books

Chapter 9: Luxembourg. The Traveling Biblio Chronicles.

Hey guys! We’re back with another chapter which I’m really excited about! I’ve had chats randomly with Sophia (You might know her as TeaCupBookWorld on Instagram) over the last few months and recently she was kind enough to give us some of her time and write up a recommendation for Luxembourg. I honestly had no idea about the place except the name (could hardly get the spelling right!) Sophia is a regular on Bookstagram where she is very active and does weekly readathons as well. I’ve recommended her account on bookstagram recently and am going to do that again. Click her name to reach her account: Sophia and let’s let Sophia take over this post!

At The Devil’s Banquets by Anise Koltz

It is only recently that I began to research local authors in Luxembourg, so for that reason my book recommendation today is a little different – this is a newly discovered author and book for me too.

I have lived in Luxembourg for just under two years and I am slowly learning about a unique culture which, before I relocated here, I barely knew existed. Luxembourg is a very small country bordering France, Germany and Belgium, so the most notable authors are usually of French or German origin.

The author I chose to discuss is Anise Koltz – she is the Vice President of the European Academy of Poetry, and the founder and director of the festival Les Journées de Mondorf. She was born in Luxembourg in 1928, but as Luxembourgish was not even a written language until about 30 years ago, the majority of her work is written in French and German (the two other local languages). Interestingly, she began by writing only in German, however, after the death of her husband – who was a victim of torture by the Nazi occupation  she could no longer bring herself to write in the German language. When she started writing again, the only language she would use, was French. 

Anise started her career by writing fairy stories in the 1950s, but later, she switched her focus to poetry. As a fellow poet myself, I was keen to explore her work and the words she wanted to share. The first book of her poetry that I encountered, is called ‘At the Devil’s Banquets’.

Her writing in this book fascinates me as it is so lyrical yet at the same time raw and painful. She makes bold statements questioning our world, and yet, her words are also metaphors and wild contemplations. There is a subtle anger in her style which really resonates with me:

‘Lost in space
eternity turns back
to the glacial era

Keeps watch over our petrified bodies
sites abandoned by time’

We encounter so much gentle and simple poetry in daily life (which definitely has its place) but we are not often faced with the truly hardhitting pieces. For me personally, I love to ponder a powerful stanza full of fearless observation.

Alongside this complex and dark narration, she also creates some intimate pieces about more runofthemill subjects such as the writing of poetry itself. I really enjoyed this piece called ‘The Poet’, below is a small extract:

‘He holds back the poem
the way you hold your breath

Until he learns to breathe 
against it

His wildcat’s
teeth grind

Every Poem
is a mark of his claws’

To read Anise’s work is to discover a wonderful correlation between her writing and Luxembourg itself – uncharted beauty where you are least expecting it.

This was Chapter 9 of the traveling biblio chornicles by Sophia. You can buy the book here from book depository
If you liked this post, please consider subscribing here
Do consider sharing this with your friends who might like to read more from our hopefully growing diverse list over the next weeks and months.

Our previous Chapters are as follows, have a look! 

Chapter 1: Australia here

Chapter 2: Afghanistan here

Chapter 3: Egypt here

Chapter 4: Palestine here

Chapter 5: Kenya here

Chapter 6: Pakistan here

Chapter 7: Argentina here

Chapter 8: Estonia here

books, REVIEWS

It’s Not About The Burqa edited by Mariam Khan

“No one woman can speak for all Muslim Women – for that rich and varied tapestry of experiences, practice, belief and ways of being” – Nadine Aisha Jassat

#theguywiththebookreview presents It’s Not About The Burqa

The quote above from Nadine came on the last page of the book and I think it reaffirms my original decision to not review this book the way I usually try to critically (although amateurly) look at the contents.

17 Muslim women from a wide range of backgrounds share their thoughts about what it is like to be a Muslim Woman, sometimes very visibly so (Hijabi Muslim Women) and sometimes not as visibly.

