akeela reads

KeskusteluClub Read 2011

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akeela reads

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1akeela
Muokkaaja: joulukuu 28, 2011, 6:05 am

Happy New Year, everybody!

I'm happily back for another year in Club Read :)

READ in 2011
The well of life by Nawal El Saadawi (translated, Egypt)*
To Mervas by Elisabeth Rynell (translated, Sweden)*
If this be treason: translation and its dyscontents by Gregory Rabassa (non-fiction, US)*
Mozart's ghost by Julia Cameron (US)
Loom by Thérèse Soukar Chehade (Lebanon)*
Pictures of you by Caroline Leavitt (US)*
Rapunzel's revenge by Shannon Hale (graphic novel, US)
Basadzi voices compiled by Rose Mokhosi (poetry, South Africa)
A good land by Randa Awar Jarrar (Lebanon)*
Becoming by Wendy Clark (South Africa)
Counting sleeping beauties by Hazel Frankel (South Africa)
The folded earth by Anuradha Roy (India) *
The door by Magda Szabo (translated, Hungary)*
Chameleon by Barbara Erasmus (South Africa)
Lynelle by the sea by Laurie Lico Albanese (US)
Worldwide adventures in love by Louise Wener (UK)
Widow: stories by Michelle Latiolais (US)*
Tropical fish: tales from Entebbe by Doreen Baingana (short stories, Uganda)*
Fire from the Andes short fiction from Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador translated by Susan E. Benner* (short stories, Latin America)
Other lives by André Brink (South Africa)*
The patience stone by Atiq Rahimi (translated, Afghanistan)*
Isle of dreams by Keizo Hino (translated, Japan)*
An intimate war by Donvé Lee (South Africa)*
The unlikely secret agent by Ronnie Kasrils (non-fiction, biography, South Africa)*
Alice by Judith Hermann (translated, Germany)
Reuben cooks: food is time travel by Reuben Riffel (South Africa, cookbook)
To see the mountain and other stories (The Caine Prize for African Writing 2011)*
Dear Zari: Hidden stories from women of Afghanistan by Zarguna Kargar (non-fiction)
Living, loving and lying awake at night by Sindiwe Magona (short stories, South Africa)*
Scribbling the cat: tarvels with an African soldier by Alexandra Fuller (audiobook, memoir, Zambia, Mozambique)*
Underground time by Delphine de Vigan (translated, France)*
The secret lives of Baba Segi’s wives by Lola Shoneyin (Nigeria)*
Rosie by Alan Titchmarsh (audiobook, UK)

* Recommended

2akeela
tammikuu 1, 2011, 6:40 am

Highlights of last year's reading include my Top 10 reads for 2010,
roughly in the order in which I read them:

Hunger by Knut Hamsun (Norway)
This Blinding Absence of Light by Tahar ben Jelloun (Morocco)
House of Mist by Maria Luisa Bombal (Chile)
Touch by Adania Shibli (Palestine)
All the Living by C.E. Morgan (USA)
The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa (Japan)
Shadow by Karin Alvtegen (Sweden)
Jamilia by Chingiz Aïtmatov (Kyrgyzstan)
The Last Brother by Nathacha Appanah (Mauritius)
The Last Summer of Reason by Tahar Djaout (Algeria)

Eight of these were translations, 60% by women writers, and all of them just happen to be from different countries!

3akeela
tammikuu 1, 2011, 6:45 am

I've just completed my first book for the year! The Well of Life by Nawal El Saadawi translated beautifully from the Arabic by her husband, Sherif Hetata. This little book comprises two novellas, the title story and "The Thread" by this monumental Egyptian feminist writer whose work reveals amazing depth and power.

Both astonishingly creative stories contain elements of fantasy, and are about women coming face-to-face with the reality of being women in a male-dominated society that has no place for women. Although I was able to appreciate the novellas, much of it was obscure and I'm not sure I understood half of it, but the writing is wonderful; it is passionate and subtle at the same time, it is rhythmic and hypnotic, and it is wise. It speaks of a foreign culture, but at its essence it is universal: at its core, the stories reflect human beings' yearning to be acknowledged, to be loved, and to be valued.

4avaland
tammikuu 1, 2011, 7:11 pm

>3 akeela: I had much the same feeling with her Love in the Kingdom of Oil. I have not read The Well of Life, when was it written?

5janemarieprice
tammikuu 1, 2011, 11:15 pm

Nice to see you back!

6akeela
tammikuu 2, 2011, 12:20 pm

>4 avaland: Way back in '93.

>5 janemarieprice: Thanks, Jane! Wasn't sure I'd be back cos I didn't do too well last year!

7kiwidoc
tammikuu 2, 2011, 7:37 pm

Hi Akeela,

Interesting best reads - I also really enjoyed Hunger and This Blinding Absence of Light in the past two years.

