Happy Wednesday everyone! 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.
It is time for another WWW Wednesday update as it is a Wednesday. 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?
And just like that, it is nearly September; this is my second to the last WWW Wednesday update for August. Reading-wise, August has been sluggish. I guess referring to it as ghost month has that effect. During the month, I have been exploring works of Asian literature. Like Japanese literature, my annual reading journey would not be complete without a journey across Asia. My current read, Chinghiz Aitmatov’s The Day Lasts More than a Hundred Years has transported me to Central Asia. This is my first novel by the Kyrgyz author whose book I just randomly acquired last year. Despite having no iota on who Aitmatov is or what the novel was about, I am nonetheless thrilled to be having this opportunity to read a book from a part of literature that is largely uncharted, at least from my point of view. I just started the novel and it seems that it is a seminal work of the period when Central Asia was part of the USSR. I can’t wait to see what the novel has in store. I will be sharing more of my impression in this week’s First Impression Friday update.
What have you finished reading?
It has been over five years since I acquired Nobel Laureate in Literature Gao Xingjian’s Soul Mountain. I didn’t even realize that it has been that long until I was going through my list of unread books. After years of gathering dust on my bookshelf, the opportunity to read it finally presented itself. I think it was the book’s length that first daunted me, followed by the fact that I have never ventured into Gao’s oeuvre previously. Nevertheless, I overcame all these things that daunted me to finally venture into what many touted as the best work of the first Chinese writer to win the prestigious Nobel Prize in Literature. The novel followed two separate storylines. One was narrated by a person referred to as “I”. Having been diagnosed with lung cancer, he decided to undertake a journey to the Chinese countryside. He had a mission: to find the meaning of life after spending years living in the urban jungle. He was also a writer. The second strand charted the story of an individual simply referred to as “You”. Like I, we meet You as he also ventured into the Chinese countryside in search of a mountain named Ling Shan, which literally translates to Soul Mountain. The novel is said to chart Gao’s own journey across the Chinese countryside. With this, I see the novel as him meditating (“I”) but in the process, he was also inviting the reader (“You”). This makes the story a vicarious experience as the threads seemingly converge later on. It was certainly not an easy read but it was an experience nonetheless.
Unlike Gao, I am quite familiar with the body of work of Korean writer Han Kang, or at least I have an idea. I have already read two of her works: The Vegetarian and Human Acts. Both could not be different from each other. The former grappled with a modern societal concern while the former tackled humanity and history. Both were enthralling although I didn’t have a positive response to The Vegetarian at first. It was because of these two books that made me want to explore more of Han’s prose. When I learned about The White Book, I was up on my toes and thankfully, I was able to acquire a copy of the book. Knowing Kang, I shouldn’t be overthinking the story and just let it sweep me. Indeed, she swept me and in a manner that was different from how her other works did. Rather than a story with a robust plot and an eclectic cast, the Korean writer instead focused on a simple plot and a limited cast to provide a meditative story about coping with grief and loss. It was a quick read but brimming with philosophical intersections, with a particular emphasis on all objects white, hence the book’s title. Moreover, white, in Korean culture, implies devotion to all things natural, pure, and non-decorative. Not only did the book provide me a different dimension of Han’s prose but it also was a calming literary piece.
What will you read next?
From South Korea, my journey will take me to Pakistan with a Booker Prize-shortlisted novel. Published in 2007, The Reluctant Fundamentalist was Mohsin Hamid’s second novel. This will be my first novel by the Pakistani writer. The next book I am looking forward to is Jessica Hagedorn’s Dogeaters. I have read quite a lot of positive feedback on Hagedorn, especially from fellow Filipino readers. Moreover, reading at least two works by Filipino writers, after, is part of my reading resolutions.
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!