A few of the essays here were fascinating to me. Having lived most of my life where ‘normal’ to me is a lifestyle circled around Islam and practicing Muslims, the Muslim identity to has always been the default. Where segregation of sexes is the norm and where things go to a halt when it is prayer times (All shops close for 20-30 minutes during the 5 prayer times in Saudi Arabia)

There were essays which I absolutely disagreed with and then there were some that were almost enlightening. One in particular by Saima Mir definitely choked me up.

But without a doubt my absolutely favorite of all the essays came very early in the collection: On the Representation of Muslims *Terms and Conditions Apply by @nafisa_bakkar Her essay made a super lazy reader like me get up and grab my highlighter. I went crazy highlighting the stuff she’s written! Absolutely on point!

I would recommend this to readers across the board, Muslim or Non Muslim with a very small note that not everything in this book is about being a Muslim or Not being a Muslim. These are mostly experiences and aren’t to be taken word for word as a representation of or not of Islam.

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If you’re interested in buying the book, please click HERE for my Affiliate Link, Thank you!

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Please consider subscribing to my blog HERE.

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If you are looking for more book reviews, please find the links here:

A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza

Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

If Cats Disappeared From The World by Genki Kawamura

The Man-Eater Of Malgudi by R.K.Narayan

The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami

Anne Frank’s Diary (Graphic Adaptation)

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

The Lost Man by Jane Harper

Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini

The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

A Long Wall To Water by Linda Sue Park

Warlight by Michael Ondaatje

So Lucky by Nicola Griffith

Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami

Eve of Man by Giovanna and Tom Fletcher

books, REVIEWS

The Man-eater of Malgudi by R. K. Narayan

Probably one of the most famous fictional cities in India, Malgudi was a little part of my childhood too!

#theguywiththebookreview presents The Man-eater of Malgudi by R.K. Narayan.

Set in Malgudi (based somewhere in South India) we have Natraj, a very hardworking owner of a small 2 man printing press which is also a daily place to socialize for a couple of local men. Sastri is Natraj’s assistant and the book sets off in a very relaxed pace until Vasu, a taxidermist moves to town and somehow manages to rent out Natraj’s attic but never pays him a dime.

Vasu has ironically a very straight forward approach when it comes to getting things done but has no problem twisting things when it comes to being responsible for his own actions.

The Malgudi series of books seem to have been a very genuine commentary on Indian culture and way of life. Through the inclusion of a ‘loose’ woman and the different reactions of men to her presence Narayan manages to seamlessly navigate through and deconstruct the thoughts of different people.

Midway through the plot picks up pace and the final 25 pages take a very intriguing turn in events and the book is no longer just a social tale.

I think the brilliance with Narayan’s approach of using a fictional town is to detach the characters and events from any particular place and via fiction make us all look into ourselves transparently. (I don’t know if this makes sense but it’s been 5 minutes and I don’t know how to say this any other way)

Pick this up! Rating 🐘/5

Click HERE to buy. (This is linked to a 2 in 1 book which also includes A Tiger for Malgudi)

books, REVIEWS

A place for us by Fatima Farheen Mirza

I have always been secretly proud of my ability to express my thoughts on books in concentrated ways enabling readers of my reviews to decide for themselves if they would like to read them or not. Unfortunately, I don’t think I can or want to do that with this one, you HAVE to read it.

I’m going to stick to three main points of the book:

▪️The Storytelling

▫️The Characters

▪️The Relatability

▪️What struck me most within the first 50 pages of the book was how expertly the plot is handled and weaves around the characters. The narrative jumps ahead and around multiple times and it doesn’t take much effort to know when it’s taking place. I noticed subtle hints are included within the first few paragraphs of each new timeline and I’d automatically readjust the ages of each character to fit the narrative.

▫️At our core, we are all flawed and most of us try our best to do what we can to improve ourselves and adjust to our surroundings; to embrace our traditions and yet accept new ones. Writing such characters never seems like an easy task, but to write such characters and join their lives together in a way that compliments and completes them is exactly what Fatima has accomplished. There isn’t one character I could clearly point out and say was right or wrong. They all had their reasons behind their words and actions.

▪️Having been born in a foreign country and then lived almost all of my life outside of my own, there are things that I know and understand and experience regularly but have unfortunately never had the privilege to hear out loud. A Place for Us became my little place where I found solace in the five days I took to read it. It’s going to remain with me for a very long time and perhaps finally become the first book I might revisit year in and year out.

