This is the second part of my April 2023 Book Haul. I, quite unexpectedly (or perhaps not), obtained way more books than I usually do, hence, I have divided my book haul update for April into three parts. The second part features works of Asian, South American, and African literature but excludes works of Japanese literature. It also features translated works but again, excludes works of Japanese literature. I think you get it. The third part will feature works of Japanese literature only. Without more ado, here is the second part of my April 2023 book haul. Happy reading!

Title: Young Gerber
Author: Friedrich Torberg
Translator (from German): Anthea Bell
Publisher: Pushkin Press
Publishing Date: 2012 (1958)
No. of Pages: 349

Synopsis: Young Kurt Gerber embarks hopefully on his last year at school, facing the all-important final exam. However, he soon clashes with his sadistic new form teacher, Professor Kupfer, known to his students as “Lord God Kupfer” – with tragic consequences.

Based in part on the story of ten pupils who committed suicide in a single week in Vienna in the winter of 1929, this classic of European literature is powerful and timeless tale of classroom angst.

Title: W or The Memory of Childhood
Author: Georges Perec
Translator (from French): David Bellos
Publisher: The Harvill Press
Publishing Date: 1996 (1975)
No. of Pages: 164

Synopsis: Written in alternating chapters, W or The Memory of Childhood tells two parallel tales whose meaning lies in their fragile intersection, or in the silence beyond their ending. Gaspard Winckler, an eight-year-old deaf-mute, is lost in a shipwreck somewhere off Cape Horn. Another person, also called Gaspard Winckler, is apparently trapped into searching for him. The story of W, an island state based on the rules of sport, seems to be the only trace of what he found. There are no survivors.

What this disturbing book has to say is not quite said in the story of W and is not quite said in the rediscovered fragments of a wartime childhood. Perec’s unpretentious language, persistent self-criticism and attention to detail lead the reader inexorably towards the horror that lies at the origin of the pot-war world and at the crux of the author’s identity. Combining fiction and autobiography in a quite unprecedented way, Perec allows no easy escape from this story, or from history. W or the Memory of Childhood is as much a milestone in autobiography as Stendhal’s Life of Henry Brulanrd and Sartre’s Words.

Title: Ice
Author: Vladimir Sorokin
Translator (from Russian): Jamey Gambrell
Publisher: New York Review of Books
Publishing Date: 2007 (2002)
No. of Pages: 321

Synopsis: Moscow has been hit by a wave of brutal murders. The victims are of both sexes, from different backgrounds, and of all ages, but invariably blond and blue-eyed. They are found with their breastbones smashed in, their hearts crushed. There is no sign of any motive.

Drugs, sex, and violence are the currency of daily life in Moscow. Criminal gangs and unscrupulous financial operators run the show. But in the midst of so much squalor one mysterious group is pursuing a long-meditated plan. Blond and blue-eyed, with a strange shared attraction to a chunk of interstellar ice, they are looking for their brothers and sisters, precisely 23,000 of them. Lost among the common heart of humanity, they must be awakened and set free. How? With a crude hammer fashioned out of the cosmic ice. Humans, meat machines, die under its blows. The hears of the chosen answer by uttering their true names. For the first time they know the ecstacy of true life.

For the awakened, the future, like the past, is simple. It is ice.

What is Ice? A gritty dispatch from the front lines of the contemporary world, a gnostic fairy tale, a hard-boiled parable a New Age parody, a bitingly funny fantasy in the great Russian tradition that begins with Gogol and continues with Nabokov, a renegade fiction to set beside those of Philip K. Dick and Michel Houellebecq, and the most ambitious and accomplished novel yet by Vladimir Sorokin, the stylistic virtuoso and master of provocation who, in the words of The Moscow Times, is “the only living Russian author who can be called a classic.”

Title: Greek Lessons
Author: Han Kang
Translator (from Korean): Deborah Smith
Publisher: Hogarth
Publishing Date: 2023 (2011)
No. of Pages: 173

Synopsis: In a classroom in Seoul, a young woman watches her Greek language teacher at the blackboard. She tries to speak but has lost her voice. Her teacher finds himself drawn to the silent woman, while day by da he is losing his sight.

Soon the two discover that a deeper pain binds them together. For her, in the space of just a few months, she has lost both her mother and the custody battle for her nine-year-old-old son. For him, it’s the pain of growing up between Korea and Germany, being torn between two cultures and languages, and the fear of losing his independence.

Greek Lessons tells the story of two ordinary people brought together at a moment of private anguish – the fading light of a man losing his vision meeting the silence of a woman who has lost her language. Yet these are the very things that draw them to each other. Slowly the two discover a profound sense of unity – their voices intersecting with startling beauty, as they move from darkness to light, from silence to breath and expression.

Greek Lessons is the story of the unlikely bond between this pair and a tender love letter to human intimacy and connection – a novel to awaken the senses, one that vividly conjures the essence of what it means to be alive.

Title: I Was the President’s Mistress!!
Author: Miguel Syjuco
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publishing Date: 2022
No. of Pages: 362

Synopsis: Vita Nova, introverted megastar, only wished for a quiet life as the Philippines’ most-liked influencer, famous for her viral dance hit, the Mr. Sexy-Sexy – yet somehow she’s now headlining a rollicking impeachment and a battle royal for power.