Notable that both concern subjects of intense human suffering! Have you pursued any others by the same authors?

8akeela
tammikuu 3, 2011, 1:46 am

Gosh, Karen! I thought I was scarce! I haven't read anything else by Hamsun but have Ben Jelloun in my sights. Having said that Hunger has never quite left me and it's a year since I read it.

9bonniebooks
tammikuu 3, 2011, 7:57 pm

What was it that made The Housekeeper and the Professor so popular? I loved it too, and don't know anyone yet who didn't like it. Looking forward to hearing about what you're reading as there are lots of unfamiliar ones on last year's list.

10akeela
tammikuu 4, 2011, 4:34 am

Thanks, Bonnie. It’s a beautiful, charming little book that got the attention it deserved – at least here on LT.

To Mervas by Elisabeth Rynell. Translated from the Swedish by Victoria Häggblom. Talk about beautiful writing - this one was breathtakingly so!

Rynell is a Swedish poet and novelist. To Mervas is her first novel to be translated into English, and the translation is exceptional. It’s about middle-aged Marta who suddenly receives a letter out of the blue from her first and only love, Kosti, more than twenty years after she last heard from him. It’s just a few lines saying that he’s in Mervas, and it’s signed “Your Kosti”.

The letter understandably sets off a train of emotions and memories, as Marta thinks back on her life and everything that has led her to where she is currently. It is a gut-wrenching tale, but one that needs to be savored for the refreshing lyrical prose. I loved it.

11avaland
tammikuu 4, 2011, 7:59 am

>10 akeela: If you and Rachel (rachbxl) both endorse the book, well then, it must be terrific!

12amandameale
tammikuu 4, 2011, 8:28 am

Hi Akeela
I'm hoping to read Hunger this year. And I enjoyed very much Woman At Point Zero by Nawal El Saadawi.

13kiwidoc
tammikuu 4, 2011, 10:16 am

Thanks Akeela - that Rynell book is waiting to be read here. (I think I must renew my Archipelago subscription.)

14akeela
tammikuu 4, 2011, 12:10 pm

>11 avaland: speaking of which, has Rach started a thread yet?! She made me join CR 2011 and she's not here...

Hi Amanda! Do read Hunger. It's a life-changing book and it's gorgeously penned. It's certainly given me a different perspective on homeless folk, and it's a joy to read.

Great to see you around, Karen! Marta's story becomes a tad gloomy but the writing and the language made the telling so palatable. Hope you get around to it soon.

... off to find the good Rachel

15avaland
tammikuu 4, 2011, 2:28 pm

>14 akeela: I don't think so. She has a few challenges at the moment. I'm sure she'll be along when things lighten up.

16arubabookwoman
tammikuu 8, 2011, 6:09 pm

Hi Akeela--This Blinding Absence of Light is on my list of memorable reads for all time. I read it a couple of years ago, and still think about it.

To Mervas is on my list of books to read soon. Thanks for the review.

17kiwidoc
tammikuu 8, 2011, 8:14 pm

The maxim that fact is often more interesting/horrifying than fiction, really holds up with the Jelloun book.

18rachbxl
tammikuu 9, 2011, 3:28 pm

I'm here! Going to set my thread up in the next couple of days, I promise. I even have THREE books to list on it...which is almost as many as I read in the whole of last year;-)

19akeela
tammikuu 11, 2011, 1:53 am

Yay! Rachel's back!! :)

Hi Deborah and Karen. The Ben Jelloun is definitely one of those books one wants everyone to read because of the sheer horror but also the triumph of the human spirit. It doesn't leave one, ever, I guess.

20akeela
tammikuu 11, 2011, 2:29 am

If This Be Treason: Translation and Its Dyscontents: A Memoir by Gregory Rabassa.

This memoir was penned by 90-year-old Rabassa after a formidable career translating some of the great classics of Latin American writing, including the likes of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Luisa Valenzuela, Julio Cortazar, Clarice Lispector, and more. Having lectured in translation, I imagine the book is aimed at students of translation as it includes many constructive pointers about the translation process and its challenges. It’s not my field of expertise, far from it, but I found it enlightening and very interesting.

The man has loads of experience, so he can talk. I found the book fascinating and was willing to overlook what others may have perceived as arrogance. I thought it forthright, irreverent, yes, and perhaps wry, but thoroughly enjoyable.

I expected more of a memoir – because of the title – but it included only incidental bits about his life. Most of the book is dedicated to actual books and authors he has worked with, which made me realise how few Latin American authors/books I’ve read from these parts.

I thought it was a great and worthwhile read. Thank you, Lois!

21amandameale
tammikuu 11, 2011, 7:58 am

#20 I have read most of that book. Very, very interesting and I'll second your recommendation.

22charbutton
tammikuu 11, 2011, 4:12 pm

> 20, you are more generous to Rabassa than I was able to be!

