rocketjk's goes forward and back

TalkThe Global Challenge

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rocketjk's goes forward and back

Edited: Apr 16, 1:15 pm

Greetings! I only recently became aware of this group. I've been posting annual threads at the Reading Globally group, but I think I'll add one here. For fun, I'm going to recreate my global reading by gleaning from my annual RG threads, beginning with my first on way back in 2010! For that group I include every book, based on where the book takes place rather than who wrote it. So an American writing a book in English that takes place in France would count as a reading visit to that country. For this thread I'm going to be much more conscious of including books written by authors from the countries in which the books take place, though allowing myself some wriggle room. I will add short posts as I add books.

2010: 19 points
2011: 5 points
2012: 8 points
2013: 3 points
2014: 2 points
2015: 7 points
2016: 4 points
2017: 14 points
2018: 5 points
2019: 8 points
2020: 8 points
2021: 4 points
2022: 5 points
2023: 7 points
2024: 3 points
Total: 102 points

West with the Night by Beryl Markham (memoir) - 2017

Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan (short stories) - 2010 (Each story takes place in a different country. What I think is the best of the stories {they're all excellent} takes place in Rwanda.)

Ghost Season by Fatin Abbas - 2023

A Golden Age by Tahmima Anam - 2016

1000 Years of Joy and Sorrows by Ai Weiwei (memoir) - 2022
Inheritance by Lan Samantha Chang - 2024

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri - 2015
Fireproof by Raj Kamal Jha - 2016

In the Rose Garden of the Martyrs: a Memoir of Iran by Christopher de Bellaigue (non-fiction) - 2015 (Not written by a native of the country but by someone who lived in the country for many years.)
The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree by Shokoofeh Azar - 2021

The Epic of Gilgamesh translated by N.K. Sandars - 2018

The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh - 2018

South Korea
The Innocent by Richard E. Kim - 2010

The Philippines
When the Rainbow Goddess Wept by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard - 2010

Viet Nam
Land of Frozen Laughter: a Community Development Volunteer in the Vietnam War, 1967-1969 by John Lewallen (Not written by a native of the country but this is a memoir by someone who experienced the Vietnam War as a community worker employed by an NGO.) - 2017

Dominican Republic:
In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez - 2011

Foreign Shores by Marie-Hélène Laforest - 2020
The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L'Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution by C. L. R. James (history) - 2022

One Day of Life by Manlio Argueta - 2010

Reigen, The Affairs of Anatol and Other Plays by Arthur Schnitzler - 2014
Madensky Square by Eva Ibbotson - 2017

The Zelmanyaners: A Family Saga by Moyshe Kulbak - 2021

Bosnia & Herzegovinia
The Lazarus Project by Aleksandar Hemon - 2013

The Jews of Dubrovnik: a Walk Through Space and Time from the Early Days to the Present by Vesna Miovic (non-fiction) - 2017
Veli Jože by Vladimir Nazor - 2017

The Tenor Saxophonist's Story by Joseph Škvorecký - 2013

We, the Drowned by Carsten Jensen - 2015

My Favourite Year: A Collection of New Football Writing edited by Nick Hornby (non-fiction) - 2010
Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham - 2010
The Devil's Feather by Minette Walters - 2020
Hot Money by Dick Francis - 2010
The Need of Change by Julian Street - 2011

What the People of the Wilderness Used to Believe In by Oili Räihälä (non-fiction) - 2012
Seven Brothers by Aleksis Kivi - 2016
Under the North Star by Väinö Linna - 2017
The Uprising by Väinö Linna - 2017
Reconciliation by Väinö Linna - 2017

International Short Stories (Vol. III - French) edited by William Patten (short stories) - 2010
Pere Goriot by Honore de Balzac - 2010
Maigret and the Pickpocket by Georges Simonen - 2012
The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery - 2014
Strange Defeat: A Statement of Evidence Written in 1940 by Marc Bloch (memoir/history) - 2020

Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada - 2017
Deductions from the World War by Baron von Freytag-Loringhoven (non-fiction) - 2017
All for Nothing by Walter Kempowski - 2019
John Heartfield: Laughter is a Devastating Weapon by David King and Ernst Volland (biography/art history) - 2022

Back to Delphi by Ionna Karystiani - 2017
Nine Greek Dramas edited by Charles William Eliot - 2020