In these previously unreleased transcripts, collected by Miguel Syjuco, the ghostwriter of her tell-all memoir, Vita rips the bodice of society to bare her heaving story. But some of her former lovers tell it differently, asking us: ” Who’s more sinful, the seduced or the seductress?”

You must decide, as thirteen indelible voices come alive in I Was the President’s Mistress!!, a dizzying tale of democracy in peril – which isn’t about the Philippines but a society uncannily like yours.

Come, confront today’s last taboos and hurtle headlong into love, sex, politics, freedom, faith – and the war over who will tell the stories the world will know as truth.

Title: The House on Calle Sombra
Author: Marga Ortigas
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publishing Date: 2021
No. of Pages: 374

Synopsis: Portrait of a mixed race family grappling with identity and betrayal in a turbulent tropical island nation.

The House on Calle Sombra follows the fates and fortunes of the esteemed Castillo de Montijo family over three generations. Set in the Philippines – a tropical island nation where truth blends with fiction – none of the Castillos is quite as perceived. Successful patriarch Don Federico arrived from Spain a penniless orphan. Formidable matriarch Doña Fatimah is a native Muslim fugitive. And their brood of privileged descendants is struggling to live up to their famed and crested motto: FAMILY FIRST

Mirroring events int he country’s turbulent history, the Castillos’ perfect facade begins to fracture as shadows form their past return to claim their due.

Sardonic, witty, and brutally frank, The House on Calle Sobra is an ode to family, and a compelling exploration of how greed, love, and trauma are passed down through generations.

Title: When We Were Birds
Author: Ayanna Lloyd Banwo
Publisher: Doubleday
Publishing Date: 2022
No. of Pages: 288

Synopsis: A mystic love story set in Trinidad, Ayanna Lloyd Banwo’s radiant debut introduces two unforgettable outsiders brought together by their connection with the dead.

In the old house on a hill, where the city meets the rain forest, Yejide’s mother is dying. She is leaving behind a legacy that now passes to Yejide: one St. Bernard woman in every generation must shepherd the city’s souls into the afterlife. But after years of suffering her mother’s neglect and bitterness, Yejide is looking for a way out.

Raised in the countryside by a devout mother, Darwin has always abided by the ancient Rastafarian vow not to interact with the dead. He has never been to a funeral, much less seen a dead body. But when the only job he can find is gravedigging, he must betray the life his mother built for him in order to provide for them both. Newly shorn of his dreadlocks and his past, and determined to prove himself, Darwin finds himself adrift in a city electric with possibility and danger.

Yejide and Darwin will meet inside the gates of Didelis, an old and sprawling cemetery, where the dead lie uneasy in their graves and a reckoning with fate beckons them both. A masterwork of lush imagination and exuberant storytelling, When We Were Birds is a spellbinding and hopeful novel about inheritance, loss, and love’s seismic power to heal.

Title: Wahala
Author: Nikki May
Publisher: Custom House
Publishing Date: 2022
No. of Pages: 371

Synopsis: An incisive and exhilarating debut novel following three Anglo-Nigerian best friends and the lethally glamorous fourth woman who infiltrates their group – the most unforgettable girls since Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda.

RONKE wants happily ever after and 2.2 kids. She’s dating Kayode and wants him to be “the one” (perfect, like her dead father). Her friends think he’s just another in a long line of dodgy Nigerian boyfriends.

BOO has everything Ronke wants – kind husband, gorgeous child. But she’s frustrated, unfulfilled, plagued by guilt, and desperate to remember who she used to be

SIMI is the golden one with the perfect lifestyle. No one knows she’s crippled by impostor syndrome and tempted to pack it all in each time her boss mentions her “urban vibe.” Her husband thinks they’re trying for a baby. She’s not.

When the high-flying, charismatic ISOBEL explodes into the group, it seems at first she’s bringing out the best in each woman. (She gets Simi an interview in Shanghai! Goes jogging with Boo!) But the more Isobel intervenes, the more chaos she sows, and Ronke, Simi and Boo’s close friendship begins to crack.

A sharp, modern take on friendship, ambition, culture and betrayal, Wahala (trouble) is an unforgettable novel from a brilliant new voice.

Title: A Spell of Good Things
Author: Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Publishing Date: 2023
No. of Pages: 332

Synopsis: Ẹniọlá is tall for his age, a boy who looks like a man. Because his father has lost his job, Ẹniọlá spends his day running errands for the local tailor, collecting newspapers, begging when he must and dreaming of a big future.

Wúràọlá is a golden girl, the perfect child of a wealthy family. Now an exhausted young doctor in her first year of practice, she is believed by Kúnlé, the volatile son of an ascendant politician.

When another local politician takes an interest in Ẹniọlá and sudden violence shatters a family party, Wúràọlá’s and Ẹniọlá’s lives become intertwined. In her breathtaking second novel, Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀ shines her light on Nigeria, its aging class divide and the shared humanity that lives in between.

Title: July’s People
Author: Nadine Gordimer
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publishing Date: 1982 (1981)
No. of Pages: 160

Synopsis: For years, it had been what is called a “deteriorating situation.” Now all over South Africa the cities are battlegrounds. The members of the Smales family – liberal whites – are rescued from the terror by their servant, July, who leads them to refuge in his village. What happens to the Smaleses and to July – the shifts in character and relationships – gives us an unforgettable look into the terrifying, tacit understandings and misunderstandings between blacks and whites.