grew up in Khartoum and moved to Scotland in the 1990s. Her books often deal with the experience of being ‘an outsider’, an immigrant and she also frequently touches on the subject of religion: Islam and what it means to be a devoted Muslim woman in today’s world.

Elsewhere, Home is a collection of vignettes about immigration, loss, alienation, crossing different cultures, what it means to be ‘third culture’ child. Those stories explore human relationships with a great deal of empathy. They offer a very nuanced, complex picture of immigration. This collection evolves around immigration in the UK, with a special focus on Scotland. We meet a variety of characters from different social backgrounds across all age groups, mainly coming from East Africa and Middle East.

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Book Review: The Black Notebook by Patrick Modiano

Book Review: The Black Notebook by Patrick Modiano

“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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Book Review: 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

Book Review: 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

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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Book Review: Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

Book Review: Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

“(…) 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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Reflections: Invictus by W.E. Henley

Reflections: Invictus by W.E. Henley

“Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.”

Somewhere in Scotland

Book Review: 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


“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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Reflections: Alone by Edgar Allan Poe

Reflections: Alone by Edgar Allan Poe

“From childhood’s hour I have not been
As others were—I have not seen
As others saw—I could not bring
My passions from a common spring.
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow; I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone;
And all I loved, I loved alone.
Then—in my childhood—in the dawn
Of a most stormy life—was drawn
From every depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still:
From the torrent, or the fountain,
From the red cliff of the mountain,
From the sun that round me roll’d
I
n its autumn tint of gold—
From the lightning in the sky
As it pass’d me flying by—
From the thunder, and the storm,
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view—”

ALONE BY EDGAR ALLAN POE
Morning Stroll in Wanstead Park