Tiny Book Review: Banana Yoshimoto ~ Kitchen/Kueche

Previously posted in September 2017

This month’s read on #supporttranslatedbooks is another Banana Yoshimoto book: Goodbye Tsugumi and I can’t wait to read it. But here my 2011 review of Kitchen:

October 2011

Sorry, dear readers, our internet is playing up therefore just a “lazy” entry:

KitchenKitchen by Banana Yoshimoto
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Well, its a book about kitchens in Japan and I already love it…..

I really enjoy this book. I like the way Banana Yoshimoto writes and I like the story as well. As someone who has lost her mother early in her life the passing away of loved ones is a theme close to my heart. But even though a sad theme it is also funny and very real. Definitely worth reading.

Yes, I really enjoyed the book. Some reviews say it is also about trans-sexuality but I think it does not give a very good insight into the topic. The male to female transsexual is depicted as a very beautiful and extravagant person, does not seem to have had a lot of problems with the transition. Or at least she does not openly say anything about it. Well, I know that it is not that easy to go through all the operations and hormone treatment. And it is also difficult for the person and his or her family to deal with the misunderstandings of the surrounding. I would have wished to find more of that in the book. But that does not take anything of my enjoyment of “Kitchen“.


Ich habe diesen Post schon Mal im September 2017 veroeffentlicht

Das Buch, das wir diesen Monat auf #supporttranslatedbooks lesen ist ein weiteres another Banana Yoshimoto Buch: Goodbye Tsugumi und ich kann es garnicht erwarten,es zu lesen. Aber hier erstmal meine 2011 Besprechung von “Kueche”:

Oktober 2011

Entschuldigt liebe Leser, unser Internet funktioniert mal wieder nicht richtig. Deshalb ein “fauler” Eintrag:

Tja es ist ein Buch ueber Kuechen in Japan und ich liebe es jetzt schon…..

Ich geniese dieses Buch wirklich. Ich mag wie Banana Yoshimoto shreibt und ich mag auch die Geschichte. Ich habe meine Mutter frueh im Leben verloren und so ist Sterben ein Thema nah an meinem Herzen. Trotz des traurigen Themas ist das Buch auch komisch und sehr real. Es ist wirklich wert, es zu lesen…..

Ja ich habe das Buch wirklich genossen. Einige Besprechungen sagen, dass das Buch auch ueber Transsexualitaet ist aber ich denke es zeigt kein sehr klares Bild ueber das Thema. Die Mann zu Frau Transsexuelle wird als sehr schoene und extravagante Dame gezeichnet, die kaum Probleme mit dem Uebergang gehabt zu haben scheint. Ich weiss, dass die noetigen Operationen und Hormonbehandlungen sehr schwierig sind. Und es ist ausserdem noch schwieriger fuer die Personen und deren Familien mit dem Unverstaendnis der Umgebung umzugehen. Ich habe mir gewuenscht, mehr davon in diesem Buch zu finden. Aber das hat meiner Freude am Buch keinen Abbruch getan.

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Blast from the Past Book Review: The Colonel ~ Mahmoud Dowlatabadi/ Der Colonel ~ Mahmud Doulatabadi

March 2020

So, it looks like I am going to have lots of time for reading in the near future. My doctor told me yesterday that I am going to have an operation soon to beat cancer in my breast. There will also further treatment but the operation will lead to which treatment would be the best.

Yesterday, I just let everything sink in. It is wonderful how the hospital is going about this diagnosis. Three times I have already met up with the breast care nurses who are able to explain any questions we have. I got a folder full of information not only about the medical situation but also any financial hardship and how to keep my well being up. All this helps a lot.

But it’s still a lot to take in and it is harder to be mindful and not to succumb to worry and fear. But I am determined not to let the drama take over my life. Been there done that. So I breathe, meditate, drink a cuppa and concentrate on keeping my life up as normal as I can. I work with music, mindfulness and at least 9 hugs a day from the best husband (Jeremy Clarkson voice) in the world 🙂 .

Well, that is the update from my side but now over to a great novel I read in 2012 and I can only suggest to you to check it out.

This review was first posted in April 2012:

The Colonel

The Colonel by Mahmoud Dowlatabadi

Awwww am excited to read this book suggested for this month’s read at the International Fiction Reading Group in Norwich. When I read the back of the book it’s atmosphere reminded me of Isabelle Allende’s “House of Spirits” even though it is not magical realism. I’ll keep you updated what I think about it.

Today we will discuss it and I am glad I read it even though it was really hard work. Will go into more detail later on when I know if I am allowed to publish the review somewhere else as well because we were asked to write reviews by the publisher I think. But one I can say it is similar as well as nothing like the “House of Spirits”.

At last, I finished the review:

The colonel gets called in the middle of the night to attend to the funeral of his youngest tortured daughter. While going to the police station to get the body, preparing the funeral and getting home again he remembers the history of Iran from the Second World War up the revolution in 1979 as well as how his family is and was involved.