23rachbxl
tammikuu 11, 2011, 7:08 pm

>22 charbutton: Ditto! (Still planning to set that thread up, honest...)

24akeela
tammikuu 12, 2011, 3:47 pm

> 22, 23 :D

25dchaikin
tammikuu 13, 2011, 11:52 am

Hi akeela - Just stopping by, thought I should leave a note.

26akeela
tammikuu 13, 2011, 12:52 pm

Hi Dan. Good to know you've been around!

27rebeccanyc
tammikuu 20, 2011, 3:11 pm

I enjoyed the Rabassa book too, akeela.

28akeela
tammikuu 21, 2011, 7:08 am

Hey, Rebecca!

Mozart's Ghost by Julia Cameron. I was very excited when I saw this novel because I like the author's non-fiction, especially God is No Laughing Matter. But I read about 30 pages, if that, then started skipping words, then paragraphs, then pages... It's always a bad sign when I start skipping anything!

It's about Anna, a teacher by day, and a medium - able to communicate with the dead - by night. She lives in a flat in NYC. One day the gorgeous Edward, a concert pianist, moves into her building and irritates her no-end with his incessant playing, but there are moments when appreciates the beautiful music that fills her apartment and her head. See where this is going?! Oh, and then Mozart's ghost, (THE Mozart, yes) visits her in her apartment to spur on the romance between these two...

It was terribly boring, and repetitive. The endorsement by an author, on the cover, said it was "heartbreakingly funny". I couldn't understand that phrase when I first saw it and I still don't? Perhaps it's not funny at all cos I didn't even manage a smile once during my skimming thereof!

Hope I pick up a really good one next!!

29dchaikin
tammikuu 21, 2011, 9:50 am

But I read about 30 pages, if that, then started skipping words, then paragraphs, then pages...

Ha! At some point it's time to burn it. :) But then maybe one day you will suddenly get it and want t come back to it...anyway, I'll certainly skip this one.

30rachbxl
tammikuu 22, 2011, 3:33 pm

>28 akeela: Sounds like one to miss! Hope you've found something better for your next read...

31akeela
tammikuu 23, 2011, 1:31 am

:) Dan, I can safely say I'm done with that one!

Thanks, Rach. I have, indeed! I've just started Giving Up the Ghost by Hilary Mantel and find her to be such an adept and enjoyable writer.

32rebeccanyc
tammikuu 23, 2011, 8:10 am

I'm a big fan of Giving Up the Ghost, and I think it illuminates a lot of her fiction.

33akeela
helmikuu 8, 2011, 10:28 am

Two read for review in Belletrista issue 9: Loom, a lovely atmospheric read by Lebanese-born Thérèse Soukar Chehade review here, and Pictures of You by Caroline Leavitt review here.

34akeela
Muokkaaja: helmikuu 11, 2011, 5:57 am

link: Pictures of You no ts above..

Picked up another graphic novel Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon Hale. It's a fun retelling of the Grimm tale we all know, and love. I enjoyed the graphics and the light humor. This one might be one for younger readers.

I also read Basadzi Voices: An Anthology of Poetic Writing by Young Black South African Women compiled by Rose Mokhosi (2006). More thoughts at 37 below.

35dchaikin
helmikuu 10, 2011, 9:15 am

Akeela, enjoyed your reviews over on belletrista. Your comments on Loom caught my curiosity.

36akeela
Muokkaaja: helmikuu 11, 2011, 6:01 am

Thanks, Dan. I'm glad Loom caught your attention ;) I really enjoyed it.

37akeela
Muokkaaja: helmikuu 11, 2011, 6:06 am

Basadzi Voices: An Anthology of Poetic Writing by Young Black South African Women compiled by Rose Mokhosi. In this collection, 13 vibrant South African poets, aged between19 and 29, write about their experiences in post-1994 South Africa.

South Africa is still a young democracy, so I guess one shouldn’t expect miracles overnight, but I was struck by how grim these women’s experiences still were five years ago. The poems deal with universal issues that women confront, like disappointment in love, heartache, etc, but also issues pertinent to life in South African townships, such as poverty, rape, AIDS, and so on. On the other hand, there were also hopes, dreams, and aspirations echoed in the positive voices coming from the small volume.

I liked the African feel of this introductory stanza:

Iketsetse nnana *
by Khutsang Maroba

This one is my design,
it won’t fit your desire.
It’s styled for my curves,
rhymed for my rhythm,
embroidered for my dance.

* Meaning, “Do it yourself, girl”

And the beginning stanzas of another:
Before poetry was hip
By Khanyisile Magubane

Before poetry was hip
we were not gracing stages,
we were going through stages
scribbling on pages
trying to understand these words
that haunted our minds.

Before poetry was hip,
sometimes, sometimes we were too scared
to tell people we were poets,
we did not trust in these words.
Before poetry was hip
we were told to focus on science and accounting,
because words don’t put food on the table.

