Happy 10th month of the year! This is the second part of my September 2021 book haul. Part I featured books from the 2021 Booker Prize longlist while Part II features a miscellany of works from different parts of the world. Without more ado, here is the first part of my September 2021 book haul. Happy reading!
Title: Jonah’s Gourd Vine
Author: Zora Neale Hurston
Publisher: Harper Perennial Modern Classics
Publishing Date: 2008
No. of Pages: 202
Synopsis: Jonah’s Gourd Vine, Zora Neale Hurston’s first novel, originally published in 1934, tells the story of John Buddy Pearson, “a living exultation” of a young man who loves too many women for his own good. Lucy, his long-suffering wife, is his true love, but there’s also Mehaley and Big’Oman, as well as the scheming Hattie, who conjures hoodoo spells to ensure his attentions. Even after becoming the popular pastor of Zion Hope, where his sermons and prayers for cleansing rouse the congregation’s fervor, John has to confess that though he is a preacher on Sundays, he is a “natchel man” the rest of the week. And on in this sympathetic portrait of a man and his community, Zora Neale Hurston shows that faith, tolerance, and good intentions cannot resolve the tension between the spiritual and the physical. That she makes this age-old dilemma come so alive is a tribute to her understanding of the vagaries of human nature.
Title: Three Elegies for Kosovo
Author: Ismail Kadare
Translator (from Albanian): Peter Constantine
Publisher: The Harvill Press
Publishing Date: 2000
No. of Pages: 87
Synopsis: A quarrel that has simmered for six centuries, stemming from a battle that changed the course of history.
28 June 1389, the Field of the Blackbirds. The Christian army – made up of Serbs, Bosnians, Albanians and Romanians – confronts an Ottoman army led by Sultan Mourad. In ten hours the battle is over, and the Muslims possess the field; an outcome that has haunted the vanquished ever since. These legends of betrayal and the symbols of defeat have continued to define the national identities of each race.
28 June 1989, the Serb leader Slobodan Milosevic launches his campaign for a fresh massacre of the Albanians, the majority population of Kosovo.
In three short narratives Kadare evokes that first defining moment in European history, identifying how the agony of the tiny population at the close of the twentieth century is a symptom of the sickness that European civilisation has carried in its bloodstream for six hundred years.
Title: Dreaming in Cuban
Author: Cristina Garcia
Publisher: Balantine Books
Publishing Date: 2017
No. of Pages: 245
Synopsis: Cristina Garcia’s acclaimed book is the haunting, bittersweet story of a family experiencing a country’s revolution and the revelations that follow. The lives of Celia del Pino and her husband, daughters, and grandchildren mirror the magical realism of Cuba itself, a landscape of beauty and poverty, idealism and corruption. Dreaming in Cuban is “a work that possesses both the intimacy of a Chekhov story and the hallucinatory magic of a novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez” (The New York Times). In celebration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the novel’s original publication, this edition features a new introduction by the author.
Title: Light in August
Author: William Faulkner
Publisher: Vintage International
Publishing Date: October 1990
No. of Pages: 507
Synopsis: Light in August, a novel about hopeful perseverance, features some of Faulkner’s most memorable characters: guileless, dauntless Lena Grove, in search of the father of her unborn child; Reverend Gail Hightower, plagued by visions; and Joe Christmas, a desperate, enigmatic drifter consumed by his mixed ancestry.
Title: The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana
Author: Umberto Eco
Translator (from Italian): Geoffrey Brock
Publisher: Vintage Books
Publishing Date: 2006
No. of Pages: 449
Synopsis: In this fascinating, abundant new novel from the incomparable Eco, Yambo, a rare-book dealer, has suffered a bizarre form of memory loss. He can remember every book he has ever read but nothing about his own life. IN an effort to retrieve his past, he withdraws to his old family home and searches through the boxes of old newspapers, comics, records, photo albums and diaries kept in the attic. And so Yambo relives his youth: Mussolini, Catholic education, Josephine Baker, Flash Gordon, Fred Astaire. His memories run wild, and life racing before his eyes takes the form of a graphic novel Yambo struggles through the frames to capture one simple, innocent image, that of his firs love.
Title: The Ogre
Author: Michel Tournier
Translator (from French): Barbara Bray
Publisher: Doubleday & Company, Inc.
