Good morning my loves!
I hope you are all having a great day so far. Today’s post is a rather exciting, if a little naughty one on my part. Over the past weekend, my mother and I took a little trip to London for the weekend to see the History of Magic exhibition at the British Library (which is brilliant by the way!). Obviously I could not visit London without purchasing myself some books. A lot of books actually… This will be part one of the haul and will showcase the books that I picked up as part of my Reading the World challenge. If you have read any of the books, please let me know in the comments below!
The Accusation by Bandi (my second pick for Korea… uh oh!)
The Accusation is a deeply moving and eye-opening work of fiction that paints a powerful portrait of life under the North Korean regime. Set during the period of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il’s leadership, the seven stories that make up The Accusation give voice to people living under this most bizarre and horrifying of dictatorships. The characters of these compelling stories come from a wide variety of backgrounds, from a young mother living among the elite in Pyongyang whose son misbehaves during a political rally, to a former Communist war hero who is deeply disillusioned with the intrusion of the Party into everything he holds dear, to a husband and father who is denied a travel permit and sneaks onto a train in order to visit his critically ill mother. Written with deep emotion and writing talent, The Accusation is a vivid depiction of life in a closed-off one-party state, and also a hopeful testament to the humanity and rich internal life that persists even in such inhumane conditions.
Operation Massacre by Rodolfo Walsh (my pick for Argentina)
On the evening of 9th June 1956 in an apartment in Buenos Aires, a dozen men were arrested on suspicion of plotting against the Argentine government. A few hours later, the local police chief received the order to execute them. Almost all were innocent. Operation Massacre recreates the events of that night and its aftermath in dramatic detail, from the horrifying, botched execution to the author’s successful efforts to track down the survivors and bring the perpetrators to justice.
Kahani: Short Stories by Pakistani Women edited by Aamer Hussein (my pick for Pakistan)
Pakistan’s finest women writers – Jamila Hashmi, Mumtaz Shirin, and Fahmida Riaz, amongst others – introduce us to the compelling cadences of a rich literary culture. A naive peasant is left with a white man’s baby; a frustrated housewife slashes her husband’s silk pyjamas; a middle-class woman sees visions of salvation in the tricks of circus animals … Equally at ease with polemic and lyricism, these writers mirror the events of their convoluted history – nationalism and independence, wars with India, the creation of Bangladesh, the ethnic conflicts in Karachi – in innovative and courageous forms. Influenced both by the Indian and Islamic traditions of their milieu and by the shocking impact of modernity, they are distinguished above all by their artistic integrity and intellectual honesty.
Dreaming of Baghdad by Haifa Zangana (my pick for Iraq)
In 1970s Iraq, the Ba’ath Party was at the height of its influence in the Middle East and popularity throughout the West. But a group of activists recognized the disastrous potential of the regime as its charismatic leader, Saddam Hussein, became more powerful. Haifa Zangana was among those resisters, a small group of whom were captured and imprisoned at Abu Ghraib. From the distance of time and place, Zangana writes during her first years of forced exile from her beloved country about the time of her incarceration, the agonizing loss of comrades to torture and death in prison, the haunted quality of life so far away from home and family, and the ways in which memory conspires to make us forget what sometimes is most dear to us.
The Murder of Halland by Pia Juul (my pick for Denmark)
Bess and Halland live in a small town, where everyone knows everyone else. When Halland is found murdered in the main square the police encounter only riddles. For Bess bereavement marks the start of a journey that leads her to a reassessment of first friends, then family.
The Ministry of Guidance Invites You to Not Stay by Hooman Majd (my pick for Iran)
It was an annus horribilis for Iran’s Supreme Leader. The Green Movement had been crushed, but the regime was on edge, anxious lest democratic protests resurge. International sanctions were dragging down the economy while talk of war with the West grew. Hooman Majd was there for all of it. A new father at age fifty, he decided to take his blonde, blue-eyed Midwestern yoga instructor wife Karri and his adorable, only-eats-organic infant son Khash from their hip Brooklyn neighborhood to spend a year in the land of his birth. It was to be a year of discovery for Majd, too, who had only lived in Iran as a child. The book opens ominously as Majd is stopped at the airport by intelligence officers who show him a four-inch thick security file about his books and journalism and warn him not to write about Iran during his stay. Majd brushes it off—but doesn’t tell Karri—and the family soon settles in to the rituals of middle class life in Tehran: finding an apartment (which requires many thousands of dollars, all of which, bafflingly, is returned to you when you leave), a secure internet connection (one that persuades the local censors you are in New York) and a bootlegger (self-explanatory). Karri masters the head scarf, but not before being stopped for mal-veiling, twice. They endure fasting at Ramadan and keep up with Khash in a country weirdly obsessed with children. All the while, Majd fields calls from security officers and he and Karri eye the headlines—the arrest of an American “spy,” the British embassy riots, the Arab Spring—and wonder if they are pushing their luck. The Ministry of Guidance Invites You to Not Stayis a sparkling account of life under a quixotic authoritarian regime that offers rare and intimate insight into a country and its people, as well as a personal story of exile and a search for the meaning of home.
A Girl Made of Dust by Nathalie Abi-Ezzi (my pick for Lebanon)
Ten-year-old Ruba lives in a village outside Beirut. From her family home, she can see the buildings shimmering on the horizon and the sea stretched out beside them. She can also hear the rumble of the shelling – this is Lebanon in the 1980s and civil war is tearing the country apart.
The Iron Age by Arja Kajermo (my pick for Finland)
I went up to the teacher and held out my hand and told her my name. She took a step back and tilted her head and looked at me without offering her hand. I pulled my hand back and hid it behind my back. She smiled the way grown ups smile at someone else’s ugly baby and then she spoke. ‘That is a strange name, we are not called names like that in Sweden.’ Arja Kajermo’s debut The Iron Age is part coming-of-age novel, and part fairy-tale told from the perspective of a young girl growing up in the poverty of post-war Finland. On her family’s austere farm, the Girl learns stories and fables of the world around her – of Miina, their sleeping neighbour; that you should never turn a witch away at the door; how people get depressed if pine trees grow too close to the house; and why her father was unlucky not to have died in the war. Then, when she is little more than six years only, the family crosses from Finland to Sweden, from a familiar language to a strange one, from one unfriendly home to another. The Girl, mute but watchful, weaves a picture of her volatile father, resilient mother and strangely resourceful brothers. The Iron Age, which grew out of the story shortlisted for the 2014 Davy Byrne’s Award, is disarming in its unadorned simplicity and unsentimental account of hard times and hard people. In Kajermo’s darkly funny debut, with illustrations throughout, folk tales and traditional custom clash with economic reality, from rural Finland to urban Sweden.
The Last Train to Helsingor by Heidi Amsinck (my second pick for Denmark… whoopsie)
‘A nice slice of creepy Scandi-noir’ – Daily Mail. Copenhagen is a mysterious city where strange and sinister things often happen. Menacing and at times darkly humorous there are echoes of Roald Dahl and Daphne du Maurier in these stories, many of which have been specially commissioned for Radio 4.
Peace and pages