Happy Wednesday everyone! By the way, how are you enjoying 2022 so far? I hope that you are all doing well and are all healthy despite the risks that surround us. Things are starting to go back to normal although one should still throw caution in the air; the virus remains a threat. I hope that the pandemic will end soon. I am also praying that 2022 will be a year of hope, healing, and recovery for everyone. I hope that it will be a great year.
As it is a Wednesday, it is time for another WWW Wednesday update. WWW Wednesday is a bookish meme originally hosted by SAM@TAKING ON A WORLD OF WORDS. The mechanics for WWW Wednesday are quite simple, you just have to answer three questions:
- What are you currently reading?
- What have you finished reading?
- What will you read next?
What are you currently reading?
I am currently indulging myself in the works of European literature, a journey I started back in May. Earlier today, I completed reading my second novel by Spanish writer Arturo Pérez-Reverte, The Dumas Club. After completing the book, I immediately started with Angela Carter’s Night at the Circus. This is a book that I have been looking forward to for the longest after repeatedly encoutnering it in must-read lists. As I just started reading the book, I really don’t have much to go on to provide a peek into the story although I think there are elements of either science fiction or magic to it. I will share more of my first impression in this week’s First Impression Friday update.
What have you finished reading?
From completing one book last week, I managed to complete three this week. Hurray! The first of these three books is British writer David Mitchell’s The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. Mitchell initially earned my interest with his complex but riveting novel Cloud Atlas. Since then, I have read The Bone Clocks, a book I also enjoyed; and Utopia Avenue, his latest novel. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is the fourth novel by Mitchell I read. The novel transported me to a place I didn’t expect I’d find myself in, which is kind of interesting because a part of Cloud Atlas was set in South Korea. Anyway, the novel was set in Japan, on the trading post Dejima in Nagasaki, in the twilight years of the 18th century and the early years of the 19th. The titular Jacob de Zoet (yes, he is the ancestor of Jasper de Zoet in Utopia Avenue) is a clerk who worked on a Dutch merchant ship. He wanted to work under the Dutch East India Company and the recent ouster of Daniel Snitker, the acting chief of a factory on Dejima, presented the opportunity for de Zoet to save money to pay for his dowry of his betrothed, Anna. But while on Dejima, de Zoet met Orito, a midwife studying under Dr. Marinus (yes, he appears in The Bone Clocks). He was enamored by her. As the story progressed, a separate plotline emerged. This plotline explored a cult on the Japanese mountainside. It was an interesting book, not quite at par with Cloud Atlas but absorbing still.
As what I have been doing for most of the year, I have been alternating familiar writers with new-to-me writers, so after Mitchell, I next read my first novel by German writer Bernhard Schlink. I kept on encountering Schlink because his novel, The Reader, has earned quite the recognition; it was even adapted into a film. I also wanted to read the book but I never got to obtain a copy of the book, at least not the one with the movie poster on its cover. Instead, I was able to obtain a copy of Olga, his latest novel, originally published in 2018 and eventually translated to English in 2020. The titular Olga is Olga Rinke, born in the twilight years of the 19th century in the Silesian region of Poland. At a young age, she was orphaned and was taken, against her wishes, by her paternal grandmother, taking her to Tilsit in Pomerania. She was expected to do formwork and forget about her studies but she resisted. It set the tone for the rest of the story which painted the portrait of a strong-willed woman who overcame all the disadvantages that came her way. The storytelling, however, was a little uneven. The story was divided into three parts: the first one was rushed and basically illustrated the landscape of Olga’s life; the second part was a portrait of Olga through a child she raised; and, the third part was a series of letters meant to provide some kind of cathartic moment but it was never fully achieved.
Capping off this three-book journey was a book from the Iberian Peninsula. I first encountered Spanish writer Arturo Pérez-Reverte in 2019 when I randomly purchased The Seville Communion. While it was of a genre I liked (mystery and suspense), the book provided a less than satisfying reading experience. However, I was willing to make concessions, although, admittedly, one of the reasons I wanted to read The Dumas Club (or Club Dumas) was because it was listed as one of the 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. Sure enough, the book’s premise caught my attention; it was interesting. The main protagonist was Lucas Corso, a middle-aged book dealer. Among the elite, he has quite the reputation of not sparing anything – regardless of legality – in order to accomplish a task for his affluent clientele, including Varo Borja. Borja was able to obtain a book titled Of the Nine Doors of the Kingdom of Shadows. The book’s author was burned at the stake during the Inquisition and it was claimed that only three copies of the book exist. Two of these books, however, were forgeries, and it was Corso’s task to identify which are fake. Parts-mystery, parts-literary, The Dumas Club was a riveting book but can be offensive for its depiction of women.
What will you read next?
After completing The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, I am planning to read Russian literary powerhouse Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Poor People. It has been some time since I read my last novel by Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment, back in 2018. Moreover, Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita was the last work of Russian literature – a part of the literary world I love – that I read. Next in line are three writers who I have never heard of previously until I came across them through online booksellers. The first one is French writer Pierre Lemaitre’s The Great Swindle, a book that was set after the First World War. I find it interesting because rarely does one encounter a book about the First World War. Second World War, yes, but rarely about the First World War.
From France, I plan to travel back to Italy for the fourth time in the past two months with Cesare Pavese’s The Devil in the Hills. This is going to be my first novel by Pavese, a name I repeatedly encountered in Natalia Ginzburg’s Family Sayings, the first of the three Italian works I read in this European literature reading journey. From one peninsula to another, I next plan to visit the Balkan Peninsula with Serbian writer Borislav Pekić’s Houses. This will also be my first book written by the Serbian writer.
That’s it for this week’s WWW Wednesday. I hope you are all doing great. Happy reading and always stay safe! Happy Wednesday again!