This seems to be the content of Mahmoud Dowlatabadi’s novel “The Colonel” recommended by PEN, published by Haus Publishing in July 2011 and translated by Tom Patterdale. But when you start reading you get sucked into a nightmare of traumatised characters who try to make sense of decades of Iran’s governments which use violence and terror as means ruling.

This “making sense” is mirrored in the reading experience as the book works with changing point of views between the colonel, his oldest son Amir who has been tortured by the secret service of the shah regime and a third person narrator. The reader also has to make sense of characters turning up from the colonel’s and Iran’s past (his wife, The Colonel, a foreign ambassador….) and it is not clear if they are ghosts or “just” in the colonels mind.
Both the colonel’s and his son’s memories are intertwined with what happens in the present and the reader is challenged not only to make sense of another culture but also of the storyline.

Many have mentioned how accurate Mahmoud Dowlatabadi describes Iran’s history from the Second World War up to the revolution in 1979 even though the author himself rather wants the novel to be judged by its literary importance. He wants it to be published in Iran but this historic accuracy seems to make it dangerous to the actual government and therefore it is still hold back by the Iranian authorities.

For me this book is a brilliant description of the psychological reactions of citizens living in a society which is ripped apart by revolution. It uses the literary means of different points of view as well as the mixture of past and present to show how your psyche gets confused when there is hidden trauma and violence that you are helplessly confronted with.

“The Colonel” has many levels (a historic level, a personal level…) that need exploring which makes it a challenging reading experience but it is worth facing it.


Ahhhhh ich kanns gar nicht erwarten dieses Buch zu lesen, das fuer diesen Monat bei der International Fiction Reading Group in Norwich vorgeschlagen wurde. Als ich die Beschreibung auf dem Buchdeckel las, fand ich, dass es eine aehnliche Atmosphaere hat wie Isabelle Allende’s “Geisterhaus” obwohl es nicht zum Magischen Realismus gehoert. Ich werde Euch auf dem Laufenden halten, was ich darueber denke.

Heute werden wir das Buch diskutieren und ich bin froh, dass ich es gelesen habe obwohl es wirklich schwer war. Ich werde mehr dazu schreiben, wenn ich weiss, ob ich meine Besprechung auch woanders veroeffentlichen darf, da wir gefragt wurden, welche fuer den Verlag zu schreiben. Ich glaube es war der Verlag. Eines nur: Es war irgendwie wie “Das Geisterhaus” und irgendwie auch gar nicht.
19/04/12 (Diese Besprechung beruht auf der englischen Version, da ich die deutsche noch nicht gelesen habe)
Der colonel wird mitten in der Nacht aus dem Haus gerufen, um sich um das Begraebnis seiner gefolterten juengsten Tochter zu kuemmern. Waehrend er zur Polizeistation geht, den Leichnahm holt, das Begraebnis vorbereitet und wieder nach Hause geht, erinnert er sich an Iran’s Vergangenheit vom 2. Weltkrieg bis zur Revolution 1979 und wie seine Familie dabei involviert war.

Das scheint der Inhalt von Mahmud Doulatabadi’s Roman “Der Colonel” vom PEN empfohlen, beim Unionsverlag Zuerich herausgegeben und von Bahman Nirumand uebersetzt, zu sein. Doch wenn man das Buch zu lesen beginnt, wird man in einen Alptraum traumatisierter Charaktere hineingezogen, die versuchen, mit Jahrzehnten von gewaltaetiger Herrschaft von Iran’s Regierungen klar zu kommen.

Dieses “klarkommen” wird in der Leseerfahrung wieder gespiegelt, da die Erzaehlperspektive zwischen dem Colonel, seinem Sohn Amir, der von der Geheimpolizei des Shah Regimes gefoltert wurde, und einem Erzaehler wechselt. Der Leser muss sich auch mit Charakteren auseinandersetzen, die aus der Vergangenheit des Colonels und Iran’s auftauchen (seine Frau, der alte Colonel, einem auslaendischen Botschafter…)und es ist dabei nicht klar, ob sie Geister sind oder “nur” in der Fantasie des Colonels existieren. Die Erinnerungen des Colonels sind mit denen seines Sohnes und der Gegenwart des Romans verflochten, was den Leser herausfordert, nicht nur eine andere Kultur sondern auch die Handlung zu verstehen.

Viele haben darauf hingewiesen, wie genau Mahmud Doulatabadi die Geschichte Iran’s vom 2. Weltkrieg bis zur Revolution 1979 beschreibt aber der Autor selber moechte den Roman mehr von der literarischen Seite begutachtet haben. Er mochte den Roman im Iran veroeffentlichen und diese geschichtliche Genauigkeit scheint der dortigen Regierung gefaehrlich zu sein und so ist eine Veroeffentlichung im Iran noch nicht erlaubt.

