Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Back Reviews Reel: July 2013

July was the second month of My Mediterranean Reading Summer 2013 and my first as a participant of Rose City Reader’s European Reading Challenge 2013. For me it had in store the pleasure of discovering The Remains of Love by Zeruya Shalev, the work of a best-selling Israeli writer of whom I had never heard before, and the novel of a little known Sardinian writer, namely Accabadora by Michela Murgia. My bookish journey through the twenty-one countries of the Mediterranean plus Palestine and Gibraltar also gave me the welcome chance to re-read the French classic Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan that is set on the Côte d’Azur. And there was time for a little detour to Central Europe, more precisely to Czechoslovakia in the late 1970s, with The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera.

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http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21057572-the-remains-of-love
The Israeli novel The Remains of Love by Zeruya Shalev traces the lives of Hemda Horovitz, her daughter Dina and her son Avner. Hemda could never give Dina enough love while she suffocated Avner with it. Both children suffer and pay for it in their adult relationships. Avner is trapped in a loveless marriage, but he doesn’t have the courage to change anything. Dina isn’t happy, either. She has a sixteen-year-old daughter, Nitzan, who growing up withdraws from her ever more and her husband Gideon doesn’t understand her feeling of loss. As Hemda’s health deteriorates and death approaches, her children step out of her shadow and liberating themselves from their emotional ties they take life into their own hands at last.

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http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1183167.Bonjour_TristesseThe once shocking and now quite harmless coming-of-age novella Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan is about seventeen-year-old Cécile who lives in Paris with her playboy father and doesn’t mind his changing affairs. For the summer holidays they travel to the south and settle down in a vacation house by the sea. Cécile doesn’t see any sense in studying – as she should – , drinks too much, rebels against her father’s fiancé Anne, (successfully) interferes with their marriage plans, and enjoys her first sexual experiences with her boyfriend Cyril without the faintest intention of getting married because he’s just a summer flirt. In brief: she indulges in an empty and carefree life based on consumption and entertainment.

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http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/825330.The_Book_of_Laughter_and_ForgettingThe Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera isn't really a novel, but a variation on a theme, namely on laughter and forgetting, as the author himself declares. In fact, it's a collection of seven independent stories skilfully linked together by these two essential reactions of human nature to the outside world. The stories deal with politics, history, love, an untranslatable emotion called ‘lítost’ in Czech, flight, death… thus with life in general as it presents itself at different stages. In addition, Milan Kundera interspersed his stories with many autobiographical remarks as well as first-hand historical information about Czechoslovakia and the lives of people under the Communist regime up to the late 1970s.

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http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16598591-accabadoraStarting in the small Sardinian village Soreni in the early 1950s, Accabadora by Michela Murgia tells the story of Maria Listru. She is only six years old when unmarried and childless Maria Bonaria Urrai takes her as a ‘fill’e anima’ (a ‘soul child’ translated literally) into her house, thus informally adopts her following an ancient Sardinian tradition that leaves relations with the natural family intact. By profession Tzia Bonaria is an ‘accabadora’ (a ‘finisher’ in English), a woman who kills the agonizing out of mercy, but Maria doesn't know until much later. Otherwise, they lead the ordinary lives of country people who are slowly drawn into the modern world and risk to forget their centuries-old traditions over it.

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4 comments:

  1. Wonderful collection here. I am adding them to my lists of novels from other lands.

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    1. I'm glad that you like this brief collection! Of course, there are many more of them in my list of reviewed books!

      Thanks for your comment, Judy!

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  2. Bonjour Tristesse was one of my summer reads a few years ago, and it quite reminds me of The Ripening Seed which I read this summer for Paris in July. Young love, those teenagers, what sadness indeed!

    I am very interested in the Kundera book you reviewed. I have only read The Unbearable Lightness of Being, was was decades ago, and I remember liking the author very much. Reading across Europe must have been a very worthy trip!!

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    1. I agree that all these coming-of-age novels dealing with young love have quite a lot in common! Nada by Carmen Laforet is in the same line although it has important other dimensions too.

      Yes, Milan Kundera's The Book of Laughter and Forgetting was a great read. Unfortunately, I haven't yet got round to reading another work by this Czech author living in France, not even The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

      Reading around Europe was less of a challenge for me because being Austrian I read more literature from Europe than from any other continent anyways. Nonetheless, there still are quite some blank spots on my literary map of Europe...

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