Oh, but they do give peace of mind!


I looked for the meaning of Basadzi online without success so asked a couple of my black colleagues at work and was enthused to learn that it means “women” in one of the lesser known African languages.

What I did find online was that Basadzi Voices forms part of the Young Basadzi Projects, which has a blog: http://youngbasadzi.blogspot.com/. They hope that the publication of this volume will inspire other young women to make their voices heard.

38dchaikin
helmikuu 11, 2011, 10:01 am

#37 I don't have anything of value to say, just thanks for posting this tiny window.

39janemarieprice
helmikuu 11, 2011, 1:22 pm

37 - Very interesting and thanks for the taste.

40amandameale
helmikuu 12, 2011, 7:53 am

#37 I like the Maroba excerpt very much.

41akeela
helmikuu 14, 2011, 3:53 am

Hi Dan, Jane and Amanda! It's a pleasure to have you guys appreciate it so :)

42akeela
helmikuu 22, 2011, 3:46 am

I haven't really set any reading goals for 2010, but I have decided to include at least some South African books. So when I recently saw two fairly new SA books in my midst, I quickly pounced on them.

First up was Becoming by Wendy Clark. Alas, by page 10, I was already terribly bored but decided to persevere till at least page 50, to be fair. The protagonist is a 48-year-old repressed, married woman who still hasn't established a sense of self-worth - something I found most disconcerting.

A look at the back cover revealed that the book was a “coming-of-age” novel. Who comes of age at this late stage in life?! I’m afraid I didn’t quite survive till page 50, though I did skim through till the end and found a couple of surprises. Still, it wasn’t enough to merit more than one star, if that, from me.

The second, which I’m still reading, is Counting Sleeping Beauties by Hazel Frankel. I’m midway through and am enjoying it. Mercifully! If it's good, I will review it for Belletrista.

The other book I completed is A Good Land by Lebanese author, Nada Awar Jarrar. I've enjoyed two others by her before, Dreams of Water and Somewhere, Home. She has a gift with the pen - or is it the computer, nowadays? I will review this for Issue 10 of Belletrista.

43amandameale
maaliskuu 31, 2011, 8:11 am

#42 I enjoy your Belle reviews.

44akeela
huhtikuu 1, 2011, 11:17 am

Thank you, Amanda, for stopping by and for the nice-to-hear comment :)

RL is a rollercoaster ride for me at the moment so not much reading going on, unfortunately.

45avaland
huhtikuu 1, 2011, 4:36 pm

>37 akeela: Loved the music in that poetry. It would be wonderful to hear it read by the poets, I think (although I know from experience that not all poets are great readers of their own poetry).

46akeela
toukokuu 27, 2011, 9:05 am

Seems I haven't been here for ages!

Some links to the books I reviewed for Belletrista: A Good Land set in Lebanon by Nada Awar Jarrar: review here ; and the South African Counting Sleeping Beauties about a Jewish family in Johannesburg in the 1950s by Hazel Frankel review here.

I also read Anuradha Roy's The Folded Earth, which was an atmospheric read that transports one into the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains for a breath of fresh air: review here.

47akeela
heinäkuu 13, 2011, 10:18 am

The Door by Magda Szabo. Translated from the Hungarian by Len Rix. The Door by Magda Szabo. Translated from the Hungarian by Len Rix.

This novel read like a memoir or a journal, even, and could have been called “My Life with Emerence” or “Emerence and I”. It's a first person narrator by Magda, a Hungarian writer, who needs help keeping her home in order so she can concentrate on plying her trade. She enlists the help of Emerence, a woman well-known in the area as a helping hand, wherever she is needed.

Emerence is a robust woman with a headstrong personality and Magda struggles to establish a relationship with her. She is given to bouts of quietness and is often evasive. She does not allow anyone beyond her front door – even visitors have to stay outside. This give rise to many questions and theories about what may lie behind The Door.

When Magda and her husband reluctantly adopt a dog, Viola, the dog seems to take to Emerence much more readily than to her own family. Viola has a personality all of her own, and dog lovers will probably enjoy this character.

Gradually the two women develop a friendship, and Emerence comes to share her life story with Magda and an understanding emerges of this strong, giving but ultimately private woman. This is a quiet story, of the struggle to understand and accept a woman on her own terms.

48akeela
Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 13, 2011, 11:34 am

Three more:
Chameleon by Barbara Erasmus is a South African novel, which I skimmed mostly because I didn't enjoy it at all. It's about a woman who finds it difficult to embrace her life and so adopts the chameleon-like trait of hiding her true colors when in the company of others. She hides what she feels on the inside from others, as she fears she will not be accepted by society otherwise and portrays to them what they expect from her. Not a good read, IMO. Unfortunately.