The Gates of the Forest by Elie Wiesel - 2010

The Woman Who Walked Into Walks by Roddy Doyle - 2010
A Star Called Henry by Roddy Doyle - 2015
The Run of the Country by Shane Connaughton - 2016
A Little Bit of Ireland by John Finan - 2018
Guerilla Days in Ireland: a First-Hand Account of the Black and Tan War (1919-1921) by Tom Barry (memoir) - 2019

The Ciano Diaries 1939-1943: the Complete, Unabridged Diaries of Count Galeazzo Ciano, Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs, 1936-1943 by Count Galeazzo Ciano (non-fiction) - 2015
The Child of Pleasure by Gabriele D'Annunzio - 2019
Sudden Death by Alvaro Enrigue - 2020

Under the Blue Flag: My Mission to Kosovo by Philip Kearny (memoir) (Written by an American but it is a memoir of his time taking part in War Crime Trials in Kosovo so it gets special dispensation.) - 2012

Northern Ireland
The Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville - 2015
Milkman by Anna Burns - 2019
The Land of Cain by Peter Lappin - 2019
The House of Ashes by Stuart Neville - 2021
Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe (history) - 2022

Growth of the Soil by Knut Hamsen - 2020
The Mountains Wait by Theodor Broch - 2024

The Pale of Settlement
Selected Short Stories of Isaac Bashevis Singer - 2013
Tevye's Daughters by Sholom Aleichem - 2015

In My Father's Court by Isaac Bashevis Singer (memoir) - 2019
Satan in Goray by Isaac Bashevis Singer - 2022
The Family Moskat by Isaac Bashevis Singer - 2022
The Magician of Lublin by Isaac Bashevis Singer - 2023
The Slave by Isaac Bashevis Singer - 2023

The Appointment by Herta Muller - 2018

The Hermitage: A Stroll around the Halls and Galleries by Sergei Vesnin, S. V. Kudri︠a︡vt︠s︡eva and Tatiana Pashkova (guidebook) - 2012

The World, the Flesh, and Father Smith by Bruce Marshall - 2012

War is Beautiful: An American Ambulance Driver in the Spanish Civil War by James Neugass (memoir) (Written by an American but it is a memoir of his time taking part in the Spanish Civil War so it gets special dispensation.) - 2011
Sepharad by Antonio Munoz Molina - 2012
Death in the Making by Robert Capa, et. al. - 2024

I'm Not Stiller by Max Frisch - 2012

Voroshilovgrad by Serhiy Zhadan - 2023

Proud Beggars by Albert Cossery - 2023

A Horse Walks into a Bar by David Grossman - 2017
Picnic Grounds: A Novel in Fragments by Oz Shelach - 2021

The Dream Palace of the Arabs: a Generation's Odyssey by Fouad Ajami (non-fiction) - 2011

Gaza Mom: Palestine, Politics, Parenting, and Everything in Between by Laila M. El-Haddad (non-fiction) - 2023

From the Land of Sheba: Tales of the Jews of Yemen collected and edited by S. D. Goitein - 2017

Labrador by Choice by Benjamin Powell, Sr. (memoir) - 2010
Still Life with June by Darren Greer - 2011
Natasha by David Bezmozgis - 2012

Antonio's Gun and Delfino's Dream: True Tales of Mexican Migration by Sam Quinones (non-fiction) - 2017

Darling Billy by Alice McDermott - 2010
Anatomy of a Murder by Robert Traver - 2010
Nemesis by Philip Roth - 2010
And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks by William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac - 2010
Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories by Sandra Cisneros (short stories) - 2010

Voss by Patrick White - 2018
Wilderness Trek by Zane Grey - 2018 (Grey was, of course, American, but he spent quite a bit of time in Australia and loved the country.)

The Little Buddhist Monk & The Proof by César Aira - 2019
Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin - 2020

Enigmas of Spring by João Almino - 2023

Tierra Del Fuego by Francisco Coloane - 2020
Cape Horn and Other Stories from the End of the World by Francisco Coloane - 2020
A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende - 2021

The Informers by Juan Gabriel Vasquez - 2010
Of Love and Other Demons by Gabriel Garcia Marquez - 2020

Death in the Andes by Mario Llosa Vargas - 2019

Jan 7, 2023, 2:01 pm

Welcome to the group! :)

Edited: Jan 8, 2023, 5:33 am

OK! I have gone back through my Reading Globally threads, one per year starting in 2010, and added in all the books I thought appropriate for this country counting, using the group's general rules with a little wiggling to fit a few other books that I deemed worthy. All in all, using the 5-per-country maximum that seems reasonable to me, I've totaled 91 books over these last 13 years (2010 through 2022), spread over 49 countries, including the Pale of Settlement and Mesopotamia. As I finish list-appropriate books going forward, I'll add them to the table above, and provide a short post for each below. Cheers!

