Monday, 24 July 2017

Ali, Monica "In the Kitchen"


Ali, Monica "In the Kitchen" - 2009 

I read another book by the author a couple of years ago, "Brick Lane", about Bengalis in London, this one tells us about people of different cultures who work in a hotel kitchen.

I was a little disappointed at the beginning since I had hoped for this to be another one with a Bengali background but then I thought, okay, it's fine, she'll be just as good a writer about another subject and this takes place in a multinational kitchen.

Unfortunately, it didn't get much better. I always thought something more interesting would happen but in the end, this is just a crime novel that takes place in the kitchen of a hotel. I preferred her other book.

From the back cover:
"Gabriel Lightfoot, executive chef at the once-splendid Imperial Hotel, aims to run a tight kitchen. Though under constant challenge from the competing demands of an exuberantly multinational staff, a gimlet-eyed hotel management, and business partners with whom he is secretly planning a move to a restaurant of his own, all Gabriel's hard work looks set to pay off. Until, that is, a worker turns up dead in the kitchen's basement.

Enter Lena, an eerily attractive young woman with mysterious ties to the dead man. Under her spell, Gabe makes a decision, with consequences that strip him naked and change the course of the life he knows - and the future he thought he wanted.

In The Kitchen is Monica Ali's stunning follow up to Brick Lane. It is both the portrait of a man pushed to the edge, and a wry and telling look into the melting pot which is our contemporary existence. It confirms Monica Ali not only as a great modern storyteller but also an acute observer of the dramas of modern life."

Friday, 21 July 2017

Book Quotes of the Week



"I consider as lovers of books not those who keep their books hidden in their store-chests and never handle them, but those who, by nightly as well as daily use thumb them, batter them, wear them out, who fill out all the margins with annotations of many kinds, and who prefer the marks of a fault they have erased to a neat copy full of faults." Desiderius Erasmus

"The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen." Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

"As you grow ready for it, somewhere or other, you will find what is needful for you in a book." George Macdonald

"Reading is the difficulty to populate a country of strange fantasies with your own thoughts." Kurt Tucholsky

"I am too fond of reading books to care to write them." Oscar Wilde

Find more book quotes here.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Toptaş, Hasan Ali "The Shadowless"



Toptaş, Hasan Ali "The Shadowless" (Turkish: Gölgesizler) - 1995 

This author was recommended to me by a Turkish friend of mine with whom I love discussing our latest "finds". He certainly is an interesting author. On the back of my book he is described as an oriental Kafka enriched with Islamic mystic. I don't remember liking Kafka much when I had to read him in school but I do agree with the description and like the author anyway.

I would describe this novel as a mixture between fantasy and the historical description of life in Turkey. It certainly is difficult to describe the topic of the book. Or the story. There is a village in Anatolia and people disappear from there. Others go looking for them. But reality doesn't go much further, there seem to exist several times, even several worlds next to each other who interfere which each other in a very surreal world. You almost feel like in a painting by René Magritte or one of his fellow surrealists.

A partly amusing partly fantastic story. A different kind of Turkish author but you can still see his oriental influence. I certainly recommend it.

From the back cover:
"In an Anatolian village forgotten by both God and the government, the muhtar has been elected leader for the sixteenth successive year. When he drunkenly staggers to bed that night, the village is prospering. But when he awakes to discover that Nuri, the barber, has disappeared in the dead of night, the community begins to fracture. In a nameless town far, far away, Nuri walks into a barbershop, not knowing how he has arrived. Blurring the lines of reality to terrific effect, this novel is both a compelling mystery and an enduring evocation of displacement."

I read the German translation of this novel "Die Schattenlosen".

Monday, 17 July 2017

Taylor, Andrew "Books That Changed the World"



Taylor, Andrew "Books That Changed the World" - 2008

What an interesting list of books! A list of important books that made a major impact on our present view of the world. I haven't read all of them but I am sure most people have heard the titles and the authors at some point in their life.

Whether Andrew Taylor mentions the Bible or the Qur'an, Marx's Communist Manifesto or Mao's Little Red Book, you can be sure that millions of people have read and followed those writings.
Then there are the scientific books like Darwin's "On the Origin of Species", the writings by Galileo, Newton, Einstein and many others without them we would not have the understanding of our world what it is today.

But also novels feature in the list, i.a. one of my most favourite authors, Jane Austen, who could omit her?

In any case, a most interesting list of books that are worth looking at. The author himself mentions that whenever you make a list of any books, there will be people who disagree. I can only second that but it is interesting anyway.

From the back cover:
"Books That Changed the World tells the fascinating stories behind 50 books that, in ways great and small, have changed the course of human history. Andrew Taylor sets each text in its historical context and explores its wider influence and legacy. Whether he's discussing the incandescent effect of The Qu'ran, the enduring influence of Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, of the way in which Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe galavanized the anti-slavery movement, Taylor has written a stirring and informative testament to human ingenuity and endeavour. Ranging from The Iliad to Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, the Kama Sutra to Lady Chatterley's Lover, this is the ultimate, thought-provoking read for book-lovers everywhere."

