oksana zabuzhko: 2 posts

Books From Around The World

It’s fair to say that much of my recent reading has been inspired by your recommendations left in the comments, often under articles that had little to do with literature (you have such eclectic interests!). Since it shall be a slow week with my US based writers and readers celebrating Thanksgiving, I thought that it might be a good chance for all of us to share more favorite books, especially those written by the less well-known authors. (This, of course, is relative; Eka Kurniawan may not be a household name in the US, but he’s famous in his native Indonesia.) Of course, please don’t feel bound by this and share your favorite writers, poets or essayists.

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I will start with The Girl From the Coast, a novel by Pramoedya Ananta Toer. Pramoedya is so famous in Indonesia that he’s usually referred to only by his first name. The story is about a girl from a backwater village who is married off to a Javanese aristocrat without realizing that she’d only be his “temporary wife” to be sent back home whenever he gets tired of her. The characters are outlined with humanism that pervades Pramoedya’s other novels, and the plot develops swiftly. It’s a good introduction to Indonesian literature, and I thank my readers who recommended it to me.

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Perfumes To Smell, Books To Read : Autumnal Lists

This time of year makes me prone to bouts of melancholy. I don’t like to bid goodbye to summer vacation, August peaches and picnics in the park. Since my school recollections are filled with the institutional smells of many children in confined spaces, burned milk, wet chalk and blackboards cleaned with a musty rag, I can’t get excited about the whole “back to school” thing either. My memory refuses to budge from this Dickensian vision even when prompted by the delicious smells of sharpened pencils and ink; I hated school until I started college.  I get out of my funk once the fall gets further under way and I notice the walnut sweetness of fallen leaves in the morning air and become grateful for any rose still blooming along Brussels’ chestnut lined avenues. But in the meantime, I just make the best of the transition and come up with lists.

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Lists are somewhat of an obsession. I’ve been an inveterate list maker since my childhood. My mom treasures a compilation of “books I am going to write” that I came up with at the age of 12. They include “The History of India,” “The History of Greece” and “Constantinople, Jewel of the Byzantine Empire.” (Why on earth did I study political science at the university and not history, I now wonder.) I’m less ambitious these days and instead I just make lists of dishes to cook, places to explore in Brussels, perfumes to try or books to read.

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