Lynelle by the sea by Laurie Lico Albanese. A light read from two women's perpectives. One is Lynelle who is elated at the birth of her daughter, Grace. Sadly the child dies of sudden infant death syndrome a mere two days later, and Lynie is devasted. On the other hand, we have well-to-do Annie, who is ambivalent about the arrival of a third child.

After the death of her child, Lynie leaves her husband briefly in an attempt to come to terms with her grief, and takes a train to the sea. At the seaside, she sees a little boy unattended to in his cot. She aims to pick him up just for a moment to hug him. But once she has him in her arms, she cannot let go, and so keeps walking - with the child in her arms.

Not a great read. I did skim a large portion of the book, and this is never a good sign. But it wasn't totally bad. It's about motherhood, grief, family, and forgiveness.

Worldwide adventures in love by Louise Wener sports a young narrator, the teenaged Jessie. She has a younger sister on the verge of being a teenager, Margaret. The two girls befriend their reclusive neighbour Edith who regales them with stories and artefacts from around the world when they visit her about once or twice a month. One day they wake to find Edith's home burning down, with all the wonderful items they so loved. Edith also succumbs to the fire. At the same time, the girls' parents are separated as a result of infidelity on the part of their mother, and the girls have to deal with their loss, grief and pain on both sides.

Each alternate chapter of the book is a letter written by Edith to her sister in the 1930s, as she travels the world and sends word of her experiences. This was an entertaining read and the final chapters were quite funny in places.

49akeela
heinäkuu 13, 2011, 11:35 am

On a completely different plane, I read the excellent Widow: stories by Michelle Latiolais. It's hugely enjoyable if you love a play on words and meanings and some wisdom to boot. My full review is the current issue of Belletrista: http://www.belletrista.com/2011/Issue12/reviews_4.php

50akeela
heinäkuu 14, 2011, 10:14 am

The Caine Prize for African Writing 2011 was announced two days ago and was won by Zimbabwe's NoViolet Bulawayo with her short story, "Hitting Budapest".

NoViolet Bulawayo was born and raised in Zimbabwe. She recently completed her MFA at Cornell University, in the
US, where she is now a Truman Capote Fellow and Lecturer of English. Another of her stories, ‘Snapshots’, was
shortlisted for the 2009 SA PEN/Studzinski Literary Award. NoViolet has recently completed a novel manuscript
tentatively titled We Need New Names, and has begun work on a memoir project.

Just last week I had occasion to read the 2010 winning story entitled "Stickfighting Days" by Terry Olufemi who was born in Sierra Leone. I loved the story!

It is hard-hitting but beautifully penned. It's about young boys in an undisclosed African setting where they live and literally fight for survival on a daily basis.

The story has a strong African feel though the characters have Western names, like Markham and Simon, which was curious. I loved the character of the young narrator that emerged as he revealed his angst and his survival instincts in challenging circumstances. I could absolutely see why this story won - though I must say that my colleagues don't all agree with me.

I have the 2011 winning story and hope to read it this evening.

The stories are apparently available online, perhaps at www.caineprize.com. I don't know. They just landed on my desk. Lucky me!

51akeela
heinäkuu 15, 2011, 9:05 am

Continuing to follow the good Avaland's example with short fiction, I read the Caine Prize winning short story "Hitting Budapest" by NoViolet Bulawayo.

This story is about a group of hungry children who routinely set out from their impoverished suburb ironically called Paradise, to go to an upmarket neighboring suburb called Budapest to raid the fruit trees in an effort to stave of the hunger pangs. Budapest is “like another country” with its deserted streets and closed gates and windows, and “no smell of cooking food, or something rotting”. In Budapest, says one of the kids, the trees are “heavy with fruit that’s waiting for us since nobody around here seems to know what fruit is for.”

It’s an endearing tale with a number of colorful characters. Some of it is just downright crude, but it suits the story because that is the reality these kids grow up with. There is nothing sentimental about the story and we meet a number of children who are very childlike but who are forced to employ survival strategies in challenging circumstances.

What I loved is that the kids dream of moving out of their disadvantaged world into America and beyond, to pursue their dreams. They have dreams of something better, beyond, possibly because they’ve been to Budapest! :) I really enjoyed the children in the story, and though it is set in Zimbabwe, much of it felt like it could have been set in some part of South Africa.

The story may be read here: http://www.bostonreview.net/BR35.6/bulawayo.php

52avaland
heinäkuu 16, 2011, 8:45 am

>51 akeela: Sounds great. I hope to read it in the near future.

53akeela
heinäkuu 16, 2011, 12:32 pm

Hi avaland! Thanks for stopping by.

So I finally pulled Doreen Baingana’s Tropical Fish: Tales from Entebbe off the shelf. The first tale entitled “Green Stones” is about a little Ugandan girl, Christine Mugisha, and her endless fascination with her parents’ dimmed bedroom with its thick curtains patterned in blood red roses (which she and her sisters are not allowed to enter) and her mom’s abundant collection of jewellery.