Fuer mich zeigt dieses Buch eine grossartige Beschreibung der psychologischen Reaktionen von Buergern, die in einer Gesellschaft leben, die von Revolution zerstoert wurde. Es benutzt die literarischen Stilmittel unterschiedlicher Erzaehlperspektiven sowie das Wechseln von Vergangenheit und Gegenwart, um zu zeigen, wie die Psyche von Menschen verwirrt wird, wenn sie hilflos mit verstecktem Trauma und Gewalt konfrontiert wird.

Dieses Buch handelt auf vielen Ebenen (eine historische, eine persoenliche…), die es zu entdecken gilt, was das Buch eine herausforderne Leseerfahrung macht, die es aber wert ist.

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“The Fat Years” by Chan Koonchung/ “Die fetten Jahre” von Chan Koonchung

This entry was first posted in December 2011. However, as it is or was a banned book I make it part of the 2017 banned book week:

The Fat YearsThe Fat Years by Chan Koonchung

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Old Chen one of the main characters in the story is meeting some old friends one by one. He is happy with the state of China in a fictional 2013 after a world financial crises has left the United States less powerful. Apparently China has reached a “Golden Age of Ascendancy” and everyone is very very happy. Besides a few who are not. Interestingly many of these can remember that that “Age of Ascendancy” did not start exactly when the rest of the world fell apart. There were 28 days in between but no one seems to be able to remember them. Well Old Chen’s friends do remember and want to know! So they kidnap a high Chinese official and make him talk but what will they find out?

This story is written from the different viewpoints of the characters and strangely many of them have met before in more or less strange incidences. They are all very interesting characters and you certainly learn a lot about China. But the story drags a bit on until they get to kidnap that official. The reality of that story often does not feel so fictional and I have actually started wondering if there is more truth to it than it wants to reveal. There must be a reason why it is banned in China! Well the best is to read the book and have a look for yourself!

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Dieser Beitrag wurde zum erstenmal im Dezember 2011 veroeffentlicht aber da das Buch verboten ist/war veroeffentliche ich ihn nochmals fuer die “Woche der Verbotenen Buecher”:

Master Chen einer der Hauptcharaktere in dieser Geschichte trift mehrer alte Freunde nacheinander. Er is glucklich mit der Situation in China im fiktionalen Jahr 2013 nachdem eine Weltwirtschaftskrise die USA machtloser gelassen hat. Offensichtlich hat China ein “Goldenes Zeitalter des Aufstieges” erreicht und jeder dort ist sehr sehr gluecklich. Ausser den paar wenigen, die es nicht sind. Komischerweise koennen diese wenigen sich daran erinnern, dass das “Zeitalter des Aufstieges” nicht zur exakt gleichen Zeit begonnen hat wie der Abstieg des Rests der Welt. Da waren 28 Tage dazwischen aber niemand scheint sich daran zu erinnern. Aber die Freunde von Master Chen koennen sich daran erinnern und wollen wissen, was passiert ist. Und so kidnappen sie einen hohen Chinesischen Beamten und bringen ihn zum reden. Aber was werden sie herausfinden?

Diese Geschichte zeigt sich in den verschiedenen Standpunkten der Hauptpersonen, deren Wege sich komischerweise schon vorher in mehr oder weniger komischen Begebenheiten gekreuzt haben. Sie sind alle interessante Personen und man lernt in diesem Roman sicherlich viel ueber China. Aber die Geschichte zieht sich ein bischen lange hin bis sie den Beamten kidnappen. Die Realitaet in diesem Roman fuehlt sich nicht so fiktional an und ich habe begonnen, mich zu wundern, ob da nicht mehr Wahrheit enthalten ist, als der Roman wirklich enthuellen will. Es muss ja einen Grund geben, warum er in China verboten ist. Aber es ist wohl das Beste fuer Euch, den Roman zu lesen und Euch Euer eigenes Bild zu machen.

Blast from the Past: Good Morning Writers! ~ Read Something Different

March 2019

It’s old but the book suggestions are still good 🙂

January 2018

Are you reading the same genres again and again? I do and I suspect I am not particular experimental with this years reading, however, I still do the #supporttranslatedbooks book group on Goodreads and reading non-english writing authors can be considered reading outside the box. Here are my thoughts on the topic from 2014 and if you haven’t read the books at the end of the post then I encourage you to do so this year

December 2014

How are you doing? How is your writing going? Do you storm ahead with words spilling out or do you struggle? And does your reading help you?

A few months ago I posted The Write Guy Randy Ingermanson’s article about “You write what you read” showing that it is important to read anything to improve your writing. The first edition of mslexia that I have got conducted a survey of which genres their readers read with the question:

“Is your reading prejudiced”

Apparently, mslexia readers are not and read pretty much anything and mainly want to have more time to read more of everything. That made me wonder how excluding my reading is: Well, I have always been reading poetry, fantasy, crime, sci-fi and literary fiction. To be honest I was looking down a lot on erotica and romance books but as in all genres you have some cheap stuff and some really well-written novels and these two are no exemption.

