Why is it when I am busy at work I can only think how wonderful it would be to have a whole day with nothing to do but read. But when I have a long weekend I, in fact, read very little. So crazy. I have this bad habit of when I have free time thinking I need to 'earn' time for pleasure reading. First I will take a walk and exercise, and then I will do laundry and then the grass needs mowing, and then my weekend is gone. Do you have that problem, or are you sensible and just not worry about the mundane tasks that don't need to be done all at once? Apparently I am in the worrier group.
So here I am once again with a lovely pile of new books from that list of women's writing in translation which my library has slowing been getting in. The books cross my desk and I have to admit I have started accumulating a small pile. Most have gone out to the shelves but I have checked out a few that are of particular interest to me, so I thought I would share them here in case they might also be of interest to you, too.
Teffi's Subtly Worded was a 'must look at' as I am slowly working my way through her Memories: From Moscow to the Black Sea. I have been quietly chipping away at it and passed the halfway mark now. This is a collection of short stories, and while I am in the market for a new story collection to read, I will most likely just dip into this one. Amongst other things, this collection has "stories of people misunderstanding each other or misrepresenting themselves." She writes with "sly, sardonic wit and a deep, compelling intelligence", which I have already come to know to be true! (Translated from the Russian).
More stories to explore in Regina Ullmann's The Country Road. Ullmann is a famous Swiss author and this is her first work translated into English. According to her publisher, New Directions, "Regina Ullmann, considered one of the most important writers of the twentieth century, was known for her honest portrayals of rural peasant life. Ullmann was no stranger to these settings, spending much of her life in Swiss rural landscapes—supplementing her income by basket weaving, beekeeping, and making wax figurines." She sounds interesting and her writing quite unique. (Translated from the German).
I am most keen to start with Elvira Dones's Sworn Virgin. It is the winner of the European Pen Award and is an & Other Stories book that I just mentioned. "Hana Doda is an Ambitious literature student in cosmopolitan Tirana. Mark Doda is a raki-drinking, chain-smoking shepherd, living alone deep in the Albanian mountains. In fact, they are the same person. Apparently this is an Albanian tradition--Hana turns down an arranged marriage and live independently. She is allowed to do so by her family, but in return she must live the rest of her life in chastity--as a man! She becomes a 'sworn virgin'. When she decides later to reintegrate into society in the US she must transition back into life as a woman. I have no idea yet what the time period this is set in but it sounds like a curious book with a look into how disorienting it would be to change gender identities. It might also be a perfect choice to read for The Literary Others readalong. Dones was born in Albania but moved to Italy. This is her first book written in Italian ("She adds her voice to the burgeoning new generation of "blended" Italians, who deliberately adopt a "dirty" immigrant/exile approach to their language"). She is now based in the US.
Elke Schmitter's Mrs. Sartoris would be a perfect pairing with Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary. "An international sensation, Elke Schmitter’s explosive debut novel presents a modern-day twist on Madame Bovary. Margarethe can remember very clearly the last time she was happy: she was eighteen, prized for her beauty, and swept off her feet by her wealthy, dashing boyfriend. Then he left her. For the last twenty years she has lived in a provincial German town with her dependable husband, her self-directed daughter, and her adoring mother-in-law. Her life has been one of numbing predictability–until she meets Michael, a married man who stirs her from her resignation, delivering her to heights of rapture only to ignite far more destructive passions." I've read Madame Bovary a number of times and in various translations and think it is a brilliant novel. I'm not sure I can manage a reread just now, but I very much want to read Mrs. Sartoris. (Translated from the German).
I've had my eye on Jenny Erpenbeck's works for a while, but The End of Days is the book most appealing to me. The novel is made up of five books, each with the same female character and each leading to her death under varying circumstances and at different periods in her life and in history. The novel "offers a unique overview of the twentieth century." It sounds a little familiar--similar to Kate Atkinson's work, but maybe not exactly the same. This won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and the Hans Fallada Prize and is set during the early part of Europe's 20th century.
I'm not quite sure where to start, but one of these is going to be in my bookbag next time I pack it! And I swear I am going to work on balancing the need to earn reading time and guilt-free reading time. Life is short, read more books surely . . .