Baingana paints a delightful picture of childhood and the dream world Christine escapes into one day when she gains entry to this mesmerizing space and her mother’s exquisite forbidden treasures.

Says the giddy Christine of the beguiling jewels: “I took it all in as slowly as I could. First with my eyes only, closing them for a moment, then opening them again for the surprise of wild color. Then I passed my hand and arms through the cold stones, slowly turning over the careless heaps, watching them catch the dim light and throw it back in a conversation I understood but could not translate. The stones rattled like feisty tambourines, or gurgled low and heavy as they knocked against one another, good luck. I worshiped the color with both hands, rubbing each bead as one would a rosary, then lifted the necklaces up and watched them ripple through my hands like silvery water...”

She goes on to t-a-s-t-e the jewels, and then to layer them on her little frame, one heavy necklace after the other. It was an experience I lived and loved with her :)

The writing is lush and layered and we slowly get the bigger picture of her life with her long-suffering mother and accomplished, but later, drunken father. This is African writing at its best.

Tropical Fish: Tales from Entebbe won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book in 2006. Baingana was also a finalist for the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2005 and 2006.

54rachbxl
heinäkuu 17, 2011, 2:16 pm

Hi Akeela! I've been missing you...

I can't make out if you liked The Door or not; I'm curious because I still don't know whether I did or not and it's over a year since I read it. It kind of drew me in without my realising...and yet I still felt ambivalent about it (but I did like the dog).

I've had half an eye out for Tales from Entebbe for a while, but you make it sound like it's worth actively seeking out - thanks!

55kidzdoc
heinäkuu 18, 2011, 10:58 am

Hi Akeela! I'm glad to see you back here. I especially liked your reviews of Widow: Stories and Tropical Fish; the latter book has been on my wish list for awhile, so I need to pick it up. You're right about the Caine Prize stories; all of them can be read on the prize's web site.

56akeela
heinäkuu 18, 2011, 11:32 am

Hey Rach! Likewise...

To be honest, I'm not sure either. The Door got quite a few very good reviews here on LT and I wondered if I had missed something.

I did love that first story and got caught up in the succeeding chapters of Tales from Entebbe.

57akeela
heinäkuu 19, 2011, 2:49 am

Thank you, Darryl!

The Entebbe "review" was just my response to the first story - I'm still reading the rest of the book , though when I picked it up I hadn't planned to read it all the way through.

I really wish I knew how you work the hours you do and then manage to read the amazing and sometimes really challenging books you do! What is your secret, pray, tell! :)

58avaland
heinäkuu 21, 2011, 1:14 pm

>57 akeela: It was nice to revisit that story in Baingana's collection through your review. I haven't seen anything from her since that collection.

59akeela
heinäkuu 25, 2011, 11:07 am

>58 avaland: I haven't seen anything else by Baingana either... Pity because she showed a lot of promise with Tropical Fish, which I finished by the way.

The first story was fabulous and remains my favorite.

The rest of the tales together form a novel about three sisters growing up in Entebbe in Sudan and moving onwards and upwards. Christine, the youngest and featuring most prominently, goes to the States as a young adult and experiences a whole new world of social conventions that contrast deeply with her life experience in Africa. Some of her perceptions were very interesting. After eight years in the States, she returns to Entebbe and having been free and unencumbered by social expectations has to adjust to home and, in effect, find herself again. It's effectively a set of coming-of-age tales and it was a good read.

Thank you, avaland.

60akeela
syyskuu 7, 2011, 8:16 am

Fire from the Andes edited and translated by Susan E. Benner and Kathy S. Leonard is a wonderful anthology of short fiction by women from all walks of Ecuadorian, Peruvian and Bolivian life. The women are all undoubtedly accomplished women, amongst them social and political activists, academics, artists, journalists, and more. From the array of stories and the quality of the storytelling, one gets a distinct impression of an oral storytelling culture in South America, where everyone has been reared in the culture of telling and listening to stories. This was an entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable introduction to an area of the world seldom read in Western circles, but deserving of a wide readership. My review is in the current issue (13) of Belletrista.

61akeela
syyskuu 7, 2011, 8:29 am

Other lives by André Brink. This volume of short fiction was a quick, compelling read by the celebrated South African novelist. It seems Brink enjoyed pushing the boundaries with these stories. He plays with the idea of alternate lives and seeing life and people from different perspectives. There are characters who appear as the main characters in one story and then as peripheral characters in the other stories thereby providing the opportunity for differing perspectives.

He also explores issues of race and discrimination in the new South Africa. One man wakes up and looks in the mirror to find a black man looking back at him. The realisation that he is black has a huge impact on his psyche and we follow him through the day as he struggles to come to terms with who he is, and how others, including his wife and children, now perceive him.