Publishing Date: 1972
No. of Pages: 370
Synopsis: An international bestseller, The Ogre is a masterful tale of innocence, perversion, and obsession. Following strange, gentle Abel Tiffauges’s passage from submissive schoolboy to “ogre” of the Nazi school at the castle of Kaltenborn, it takes us deeper into the dark heart of fascism that any novel since The Tin Drum. Until the very last page, when Abel meets his mystic fate in the collapsing ruins of the Third Reich, it shocks us, dazzles us, and above all, holds us spellbound.
Title: Two Lives and a Dream
Author: Marguerite Yourcenar
Translator (from French): Walter Kaiser, in collaboration with the author
Publisher: The University of Chicago Press
Publishing Date: 1994
No. of Pages: 216
Synopsis: This colleciton of three tales was praised by the San Francisco Chronicle as “intricately researched, imaginative, beautifully written…entirely engrossing.”
Set in Rembrandt’s Amsterdam, “An Obscure Man” is the story of Nathanaël – innocent, open to experience, borne like Everyman upon the stream of life. In “A Lovely Morning,” Nathanaël’s young son joins a touring company of Jacobean actors. Anna, soror . . . , the final tale, is an account of illicit passion in the baroque world of Naples.
Author: Milan Kundera
Translator (from French): Linda Asher
Publishing Date: 1999
No. of Pages: 168
Synopsis: There are situations in which we fail for a moment to recognize the person we are with, in which the identity of the other is erased while we simultaneously doubt or own. This also happens with couples – indeed, above all with couples, because lovers fear more than anything elese “losing sight” of the loved one.
With stunning artfulness in expanding and playing variations on the meaningful moment, Milan Kundera has made this situation – and the vague sense of panic it inspires – the very fabric of his new novel. Here brevity goes hand in hand with intensity, and a moment of bewilderment marks the start of a labyrinthine journey during which the reader repeatedly crosses the border between the real and the unreal, between what occurs in the world outside and what the mind creates in its solitude.
Of all contemporary writers only Kundera can transform such a hidden and disconcerting perception into the material for a novel – one of his finest, most painful, and most enlightening, which, surprisingly, turns out to be a love story.
Title: Wandering Star
Author: Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio
Translator (from French): C. Dickson
Publisher: Curbstone Press
Publishing Date: 2009
No. of Pages: 316
Synopsis: Bearing witness to the boundless strength of the spirit, and based on his own experience as a child in World War II, J.M.G. Le Clézio chronicles the saga of two young women, one uprooted by the Holocaust and the other by the founding of the state of Israel. Esther, a young Jewish girl who travels to Jerusalem after World War II, crosses paths with Nejma, a Palestinian girl, whose story of life in the camps balances Esther’s own tale of suffering and survival. They never meet again, but in their respective exiles, they are forever haunted by the memory of one another. Wandering Star is a powerful coming-of-age story and, as Le Figaro notes, truly a luminous lesson in humanity.”
Title: The Great Swindle
Author: Pierre Lemaitre
Translator (from French): Frank Wynne
Publisher: MacLehose Press
Publishing Date: 2015
No. of Pages: 439
Synopsis: October 1918: the war on the Western Front is all but over. Desperate for one last chance of promotion, an ambitious lieutenant, Henri d’Aulnay Pradelle, sends two scouts over the top of the trenches, and contrives to shoot them in the back to incite his men to heroic action once more.
And so is set in motion a series of shocking events that will bind together the fates and fortunes of Pradelle and the two soldiers who discover his crime: Albert Maillard and Edouard Péricourt.
Back in civilian life, Albert and Edouard find themselves in a society whose reverence for its dead cannot quite match its resentment for those who survived. Penniless, morphine-dependent, cut-off from their families, psychologically and physically destroyed by their wartime experience, the two soldiers conspire to enact an audacious form of revenge against the country that abandoned them to penury and despair, with a scheme to swindle the whole of France on an epic scale.
Meanwhile, believing her brother killed in action, Edouard’s sister, the heiress Madeleine Péricourt, has married Pradelle, who is running a certain scam of his own.
Set amid the ruins of one of the most brutal conflicts of the modern era, this is a devastating portrait of the darker side of post-war France with all her villains, cowards, and clowns, revealing the unbearable tragedy of the lost generation.