I had the privilege to talk to Fatima right after I read the book, it reminded me of what JD Salinger wrote in the incomparable voice of Holden: “What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.” Well, it happened! Thank you Fatima!

You can buy the book here

REVIEWS

Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini

I don’t know how to start talking about a book which I went through faster than a cup of coffee. This is the type of literature which has the power to redifine humanity and remould the world.
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#theguywiththebookreview presents Sea Prayer by @khosseini

I was deeply moved by The Kite Runner and later absolutely shattered by A thousand Splendid Suns. When I heard about this book I thought the primary goal of it was to tell the story of Alan Kurdi, the little Syrian child whose body was washed ashore while he and his family were trying to seek refuge in Europe. Their boat had capsized and Alan along with his dear mother and brother lost their lives. The only one who survived was Alan’s father. But I was wrong, it’s not only about Alan.

Beautifully wed with enchanting illustrations, this fictional take on Alan is heartwrenching and its effects linger for days. I wasn’t able to sleep properly the night I read it and I still get upset when I think about it. I’m writing this review after atleast a month since I failed to write it the last 2 times I tried.

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This book is linked to UNHCR @refugees and all proceeds from it go towards it and The Khaled Hosseini Foundation.
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I doubt that @khosseini will read this review, but if you do, Sir, I salute you for what you have done to highlight once again poor Alan’s fate and many other kids and families who risk their lives just to be able to breath, eat and sleep.
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You can buy this book from my affiliate link here

books, REVIEWS

A Long Walk to Water By Linda Sue Park

edfThe last few pages of this book gave me multiple goosebumps. Linda Sue Park takes us on a couple of walks, one to survival and the other figuratively to survival (to water).

The narrative alternates between two eleven year old’s: Nya and Salva. Nya is a little girl who makes two trips to a drying pond to fetch water for her family. Her only break includes drinking a little water when she reaches the pond and the other is between her two daily trips back home for a few minutes. Nya’s narrative is very innocent which is intertwined with Salva’s coming of age narrative which also starts at the age of eleven. Salva is at the center of the book with Nya lending short breathers in between. Salva’s story starts in 1985 when South Sudan is under attack which leads him to abandon everything and head for Ethiopia under the unwilling watch of random strangers also heading to the same place.IMG_20181017_171059.jpg

What Salva goes through during the course of this ‘walk’ is horrendous and almost unbelievable, and when I finished the book, I turned the last page to a note from the author saying that this is all based on a true story. (I really need to stop this habit of not reading summaries of books I pick up!) Everything I read had a much deeper impact on me after I found this out and this has to be one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read in a long time! (Closest to it is Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini)

At the end of it all, I had so much more appreciation for what we have been blessed with in our daily lives, something like water which we don’t even think about. We complain if edfthe water we drink isn’t as cold as we want it to be not thinking twice there are people even today who would thank God for giving them even boiling hot water to drink. This book has the capacity to humble us and be thankful, and for that reason I recommend it to every single one of you. I think this should be required reading in schools and a book that should be reread every year.

A Long Walk to Water has a 4.24 rating on Good reads (30,000 reviews). If you’d like to order one, here’s my bookdepository affiliate link

Hope you guys enjoy it! Do let me know if its something you’d pick up? If there is any book you’d like to recommend, I’m all ears!

books, REVIEWS

Chapter 7: Argentina. The Traveling Biblio Chronicles.

A few months ago I approached Carolina to write an article for this series. And I was really happy when she messaged me about my piece on representation It was an interesting discussion which led me to revisit my stand on representation. After all, we are all a product of a number of variables viz. culture, family background etc. Because of this I was even more happy that I had included her to write a post for Argentine representation. I knew she wont just randomly recommend a book and will stand with full force behind her choice, I’m sure you’re going to love her recommendation!

Carolina can be found at the following links:

Instagram Twitter and she writes for Book Riot under Carolina Ciucci

Over to Carolina now!

