Yesterday I showed you the first ten poets and writers I think we should read before we are fifty. Did you know any of them? Don’t worry if not I am sure you still have time to read all of them. I did mention other lists that mainly contain authors from America and Europe.
I did mention other lists that mainly contain authors from America and Europe and I so hoped mine would be a bit more “worldly”, however, I did realise that I do not know that many authors from Asia and Africa. That is a bit disappointing but gives me a goal to aim for #supporttranslatedbooks. Read Africa, Asia and Australia!
But for now, we get on with “The Bee’s Fifty Poets and Writers you should read before you are fifty”:
11. Hideo Furukawa: “Belka, why don’t you bark!” is one of the strangest books I have ever read. It tells the story of dogs used for war efforts from the second world war onwards from the point of view of the dogs as well as the kidnapping of the daughter of a Japanese Yakuza (member of an international crime organisation from Japan) who develops a psychic connection to some of those dogs held close by. If you want to stretch your imagination, learn something about WWII hardly anyone knows and love a good mystery you can’t go wrong with this book and this author.
12. Emile Zola: I have to admit I am not a huge fan of Zola. I have tried to work my way through his “Four Short Stories” the main one being “Nana” but I could not get anywhere. I found it hard work but I love the way he is able to capture the nature and character of the people of his time. Certainly worth a try.
13. Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain: Rokeye Sakhawat Hossain commonly known as Begum Rokeya has written essays, novels, short stories and her goal was to work for equality of women and men. I am not sure if her sci-fi novella “Sultana’s Dream” has been written in Bengali but I have put her on the list because it is important to emphasise that not all Muslims are terrorists and fight against the western world. Besides “Sultana’s Dream” is a highly entertaining piece of writing.
14. Hilde Domin: I was introduced to Hilde Domin while studying social work where I could take a course on poetry. We studied her essay “Why poetry today? Poetry and its readers in a controlled society” where she introduces the idea that a poem is only the poets “property” until it is published and readers can read it. As soon as a reader engages with the poem he or she will add to its meaning his own experiences and values and therefore the poem changes from what the poet has intended. Personally, I am not sure if poets do “intend” anything with their poetry but that’s another story. I loved her idea and that is how I see my poetry. I haven’t found this essay in English yet but you can find many of her beautiful poems in translation.
15. Alaa Al Aswami: If you want to gain an insight into modern Egyptian life in a highly entertaining way then read Alaa Al Aswami’s “Yacoubian Building”. It shows the life of the inhabitants of the Yacoubian Building in Cairo, their struggle and their successes. He was one of the few famous faces of the revolution of Tahrir Square in 2011 and many of those who gathered there are said to have been inspired by his writing.
16. Jose Eduardo Agualusa: If you are interested in Africa and in Angola specifically please read Jose Eduardo Agualusa. Born in Angola he mainly writes in his native Portuguese but Daniel Hahn translates them beautifully into English. I have read “My Father’s Wives” as part of “The International Fiction Reading Group” and his style that reminds me of Southern American magical realism hooked me so much that I also read “The Book of Chameleon’s”. He is said to bring Angola’s history together with fiction and that is most certainly a great way to educate yourself.
17. Can Xue: Can Xue’s “Five Spice Street” is certainly a strange book. You meet the inhabitants of Five Spice Street and the mysterious Madam X who might or might not have an affair with Mr Y. I have to admit that I had trouble with understanding the reason they ponder Mrs X’s age but I still enjoyed the book. It is written strangely enticing and it certainly made me read on to find out what it’s all about.
18. Ava Audur Olavsdottir: “Butterflies in November” is one of the strangest books I have ever read and when I started it I wasn’t sure I would like it. The unnamed narrator is a translator who is supposed to take care of her friend’s four-year-old son who is deaf for a weekend but a journey together lasts a whole winter. The book does not only make you ponder your relationship with language but also gives you a wonderful glimpse into the otherworldly beauty of Iceland.
19. Hassan Blasim: To us Iraq today is a synonym of war, terrorism and danger but if you read Hassan Blasim’s stories in “The Iraqi Christ” you realise that the Iraqi people like us only like to live and give their children a future and what it feels like to be a refugee. These stories are strange, entangling and let you experience a foreign country through its people’s eyes. Hassan Blasim is a film maker who had to flee his native Iraq in 2004 because he made a film about the Kurdish area in Iraq. He has now settled in Finland.
20. Wolfgang Borchert: German poets are some of those who did a great deal to help Germany deal with it’s war time past. Many poets after 1945 either experienced the war as a soldier or were imprisoned in concentration camps and their work makes it possible for us born afterwards to understand what was happening. I was introduced to Wolfgang Borchert in school where we had to read his play “The Man outside” which he wrote in the first days after WWII. But to me his poem “Then There is only one choice!” is the most influential. It describes how a country tries to brainwash its people into going into war and in his opinion it is the people’s responsibility to say no to what a government asks of you. It works with repetition of words and lines and that makes it the most intense anti-war poem I have ever experienced reading. It also has inspired my poem “If you do not want war!”
To be continued…
This was part II of my list of fifty poets and writers
we should have read before we are fifty
but I wonder which do you think we should read?