Introduction.
"The Iliad, Homer; The Histories, Herodotus; The Analects, Confucius; The Republic, Plato; The Bible; Odes, Horace; Geographia, Ptolemy; Kama Sutra, Mallanaga Vatsyayana; The Qur'an; Canon of Medicine, Avicenna; The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer; The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli; Atlas, Gerard Mercator; Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes; First Folio, William Shakespeare; The Motion of the Heart and Blood, William Harvey; Two Chief World Systems, Galileo Galilei; Principia mathematica, Isaac Newton; Dictionary, Samuel Johnson; The Sorrows of Young Werther, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe; The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith; Common Sense, Thomas Paine; Lyrical Ballads, William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge; Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen; A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens; The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx; Moby-Dick, Herman Melville; Uncle Tom's Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe; Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert; On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin; On Liberty, John Stuart Mill; War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy; The Telephone Directory; The Thousand and One Nights, Sir Richard Burton; A Study in Scarlet, Arthur Conan Doyle; The Interpretation of Dreams, Sigmund Freud; The Protocols of the Elders of Zion; Poems, Wilfred Owen; Relativity: The Special and the General Theory, Albert Einstein; Ulysses, James Joyce; Lady Chatterley's Lover, D.H. Lawrence; The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, John Maynard Keynes; If This is a Man, Primo Levi; Nineteen Eighty-four, George Orwell; The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir; The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger; Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe; Silent Spring, Rachel Carson; Quotations from Chairman Mao, Mao Zedong; Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, J.K. Rowling."

So far, I have only read 11 of these. I wouldn't agree that they have all changed my world but a lot of them certainly had an impact.

The Bible" - 2nd century BC "2nd century AD
Cervantes, Miguel de "Don Quixote" - 1605-15
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von "The Sorrows of Young Werther" - 1774
Austen, Jane "Pride and Prejudice" - 1813
Dickens, Charles "A Christmas Carol" - 1843
Beecher Stowe, Harriet "Uncle Tom’s Cabin" - 1852
Tolstoy, Leo "War and Peace" - 1869
Joyce, James "Ulysses" - 1922
Orwell, George "Nineteen Eighty-four" - 1949
Salinger, J.D. "The Catcher In The Rye" - 1951
Rowling, J.K. "Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone" - 1997

Friday, 14 July 2017

Book Quotes of the Week



"Books are absent teachers." Mortimer J. Adler

"What I say is, a town isn't a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it's got a bookstore it knows it's not fooling a soul." Neil Gaiman 


"If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that." Stephen King 

"Be awesome! Be a book nut!" Dr. Seuss

"I think books are like people, in the sense that they'll turn up in your life when you most need them." Emma Thompson

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Emcke, Carolin "Echoes of Violence"

 

Emcke, Carolin "Echoes of Violence: Letters from a War Reporter" (German: Von den Kriegen. Briefe an Freunde) - 2004

I learned about Carolin Emcke when she was awarded the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade and I wanted to read one of her books every since. Now I found one and am happy to say, it was worth the wait.

The author is a journalist, covering mainly war areas and she has written e-mails to her friend every time she returned from one of her journeys. Here, she published them. She visited Afghanistan, Columbia, Iraq, Kosovo, Lebanon, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Romania and the USA (before and after September 11th), and reports about her meetings with affected people. A brilliant account of what war can do to a people. If we didn't know it before, we should certainly learn it from this book. War is stupid! War is terrible! War should not be allowed! For any reason. Put the leaders in one room and let them fight about their problems themselves.

I have to include one quote from the book:
"History is the object of a construction whose place is formed not in homogenous and empty time, but in that which is fulfilled by the here-and-now." Walter Benjamin

From the back cover: "Echoes of Violence is an award-winning collection of personal letters to friends from a foreign correspondent who is trying to understand what she witnessed during the iconic human disasters of our time--in Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and New York City on September 11th, among many other places. Originally addressing only a small group of friends, Carolin Emcke started the first letter after returning from Kosovo, where she saw the aftermath of ethnic cleansing in 1999. She began writing to overcome her speechlessness about the horrors of war and her own sense of failure as a reporter. Eventually, writing a letter became a ritual Emcke performed following her return from each nightmare she experienced. First published in 2004 to great acclaim, Echoes of Violence in 2005 was named German political book of the year and was a finalist for the international Lettre-Ulysses award for the art of reportage.

Combining narrative with philosophic reflection, Emcke describes wars and human rights abuses around the world--the suffering of civilians caught between warring factions in Colombia, the heartbreaking plight of homeless orphans in Romania, and the near-slavery of garment workers in Nicaragua. Freed in the letters from journalistic conventions that would obscure her presence as a witness, Emcke probes the abyss of violence and explores the scars it leaves on landscapes external and internal."

Carolin Emcke received the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade (Friedenspreis) in 2016.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Dickens, Charles "Bleak House"


Dickens, Charles "Bleak House" - 1852/53

My seventh Dickens after "A Christmas Carol", "Great Expectations", "A Tale of Two Cities", "The Pickwick Papers", "Little Dorrit" and "Hard Times" but certainly not my last one. I hope I will get through all of his works one day.

A thousand pages of a well-written novel, Apparently, this is supposedly an early work of detective fiction and is one of his later titles. But apart from that, it certainly is a Dickens novel. The characters' names might not be as weird as in some of his books. Maybe he had no more ideas or he grew tired of finding those kind of names, I don't know. I missed it, of course.

This book is a page turner. Having worked in the legal system myself (even though in a different country), I could relate a lot to all the difficulties in the law suit. It's the same everywhere. That bit might be a little tedious for some readers but I promise, it's worth it.

What I love about Dickens, even though he grew up under  poor circumstances, he can describe any character, rich or poor, clever or not so clever, he manages to put them all into his novels and makes them appear alive. He was a master of the pen.

From the back cover:
"As the interminable case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce grinds its way through the Court of Chancery, it draws together a disparate group of people: Ada Clare and Richard Carstone, whose inheritance is gradually being devoured by legal costs; Esther Summerston, a ward of court, whose parentage is a source of deepening mystery; the menacing lawyer Tulkinghorn; the determined sleuth Inspector Bucket; and even Jo, a destitute crossing-sweeper. A savage, but often comic indictment of a society that is rotten to the core, Bleak House is one of Dickens' most ambitious novels, with a range that extends from the drawing-rooms of the aristocracy to the London slums."