It is the wet season here in the Philippines but it has been scorching hot these past few days. The season is making up for it today as it the weather has been gloomy since this morning. The soft pitter patter of the raindrops as it makes contact with any surface is producing a reassurance rhythm. I am no pluviophile but the rain is a welcome change. I am in the mood for a warm cup of coffee, or tea, and a good book.

Anyway, this is the third and last part of my June 2021 Book Haul. The Part I featured selections from Japanese literature and Part II featured works of Asian Literature. The last part of this trilogy is a collection of works from various parts of the literary world, from African to Latin American to European. Happy reading and I hope everyone have a great weekend!

Title: The Wedding of Zein
Author: Tayeb Salih
Translator: Denys Johnson-Davies
Publisher: Heinemann Educational Books Ltd
Publishing Date: 1984
No. of Pages: 120

Synopsis: “Tayeb Salih is now recognized as one of the most exceptional Arabic writers. His novel Season of Migration to the North (Arab Authors 4) has been widely acclaimed both in Arabic and in its English translation. He was born in Sudan in 1929 and studied at Khartoum and London universities. He became Head of Drama in the BBC’s Arabic Service and then went to Qatar where he is Head of the Information Services.

Kingsley Amis wrote: “What I find particularly attractive about Mr Salih’s way of writing is his attitude to the village people he describes. All of them are seen in a humourous way; the reader is invited to laugh at them, or at least to smile. And yet this humour is fundamentally kind; even at their most ridiculous, all the characters retain an essential dignity….”

Title: The Last Duty
Author: Isidore Okpewho
Publisher: Longman Group UK Limited
Publishing Date: 1988
No. of Pages: 243

Synopsis: “’The Last Duty is a highly sophisticated and successfully achieved piece of work… an imaginative reconstruction of the experience of the Nigerian Civil War. In its deep moral concern and in its technical accomplishment, The Last Duty has earned an honourable place in the development of African literature’. BRITISH BOOK NEWS

Against the backcloth of a violent and murderous civil war, six individuals linked by conflicting ties of honour, greed, lust, fear and love play out a drama of their own that is no less bloody than the war itself. The resolution of the drama has the cathartic force of classical tragedy as the individuals recognise their final duty to reclaim their self-respect from the quagmire of corruption and betrayal into which they have all been led.”

Title: The Great Ponds
Author: Elechi Amadi
Publisher: Heinemann Educational Books Ltd
Publishing Date: 1981
No. of Pages: 192

Synopsis: “Elechi Amadi is the author of the renowned trilogy of novels, The Concubine (AWS 25), The Great Ponds (AWS 44), and The Slave (AWS 210). His civil war diary Sunset in Biafra (AWS 140) has been acclaimed. He has also published a verse play Isiburu (Heinemann). Elechi Amadi ws born in 1934 in Aluu near Port Harcourt in Eastern Nigeria. He went to the Government College Umuahia. At University College Ibadan he took a degree in physics and mathematics. After a period of land surveying and teaching he enlisted in the Nigerian Army. Later he left to continue is teaching but rejoined during the Civil War and served with the former 3rd Marine Commandos. He left the army finally to work for the Rivers State Government. He now heads the Ministry of Education.”

Title: The Last Brother
Author: Nathacha Appanah
Translator: Geoffrey Strachan
Publisher: Graywolf Press
Publishing Date: 2010
No. of Pages: 164

Synopsis: “As 1944 comes to a close, nine-year-old Raj is unaware of the war devastating the rest of the world. He lives in Mauritius, a remote island in the Indian Ocean, where survival is a daily struggle for his family . After a brutal beating lands Raj in the hospital of a prison camp, he meets David, a boy his own age. David is a refugee, one of a group of Jewish exiles now indefinitely detained in Mauritius. When a massive storm on the island brings chaos and confusion to the camp, Raj is determined to help David escape.

Nathacha Appanah’s deeply moving novel, beautifully translated from the French by Geoffrey Strachan, sheds light on a fascinating and unexplored corner of World War II history.”

