books: 30 posts

Learning Languages and Reading Techniques

Reading is one of the biggest pleasures for me, and often when I learn a new language, I relish the chance to read in it. It’s also a great way to expose yourself more to the language and to make it part of your life. People often assume that “studying a language” means sitting down with a grammar book and doing exercises or spending time in the classroom, but that’s not enough. You have to surround yourself with the language by filling every free moment with it. Listen to music, watch YouTube clips about a subject you like, read.

And so today I will focus on reading and share a few tips. These are classical approaches, but they’ve been invaluable to me. In general, I start reading as soon as possible, even when I know that the text is too difficult. The most important part is to want to read the story, not to want to read in Arabic/French/Italian, etc. If you’re learning French and you long to read 19th-century novels, go for it. I don’t like texts especially written for language learners or children’s stories, but I have a soft spot for traditional fairy tales.

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How to Handle Self-Isolation and Not Lose One’s Mind

My daily routine during intense writing periods is almost always the same. During the week, I wake up at 6am, start working at 7am and continue until 5-6pm, with lunch, coffee break and language lessons in between. I’m so preoccupied throughout the day that I don’t see anyone in person other than my husband and the local shop owners during the week. I usually save weekends for friends and other social activities. So, the new quarantine and lockdown rules that are becoming strictly enforced here don’t change my routine dramatically. This is not the case for many others. “How do you manage to work at home and not lose your mind?” my friends ask me.

Create Your Community

While I require solitude when I work, being part of a community is essential to me. Over the years I’ve gravitated to such communities of people. Those of you coming to Bois de Jasmin, for instance, comprise one of those communities. I enjoy the conversations I have with you, whether they’re about scents, books, embroidery or random observations on life in general.

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À rebours (Against Nature) by Joris-Karl Huysmans : Scents in Books

“From black-rimmed plates they ate turtle soup and eaten Russian rye bread, ripe Turkish olives, caviar, salted mullet-roe, smoked Frankfurt black puddings, game in gravies the colour of liquorice and boot-blacking truffled sauces, chocolate caramel creams, plum puddings, nectarines, preserved fruits, mulberries and heart-cherries; from dark coloured glasses they drank the wines of Limagne and Rousillon, of Tenedoes, Val de Peñas and Oporto, and, after the coffee and the walnut cordial they enjoyed kvass, porters and stouts.”

― Joris-Karl Huysmans, Against Nature

His writing inspired Oscar Wilde—and corrupted Dorian Gray. As an art critic, he discovered Degas and Odilon Redon. Joris-Karl Huysmans (1848-1907) was one of the most prominent stars of the European art scene at the end of the 19th century, and yet he remains little known to the general public. However, two events this year are putting Huysmans into the spotlight. First, the Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, published by Gallimard, has added his works to their prestigious collection of classics. Second, Musée d’Orsay will hold an exhibition from 26th November 2019 to 1st March 2020 devoted to Huysmans’s contributions to 20th century aesthetics.

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5 Things That Inspire Me

When I work on any long-term project, my office looks as if a tornado went through it. Since I prefer to work at a low table sitting on a cushion, my legs folded in the lotus position, I use the floor around me as my canvas. Books, research materials, and reference volumes cover it in random looking piles and mixed among them are items I find inspiring. Of course, the chaos is not entirely random, and I can tell you where I have my Japanese-English dictionary, Philip Kraft’s guide to fragrance chemistry or a volume of Persian poetry, without having to get up from my table. (The table, by the way, was a $10 acquisition from a Turkish shop, intended for making phyllo pastry.)

Casting a quick glance at the items that surround me today, I realized that they are much more than the materials I use for my writing, but rather the things that inspire me, the things that give me pleasure simply by looking at or touching them. I’m sure everyone can make such an inspiration collage–and I’m sure that for every person it would be different, but I wanted to share mine with you.

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Bulgaria Travel Reading List

Bulgaria, like so many places that fell on the other side of the Iron Curtain, remains terra incognita. Yet, it has an ancient history, delicious food, beautiful music, picturesque churches, incredible biodiversity, and of course, roses. Despite its small size, Bulgaria supplies 50% of the world’s rose essence.

I’ve decided to put together a list of non-fiction and fiction books. These novels and travel accounts present a fascinating and rich land, a place where many different cultures, influences and traditions meet.

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