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Every year for my party I give myself and I get books, here is the list of new arrivals this year
Indeed America, Jorge Amado suggests in this smiling short novel, was not discovered by Christopher Columbus. Nor by the Vikings. In reality, in daily experience, the New World has been discovered by the millions of emigrants who landed in those distant shores: very often in search of happiness, to give substance to their hopes, to escape an old world that has become too narrow. So here they are, Jamil Bichara and Raduan Murad, two Turks who are not Turks at all, arrive at the Bahia of All Saints at the dawn of this century. With affection and irony, Jorge Amado recounts their personal invention and conquest of America: between desire for gain and dreams of love, flashes of happiness and sensual intoxication, ancient wisdom and new tricks. As always, fate plays with the unpredictable. Until, at the end of the adventure, between misfortunes and fortunes, the new Turkish friends discover that they too have become Brazilians.
I took this enchanted novel by the title and the plot, really too interesting not to dive right in. For some time I had perceived a sort of closeness of Amado with the Arab world and the moment I spotted it I could not help but buy it. By the time I am writing the list I have already finished it (it is about 90 pages) and I can confirm that it is a very useful text for understanding, very briefly, the Arab migration in Brazil, while not disdaining laughter and decidedly situations. “thrusts”. In November there should be a week dedicated to the Arab world in South America and this book will be sure.
First published in 1969, “Scars” is a novel that Saer wrote in twenty nights, inspired by a real fact. Four parts, four first-person narrators: Ángel, a young reporter; Sergio, a lawyer devoured by the habit of gambling; Ernesto, a misanthropic judge who persists in the umpteenth translation by Oscar Wilde; Luis Fiore, worker who commits an inexplicable murder. Four lives, each obsessed with something, which have a single point of intersection: the crime committed by Fiore. Saer writes a spiral novel, to recreate through circularity an illusion of order that does not exist in the functioning of the world, because in the continuous conflict between chaos and order “it is not you who wins, it is chaos that complies”.
Over the years I have read many Arab characters in novels by Latin American authors, but none of authors Arab-Latin Americans, I then decided to break the tradition with Saer; the latter is in fact considered one of the best Argentine writers of all time and at the same time one of the most important clubs of Arab origin. I am curious to see if you will notice any different and / or characteristic traits or not and in addition to this I enjoy the places and views that, due to lack of time, I often put in the background, but which are very important to really have knowledge. comprehensive about the world and its links with the “Middle East”.
“Book of Imaginary Beings ” by Jorge Luis Borges (Argentina)
With the usual, grandiose lightness, the Argentine author guides us, amazed, in a visionary reconnaissance: the monsters that, in warped succession, populate these pages, are part of the patrimony of knowledge of Western and Eastern civilizations, and meet both in the classic as well as in the oral tradition. For example, you will learn about the “vegetable lamb of Tartary, also called barametz, of the simurg, the immortal bird that nests in the branches of the Tree of Science. We will talk about the dog Cerberus, the myrmicoleone, but also the Ink Monkey or the centoteste and so on. The reader will be able to investigate for himself the truthfulness of these creatures, and the profound meaning of the metaphors.
Let’s finish with Borges the South American authors on this list, with a book that I know will turn into a wonderful source of ideas for the future. The first time I came into contact with this text was in my research on the Vegetable Lamb of Tartary and it is since then that I have begun to deepen the figure of Borges and want to get my hands on this work, I am convinced that the wait will be paid off.