It is said that every country has a body of literature that is so distinctive, it captures the spirit of its people. I don’t believe that’s true.  A country’s “people” is such a vague notion, after all. What people are we talking about? Gender, racial and class differences, among others, all come together to shape multiple communities within a nation’s borders.  So when Faroukh asked me to recommend one Argentine book for his blog, I immediately asked him if I had to choose only one. Unfortunately, he said yes. But he gave me the leeway to add some extra books as a footnote, so that’ll have to do.

To many people, us included, Argentine literature immediately brings to mind the Gauchesque genre. And the one work from this genre known to everyone, even those who don’t know or care about it, is El gaucho Martín Fierro. Published in 1872, it became a smashing success, to the point where author José Hernández included a second part, La vuelta del Martín Fierro (The Return of Martín Fierro), in 1879.

1534264445881-02.jpeg“El Martín Fierro”, as it’s typically known here, is an epic poem composed in the tradition of folkloric literature. Hernández was not a gaucho himself: as an educated man from the city, his story of Martín Fierro, a man belonging to an oppressed class who after much hardship becomes an oppressor himself, is told from imagination and research, not experience. Jorge Luis Borges and Leopoldo Lugones (do yourself a favor, read their work but steer clear of their politics) later deemed it the ultimate Argentine work of literature. Borges himself wrote some excellent short stories inspired by it.

What makes this poem so beloved in this country? A big part of its appeal lies in thesearch for a national identity. Argentina had only become an independent country in 1816, and was still struggling to distance itself from its colonizer’s culture. Add the 1880s immigrational wave, and the need for a national canon became imperative. The gaucho was a purely Argentine figure: he didn’t exist in Spain, Italy, or in any of the countries whose people were currently settling down here. That consideration contributed to its importance, to the point where Tradition Day was set on November 10, Hernández’s birthday.

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Ironically (or maybe not), Hernández became the spokesperson for gauchos despite being a moderately wealthy landowner of Spanish and Irish ancestry. It opens the door for discussions about cultural appropriation, the absurdity inherent to the concept of a single narrative, and the way that immigration is seen, depending on the ethnic and national identity of the immigrant – both back in the 19th century and today.

Other authors and books you might like to read:

Jorge Luis Borges: basically everything, but my favorite is his short story collection El Aleph.

Julio Cortázar: again, everything. But Rayuela (or Hopscotch) remains my favorite.

Victoria Ocampo: founder of iconic literary magazine, Sur, Ocampo wrote poetry and short stories in the same vein of Borges and Cortázar.

Silvina Ocampo: See above.

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Alejandra Pizarnik: Poet and translator, Pizarnik’s writing is among the most beautiful I’ve ever read. I’ve tackled a good chunk of her poetry, but as a friend recently reminded me, I have yet to read her journals. I can’t wait.

Rodolfo Walsh: the true founder of the non-fiction novel (sorry, Capote. Walsh got there first), he was a complicated, controversial figure that remains in the collective mind decades after his forced disappearance and execution at the hands of our last military government.

Ernesto Sábato: another controversial figure, albeit for more mundane reasons, his novel El túnel (The Tunnel) is a masterpiece of literary realism. The rest of his work isn’t too shabby, either.

María Elena Walsh: a children’s writer, she played a big role in little Caro’s love of reading. I can’t remember much of her work anymore, but there is one poem I can recite from memory, twenty years later.

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That’s it for now! I hope you enjoy digging into some of these authors’ backlog. Let me know if you’d like any more recommendations – this is only the tip of the iceberg. Happy reading!

Thanks a lot Carolina for the recommendations!

For a direct affiliate link if you’d like to order El Gaucho Martin Fierro via bookdepository, click here

This was Chapter 7 of the traveling biblio chornicles by Carolina Ciucci!
This book travel series will continue next week when our next guest takes us on a little bookish journey to a new place!
If you liked this post, please subscribe here
Do consider sharing this with your friends who might like to read more from our hopefully growing diverse list over the next weeks and months.

Check out Chapter 1: Australia here

Check out Chapter 2: Afghanistan here

Check out Chapter 3: Egypt here

Check out Chapter 4: Palestine here

Check out Chapter 5: Kenya here

Check out Chapter 6: Pakistan here