Samko Talé’s Cemetery Book

Book: Samko Talé’s Cemetery Book- Daniela Kapitánová
Around the World: Slovakia
how obtained: kindle version ~$3


This book is set in post soviet union Slovakia. Samko is an intellectually challenged man, and the town drunkard who may or may not have future-telling ability has said he will write a cemetery book. So he wrote the book that we read now, but as he doesn’t know what to say about the cemetery, he instead talks about the people his life intersects with and things that have happened in the past.

Samko is a deeply flawed author- he is repetitive and circular. He has no imagination or  flexibility in his thought- he gets caught up in how things should be and can’t understand why people are doing things in a different way. Unfortunately his beliefs were shaped during communist rule, and by fearful, racist, restrictive, judgemental people. The topic of his meandering monologue flits back and forth between a few key people in his life- a friend from school, his sisters (one of whom he thoroughly disapproves of because she is  a  musician, promotes herself and wears odd clothes on album covers etc), a gypsy who competes with him for recycling to collect, the odd boarder upstairs…

Personally I didn’t really enjoy this book- Samko’s repetitiveness was annoying, and I just didn’t see the point of it all. I kind of felt like there was meant to be something at the end of the book that tied everything together and made us realise something, but it just ended. For me, it was like when you friend tries to tell you a story, but forgets partway though what they were trying to tell you and trails off “and then we, you know, hung out for a while… yeah …”

Maybe there is something I missed- if so, let me know what you thought.

2017 Reading Challenges

For those of you who have been following me already, you probably know that I started this blog as part of a compulsion to complete two reading challenges I set for myself: to read a book written by an author from every country in the world, and to read a list of important or famous historical works.

After blogging for a while I noticed there were quite a few people doing other challenges, mostly time based ones (mine has no time limit as I estimate it will take several years). I was a bit sad that I started half way through the year so it was too late to join in, so today I have gone and found all the ones I can to sign up to for next year! I probably won’t be able to do all of them,  but thought we may as well try, and that you might like them too.

 

Flights of Fantasy Reading Challenge

  • Choose your own number of fantasy books to read in 2017
  • I aim to read: 10

Contemporary Romance Reading Challenge

  • Choose a level to aim for a certain number of contemporary romance books
  • I aim to reach: 1st Base: 1-5 books

Rock My TBR Challenge

  • Read at least one book per month that you have been meaning to read

2017 Diverse Reads Book Challenge

  • Read as many books as you can with diverse characters (different sexualities, religions, ethnicity, disability etc)

2017 Debut author Challenge

  • read 12 or more young adult books that are an author’s debut novel

What’s in A Name

  • A small scavenger hunt for books- read books that have certain things in their titles

52 Books in 52 Weeks

  • What it sounds like!

Netflix and Books Challenge

  • combine your love of TV and books- pair up books and shows that have things in common (themes, character names, settings)
  • tentative reading list: Pillars of the Earth, Fish of the Seto Inland Sea, the Book theif, the rosie project, outlander
  • tentative watching list: black adder, toast of london, the get down, north & south, the crown

Reading Challenge Addict

  • a challenge of doing lots of different reading challenges
  • I am not quite sure yet- but looks like I will be doing 6-10 challenges?

All About Austen

  • read/watch anything related to Austen- either her works or spin offs
  • Aim: Austen aficionado: read or watch 6 items

The European Reading Challenge

  • read a book, from or about as many different European countries as you can

Colour Coded Challenge

  • a book where the title contains, or the cover is, each colour

 

There is an even more extensive list here, that I recommend if you want to find more.

 

 

Bringing Ararat

Book: Bringing Ararat- Armand Inezian
Around the World: Armenia
how obtained: kindle version


Armenia is located in the south Caucasus region- between Turkey, Georgia, Iran and Azerbaijan. Its long history includes being the first state to adopt Christianity as its official religion in 301 AD, and spending more time than not under the rule of various empires: Byzantine, Sasanian, Ottoman, Iranian, Russian… In 1991 it obtained independence from the Soviet Union, and it is estimated that a quarter of the population has emigrated since that time.

Bringing Ararat is a collection of short stories and pieces about Armenian people in different situations, many with this theme of emigration or diaspora in the background. An old man struggles with aging, illness and an inner demon. A teenager is standing on the line between being part of general society or not and has to choose which way to go. A kid with health issues annoys a personal trainer. A gay man’s relationship falls apart as he tries to deal with the merging of his life into his partners.A young man struggles with the decision about whether to move to America- sick of the multiple upheavals moving has caused.

If only they could have brought Ararat with them, the white-head mountain of Noah; it might have anchored his people

This book is short and easy to read. It is written in the voices of the main characters, which are generally pleasant and interesting, but can be a bit abrupt and abrasive depending on the character. But this is all part of the story and not off putting at all. I would recommend this book for people who like nice short stories that offer an insight into the lives of people different than them.