Another story sees a painter stepping out to buy groceries. When he steps back in, he is confronted by a whole other life - there's a wife he has never seen before, and two children he doesn’t recognise. They certainly appear to know and love him; while in his mind, he still has another wife waiting for him at home.

The protagonists are all men and I enjoyed the male perspective on love, women, family life, and identity. The initial stories fit together perfectly but I am still wondering how the last story fitted in. I can't quite put my finger on what bound the final tale to the others...

In any case, the surrealist experiences of the protagonists serve to pull one in and one is constanly wondering how far Brink will take it, and also if he will succeed - or if it will all just fall apart at some point. It worked for me, mostly.

62avaland
syyskuu 7, 2011, 11:54 am

>61 akeela: oh, I think I might have this book...

63kidzdoc
syyskuu 7, 2011, 12:11 pm

Very nice review of Other Lives, Akeela. I've wanted to give André Brink a try, and it sounds as though this would be a good one to start with.

64akeela
syyskuu 8, 2011, 10:47 am

>62 avaland: Be interested to hear what you make of it!

>63 kidzdoc: Thanks, Darryl. I think you should read Brink, but perhaps one of his classics like A Dry White Season, which I read yonks ago - with great appreciation. This one may be a tad light for you..

65akeela
Muokkaaja: syyskuu 13, 2011, 7:29 am

The Patience Stone by Atiq Rahimi. Rahimi is a talented author who gets to the heart of things. He has a feel for his subject matter and manages to convey his insight extraordinarily well, even in translation. This resonant novel was translated from the French by Polly McLean.

This book was as moving as his other books. It is about an unnamed Afghan woman, who tends to her comatose (hero) husband for weeks with no visible improvement in his condition. She prays deeply and loves him deeply, but never gets any response to keep her faith strong. As the weeks pass, she starts losing faith and the rage builds up in her, and she starts talking and revealing her innermost thoughts and experiences to her “absent” but very much present husband.

She has lived her whole life in a repressive society where women have not been allowed to participate in life and society; they remain on the margins. And given the chance, she now vents her emotions and the result is pretty harrowing, for her and the reader.

Although the book is powerful, I didn’t love it as much as Earth and Ashes, which remains my favourite and A Thousand Rooms of Dream and Fear, but there were great moments of clarity that distinguishes Rahimi from other authors.

66dchaikin
Muokkaaja: syyskuu 8, 2011, 2:01 pm

Viestin kirjoittaja on poistanut viestin.

67dchaikin
syyskuu 8, 2011, 2:05 pm

Oops, hit submit my mistake...

I'm catching up and apparently from way back in May (I missed everyone in June/July). Very interested in Widow, Tropical Fish, Fire from the Andes, Other Lives and Patience Stone...all, but the last, titles I hadn't heard of.

68kidzdoc
syyskuu 9, 2011, 7:31 am

Nice review of The Patience Stone, Akeela. I have it at home, and I'll probably read it later this year.

BTW, I did buy A Dry White Season yesterday! I was looking for Other Lives but couldn't find it, so I bought his classic novel instead. Which other books by him would you recommend?

69akeela
syyskuu 13, 2011, 10:18 am

Hey, Dan. It's a good thing I haven't had more time to read then ;)

Haha! Great choice, Darryl. An Instant in the Wind and The Ambassador were good reads seemingly a lifetime ago - during the Apartheid years. For now I prefer looking ahead and staying in the New South Africa. I'd be interested in reading Brink's memoir A Fork in the Road.

70akeela
syyskuu 13, 2011, 10:20 am

Isle of Dreams by Keizo Hino. Translated from the Japanese by Charles de Wolf. This was an unusual read about a man who is able to appreciate the beauty of modern skyscrapers in Tokyo and when lured into the rubbish dumps on the other side of town, is able to find beauty there, too.

Shozo Sakai is a middle-aged widower who spends a lot of quiet time alone, contemplating and enjoying his surrounds. His wife has died and he hasn't had an interest in women for years; until he meets the mysterious leather-clad daredevil on a motorbike who almost collides with him at breakneck speed and then goes on to steal his imagination. This was an almost poetic, thoughtful read but I'm not sure I got it all. I feel I need to reread this one sometime.

71akeela
syyskuu 14, 2011, 8:28 am

An intimate war by Donvé Lee. This is a remarkable debut novel by a South African artist and author of numerous children’s books. But this is most definitely an adult book. It is essentially the story of a woman and a man who act on the impulse of initial attraction and go on to share 10 years of taking pleasure in one another’s bodies and lives, while at the same time navigating the challenges that come with being two separate beings with distinct backgrounds, personalities and yearnings.

The characters are never named but the reader is allowed into their personal space, where one gets to share their innermost experiences of togetherness and sexuality.

The writing is lyrical. It is beautiful and sensual, and visceral and is an amazingly honest exploration of love and lust between two people.

