My name is Slawka Grabowska. I organize Donostia Book Club. We meet every month to discuss previously chosen books or short stories. Check out our FB page! https://www.facebook.com/pages/Donostia-Book-Club/105225566276875?ref=hl
There was absolutely no doubt about our May book. It had to be Arundhati Roy´s ¨The God of Small Things¨. There are not many books I decide to reread. But this is one of them. I´ve read it 4 times and I am sure I will read it again in future.
Thankfully, most of our book-clubbers were equally enchanted by this picturesque novel. It was especially important, as our May book club was a part of Literaktum´s program and some new faces appeared. I wanted all these new people to know how passionate we all are about books.
We´ve talked for two hours and we´ve barely covered the most obvious points. There are so many things to discuss in the story of Velutha and Amu! Not even mentioning twins, that somehow are much more difficult to interpret!
Some of the themes we´ve focused on included:
And that is just the top of the iceberg. We had no time to include our impressions on History House, to focus more on the sexual abuse (although we´ve mentioned it briefly), to focus on specific quotes and analyse them thoroughly...
I´ve enjoyed it a lot and hope to have more discussions like that one in future. Thank you!!!
See you all in June (08.06.2015). We are going to analyse ¨Disgrace¨by J.M. Coetzee.
Donostia Book Club
Have you read an article about DOnostia Book Club on Kulturaldia?
April and May are always busy here, in The Basque Country: in April there is Gutun Zuria Festival in Bilbao, in May we have Literaktum in San Sebastian. There are so many literary events and lectures that we have problems with attending all that we would like to see! And this year was no different! Bear with me while I prepare posts on everything that I find worth sharing ;)
In the upcoming days you can expect to read here about:
1. Our performance at Literaktum: photos and thoughts on Arundhati Roy´s ¨The God of Small Things¨
2. James Ellroy at Gutun Zuria
3. Tzvetan Todorov at Gutun Zuria
4. Almudena Grandes in San Sebastian
5. Cees Nooteboom at Literaktum
(Not necessarily in that order)
Meantime, I would like to invite you for our June meeting:
Donostia Book Club
It has been a long week, full of literary events. Unfortunately for us, we had to share the time between work and pleasure. That meant making difficult choices. After a long debate and making puzzles with our timetables we have finally set for 3 activities that we just couldn't miss:
1. James Ellroy at Gutun Zuria
2. Public Reading with Donostia Kultura at International Book Day
3. Tzvetan Todorov at Gutun Zuria.
First was James Ellroy.
He was one of guests of 8th edition of Gutun Zuria - Literature Festival organized annually at Alhondiga Bilbao. This year's main subject was Eros. Let me quote here the official materials, there is no better way to explain the choice:
Under the heading ‘Evoking Eros’, Javier Marías, Álvaro Pombo, Wendy Guerra, James Ellroy, Fernando Arrabal, Itxaro Borda, Edorta Jimenez and Tzvetan Todorov will share with the public their reflections on eroticism in literature; how the culture of evocation and insinuation appears in their books dissecting the tensions corseted in couples, tackling sex as both a creative and destructive force, revealing the idiosyncrasies of erotica and the different attitudes in the face of Eros, until reaching the darkest depths of desire.
Erotica in literature is neither erotic nor pornographic literature. The difference lays both in aesthetics, for the culture of evocation and not description lies between the lines, and in the plots of the storylines dealing with each of the genres.
Throughout their careers these writers have dissected the tensions corseted in couples, tackled sex as both a creative and destructive force, and revealed the idiosyncrasies of erotica and the different attitudes in the face of Eros, until reaching the darkest depths of desire.
As in previous editions, the ‘Reader’s hour’ will be held after each session, so that attendees can chat with these writers over a glass of wine specially made for the occasion by Bodega Urbana, in a relaxed environment.
James Ellroy, without any doubt, is an interesting character. In his Hawaiian shirts and "detective's" trench he seems to be one of his own creations. And that is how I have seen the interview with him: as him creating his own persona, his own public character. He mostly ignored questions (some of them excellent!) asked by Justo Navarro and instead presented himself as the best living author. "No other authors, only Ellroy" he says regularly in the interviews. That time was no different "Let's be honest: who reads Marquez (...) or Herta Muller. But they all read me!". He also calls himself "a demon dog of American literature" and barks a lot.
Arrogant during the interview, he abandons all these bold statements in a conversation one-to-one. Asked what advice he would give to young authors he says: "Don't question yourself constantly. Write and write and then publish. Is it any good? A big chance is, that it's not. But you are not going to know an answer to that. You won't know if you're good. I don't know if I'm good. I write."
A chance is that you con't know Ellroy, because you've focused on reading Marquez, Cortazar or Muller. But ignoring author's huge ego, I would recommend his books to anyone who likes ambitious crime novels. Why don't you start with "The Black Dahlia"? It is inspired by a tragic history of author's mother and another women murdered some 20 years later. Doesn't that ignite your curiosity? Check out his biography and maybe you will be more understanding when it comes to his public persona character ;)
Our second important event was Public Reading organized by Donostia Kultura on International Book Day. 7 members of Donostia Book Club were there with me and we've read a short story by Eric Maria Remarque, "The Enemy". My ambitious plan was to record an audio and post it here, but unfortunately there was no way of doing it: the background noise and my little phone made it totally impossible. So all I can do is to post one more time a link to the story:
Huge thanks and hugs to: Mariana, Amaia, Elisa, Simon, Ana and Elena! YOU ROCK!!!