AESCHYLUS – AGAMEMNON

Aeschylus- Agamemnon
Throughout Time reading list
How obtained: free kindle version


Agamemnon is a fairly complicated story, but most of the story does not take place before the audience’s eyes- most of it is told in long monologues. At the beginning of the play, Clytemnestra and the watchmen see the beacons being lit, which means the war in Troy is over and Agamemnon is heading home. The watchmen are happy, Clytemnestra not so much. Her husband sacrificed their daughter to placate a god before he left, and she has not forgiven him. She has also taken a lover. After a few long monologues about this and the war, Agamemnon does in fact return. He has brought a concubine with him, Cassandra, who has been cursed with the ability to prophesy but never have anyone believe her. Agamemnon argues about either going inside the house or not. He goes in and is killed by his wife. Cassandra debates about going in- she knows she will be killed so doesn’t want to go in, but also knows it is fate- to hey, it will happen, may as well get it over with. She goes in and is killed. The children escape- and live another day to avenge their father and prolong the never ending cycle of bloodshed.

So pretty much all that happens is some people talk for a while about the past, and then other people debate entering a house, and then they die. The end. But it is still a good example of common themes in ancient Greek literature- particularly the cycle of death that means there is always someone else to avenge.(an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind).

Doesn’t seem like much, but apparently the play was revolutionary- it was the first play to have multiple characters interacting with each other, rather than just with the chorus (who represent the audience, the towns people etc, who may sing songs, or ask important questions of the main character that help get points across). This increased the ability to show conflict and drama.

Oedipus Rex -Sophocles

Oedipus rex -Sophocles
Throughout Time reading list
how obtained: free kindle version


Back to the beginning again! This time we journey to the beginning of theatre. In ancient Greece, theatre was a religious experience dedicated to Dionysus, the god and wine of altered states (whether that be from the wine, or from religious ecstasy). They were usually put on as part of a festival, with thousands coming to watch a large number of plays. At the end of the festival, judge’s would vote to decide which was the best play. Playwright were not the struggling artists we think of today- they were often politicians, businessmen, and leaders of the community.

Sophocles was believed to have authored 123 plays. Only seven are still in existence. The most famous would be the Oedipus trilogy, of which I read the first. While really they should probably be read together, as the story continues on straight away, I must admit that starting at a point of knowing nothing about ancient literature, it is a bit hard to be quite that enthusiastic! So I plan to read one of each author, find out a bit about the context and history, and then be able to read the rest at some unknown time in the future with more insight. 😛

The story of Oedipus rex was not invented by Sophocles- it would have been well known to Athenians already. Oedipus is king, after having saved the kingdom from a Sphinx by answering her riddle. He had been running from home to avoid fulfilling a prophesy that he would kill his father and sleep with his mother. Unfortunately he was unaware that he was adopted, and that staying home would have been the safest course. He was a pretty good king, but some kind of curse has fallen on the land. it comes to light that the God’s are unhappy that the old king’s death went unavenged, so Oedipus determines to find the man responsible.

This play is, compared to some of the ancient writings, not too hard to read. I did find it useful to watch the crash course video first. I am happy I have read it because, like with many of these olds texts, there are several things that are referenced in modern culture,which find their origins in it. There are links between all times of history- it is not just genetics that are passed down through the generations, but ideas, stories and values.

The Sexual Life of an Islamist in Paris

by Leila Marouane
Around the World: Algeria
How obtained: kindle version from Amazon.com ($3)


When we meet Mohammed, he is 40 years old, and on the precipice of making a huge change in his life. He is successful in his career, and successful at hiding his Algerian heritage to blend into French society. But he still lives with his mother, as any normal Muslim Algerian would until they are married. His mother has found plenty of options, but none he has been happy to marry. Previously devout and fundamental in his beliefs, he has drifted from his religion. He feels trapped- his attentive loving mother feels like a ravenous she wolf who sinks her claws into him and won’t let go. And so he decides to move out, and have sex with lots of French women. But things don’t quite go to plan.

This book is described as a tragicomic work of metafiction. Metafiction, fiction in which the author self-consciously alludes to the artificiality or literariness of a work, I agree with. The book is written as through Mohammed is telling his story verbally to someone, and at the start of each chapter the narrative flow is interrupted with a reference to this by a change from first to third person.

“It came over me all of a sudden, he said. I was at my desk hardly listening to my client, and I couldn’t take my eyes off the dome that was shining like a mirage beyond the bay window”

This dissonance was a bit jarring at times, probably made worse by the poor formatting on my kindle version- which often caused line breaks half way through the first word of a sentence and such like things. I wouldn’t agree with the term tragicomic personally- because there wasn’t anything I found funny. I am guessing the comic bit is meant to be him constantly not getting quite what he wants out of a relationship. But I found his obsession with sex and objectification of women to be really uncomfortable and rather horrifying. To me it was a first person monologue of the guy your mother warns you about who ‘only wants one thing’. The guy who will use you but never know you, and will only do and say nice things in order to get you into bed. The guy you need to pretend doesn’t really exist if you are ever going to be brave enough to try dating anyone. One reviewer I read felt that the over the top way he mused about his penis, written by a female author, was actually a parody of the inaccurate way men write about female sexuality. I sure hope so, because I need to go back to pretending that guys like that are a kind of boogey man or fairy tale for my own sanity.

Also touched on in this book, are issues about identity (is it ‘killing yourself’ to hide you cultural background?), religion (how can you maintain harmony with religion/religious family when you yourself have changed), suppression of women and immigration. There are no holds barred by Marouane in this one.