Jan 7, 2023, 5:11 pm

I like that you have included countries that don't exist anymore. For those I counted where the author's birthplace now lies, but I like the idea of keeping the memory of old places.

Jan 7, 2023, 5:18 pm

>4 RidgewayGirl: Thanks. I like to keep to the spirit of where it was that the stories were written and/or written about. So mythology that arose from Mesopotamia, for example, I think it appropriate to list as originating there.

Edited: Jan 7, 2023, 6:15 pm

My first Global Challenge-appropriate book is The Magician of Lublin, representing my fourth reading journey to Poland (all are by Singer) and the 92nd addition to my challenge. I've got a review posted on my Club Read thread. Cheers!

Mar 24, 2023, 5:45 pm

Somehow when I put up my past reading list when I first joined the group in January, I neglected to include Eva Ibbotson's wonderful novel, Madensky Square in with Austria. I reviewed the book in 2018, so I'm adding it now and giving myself an additional point for 2018, adding it, of course, to my total.

Apr 4, 2023, 5:01 pm

OK, I finally read outside the U.S. for the first time since my very first book of this year, finishing Gaza Mom: Palestine, Politics, Parenting, and Everything in Between by Laila M. El-Haddad. The book is a memoir told in blog posts of El-Haddid's experiences, and those of her family and fellow Gazans, living under the repression of the Israeli government and military during the 2000s. Very disturbing. Very important to read. Although I already had two books listed under Israel, this my first included here as Palestine.

Apr 5, 2023, 5:12 pm

>8 rocketjk: I agree with your assessment of Gaza Mom as both disturbing and important. If you ever feel like a graphic novel, Joe Sacco's Palestine was very good too.

May 19, 2023, 8:12 pm

I finally added Wales, via my reading of Bruce Chatwin's On the Black Hill, a very fine novel about a rural farming family near the Welsh/English border that takes place over the first eight decades of the 20th century.

Edited: Jul 14, 2023, 6:18 pm

I added a fifth book for Poland with my reading of The Slave by Isaac Bashevis Singer. In fact, all five of my Poland books are Singer novels, as I am working on reading through all of Singer's novels at a rate of two per year. My review is on the book's work page and on my 50-Book Challenge thread.

Edited: Aug 2, 2023, 12:18 pm

Finally read a book representing Brazil, Enigmas of Spring by João Almino. Taking place from 2011 to about 2013, this skillful novel series as a cautionary tale of youthful alienation, and a protagonist adrift, in a world wrought by social media and privilege.

Sep 6, 2023, 12:12 pm

I finished the very good novel Ghost Season by Fatin Abbas, a writer who was born in Sudan and grew up in the U.S. The novel is about Saraaya, a small town in the middle of Sudan, more or less on the front line between the two sides of the country's intermittent but long lasting civil war that ended up splitting the country in two. We see the town, and fear the possibility of coming conflict, through the eyes of five disperate but intertwined characters. Alex, a young American NGO employee has come to the village with the assignment to create updated maps of the area, which haven't been revised since before the English colonizers left the area. The job is almost impossible, however, as the topography of the region changes with the seasons--rainy and dry--and global warming has wrecked havoc with even these haphazard patterns. Living with him in his small compound are Dana, a young Sudanese-American filmmaker trying to document the lives of the villagers while she simultaneously perfects her craft, William, a Nilot who is hired as Alex's translator, Layla, a young nomad woman who works as cook, and Mustafa, a 12-year-old dynamo who is William's gofer and all-round helper who dreams of escape to the national capital, Khartoum. We see the impending peril through the eyes of these five characters, with their varied perspectives, hopes and troubles. Abbas' powers of observation and description are acute. Her sentence- and paragraph-level writing are gorgeous. Her characters are believable, as are their interactions with each other. So even while the plotting is somewhat slow in the first half, the book was still enjoyable for me. In the meantime, the descriptions of the village, the lifestyle and concerns of its people, the historical and environmental forces that have shaped it all are nothing short of admirable. So I very much recommend the book.