72avaland
syyskuu 17, 2011, 4:35 pm

>70 akeela: I went to check back on what I said about the same book, but discovered I had never posted the review (although I had posted it on Club Read).

I like your philosophy about staying in the new South Africa.

73rachbxl
syyskuu 21, 2011, 9:39 am

Just catching up...

74akeela
Muokkaaja: lokakuu 3, 2011, 4:37 am

> 73 Hi Stranger! Good to see you around :)

Lois, I'm glad you posted your review of Isle of Dreams. It's interesting that we both felt that we didn't catch all of it.

About the South Africa thing. Thanks. An interesting thing happened...

I picked up a local award-winning biography The Unlikely Secret Agent by Ronnie Kasrils, set in 1960s South Africa that tells the story of four months in the life of a white woman activist. It's a little book that was worth reading because although her husband went on to become the Minister of Intelligence Services in the New SA and everybody knows of him, I'd not heard of her before. (She passed away in November 2009.)

It is 1963 and Eleanor (who is dating Ronnie Kasrils, a well-known activist/terrorist - depending on whose side you were on) is working in a downtown bookstore when the Security Branch swoops down on the store and arrests her for suspected terrorism. What they suspect, but cannot prove, is that she is an agent for the underground African National Congress. She was detained under the repressive 90-Day Detention Act and was subsequently subjected to the Draconian interrogation methods of the Security Branch.

The truth is that she was involved in acts of sabotage with Ronnie and her future prospects are grim - especially since she goes on a Hunger Strike because of the injustices heaped on her by the SB. She knows she dare not speak for fear of all that she has been privy to in the ANC ranks and so she plots her escape from prison.

It was an interesting peek into the underground movement in the early 60s when Nelson Mandela and others were first detained and interrogated. Of course the struggle would only take effect fully some two decades later but this was the groundwork for what was to come and many of the activists Ronnie and Eleanor worked with became our leaders in the new SA.

This was a thoughtful tribute to a brave and dedicated activist by her husband of forty-five years.

So, I guess I am able to step back into the old SA but I don't want to be bogged down with the negativity of oppression. This was a positive story of an intelligent woman who fought the unjust system and its perpetrators with everything she had, against all odds and with great flair.

75avaland
lokakuu 4, 2011, 5:36 pm

Sounds like an interesting book!

76akeela
joulukuu 28, 2011, 6:30 am

I’m afraid I haven’t done too well on my LT thread this year...

In an effort to catch up before year-end, some books read and not noted here include: Alice by Judith Hermann, translated from the German by Margo Bettauer Dembo. My review appears in the current issue of Belletrista (issue 14).

I also read To See the Mountain and other stories The Caine Prize for African Writing 2011, which I enjoyed very much. The stories were mostly good and reinforced my love of African fiction. I had the good fortune of meeting the delightfully named, NoViolet Bulawayo, the winner of the Caine Prize for 2011 at the inaugural Open Book Festival in Cape Town earlier this year. As a result, I have a signed copy of the book! I wrote some brief thoughts on her winning story and the Caine Prize at #50 and #51 above.

77akeela
joulukuu 28, 2011, 6:49 am

Dear Zari: Hidden stories from women of Afghanistan by Zarguna Kargar is a non-fiction title by a Kargar who was born in Afghanistan but moved to Pakistan and then the UK where she was employed as a radio talk show host on the BBC World programme, Afghan Women’s Hour, where Afghan women were invited to tell their stories on air.

It was much like what Xinran did for Chinese women. Some of the stories are particularly harrowing and tell of the oppressive patriarchal world Afghan women still find themselves in. Most of the stories were touching and sometimes very hard to read because of the incredible hardship steeped on the women across the width and breadth of war torn Afghanistan and one can admire the resilience and the hope of these women, who were bold enough to come forward and share their stories in an attempt to strengthen others.

The programme became very popular amongst Afghan women who were given a voice for the first time and extended a means of support, education and encouragement for countless others. Kargar’s story is interspersed with the women’s stories and I sometimes got confused with whose story I was reading, notwithstanding this, I think this is an important chronicle that deserves to be read.

78akeela
Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 1, 2012, 2:11 am

et delete double post...

79akeela
joulukuu 28, 2011, 1:35 pm

I also finally got around to reading Living, loving and lying awake at night by Sindiwe Magona. Thanks to Nickelini and avaland for inspiring me to pick it up. It’s a slim volume of short stories about domestic workers and their ‘medems’ set in pre-democracy South Africa. I thought it excellent.

A prominent writer from South Africa talks about ‘listening’ to the stories rather than reading them, which harks back to the African oral storytelling tradition and is accurate, I think.

Magona is an acclaimed South African author who grew up in the townships in South Africa and who, herself, worked as a domestic worker. She was able to successfully complete a degree via correspondence, then went on to get a Master’s degree via Columbia University in New York. She then worked at the UN, so a success story all round. This is definitely recommended.