But besides any genres, I might have shunned ( I still hardly read any non-fiction) what about the main characters I read about? I have to admit I prefer to read about women. Not sure why. But the women I read about, how many are disabled, black, Asian and/or women with mental health issues?

I can count two Japanese women ( Mikage Sakurai in Banana Yoshimoto’s “Kitchen” and Tsukiko in Hiromi Karakami’s “Strange Weather in Tokyo), one lady in Mozambique but I think she was not native to the country (Julia in Chris Barnard’s “Bundu”) and that’s it.

There has been a girl being a drug addict in a famous 70’s book in Germany( We Children from Bahnhof Zoo). One black male doctor but it wasn’t clear to me for quite some time that he was supposed to be black, who had lots of psychological trouble (Alcott in Chris Reardon’s “Obstacles”), an ill Dutch lady (not named lady in Gebrand Bakker’s “The Detour/Ten White Geese”) and a mentally ill French lady (first person narrator in Veronique Olmi’s “Beside the Sea”).

Hmm, maybe not so bad after all but compared to the hundreds of books I have read throughout my life ( yes, there has also been Uncle Tom’s Hut and Huckleberry Finn ) not a lot.

Concerning authors, I have started to wonder who else is out there in Africa and Asia I have never heard of and whom I might miss. I enjoyed the Japanese, Iraqi & South African authors a lot that I have read. They certainly have pushed my imagination and have given me more motivation to try myself out more in my writing and maybe the same is just what you need for giving your writing a new kick.

Here are some examples if you want to join me in reading something different:

( some affiliate links with Wordery)

Kitchen ~ Banana Yoshimoto
Strange Weather in Tokyo ~ Hiromi Karakami
Bundu ~ Chris Barnard
The Detour ~ Gerbrand Bakker
Beside the sea ~ Veronique Olmi
The Elegance of the Hedgehog ~ Muriel Barbery
The Kite Runner ~ Khaled Hosseini
The Colonel ~ Mahmoud Dowlatabadi
My Father’s Wives ~ Jose Eduardo Agualusa
Belka, why don’t you bark? ~ Hideo Furukawa
I curse the River of time ~ Per Petterson
The Fat Years ~ Chan Koonchung
Trieste ~ Dasa Drndic

Enjoy and feel free to give me some recommendations for Asian or African authors. Thanks!

January 2018

Fellow bloggers wrote about “read something different”:

Kristilyn at Reading in Winter: Reading in Translation: My Translated Books TBR

Kate at Kate MacDonnald: The 2017 Vondel Prize

 “Let’s #amreading something different in 2018! “

Letter to Sophie (Traveller of the Century)/ Brief an Sophie (Traveller of the Century) ~ a #bilingual #blogpost

April 2019

Blimey, is it so long ago I wrote this one????

September 2016

This post appeared first on one of my Blogger blogs which are now integrated here at “Just Fooling Around With Bee or “The Bee Writes…”. It was a bilingual blog where I wrote an English blog post and then translated it into German. It was fun but also lots of work so I gave it up in the end. However, I might start doing some new ones later on in the year. For now, I share with you some ideas that reading “Traveller of the Century” by Andres Neuman inspired me to think.

You can find the German translation at the end of the post.

May 2013

Dear Sophie,

Saturday a week ago I have been invited to your Friday salon by a secret source but unfortunately, it will not be taking place any more. Wandernburg’s wind has told me a story of a strong-willed young woman following the example of her lover and actually being able to leave this place of magic and imprisonment. He also agreed to send you these words where ever you might be now.

I trust the wind you know. It was the north wind that whispered to Vianne in her chocolaterie about new adventures and he always guided her the right way. That is why I trust that my words will find you and you will find your life’s path.

It never seemed to me like you would have made a good wife to Rudi (such a terrible German name 😉 ). Not that I doubt your good intentions but well a woman must do what a woman must do no matter how much her family suffers sometimes. Otherwise, the dark one will come and take his toll. You, Sophie, are a wild creature and deep down in your heart and in your soul you still hear the wild woman murmur to you.

That is why I imagined a wolf beside you when you were holding your bonnet in place close to the river Nulte. Even though I figured it might rather have been Franz. Franz, you know, the dog which accompanied the organ grinder? I wanted to write “The organ grinders dog” but I suspect he is no one’s dog but his own. Though he is a good companion to those who follow their instincts and have learned some wisdom. I think the organ grinder liked you and as much as he wanted Hans to have the organ he would have liked you to be accompanied by Franz.

My instincts tell me that you will meet Hans again. I think he will stop in another time forsaken place where he will meet other stories and yes he will make love to another woman or two. I am sure you know that. But he will always compare them to you. He will feel your thighs and your hips and imagine your voice. There is nothing that can wipe out the memories of a woman who runs with the wolves in a man. Nothing!

