Saturday, November 24, 2012

Choose a Book for January

Time to vote for the next book. There is no rhyme nor reason to the selections other than they are shortish and seem interesting. If there is a theme, it is something like "modern classics with an international flair" or something like that. Cast your vote. I'll count them up in a week (December 1). And if it works for everyone, discussion will start January 30, 2013.

  • Doctor Glas by Hjalmar Soderberg Stark, brooding, and enormously controversial when first published in 1905, this astonishing novel juxtaposes impressions of fin-de-siècle Stockholm against the psychological landscape of a man besieged by obsession. Lonely and introspective, Doctor Glas has long felt an instinctive hostility toward the odious local minister. So when the minister’s beautiful wife complains of her husband’s oppressive sexual attentions, Doctor Glas finds himself contemplating murder. A masterpiece of enduring power, Doctor Glas confronts a chilling moral quandary with gripping intensity.

  • All About H. Hatterr by G.V. Desani Wildly funny and wonderfully bizarre, All About H. Hatterr is one of the most perfectly eccentric and strangely absorbing works modern English has produced. H. Hatterr is the son of a European merchant officer and a lady from Penang who has been raised and educated in missionary schools in Calcutta. His story is of his search for enlightenment as, in the course of visiting seven Oriental cities, he consults with seven sages, each of whom specializes in a different aspect of “Living.” Each teacher delivers himself of a great “Generality,” each great Generality launches a new great “Adventure,” from each of which Hatter escapes not so much greatly edified as by the skin of his teeth.

  • The Ten Thousand Things by Maria Dermout The Ten Thousand Things is a novel of shimmering strangeness—the story of Felicia, who returns with her baby son from Holland to the Spice Islands of Indonesia, to the house and garden that were her birthplace, over which her powerful grandmother still presides. There Felicia finds herself wedded to an uncanny and dangerous world, full of mystery and violence, where objects tell tales, the dead come and go, and the past is as potent as the present. First published in Holland in 1955, Maria Dermoût's novel was immediately recognized as a magical work, like nothing else Dutch—or European—literature had seen before. The Ten Thousand Things is an entranced vision of a far-off place that is as convincingly real and intimate as it is exotic, a book that is at once a lament and an ecstatic ode to nature and life.

  • Tun-huang by Yasushi Inoue More than a thousand years ago, an extraordinary trove of early Buddhist sutras and other scriptures was secreted away in caves near the Silk Road city of Tun-huang. But who hid this magnificent treasure and why? In Tun-huang, the great modern Japanese novelist Yasushi Inoue tells the story of Chao Hsing-te, a young Chinese man whose accidental failure to take the all-important exam that will qualify him as a high government official leads to a chance encounter that draws him farther and farther into the wild and contested lands west of the Chinese Empire. Here he finds love, distinguishes himself in battle, and ultimately devotes himself to the strange task of depositing the scrolls in the caves where, many centuries later, they will be rediscovered. A book of magically vivid scenes, fierce passions, and astonishing adventures, Tun-huang is also a profound and stirring meditation on the mystery of history and the hidden presence of the past.

  • The Towers of Trebizond by Rose Macaulay Hailed as “an utter delight, the most brilliant witty and charming book I have read since I can’t remember when” by The New York Times when it was originally published in 1956, Rose Macaulay’s The Towers of Trebizond tells the gleefully absurd story of Aunt Dot, Father Chantry-Pigg, Aunt Dot’s deranged camel, and our narrator, Laurie, who are traveling from Istanbul to legendary Trebizond on a convoluted mission. Along the way they will encounter spies, a Greek sorcerer, a precocious ape, and Billy Graham with a busload of evangelists. Part travelogue, part comedy, it is also a meditation on love, faith, doubt, and the difficulties, moral and intellectual, of being a Christian in the modern world.


litlove said...

What a tricky choice - such exotic books, Stefanie! Love that!

I think I would go for Doctor Glas, although it's hard to get in the UK and I'd have to order it from the USA (not a problem, just need to factor that into the reading time - end Jan should be fine). Second choice probably Towers of Trebizon.

Rohan Maitzen said...

Yes, a very hard choice, but in the end my vote is the same as litlove's: Dr Glas looks remarkable, and it's completely new to me, so it gets my vote, with Towers of Trebizond my second choice in case we come down to a tie-breaker of some kind.

SFP said...

I want to read Doctor Glas! I've already read Towers of Trebizond, which was wonderful and I'd be willing to read it again, but I'm so excited about Doctor Glas that I've already ordered a copy.

Danielle said...

What an interesting set of books to choose from--I'm completely unfamiliar with all but the Macaulay, which I would love to read, but as everyone sounds so excited about Doctor Glas, let me cast my vote for it as well!

Unknown said...

I came across your blog because I typed into google "nothing creates such untruth as the wish to please or be spared something" - a quote which I memorised a good 25 years ago and has been very useful to me over the years - but I had forgotten from whence it came!!! Now I know, and now I know about the Slaves! Having posted a comment, am I now a slave? Or is there some trial or initiation I need to undertake?