“Ex Ponto” by Ivo Andrić (Yugoslavia)
The title refers to Ovid’s composition of the same name, which tells of his exile in the Black Sea. The sense of desperation that pervades the entire collection is fully captured in one of the final pages: “wherever I look I see poetry, whatever I touch I feel pain”. Human nature appears marked by the melancholy, introspection and isolation of the individual, or by all those states that the author had already experienced in the period of his imprisonment, and which lead him to extend the concept of prison to a state symbolic and psychological, as well as physical. However, a schematic and linear development of moods cannot be outlined: moments of despair and anguish are in fact alternated with moments of light and peace. If the work begins with a warning to God, accused of giving man a life full of suffering that leads him to hate his own existence, a clear reference to the philosophy of Kierkegaard that the author himself read and translated, with the progress of the text the inspiration changes, and one glimpses the capacity of the ego not only to resist isolation and loneliness, but also to grow and take strength from them. Nature itself, initially considered part of the hostile world that surrounds the human being, becomes a source of comfort. In the final part there is also a shift from the individual to the collective point of view: human life is considered part of universal existence and the protagonist who suffers for his own soul is replaced by the dimension of the totality of beings, with their concrete needs and common.
I was delighted to read “The bridge on the Drina” and for this reason I wanted at all costs to get some works by Andrić, including Ex Ponto, his first great work and considered by many to be among his finest.
“Tales of Bosnia” by Ivo Andrić (Yugoslavia)
Bosnia: a region that immediately brings to mind an enormous tragedy, a sum of suffering and violence that has shaken the conscience of all peoples. But also an announced tragedy that must be understood in its deepest roots, in its tormented history. With these stories, Ivo Andrić, through a patient psychological study, offers us a picture of old Bosnia, with all its contrasts and all its intersections of different races and religions, which help us to understand current events as well. He does so with a calm but not devoid of pathos research, aimed at deeply understanding the painful and often violent humanity of these fellow countrymen, giving the reader new keys to read more correctly and less superficially the painful pages of the Bosnian story. .
The speech is more or less the same as before; I preferred this one compared to masterpieces such as “The Chronicle of Travnik” because I am a great lover of stories and legends and I also wanted to deepen those of the Bosnian panorama.
“La malédiction du Lamantin” by Moussa Konaté (Mali)
In Mali, in the village of Kokri along the banks of the Niger river, live boxo fishermen, profound connoisseurs of the aquatic world and its mysteries. One day, during the dry season, a storm disrupts their lives, leaving behind, in the morning, the lifeless bodies of the village chief and his wife. Commissioner Habib and his loyal Inspector Sosso are tasked with uncovering the cause of those disturbing deaths. For boxers, linked to the ancient traditions of their land, the explanation is devoid of mysteries: Maa the Manatee, the god of the waters, has taken his revenge. Son of the black continent, trained in the school of whites, Commissioner Habib will have to conduct the investigation by juggling ancient beliefs and pressing suspicions, Islam and animism, the need to listen to the elders of the village and the need to find evidence to arrive at the solution of the case. The investigation, however, will not only be the search for truth, but a real adventure, fascinating and engaging, marked by the epic rhythm of ancestral concepts.
Mali is probably the most fascinating country in Sub-Saharan Africa, this thriller seemed to me the best way to immerse yourself also in its land and its stories, as diverse as the populations that compose it.
“The Astrolabe of the Sea” by Shams Nadir (Tunisia)
Shams Nadir (Sun of the antipodes) is the pseudonym of the writer Mohamed Aziza, born in Tunis to a father originally from Andalusia and mother of Ottoman origin, university professor, rector-chancellor of the Euro-Arab Itinerant University and director of intercultural studies at the UNESCO chose to publish his literary work. Under his real name he has published numerous academic works on Arab, African and Mediterranean cultures and its intercultural processes. His literary creation consists of several collections of poems and short stories. The most important work of his is the trilogy Les Etats de la Mer of which this volume is the first part, unanimously considered by the great representatives of world literature to be one of the greatest of contemporary Arab fiction.
I loved Shams Nadir with his “Les Portiques de la mer” and from that moment on I could only aspire to reread his other works, this was one of those that intrigued me the most. The preface by Jorge Amado and the introduction by Leopold Sedar Senghor seem to confirm my expectations already from the cover.