But sometimes we have to go our own ways. The both of you are strong-willed and you have to do things that you can only achieve on your own. But when these are done and it is time to settle down, then the north wind will guide you back together. You will find a little place of your own and maybe, just maybe it will be in Wandernburg.

May your path be a blessed one and may the child you are bearing be as wild as you are.

Sincerely a Bee, who does translate one way or the other 😉

(This letter translates some of the ideas that reading “Traveller of the Century” has inspired in me)

Book Cover of “Traveller of the Century”


April 2019

Meine Guete, ist das wirklich so lange her?

September 2016

Ich habe diesen Beitrag zum ersten mal auf meinem alten Blogger Blog veroeffentlich, der jetzt hier auf “Just Fooling Around With Bee or “The Bee Writes…” integriert is. Es hatte Spass gemacht zweisprachige Posts zu schreiben aber auch viel Arbeit und so habe ich am Ende aufgegeben. Aber vielleicht werde ich solche posts gegen Ende des Jahres wieder aufnehmen. Bis dahin teile ich meine alten Beitraege mit Euch. Und heute sind das Gedanken, die das Buch “Traveller of the Century” von Andres Neuman in mir erweckt haben. Leider wurde das Buch immernoch nicht ins Deutsche uebersetzt.

Ihr koennt den englischen Teil am Beginn dieses Beitrages finden.

Mai 2013


Liebe Sophie,

Am Samstag vor einer Woche wurde ich zu Ihrem Freitags Salon von einer geheimen Quelle eingeladen aber leider findet dieser nicht mehr statt. Der Wandernburger Wind hat mir zugefluestert, dass eine eigenwillige junge Frau dem Beispiel ihres Liebhabers gefolgt ist und diesen Ort voller Magie ein Einsperrung verlassen hat. Er hat sich auch dazu bereit erklaert Ihnen diese Worte zukommen zu lassen, egal wo Sie sich gerade befinden.

Ich traue dem Wind, muessen Sie wissen. Es war der Nordwind, der Vianne in ihrer Chocolaterie von neuen Abenteuern gefluestert hat und er hat sie immer den richtigen Weg gefuehrt. Deshalb vertraue ich darauf, dass diese Worte Sie finden werden und dass Sie Ihren Lebenspfad finden werden.

Es kam mir niemals so vor, als ob Sie Rudi (so ein furchtbar deutscher Name) eine gute Ehefrau abgegeben haetten. Nicht, dass ich Ihre guten Vorsaetze bezweifle aber manchmal muss eine Frau einfach tun, was eine Frau tun muss, egal wieviel ihre Familie darunter leidet. Ansonsten wird der Schatten kommen und seinen Tribut fordern. Sie Sophie sind eine wilde Kreatur und tief in Ihrem Herzen und in Ihrer Seele hoeren sie noch immer die wilde Frau zu Ihnen wispern.

Deshalb habe ich mir auch einen Wolf an ihrer Seite vorgestellt, als ihre Haube in der Naehe der Nulte festgehalten haben. Obwohl mir dann klar wurde, dass das wohl eher Franz war. Franz, wissen sie, der Hund, der den Orgelspieler begleitet hat? Ich wollte eigentlich “der Hund des Orgelspielers” schreiben aber ich denke Franz gehoert niemandem nur sich selber. Obwohl er ein guter Begleiter ist fuer die, die noch ihren Instinkten folgen und ein bisschen Weisheit erworben haben. Ich denke, der Orgelspieler mochte Sie und genauso wie er wollte, dass Hans seine Orgel bekam, haette er gewollt, dass Franz sie begleitet.

Mein Bauchgefuehlt sagt mir, dass Sie Hans wieder treffen werden. Ich denke, er wird an einem anderen zeitvergessenen Ort auf andere Geschichten treffen und er wird auch eine oder zwei andere Frauen lieben. Ich bin mir sicher Sie wissen das. Aber er wird diese Frauen immer mit Ihnen vergleichen. Er wird Ihre Schenkel und ihre Hueften spueren und sich Ihre Stimme vorstellen. Es gibt nichts, das die Erinnerung an eine Frau, die mit den Woelfen gerannt ist, aus der Erinnerung eines Mannes vertreiben kann. Gar nichts!

Aber manchmal muss man seine eigenen Wege gehen. Sie beide sind eigenwillig und sie muessen Aufgaben erledigen, die sie nur alleine erfuellen koennen. Aber wenn diese erledigt sind und es an der Zeit ist, sich niederzulassen, dann wird der Nordwind, Sie wieder zusammenfuehren. Sie werden einen kleinen Platz ganz fuer Sie alleine finden und vielleicht, vielleicht koennte das in Wandernburg sein.

Moege Ihr Weg gesegnet sein und moege das Kind, das sie unter ihrem Herzen tragen, so wild wie Sie sein.