And we've closed the week with another trip to Bilbao and Gutun Zuria. Beacuse of some happy coincidences we could appreciate the art created by Niki de Saint Phalle. You can go and see it for yourself till June, 7th in Guggenhein Bilbao.
And finally the conversation with Tzvetan Todorov. A very short and compresed biography note from Gutun Zuria's website says:
Tzvetan Tódorov (Sofia, 1939) is a linguist, philosopher, historian, literary critic and theorist who has resided in Paris since 1963 where together with Roland Barthes has been one of the most prestigious representatives of the structuralist circle. Considered one of the greatest intellectuals of our time, he has given classes at École Pratique des Hautes Études and Yale University. His lectures have also been heard in the universities of New York, Columbia, Harvard and California. He was awarded the Prince of Asturias Social Sciences Prize in 2008.
He is the author of numerous books on literature and social sciences, being worthy of mention: Structural Approach to a Literary Genre (1966),Fragile happiness (1985), Living alone together (1995) and The adventures of the absolute (2005).
But I think that doesn't show the spectrum of his works and interests. One is overwhelmed when trying to cover all his essays and conferences he participated in. During Gutun Zuria he focused on answering questions and explaining the very basic relation between Eros and literature. He admitted that it was not going to be a conference and the subject leaves a lot to talk about, so what he covered just the top of an iceberg. No matter how basic his speech was, it was easy to see that he has an amazing knowledge and his insight into theory of literature is invaluable!
Now we are counting days to Literaktum - a literature festival in Donostia. The program will be announced on April, 28th!
how many have you read?
Uffff.... that was a long read (880 pages) but it was totally worth it! When we've met on April, 11th to discuss it no one has managed to finish the whole book, but most of us were planning to keep on reading. And let me say: I don't regret that choice even for one moment.
I have to say, usually I am not a fan of historical novels. Too many dates and descriptions, that at times seem almost surgical, bore me. But not 'New York': you can read it in 4 different ways:
- as a simple novel, just relax and read on;
- as a history book, sure it is a bit simplistic, but it covers 4 centuries!
- as a touristic guide, all the sites are described with lots of details;
- as a complex novel of love, adventure and intrigue.
It starts in 1664, when NY was still New Amsterdam, and ends in 2001, on the 10th of September. There is also an epilogue in summer 2009.
How to write a novel covering 4 centuries? Rutherfurd has a signature pattern he's using in all his works. And it works! There are a few familiar sagas that show the multiculturalism of the city: among them Van Dyck (Dutch), the Masters (British), the family of slaves (no surname) or O'Donnells (Irish). Some of them seem to be more important than the others, all of them we see struggling to survive in the New World.
One might say that that format doesn't allow to add any depth to the characters and that's true. We read it more as a chronicles, familiar annuals, but that gives us broader point of view. The main character here, without any doubt is the city. We see New York shaping its citizens, changing and making them change. Is it less ambitious than a traditional novel? By no means! It is an impressive work, a piece that just keeps on amazing you. How to do a research for that kind of project? Most of us wouldn't even know where to start!
Next on my list: 'Paris' by the same author. It will have to wait for summer, when I can read 1000 pages with no disturbances from the real world ;)
It is always difficult to review a collection of short stories: usually some are better than others, but after all you are reviewing them all together. So the final result is the media of all of them. Not this time: the subject of all of them is very similar, but treated in a different manner. Each story has its own unique style. How is the dystopian society of each? Without any doubt discovering the truth of how it really functions is disappointing for their characters!
Some spoilers ahead!!!
RED MESSANGER by Mara Li
Mara Li explores the results of alternative history. What would have happened if Nazis won the war? The world separated by a huge wall, Siberian camps, people disappearing without any trace.
If I had to complain about something it would be the lack of psychological depth: some of the characters were to easy to convince to act, to trusting. I seriously doubt that in a society where you don't know who is an enemy and who is a friend, that would be much more difficult to achieve.
THE ISLAND by Jen Minkman
An isolated society divided into two groups that don't want to have nothing in common with each other. Children fighting to survive away from their parents. A mysterious history that lead to these strange habits. What really happened in past? What do the Book and the Force really mean? One could not be more surprised by finding first the bases of the strange religion they live by and then finding the REAL reasons for it. I definitely want to know what happens next!
THE TRIBUNAL by Lis Lucassen
In a perfect society there are only perfect citizens: blond, tall with blue or green eyes. There is no room for anyone different. The gates separate the sectors from the Stateless. And the Tribunal takes care of maintaining the order. Or... does it? Justa is about to discover how far her world is from being perfect. When the time comes, will she know what to choose?
I couldn't be more impressed. All the stories fit in together perfectly. The reader feels the stress of the main characters, their desperation, their hope. The authors paint pictures of dystopian world that we can only pray never to experience!
Our Monday meeting was great. I hope you all enjoyed it and that it will encourage you to nominate different kind of books for the next year!
Our April book is Joseph Conrad's & Ford Madox's "The Nature of a Crime". An we are meeting to talk about it on April, 13th at 19:45.
Also, on 23rd of April we are invited to participate in The Book Day and at 18:30 we will do the public reading. I am still considering different options. The best would be to read a short story (max. 6 pages) about World War II or about books/writing. You have time till Wednesday to nominate and sign for public reading. Of course, only those who will participate in the public reading can nominate wink emoticon
And the 3rd thing: in May we are participating in Literaktum, so the day of our meeting will be changed. I am still waiting for the confirmation, but it probably would be 7th or 8th of May.
I hope to hear from you soon!
Donostia Book Club