“La patria delle visioni celesti” by Ibrahim al Koni (Libya)
At the center of al-Koni’s narrative is the desert, the Sahara, a fabulous universe, of unexpected variety, full of stories, characters, legends, dangers and visions. No writer in the world had ever told the desert with such passion and wonder. Not only are the Libyan writer’s stories compelling, but they reveal to us a world whose existence is difficult to imagine, the world of the desert where the most surprising things happen: escapes, conversions, hallucinations, loves, dangers, unheard-of joys, mystical experiences. . His narrative is cultured, full of references to the Bible, the Koran, the legends of the Tuareg, but also contemporary Western literature, because al-Koni, who grew up among the Tuareg in the sands of the Sahara, later lived and studied in Moscow and in various western countries. In some stories there is the story of the desert populations’ resistance to Italian colonialism, a story often hidden from us and which is told here with courage and sincerity. But the strongest theme of this book is the mystical experience, understood in the broadest sense, that life in the desert evokes and stimulates.
I have always been fascinated by the Tuareg and the desert, I took advantage of the fact that I am writing a text set in similar territories to dive into this text and start to really know their culture.
“Vertigo” by Ahmed Mourad (Egypt)
At the Vertigo bar, a trendy nightclub, a meeting place for the important people of Cairo, Ahmed Kamàl accidentally witnesses the murder of two well-known businessmen. Photographer by profession, he imprints the images of the massacre on film, and is ready to have them published, but he turns to the wrong newspaper: the country’s media seem to point to a lot of appearance and little truth. Trapped in a web of power games, Ahmed finds shelter for a while in a nightclub, populated by belly dancers and actresses in search of glory, alongside businessmen and politicians: influential people, people who in the morning on newspaper pages are enemies, and at night they become allies in the game of parties, all gathered in the same room in search of women and alcohol, to flaunt their wealth. An inconvenient witness, Ahmed nevertheless does not intend to remain silent … Welcomed in Egypt with great enthusiasm at the arrival of the Arab Spring, Vertigo denounces the country’s malpractice, without ever giving up irony. With his candid portrait of a shady and vengeful state police and a corrupt political class, Mourad recounts the difficulty of finding a true model for the new generations, the disorder that pervades the nation, the state of perpetual vertigo in which they become confused. roles and concepts, where those who defend moral values can immediately be overwhelmed by their own self-interest. But all this does not prevent him from entrusting his pages with a message of hope for young people …
Those who follow me know how much I enjoyed “The Nile Hilton Incident“, this book gives me the idea of being a worthy relative in written form; in my opinion, the atmosphere of the Egyptian capital marries wonderfully with the noir.
“Les Rochers de Poudre d’or” by Nathacha Appanah (Mauritius)
It all began in 1892, in the British colony India: with the prospect of a better job and living conditions, hundreds of Indians are recruited by the British by deception and pushed to reach Mauritius, beyond the Ocean. Very different escape stories are intertwined: that of the naive card player Badri, deluded to find glittering gold coins under the rocks; that of the young Vythee, in search of his brother who left years earlier; that of the peasant Chotty, exploited by the landowner of his village, to which he is indebted; that of the royal widow Ganga who flees the stake. After weeks at sea, huddled in the hold of the Atlas, forced to face hunger, disease and death, they will land on the much-coveted island of Mauritius. But when they arrive, they will find neither the green and fertile land nor the easy money they were promised, but hard work on the sugar cane plantations, under the orders of greedy French landowners and their ruthless tormentors. This is the dramatic outcome of the crossing on the “kala pani”, “black water”: to become the new breed of slaves, the one that replaced the blacks after the official abolition of slavery. In the village of Poudre d’Or, under whose hard and sterile rocks certainly no gold lies, the lives of the Indians are trapped between the blue of the sky and the green of the sugar cane.
In this case it’s easy: I don’t know anything about Mauritius and this seemed to me the most suitable book to start solving my ignorance.