Mit hochachtungsvollen Gruessen
eine Biene, die auf die eine oder andere Art uebersetzt 😉

(Dieser Brief uebersetzt einige der Ideen, die das Lesen von “Traveller of the Century” in mir inspiriert haben)

Teaser Tuesday ~ Herman Hesse ~ Siddhartha

January 2019

Interesting to see what I have been reading throughout the years

March 2015

Since a few weeks, I come across a meme called “Teaser Tuesday”. I found it on different blogs and it’s teasing me to take part ;-). So today I will have a start and I will start a new book as well.

Oh, you don’t know what “Teaser Tuesday” is? Well, you give away two teaser sentences of the book you are reading. But for better understanding here the words of the inventor blog over at A Daily Rhythm:

“Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!”

I went to school in Germany and there I was introduced to Herman Hesse. In my teenage and early adulthood days, I read many of his books and one that influenced me the most is Siddhartha. Today I start to read one of the English translations and am looking forward to finding out if it feels any different than the original.

But here is my teaser:

“In the shade of the house, in the sunshine of the riverbank near the boats, in the shade of the Sal-wood forest, in the shade of the fig tree is where Siddhartha grew up, the handsome son of the Brahman, the young falcon, together with his friend Govinda, son of a Brahman. The sun tanned his light shoulders by the banks of the river when bathing, performing the sacred ablutions, the sacred offerings….”

Siddhartha” by Hermann Hesse, Kindle version, Start Publishing LLC ~ unfortunately, I could not find out who translated it.

Blast from the Past : Bee’s Teaser Tuesday ~ One Hundred Years of Solitude

January 2019

A great old post about one of my favourite book genres…

January 2017

I am a fan of magical realism ever since I discovered Isabel Allende and Gabriel Garcia Marquez about 20 years ago.

In autumn I was determined to do a Future Learn course about the latter however, it was too time intensive and I had to stop.

But the course made me read “One Hundred Years of Solitude” again and even though it needed me nearly half a year to finish it I enjoyed it again.

Magical Realism

Wikipedia describes Magical Realism like this:

Magical realism, magic realism, or marvelous realism is literature, painting, film, and theater that, while encompassing a range of subtly different concepts, share in common an acceptance of magic in the rational world. It is also sometimes called fabulism, in reference to the conventions of fables, myths, and allegory. Of the four terms, Magical realism is the most commonly used and refers to literature in particular[1]:1–5 that portrays magical or unreal elements as a natural part in an otherwise realistic or mundane environment.

The terms are broadly descriptive rather than critically rigorous. Matthew Strecher defines magic realism as “what happens when a highly detailed, realistic setting is invaded by something too strange to believe.”[2] Many writers are categorized as “magical realists,” which confuses the term and its wide definition.[3]Magical realism is often associated with Latin American literature, particularly authors including Gabriel García Márquez, Jorge Luis Borges, Miguel Angel Asturias, and Isabel Allende. In English literature, its chief exponents include Salman Rushdie and Alice Hoffman.

About Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Video Credit: Democracy Now via YouTube

My teaser:

“….when Aureliano Babilonia would finish deciphering the parchments, and that everything written on them was unrepeatable since time immemorial and forever more, because races condemned to one hundred years of solitude did not have a second opportunity on earth.”

My Goodreads review of “One Hundred Years of Solitude”

One Hundred Years of SolitudeOne Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Gabriel Garcia Marquez creates stories and characters full of life and fantasy. His novels challenge your reading experience as time has a different way of existing in his universe.

However, if you are open to lots of characters with the same name, with moving forwards and backwards and all around in time and finding realism tinged with fantasy then you are at the right place.

This novel is the story of the fictional town of Macondo from the beginning to the end. It is also the story of the rise and fall of a family from founding Macondo, to being involved in the wars and new developments of their time to the end.

I have enjoyed every minute of it even though I needed to be in the mood to read it. It certainly is worth a try.

View all my reviews

Bundu ~ Chris Barnard ~ About a book/Ueber ein Buch


December 2018

In 2013 I was still a member of a reading group which concentrated on translated fiction. (In Great Britain there is a prejudice, that translated fiction isn’t really like the original and that is why people do not read it so much. Unless it is a classic or a crime novel. Then it is not viewed as “translated”. They are crazy those Brits 😉 ). I had my old blog set so my book reviews on Goodreads were automatically posted to my old blog.

November 2013

Bundu by Chris Barnard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this book even though I did not really know in the beginning what to think about it. It’s not clear to me if that is because I did not know the author or anything about the country and culture it was written in. Probably. There were also quite a few expressions which I had to look up because I could not make any sense of them.

What kept me reading was the woman the main character fell in love with. I think it is mainly a love story even though it is described as a hunger disaster and how the characters deal with it in the blurb of the book. But for me, Julia, who tries desperately to save the starving people in her vicinity, was the driving character and the one who kept me reading.

I wanted to know more about her. I wanted to know if those two would come together and if there would be a happy end. In the course, I learned a lot about South-Africa, about life in Africa and how crazy life, in general, can be.