Title: The Kingdom of this World
Author: Alejo Carpenter
Translator: Harriet de Onis
Publisher: The Noonday Press
Publishing Date: 1989
No. of Pages: 186

Synopsis: “A few after its liberation from French colonialist rule, Haiti experienced a period of unsurpassed brutality, horror, and superstition under the reign of the black King Henri-Christophe. Through the eyes of the ancient slave Ti-Noel, The Kingdom of This World records the destruction of the black regime – built on the same corruption and contempt for human life that brought down the French – in an orgy of voodoo, race, hatred, erotomania, and fantastic grandeurs of false elegance.

‘Carpentier’s writing has the power and range of a cathedral organ on the eve of the Resurrection.’ ~ The New Yorker

Title: Martin Rivas
Author: Alberto Blest Gana
Translator: Tess O’Dwyer
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publishing Date: 2000
No. of Pages: 389

Synopsis: “Martin Rivas, an impoverished but ambitious young man from the northern mining region of Chile, is entrusted by his late father to the household of a wealthy and influential member of the Santiago elite. While living there, he falls in love with his guardian’s daughter. A poor provincial, Martin perceives his situation to be hopeless, so he immediately sets about improving his financial and social station. Along the way, he bears witness to the wide range of social and moral strata within Chilean society.

Widely acknowledge as the first Chilean novel, Martin Rivas is at once a passionate love story and a keenly observed portrait of the manners and customs of nineteenth-century Chile. RIch with unerring social portraits, animated dialogue, and sharply drawn characters, Martin Rivas is an engagingly spontaneous and charmingly romantic novel.”

Title: Multiple Choice
Author: Alejandro Zambra
Translator: Megan McDowell
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publishing Date: 2016
No. of Pages: 103

Synopsis: “’The most talked-about writer to come out of Chile since Bolaño’ (The New York Times Book Review), Alejandro Zambra is celebrated around the world for his strikingly original, slyly funny, daringly unconventional fiction. Now, at the height of his powers, Zambra returns with his most audaciously brilliant book yet.

Written in the form of a standardize test, Multiple Choice invites the reader to respond to virtuoso language exercises and short narrative passages through thought-provoking, usually unanswerable multiple-choice questions. It offers a new kind of reading experience, one in which the reader participates directly in the creation of meaning, and the nature of storytelling itself is called into question. At once funny, poignant, and political, Multiple Choice is aout love and family, authoritarianism and its legacies, and the conviction that, rather than learning to think for ourselves, we are trained to obey and repeat. Serious in its literary ambition and playful in its execution, it confirms Alejandro Zambra as one of the most important writers working in any language.”

Title: Segu
Author: Maryse Condé
Translator: Barbara Bray 
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Publishing Date: 2017
No. of Pages: 495

Synopsis: “’Segu is a garden where cunning grows. Segu is built on treachery.’

It is 1797 and the African kingdom of Segu, born of blood and violence, is at the height of its power. Yet Dousika Traore, the king’s most trusted advisor, feels nothing but dread. Change is coming. From the East, a new religion, Islam. From the West, the slave trade. These forces will tear his country, his village and the lives of his beloved sons apart, in Maryse Condé’s glittering epic of family, betrayal, religious fevour and the turbulent fate of a people.”

Title: A Bend in the River
Author: V.S. Naipaul
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publishing Date: 1980
No. of Pages: 287

Synopsis: “’A Bend in the River is more than a true and powerful book about Africa. It is… one of those books that make you question many assumptions about the world today.’ ~ Richard West in the Spectator

In the “brilliant novel” (The New York Times) V.S. Naipaul takes us deeply into the life of one man—an Indian who, uprooted by the bloody tides of Third World history, has come to live in an isolated town at the bend of a great river in a newly independent African nation. Naipaul gives us the most convincing and disturbing vision yet of what happens in a place caught between the dangerously alluring modern world and its own tenacious past and traditions. (Source: Goodreads)”

Title: The Devil in the Hills
Author: Cesare Pavese
Translator: Peter Owen Ltd.
Publisher: Sceptre
Publishing Date: 1990
No. of Pages: 183

Synopsis: “Cesare Pavese is now generally regarded as one of the most important writers of the century. This novel is among his best work. It is the story of a young married man, rich and self-indulgent, who has an elderly mistress, and whilst participating in the debauchery prevalent amongst his friends, nevertheless desires desires to lead a more useful life.

