In March, I set out to uncover the best the world of literature has to offer. Quite literally, I started indulging in the works of global writers, taking a slight digression from the usual works that I usually find myself in. In my March wrap up, I did mention that midway through my reading month, I have touched down (metaphorically, at least) in Europe. I have but one mission – to discover the best works that they have.
But to say that I have rarely been to Europe is an understatement. Sure, I did immerse myself in the best of British and a couple of Irish works. However, it still felt too limited. I mean, there surely is more to European literature beyond what Great Britain and Ireland can offer. Again, I am not saying that they are bad writers, the contrary in fact, but surely there is bound to be more, more magic, more fascination, more breathtaking writing out there.
With the momentum I have gained in March, which started in Hungary (Magda Szabo’s The Door), I set out on a mission, trudge down Europe’s less traveled roads (at least on my reading point of view). Luckily, I capped the month with five books of varying significance and impact on me as a reader. Here is a listing of the books I managed to complete in April.
Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev
Apart from English and Irish literature, Russian literature is another facet of Europe that I have been quite exposed to (not extensively yet but I did gain some inkling on the different dimensions of Russian literature). With my last Russian work being Leo Tolstoy’s seminal and arduous work, War and Peace, it was high time for me to reroute towards the path I have become quite familiar with.
Ivan Turgenev’s Father and Sons is undoubtedly one of his most renowned works, and for good reasons. Again, through this work, I came across nihilism, a principle that is quite common in Turgenev’s time. Although it seems that Fathers and Sons is a quicker read than most of its contemporaries, its impact is, nevertheless, as great as those other Russian works. This work also underlined something that I have noted in most Russian works: intensity and seriousness. They are still fun and enlightening reads, in the general spectrum of things.
The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass
From Russia, my reading journey took me to Germany, with Nobel Prize in Literature winner Gunter Grass’ most significant works, The Tin Drum. Coincidentally, this is just the second book from my 2018 Big Bad Wolf Booksale Haul that I have read (after Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient). I wasn’t originally planning on reading this book because I was daunted, and it was all new territory to me. A fellow reader’s recommendation made me arrest my worries and let myself be drawn in its beauty.
The Tin Drum, as expected, didn’t fail to fascinate. Because of the character, the book reminded me of Ursula Hegi’s Stones from the River, but on a grander and more complex scale. I have to admit that at first, I was perplexed; it didn’t captivate me the way I wanted it to. It did take some time before I got myself around the different complexities of its narrative. Indeed, it is a complex read as it walked me down some familiar lanes (World War II) and in the end it proved to be a powerful prose, the product of a creative and deep imagination.
Milkman by Anna Burns
My European journey next took me to a more familiar territory – Ireland. When Anna Burns’ less popular Milkman copped the 2018 Man Booker Prize, many a literary pundit raised their eyebrows to this unconventional winner. Even its ratings on Goodreads are unremarkable (but then again, most Man Booker Prize winners have a less then stellar Goodreads rating). This, however, didn’t stop me from pining for this work. On the contrary, they further piqued my curiosity for this work.
My nth Man Booker Prize winner, Milkman exceeded my expectations. Its unconventionality makes it stand out from the formulaic and mundane works that have flooded the world of literature lately. Its take on current issues also make it all the more significant. Yes, the characters and the places are unnamed, and this is for some good reason. Then again, not all works are for everyone. In spite of its perceived complexity, Milkman is a great work; its take on our times is realistic.
The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
Now let us cross the waters from Ireland to Great Britain. Time to dive into another English classic in Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone. When I picked up the book from my piles of unread books, I expected a romantic book, something that would remind me of Jane Austen or the Brontes, or at least Charles Dickens, English authors whose works I am quite acquainted with. I thought I would be walking towards a familiar territory. Guess what, I wasn’t.
The Moonstone is a surprising and refreshing deviation from the common place English works of the 1800s. It is a mystery and is often touted as one of the first detective fiction works in the vast array of English literature. And it didn’t fail to impress, although at times, the premises seemed illogical. It is an intricate tale of betrayal, addiction and deceptions. Overall, it is still a better work than some of the current works that hide behind the curtains of a “detective fiction”.
Demian by Herman Hesse
My last book for the month flew me back to Germany, through another Nobel Prize in Literature winner in Herman Hesse. I had my first taste of Hesse’s body of work through his seminal and profound work Siddharta so I had no reservations on reading Demian. It is one of those books that have been sitting on my bookshelf unread for years. Curiously enough, it is one of the shorter books that I have.
Just like Siddharta, Demian is filled with profound and enlightening passages that made it easier for me to appreciate it. Hesse has a certain way of using words to bring out the best in his narratives. He plays with words to deliver his message and his philosophies. The story flowed, and so did its message. Too bad it was too short. I would have loved if the book was longer. Now, my next mission is to hunt for more Herman Hesse books.
So that completes my list for April 2019. I wanted to read as much as I can, but my new-found responsibilities kept me from doing so. Nevertheless, it was still a great month, as far as reading goes. My May is going to be the same as April as I resolve to dig more into European works, starting with Albanian Ismail Kadare’s The General of the Dead Army which is currently filling in my time. I just hope everyone has a great reading time as well.
With my financial liberation coming up to terms again, I am finally (again) able to purchase more books. Haha. Me and my obsession with books. I guess Tsundoku is realer than I thought. I did purchase six more books during the month, including the aforementioned Kadare work which won the Man Booker International Prize. For the rest of my April purchases, you can check it out here.
Apart from my reading, my writing was also dealt with a great blow. I am falling behind again in my book reviews, unfortunately, as my new job is taking more of my time and concentration. Hopefully, once I get the hang of my new job, I’d be able to catch up with all my backlogs, especially on the travel blog part of my writing.
I hope everyone had a great April. Here’s to wishing for an even better May, for myself and for everyone.