Before I can bid March and the first quarter of 2023 goodbye, I am sharing my book haul for March. At the start of the year (every year really), I resolved to read more and buy less. I guess I can tick this resolution off already as a failure. Why are there too many good books out there? Without more ado, here is my March 2023 book haul. Since I have acquired way more than I thought I would, I will be splitting my March 2023 book haul update into two. While the first part features books originally written and published in English, the second part features translated literature. Happy reading everyone!

Title: The Censor’s Notebook
Author: Liliana Corobca
Translator (from Romanian): Monica Cure
Publisher: Seven Stories Press
Publishing Date: 2022 (2017)
No. of Pages: 476

Synopsis: A window into the intimate workings of censorship under communism, this novel begins with a seemingly non-fiction frame story – an exchange of letters between the author and Emilia Codrescu, the former chief of the Secret Documents Office in Romania’s feared State Directorate of Media and Printing, the government branch responsible for censorship. Codrescu was once responsible for the burning and shredding of censors’ notebooks and the state secrets in them, but prior to fleeing the country in 1974 she stole one of these notebooks. Now, forty years later, she makes the notebook available to Liliana for the newly instituted Museum of Communism.

The work of censor – a job about which it is forbidden to talk – is revealed in this notebook, which discloses the structures of this mysterious institution and describes how these professional readers and ideological error hunters are burdened with hundreds of manuscripts, strict deadlines, and threatening penalties. The Censor’s Notebook asks whether literature has the power to keep alive personal and political truths in an age when censorship is pervasive.

Title: The Angel’s Game
Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Translator (from Spanish): Lucia Graves
Publisher: Phoenix
Publishing Date: 2009 (2008)
No. of Pages: 441

Synopsis: In an abandoned mansion in the heart of Barcelona, a young man, David Martin makes his living by writing sensationalist novels under a pseudonym. The survivor of a troubled childhood, he spends his nights spinning baroque tales about the city’s underworld. But perhaps his dark imaginings are not as strange as they seem, for in a locked room deep within the house lie photographs and letters hinting at an unsolved mystery.

Like a slow poison, the history of the place and an impossible love brings David close to despair. But then he receives a letter from a reclusive French editor who makes him the offer of a lifetime. He is to write a book unlike any other – a book with the power to change hearts and minds. In return, he will receive a fortune, perhaps more. But as David begins the work, he realises that there is a connection between this haunting book and the shadows that surround his home…

Title: Cities of Salt
Author: Abdelrahman Munif
Translator (from Arabic): Paul Theroux
Publisher: Jonathan Cape
Publishing Date: 1988 (1984)
No. of Pages: 627

Synopsis: Set in an unnamed Persian Gulf kingdom in the 1930s, this remarkable novel tells the story of the disruption and diaspora of a poor oasis community following the discovery of oil there. The meeting of the Arabs and the Americans who, in essence, colonize the remote region is a cultural confrontation in which religion, history, superstition, and mutual incomprehension all play a part.

Powerful political fiction that it is, CITIES OF SALT has been banned in several Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia. This novel, the first volume in a trilogy, has been translated from the Arabic to the English by Peter Theroux. (Source: Goodreads)

Title: Of Love and Shadows
Author: Isabel Allende
Translator (from Spanish): Margaret Sayers Peden
Publisher: Black Swan Books
Publishing Date: 1988 (1984)
No. of Pages: 298

Synopsis: Set in a country of arbitrary arrests, sudden disappearances and summary executions, Isabel Allende’s magical novel tells of the passionate affair of two people prepared to risk everything for the sake of justice and truth: Irene  Beltrán, a reporter, comes from a wealthy background; Francisco Leal, a young photographer secretly engaged in undermining the military dictatorship, is strongly attracted by her beauty. It does not matter that her fiancé is an army captain: each time Francisco accompanies her on a magazine assignment, he falls more deeply in love with her.

When they go to investigate the mysterious case of Evangelina Ranquileo, a girl suffering from spectacular fits which are rumoured to have miraculous powers, the arrival of soldiers adds a sinister aspect to the mystery. And then Evangelina disappears. Irene and Francisco, in trying to trace her and indict the Junta, become engulfed in a vortex of terror and violence.

Title: Blues for a Lost Childhood
Author: Antônio Torres
Translator (from Portuguese): John Parker
Publisher: Readers International
Publishing Date: 1989 (1986)
No. of Pages: 201

Synopsis: It’s another hot, sleepless night in Rio, punctuated by the sounds of Jazz, TV, and gunshots from the cafes and shanties. In the narrator’s drink-bruised mind, a nightmare begins with a parade of coffins and a cascade of memories. Here lies all the fascinating and convulsive history of Brazil during the past twenty-five years.

One figure stands out: Calunga, the iconoclast, idealist, joker and fixer, who breaks his way out of the stagnant “Backlands” of his boyhood to become a big-city journalist. Defeated by the city and his own weakness, he is reclaimed b the land. Only his irony remains.

In this his sixth novel, Antônio Torres creates a collage of Brazilian life: through its legends, poetry, popular songs and through the narrator’s hallucinations, fantasies and flashbacks as well as snippets from newspapers and the media.

A novel of innovative structure and great psychological depth, Blues for a Lost Childhood was chosen Novel of the Year by Brazilian PEN.

Title: Beartown
Author: Fredrik Backman
Translator (from Swedish): Neil Smith
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Publishing Date: February 2018 (2016)
No. of Pages: 415

Synopsis: A tiny community deep in the forest, Beartown hasn’t been the best at anything in a long time. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink. And, in that ice rink, Kevin, Amat, Benji, and the rest of the town’s junior ice hockey team are about to compete in the national semifinals – and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.

Under that heavy burden, the semifinal match becomes the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil.

This is a story about a town and a game, but even more about loyalty, commitment, and the responsibilities of friendship; the people we disappoint even though we love them; and the decisions we make every day that come to define us. In this story of a small forest town, Fredrik Backman has found the entire world.

Title: The Winners
Author: Fredrik Backman
Translator (from Swedish):
Neil Smith
Publisher: Atria Books
Publishing Date: October 2022 (2021)
No. of Pages: 670

Synopsis: Over the course of two weeks, everything will change in Beartown.

Maya Andersson and Benji Ovich, two young people who left in search of a life far from the forest, come home and joyfully reunite with their closest childhood friends. They can see how much Beartown has changed. There is a fresh sense of optimism and purpose here, embodied in the impressive new ice rink that has been built down by the lake.

The destruction caused by a ferocious late-summer storm reignites the old rivalry between Beartown and the neighboring town of Hed, a rivalry that has always been fought through their ice hockey teams. Simmering tensions turn into acts of intimidation and then violence All the while, a fourteen-year-old boy grows increasingly alienated from this hockey-obsessed community and is determined to take revenge on the people he holds responsible for his beloved sister’s death. He has a pistol and a plan that will leave Beartown with a loss that is almost more than it can stand.

As it beautifully captures all the complexities of daily life and explores the questions of friendship, loyalty, loss, and identity, this emotion-packed novel asks us to reconsider what it means to win, what it means to lose, and what it means to forgive.