‘Is worth reading if only to get the smell and heat of summer in Turin on the hills about… makes us realise sadly how great a loss it was to modern fiction that Pavese died so young.’ ~ Sean O’Faolain

Title: Family Sayings
Author: Natalia Ginzburg
Translator: Hogarth Press
Publisher: Seaver Books
Publishing Date: 1986
No. of Pages: 177

Synopsis: “Family Sayings asks to be read as fiction, though the author, one of Italy’s finest contemporary novelists, admits that it is highly autobiographical. The book spans the period from the rise of fascism through World War II (in which her first husband perished at the hands of the Nazis) and its immediate aftermath. The subject of this book is the “other people” in her family. The author herself is a witness, a seismograph, a recording angel. It is woven around the inconsequential, revealing remarks that are repeated in a family until they become its affectionate private code, rich in memory and association. This is one of the rare true evocations of a family in modern literature: a living history with characters upon whom the heavy history of Italy in the 1930s and 1940s leans. Beyond the quirky freedom with which the members of the family treat one another lies the political dark ages backdrop familiar form the films of Fellini, Bertoluci, and others.

In her preface, Natalia Ginzburg reverses the usual disclaimer: “The places, events and people are all real. I have invented nothing. Every time that I have found myself inventing something in accordance with my old habits as a novelist, I have felt impelled at once to destroy everything thus invented.”

Title: The Book of Laughter and Forgetting
Author: Milan Kundera
Translator: Michael Henry Heim
Publisher: HarperPerennial
Publishing Date: 1994
No. of Pages: 228

Synopsis: “Commissioned and closely monitored by Milan Kundera himself, this new translation brings a clarity and unmatched fidelity to the author’s original text. Widely held as a work of genius, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting is the novel that first brought him to the forefront of the international literary scene. Rich in stories, characters and imaginative range, it was written while Kundera was still forbidden to publish in his home country of Czechoslovakia, which was then behind the Iron Curtain. In seven wonderfully integrated parts, different aspects of modern existence from the posthumous erasure of “enemies” of communism from the historical record, to the subtle agony of the fading memory of a lost love, to the bizarre sexlessnes of modern promiscuity are explored with boldness, subversive humor and the magical power of fiction. (Source: Goodreads)

Title: Thus Bad Begins
Author: Javier Marias
Translator: Margaret Jull Costa
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Publishing Date: 2016
No. of Pages: 444

Synopsis: “From the internationally renowned author of The Infatuations comes the mesmerizing story of a couple living in the shadow of a mysterious and unhappy history – a novel about the cruel, tender punishments we exact on those we love.

Madrid, 1980. Juan de Vere nearly finished with his university degree, takes a job as personal assistant to Eduardo Muriel, an eccentric film director. Urbane, discreet, irreproachable, Muriel is an irresistible idol to the young man. But Muriel’s voluptuous wife, Beatriz, inhabits their home like an unwanted ghost; and on the periphery of their lives is Dr. Jorge Van Vechten, a family friend implicated in unsavory rumors that Muriel now asks Juan to investigate. As Juan draws closer to the truth, he uncovers only more questions. What is at the root of Muriel’s hostility toward his wife? How did Beatriz meet Van Vechten? What happened during and after the war? Marias leads us deep into the intrigues of these characters, through a daring exploration of rancor, suspicion, loyalty, trust, and the infinitely permeable boundaries between the deceptions perpetrated by others and those we inflict upon ourselves.”

Title: The Virgin Suicides
Author: Jeffrey Eugenides
Publisher: Picador
Publishing Date: 1993
No. of Pages: 243

Synopsis: “First published in 1993, The Virgin Suicides announced the arrival of a major new American novelist. In a quiet suburb of Detroit, the five Lisbon sisters – beautiful, eccentric, and obsessively watched by the neighborhood boys – commit suicide one by one over the course of a single year. As the boys observe them from afar, transfixed, they piece together the mystery of the family’s fatal melancholy, in this hypnotic and unforgettable novel of adolescent love, disquiet, and death. Jeffrey Eugenides evokes the emotions of youth with haunting sensitivity and dark humor and creates a coming-of-age story unlike any of our time. Adapted into a critically acclaimed film by Sofia Coppola, The Virgin Suicides is a modern classic, a lyrical and timeless tale of sex and suicide that transforms and mythologizes suburban middle-American life.”