“Secret Lives” by Ngugi Wa Thiong’o (Kenya)
Kenya, World War II: Wariuki is a young man with little money and a lot of charm, who goes around his village with a half-battered and colorful bike, performs wild dances and irreverent imitations of the “white masters” and blacks who agree to become its servants. And in doing so he “wins the heart of Miriamu”, a girl from a good family of the Kenyan upper bourgeoisie, the petite and obedient daughter of Douglas Jones, a wealthy businessman who naturally wants “the best” for her daughter. He thus summons the aspiring son-in-law and points out to him that even if “the family will not oppose marriage, it must take place under the Cross, a wedding in church”. The two lovers (he “pagan”, she with a Christianity made of mercy and songs), run away and love each other, but from the day of that “trial” Wariuki will live with a worm inside that will eventually lead them to the end: he is not happy , and to wash away the shame of that day he does everything: he sets up a company that trades lumber, Englishizes his name, studies in the Western world and becomes rich and Christian. Finally, to return to the in-laws and wash away the shame, with a shotgun marriage and finally blessed by the Cross.
I am lover of Ngugi Wa Thiong’o since high school, so much so that he used his “The decolonization of minds” as a central text in my high school thesis, so much so that he named it just like his essay; I am sure that in this novel he will be able to tell us a funny, interesting and full of ideas story.
“Kitab al-Ya wa huwa kitab al-Huwa” by Ibn ‘Arabi
The Book of the Self (divine), is the second treatise of the great Andalusian sûfî Muhyî ‘l-Dîn ibn’ Arabî (d. 1240) which sees the light in the series The Jewels. Although brief, the work is of considerable interest since it evokes the metaphysical theme par excellence: the uniqueness, exclusivity, absoluteness and omnipervasion of the divine Self, the ultimate and profound root of every existent. The translation from Arabic is preceded by a broad introduction by the editor who, through the Science of Letters, brings us closer to alchemical science, that of names and that of numbers, as well as an essay by Paolo Urizzi in which the doctrine of Ibn ‘Arabî on the divine Self is confronted with the unanimous teachings of the Shankarian advaita.
By Ibn ‘Arabi I hope to be able to recover every book, but this inspired me particularly both for the comparison with the great Hindu, and for being able to have an introduction about the Science of Names and that of Numbers.
“Le sante Sufi” by Ibn Jawzi
The history of Sufism is based exclusively on the manuals written by the masters, yet the Sufi dimension has opened equality with men to women, elevating them to the rank of friends of God, “wali”, recognizing their holiness. In fact, it is not written that only men can get close to God, those who are on God’s path are “nafs”, souls, therefore individuals who yearn for union with Him. Ibn al-Jawzi’s book on Sufi women proposed here outlines the figures of the saints of Basra. From their profiles emerges a very simplified ascetic path compared to the path traced by the most famous sages and the attempt to establish a very direct relationship with God that feeds on the concepts of love, asceticism and union.
I am now starting to know the Sufi world, but I must say that, alas, except for the famous Rabi’a I know very few Sufi women, this may be a suitable reading to calm my ignorance.
“Why Did You Leave the Horse Alone?” by Mahmoud Darwish (Palestine)
Without description of any kind.
One of Mahmoud Darwish‘s best known poetry books ever, so rare that I couldn’t possibly escape it as soon as I saw it available online.
“Madman of Freedom Square” by Hassan Blasim (Iraq)
Imagine a man kidnapped and forced to declare on video that he has committed heinous crimes in the name of religion. Or a trip of illegal immigrants to Europe that turns into a carnage. Imagine a soldier who, being locked in a room for several days with his beloved, feeds on his body and his blood to survive. Talking corpses, werewolves, severed heads, torn or skinned bodies, fathers who poison their daughters, sons who carry their mother’s skeletons in their suitcases, deaths who write novels, suicides, car bomb explosions, neo-Nazis who beat them to death in Europe immigrants. And then crazy, crazy everywhere, and a blurred boundary between the real and the unreal. Try to imagine all this and more. Creepy images and thrilling scenes, as in the best of gothic literature. But this is not simply Gothic literature. This is Iraq. Or the Europe of Iraqi refugees. Sometimes, Hassan Blasim seems to tell us in his debut book, reality surpasses fiction in horror and cruelty.