Sep 8, 2023, 7:51 am

Adding Ghost Season to my wishlist. Enticing review

Edited: Sep 8, 2023, 11:31 am

>14 labfs39: Thanks! The review of the book on my CR thread is a bit longer, if you're interested in my full ramble, though I'm not sure that that longer version really adds much of substance. (I start with a long version for my CR & 50-Book Challenge threads, and then edit down for whatever additional thread the book can be appropriately posted on. I should probably do more editing for CR/50-Book posts, I guess!)

Nov 1, 2023, 12:21 pm

I finished Proud Beggars by Albert Cossery (translated from the French by Thomas W. Cushing). The pocket biography of Cossery on the front page of my NYRB edition of Proud Beggars tells us, "Albert Cossery (1913-2008) was a Cairo-born French writer of Lebanese and Greek Orthodox Syrian descent who settled in Paris at the end of the Second World War and lived there for the rest of his life." Proud Beggars, first published in 1955, brings us the tale of three men living in a poor section of Cairo. The narrative revolves around three friends who have more or less chosen their impoverished status, their sarcastic views of the "bastards and thieves" who control societies power structure and the joy they find in the small details of humanity and urban life. When a young prostitute is murdered in nearby brothel in what appears to be a motiveless crime, into the picture comes police inspector Nour El Dine who feels in the solving of such crimes and punishment of their perpetrators not any compassion for the victims but instead a maintenance of order, a defense of the status quo. Our three heroes take him on gleefully as a worthy if not particularly threatening adversary. And Nour El Dine has his own dissatisfactions and doubts. Although the book is written in French by an author living in Paris, I'm counting this as a reading trip to Egypt due to the narrative's location in Cairo, which is also the location of Cossery's birth.

Edited: Dec 22, 2023, 12:35 pm

I finished an very much enjoyed Voroshilovgrad an hallucinatory novel by Ukrainian novelist and poet Serhij Zhadan. The book was written several years before the Russian invasion of the country. And yet, the book is rife with a feeling of the precariousness of the Ukrainian state in the post-Soviet era. Our protagonist Herman has a steady if somewhat shady job in a large city. But he gets a call from an old friend that his brother has suddenly disappeared, presumably to Amersterdam, urging Herman to come out to his home town and "take care of business" in his brother's absence. The "business" turns out to be a small but profitable gas station on the outskirts of the town, located on Ukraine's eastern steppes, now known as Luhansk but formerly known, during the Soviet Era, as Voroshilovgrad. The station is under seige from mysterious forces who want to force Herman to sell it, perhaps (although exact reasons remain obscure) because there is natural gas to be found in the area. There is barely a character in the story who is not mysterious and rough around the edges. Stories of the past are always blurred by secrets and mythology. The representatives from the federal government who make periodic appearances are more likely to be gangsters than legitimate government officials. Or else they're both. Travels across the empty stretches of this country are always hazardous. The people Herman runs into could be from anywhere, and the sights that pass before his eyes, especially at sundown and after dark, swirl into hallucinations and dreams.

Often, reading this novel is like stepping through thin ice and falling into a dream. But the sense of time and place is solid, and the current of hope and compassion carried me along. Highly recommended.

Edited: Jan 9, 11:33 am

Just making note of the fact that last night I finished The Manor by Isaac B. Singer. As it's my 6th Poland book since I started keeping track, I'm not adding it to my challenge totals above. However, it's a book I highly recommend. Here's a, believe it or not, short version of my review:

As always with Singer's earlier novels, we are in Poland, this time in the later decades of the 19th century. The novel begins just after an 1863 uprising by the Polish nobility against what had become ongoing Russian rule has ended in humiliating disaster. With this nationalist movement quashed, Poland instead turns to business, and the modern world begins seeping into Poland: mines, factories, railroads begin appearing. For Poland's Jews, the period is one of liberalism. In the town of Jampol, one of the insurrectionists, Count Wladislaw Jampolski, has been banished to Siberia, and a Jew, Calman Jacoby, has managed to win the right to lease the count's large landholding and manor house. He judiciously allows the count's family to continue living in the manor house, in order to avoid offending the local Poles, and he begins making money growing and selling crops on the land and, in particular, selling timber to be used as railroad ties. So begins our tale, with Colman at the center of what becomes a whirlwind of cultural and religious change and the personal crises and moral choices, both good and bad, of an expanding group of characters.