Oktober 2016

2013 war ich immer noch Mitglied einer Buchgruppe, die sich auf uebersetzte Literatur konzentrierte. (In Grossbritannien gibt es ein Vorurteil, dass uebersetzte Literatur nicht wirklich so ist wie das original und so wird sie nicht soviel gelesen. Es sei denn es handelt sich um einen Klassiker oder Krimis. Dann werden die Buecher nicht als “uebersetzt” angesehen. Die spinnen, die Briten 😉 ). Auf meinem alten Blog wurden meine Goodreads Besprechungen automatisch veroeffentlicht.

November 2013

Ich habe dieses Buch genossen, obwohl ich zu Beginn nicht richtig wusste, was ich davon halten sollte. Vielleicht kam das daher, dass ich den Autoren nicht kannte und auch nichts von dem Land und der Kultur ueber das es geschrieben wurde wusste. Vermutlich. Da gab es auch einige Ausdruecke, die ich nachschlagen musste, weil sie mir ueberhaupt nichts sagten.

Was mich am lesen gehalten hat, war die Frau, in die sich die Hauptperson verliebt hatte. Ich denke diese Geschichte ist in erster Linie eine Liebesgeschichte auch wenn sie oft als Hungerdesaster und wie die Charaktere damit umgehen, beschrieben wird. Aber Julia, die verzweifelt versucht, die verhungernden Menschen in ihrer Umgebung zu retten, war diejenige, die mich am Lesen hielt.

Ich wollte mehr ueber sie wissen. Ich wollte wissen, ob die zwei zusammenkommen und ob es ein Happy End geben wuerde. Dazwischen habe ich Neues ueber Suedafrika, ueber das Leben in Afrika und wie verrueckt das Leben general manchmal sein kann, gelernt.

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50 Poets and Writers You Should Read before You Are 50! (Final part V)

At last! We are there! The last 10 poets and writers you should read before you are 50. And without further ado here they are:

41. Stieg Larsson: His “Millenium Series” made the headlines after his death as his publisher gave David Lagercrantz the go ahead to finish the fourth book “That Which Does Not Kill”. It caused a controversy who has the right to the book or the series and I still have not read the fourth book. However, I do know the other three more known as “The Girl with The Dragon Tatoo series” and I just loved them. I just have a thing for kick-ass girls who do not give a damn about what people think. Wish I could be like that :-).

42. Friedrich Duerrenmatt: Now to two Swiss but German writing authors (if you do not know it: Switzerland has actually 4 official languages: German, Italian, French and Rhaetian) who have impressed me greatly in my youth. Friedrich Duerrenmatt is probably well known for his play “The Physicists” which asks the question how humankind is able to morally deal with scientific advancement. And this question is more pressing than ever. But he has also written some thought provoking novels like The Judge and his hangman and The Suspicion.

43. Max Frisch: Ah, so much to read so little time. If you are interested in Swiss authors but only have time for one author please choose Max Frisch. Especially his play “Andorra” which seems to be more important than ever as it deals with the use of stereotypes and how people choose to believe what they want as long as they find a scapegoat for their problems.

44. Christa Wolf: I suspect most of the younger generation are not aware that Germany for a very long time was like Korea parted in a communist part and a democratic part. Christa Wolf was one of the communist parts most famous writers who worked in her writings on topics like German fascism, feminism and humanism. If you are looking for an insight into Eastern Germany under STASI surveillance then choose her biography “What Remains” but if you are interested in new interpretations of old myths “Cassandra” and “Medeia” are just the right books for you.

45. Gabriele Wohmann: And if you want to know more about life in the western part of Germany at a similar time than that of Christ Wolf then try to find a translation of Gabriele Wohmann’s stories which are sad, touching and thought provoking at the same time.

46. Kurt Tucholski: You cannot understand Germany before and in WWII if you haven’t read any of Kurt Tucholski’s essays and/or novels. He was one of the most famous German Journalists in the Weimarer Republic and warned early about the anti-democratic tendencies of Social Nationalism. But my favourite of his is a love story: Castle Gripsholm.

47. Albert Camus: Lately I have often thought both about Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre and their idea of an absurd universe and how to exist in it. To me his “The Myth of Sisyphus” sums up life: it’s entirely absurd but you need to make the best of it. And even if you do not believe in that sort of life philosophy. It certainly grows your horizon if you engage with his writing.

48. Erich Maria Remarque: It’s 2017 and the WWI is a hundred years past but the war to end all wars wasn’t successful. We just have to look at the US and North Korea, Russia and the Ukraine and the skirmishes in Africa. If you are not sure if war is a good means to solve conflicts then please read “Nothing New at the Western Front”. It certainly opens your eyes.