As soon as I read the description I was struck by these new and macabre stimuli, I couldn’t help but touch something so unique and particular.
“Nur Baba” by Yakup Kadri Karaosmanoğlu (Turkey)
When this novel appeared in Turkey in 1923, it had immediate success and aroused bitter controversy. Was it perhaps a disguised attempt to reveal the “sacred secret” of the Bektashi order and its initiatory doctrines? Did he want to show the decline of this ancient brotherhood, reduced to an orgiastic circle? In reality it was the story of an exalted and fatal love, where behind the heroine a great Western character stood out: Madame Bovary. Rich, beautiful, idle in her villa on the Bosphorus, the young Nighjar follows the call of a voice she heard echoing one evening in the bay: the voice of Nur Baba, “Master of Light”. That indefinite attraction will push her to abandon everything, to throw herself into a fire that is both erotic and mystical.
I want to be honest: I have a lot of Albanian acquaintances who don’t speak very well of bektashi to me and I would therefore like to begin to understand better the figure. Of course, I know they should make a “bad impression” in this book, but it still serves as a starting point before I delve into something more non-fictional and neutral about it in the future.
“«Tracce turche» in Europa medioevale” by Giuseppe Cossuto (Italia)
In this monograph the salient events of the peoples of the steppes in Europe are illustrated in a popular but scientific way, starting from the arrival of the Huns up to the conquest of Anatolia by the Seljuks, trying to harmonize the different historiographic traditions on the basis of classical written sources. and medieval, archaeological evidence and folklore traditions, in a non-euro-centric perspective but which takes into account the different social and cultural nature of the warrior nomads of the steppes compared to the Roman, Germanic and Slavic civilizations.
I have known for some time that the Turkish peoples have left in Europe a much deeper trace of what they love to tell and I believe that in this text I will finally be able to have my questions and doubts resolved.
“The Architect’s Apprentice” by Elif Shafak (Turkey)
In 16th-century Istanbul, in a kaleidoscope of historical and fictional characters, Jahan is a liar and opportunistic mahout, a shrewd boy of dark origins. Arriving by ship in the city of seven hills to accompany Chota, the white elephant that the Shah of Hindustan sent as a gift to Sultan Suleiman, his life should remain confined to the menagerie, among tigers, lions, gazelles and giraffes. Jahan should remain forever relegated to the rank of privileged servant, dedicated to the care of Chota, the pachyderm who adorns the private zoo of the royal palace with his extravagance. Instead, chance leads him to attract the attention of Sinan, the Royal Chief Architect, who makes him one of his apprentices. Sinan is a wise, calm, sensitive man; Jahan could not find a more attentive and passionate teacher, and under his guidance he earns a prestigious job, gives up the habit of theft, grows up. La di lui is the story of a success built with patience and devotion, just like the mosques and bridges of the master Sinan. But life does not accept being designed and planned: it simply takes its course. And for Jahan it will revolve around two centers, two loves: the impossible one for Princess Mihrimah, the daughter of the Sultan. And the solid and simple one of Chota, who will always be there waiting for him and to console him in the darkest moments.
When Angela Gurgo DiCastelmenardo described the plot to me during the live broadcast, I was truly breathless: I, who loved Sinan‘s life so much and found absolute peace in the Suleiman mosque, had to read it absolutely.
“The Legend of the Thousand Bulls” by Yashar Kemal (Turkey)
The Yoruk, the nomadic people of Ararat, are like grass that grows clinging to stone. Once their tents descended from the mountains like flocks of eagles, now there are few left in what was their land. Theirs is an epic of survival in balance between tradition and reality, between heaven and earth, an epic populated by characters such as Master Haydar with a long leather-colored beard, Don Quixote with calloused hands always surrounded by the sparks of his forge , little Kerem, who runs away to find his falcon, the beautiful and stubborn Ceren with his boundless love for Halil and Suleyman Kahya, sad chieftain, sad shadow of the glory of the past.