Calman himself is an observant Jew. He expects his children to stay within that community and some do. But the Jewish community as a whole does not stand apart from the modernism taking hold in Poland, and Calman, to his woe, as lived to see a growing divide among Poland's Jews: those who demand adherence to the old ways, and those who look westward with approval at the assimilation of the Jews of France, Germany and elsewhere.

Singer's portrayal is laced strongly with affection and understanding. The storyline is a tapestry, or perhaps labyrinth is a better description, of interrelationships between members of the old world and the new, the Jewish society and the Polish Christians, interwoven amongst and strengthened by family, marriage, business and religion. This is a vivid picture of a complex society at a tipping point, full of memorable characters. And of course Singer was writing, and we are reading, within the context of hindsight. In the end, modernization did not save the Jews of Europe. Highly recommended.

Edited: Feb 24, 11:17 am

I've just finished Inheritance by Lan Samantha Chang

Inheritance is a novel that takes us through three generations of a Chinese family, from the beginning of the 20th century up through the late-1980s. The narrative takes us through the Chinese Revolution of 1911 through the gathering threat of Japanese imperialism, the Japanese invasion and occupation, the Chinese Civil War and the calamity (from the point of view of our protagonists) of the Communist victory and the family's exile to Taiwan. The focus is primarily on the women of the family, told often through the point of view of Hong, the daughter of narrative's central figure, Junan. Although narrative is often in the third person, we understand that the perspective is Hong's and that she is relating the family history as it has been told to her or as she has pieced it together or sometimes even conjectured. This somewhat shifting narrative strategy I found to be largely effective. And as importantly, or perhaps even more importantly as the historical events the family lives through, and are often drastically effected by, the novel takes us through a near-century of shifting and evolving attitudes and expectations of the roles and duties of women in Chinese society, from Hong's grandmother, who had spent 6 years with her feet bound before "the practice went out of fashion," to Hong's adulthood as a professional woman in the United States.

I found Inheritance very much worth reading, offering an interesting (if necessarily limited in focus) picture of Chinese society during extremely turbulent times, with memorable characters throughout. As a first novel, I'd say it's admirable indeed, and I will be keeping an eye out for Chang's subsequent works.

A note that this is my second book set in China for this challenge, and my 100th entry overall!

Feb 24, 12:03 pm

>19 rocketjk: Thank you for this great review! I immediately added this book to my ever-growing wish list.

Feb 24, 1:13 pm

>20 MissBrangwen: You're welcome! If you're interested, I've posted a longer review on my Club Read thread.

Feb 24, 3:23 pm

Congrats on reaching 100!

Feb 24, 5:52 pm

>22 labfs39: Thanks! It only took me 15 years!

Feb 24, 6:12 pm

>23 rocketjk: You inspired me to go count, I'm at 91. Woohoo

Feb 25, 1:16 am

>19 rocketjk: Congratulations on reaching your 100th book!

>10 rocketjk: I've had Proud Beggars in my wishlist for ages - it might be time to actually track it down ;-)

Feb 28, 10:48 am

I read through and viewed Death in the Making, a book of astounding and emotionally charged photographs, mostly by Robert Capa, of the Spanish Civil War. There are 111 images by Capa, 24 by Gerda Taro, Capa's collaborator and sometime romantic partner and 11 by a Polish photographer known as Chim (born Dawid Szymin). You can find my more in-depth comments on my Club Read thread.

Apr 16, 1:14 pm

I've just read The Mountains Wait a memoir by Theodor Broch. Broch was the mayor of the far northern Norwegian town of Narvik when the Nazis invaded in 1940. He describes here his arrival in Narvik as a young lawyer, his gradual entrance into local politics and election as mayor. Of course, the Nazi invasion and occupation is described in great and effective detail. Finally, there's Broch's escape from his arrest and successful trek over the mountains into Sweden, and his time in the U.S. lecturing about the plight of Norway and trying to raise money from American Norwegian immigrants for the country's government and armed forces in exile. The American college students he talks to wonder how Norway could have allowed itself to be so surprised by the German attack. Right up to Pearl Harbor Day, that is. The Mountains Wait was published in 1943, while the war, obviously, was still ongoing. Broch couldn't know that Norway would still be in German hands when the Nazis surrendered to the Allies. Since this book was published originally in English, I would not normally include it here. But it was written by a Norwegian, so I bending my rule in that regard.