I loved the Yoruk told by Irfan Orga and I love the unique and unmistakable style of Yashar Kemal, seeing the two elements together is something truly electrifying and an incredible stimulus to the imagination.
“Tars va Larz” by Gholamhoseyn Saedi (Iran)
The six stories of “Tars va Larz”, published by Gholamhoseyn Saedi in 1968, arise from his experience as a doctor in the Persian Gulf, where poverty and extremely difficult living conditions created a constant atmosphere of fear and insecurity. Two years earlier Saedi had published “Ahl-e hava” (“The people of the wind”), an anthropological essay on the populations of the same area which then formed the basis for the stories of “Fear and tremor”. The tales of “Fear and Tremor” transfigure the strange world that Saedi had discovered during his travels and his scientific research into narrative form. In the magical world of his stories, the wave motion of the sea and the play of light and shadow in the darkness of the evening help to cancel the boundaries between real and fantastic. The characters are all equally dominated by a metaphysical feeling of fear and insecurity that becomes a real ‘crisis of presence’, controllable, but not always, through the use of magical practices. The fast pace and the open ending of the stories then allows the reader to extend the plot in his own imagination and thus become in turn a victim of fear and tremor.
For some time I was looking for a book able to make me navigate among strange and mysterious swamps, I had tried with Amitav Ghosh’s “Gun Island”, but I believe that this experiment will bring out different but, I hope, even more interesting results.
“Touba and the Meaning of Night ” by Shahrnush Parsipur (Iran)
At the end of the nineteenth century a blond-haired girl was born in Persia. Her name is Tuba and she is the daughter of a learned man. Her father, following a profound spiritual crisis, questions all the values on which he built her existence. He understands that the salvation of his country’s identity is in the hands of women, who must, however, be freed from their ignorance, from their isolation. She begins with little Tuba, whom she teaches to read and write, which she brings to the knowledge of the Koran and the mysteries of Sufism. But one day her father, now elderly, dies. Tuba is twelve years old and has a mission to fulfill: to seek God and the truth.
More or less the same speech made for “Sante Sufi” but to this I add my curiosity towards Persian culture and authors from the 1900s onwards, certainly less dominated by me than Arabs and Turks.
“The Great Game” by Peter Hopkirk (Uk)
“Great historical fresco on the Great Game, as Kipling called it, which engaged the British and the Russians, for a good part of the nineteenth century, in Afghanistan, Iran and the steppes of central Asia. every day, on average, 150 square kilometers, Great Britain tried to extend its Indian possessions northwards. Old story? disputed or discussed are always the same. In these fascinating “thousand and one nights” of imperialist diplomacy the reader will find the background of many events of recent years in Afghanistan and Iran. ” (Sergio Romano)
I just wanted to take a book on Central Asia but that it was a really nice title, I bet on a well-known masterpiece.
“Indonesia, Etc.: Exploring the Improbable Nation” by Elizabeth Pisani (Uk)
“Indonesia etc.” is the story of a 20,000 km long adventure across Indonesian land, sea and sky. The author traveled alone, by all means, using empathy and observation skills to offer us a funny story without being banal, informative and never boring. A must-read for anyone who approaches Indonesia, Elizabeth Pisani’s book knows how to entertain and make even non-travelers and all those who are curious about the world and places rich in life and humanity fall in love with this “unlikely nation”: from remote islands and rural areas in the most cosmopolitan and contemporary corners of the archipelago.
I’m ashamed to say it but: I don’t know anything about Indonesia and I hope this book turns out to be a sort of “Sovietistan in the Indonesian version”, allowing me to have at least a smattering of this wonderful country.
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