49. Italo Calvino: I do love to read a strange novel and Italo Calvino’s “If on a Winter’s Night a Stranger” certainly falls into that category. Let’s get Wikipedia’s help: “The postmodernist narrative, in the form of a frame story, is about the reader trying to read a book called If on a winter’s night a traveller. Each chapter is divided into two sections. The first section of each chapter is in the second person, and describes the process the reader goes through to attempt to read the next chapter of the book he is reading. The second half is the first part of a new book that the reader (“you”) finds. The second half is always about something different from the previous ones and the ending is never explained. The book was published in an English translation by William Weaver in 1981.” Any questions? Do you want to challenge your reading habits? That book certainly helps you with it.

50. Erich Kaestner: I’ve started the list on Monday with children’s authors and I will end it with one whom you probably know as his “Lottie and Lisa” even if it is only the many film adaptions is world famous. I suspect any German child knows his mystery series “Emil and the Detectives” I, however, love his poems as well as the “grown-up” story “Three Men in the Snow” and his biography “When I was a little boy” which tells the story of his childhood in Dresden.

So, my dear readers. I let you go now on an adventure of reading and discovering authors from other languages and the great work that their translators do to bring their stories to you. Please do not worry that the stories and poems have lost their identity because translators are brilliant professionals who manage to catch every detail of meaning and words and you would miss out so much if you do not give these authors a try.

You can find the other parts here: Part I, Part II, Part III & Part IV


50 Poets and Writers you should read before you are 50! (Part IV)

So we are more than half way through The Bee’s list of 50 poets and writers to read before you are 50.

How do you like it so far? Do you know any of the author’s and poets? And could you give me some suggestions that I don’t know yet?

Here you can find Part I, Part II & Part III

Today we start with a German classic and end with a German classic:

31. Thomas Mann: Thomas Mann’s first novel “The Buddenbrooks” is probably one of the reasons I always wanted to write a novel. We had to read it in school and I was so fascinated by his description of the Hanseatic family’s fortunes and decline. His characters are so captivating that you feel you stand right beside them and experience the whole thing first hand. Of course, he has written much more and you could also go for his brother Heinrich or his children Erika, Klaus and Golo all of which are brilliant writers too.

32. Pasi Ilmari Jaaskelainen: He is one of my favourite discoveries in 2017. I chose his “The Rabbit Back Literature Society” purely because I liked the title but my goodness was I in for a reading ride. In Finland, he or s more known for his sci-fi/fantasy stories but his journey into mystery mixed with magical realism is certainly worth to stray from your usual reading ground.

33. Carlos Ruiz Zafon: Now we are off to Spain and Barcelona in particular. A hidden library full of secret books, a love story and a man who wants to destroy an author’s entire work? If that doesn’t make you curious what will :-)? That book made me want to visit the city and the walking tour descriptions at the end of the book just added to it. Zafon wrote this book as the first part of a trilogy, however, the other two books follow other storylines. There is much to discover with Mr Zafon.

34. Pablo Neruda: I have not read many of his poems but those I read made me long to go to South America. Not that I wanted to now. However, his poetic voice is passionate, critical and you should not miss it.

35. Jostein Gaarder: My favourite book by Jostein Gaarder is a controversial one. “Sophie’s World” is the story of Sophie who gets a home course in philosophy by the mysterious Alberto Knox. Many think this is a rather patronising book as it emphasises the importance of taking care of the natural world as well as keeping peace with diplomatic means. To me though it is a brilliant way to learn about the basic philosophical ideas which have an influence on today’s thinking. He wrote many other novels so you can surely find one that appeals.

36. Kahlil Gibran: The only book I know by Khalil Gibran is probably his most famous in English speaking countries: The Prophet which is a book full of poetically written essays on life, the universe and everything. In Arabic speaking countries and Lebanon where he comes from especially, he is known as a literary rebel who broke away from the classical way of writing. That alone makes him come on this list.

37. Goscinny: Anyone who is into comics and France will have stumbled over Goscinny’s Asterix and Obelix books. Now, you can discuss if a comic should come under a list of poets and writers but I believe if you haven’t had a look into Goscinny’s hilarious view on European countries and their idiosyncrasies you are missing one of the most important reading experiences possible: laughing out loud!

37. Andres Neumann: Andres Neumann was a discovery I made in 2013 when I read his “Traveller of the Century” for The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize Readers Day. A book like no other that tells the love story of two translators in a fictional German town and its secrets and mysteries. Neumann has written several books from poetry to short stories, however, not all have been translated. I loved his mysterious way of guiding you through the story as well as his quirky characters. Certainly a modern writer you don’t want to miss.

39. Susanna Tamaro: Susanna Tamaro’s “Follow your heart” will always be connected with my grandmother whom I miss terribly. She gave it to me when I was about to move out from home and is probably the reason why I opened up to my grandmother’s stories more. Tamaro’s style is heartwarming and has been translated into many languages. Don’t miss this great Italian author.

40. Rainer Maria Rilke: Now I suspect he was translated a little and many have heard of him as he is “…widely recognized as one of the most lyrically intense German-language poets!” as Wikipedia states. His poetry is intense at times, wonderfully descriptive and just makes me want to read more. And I think that is exactly what I am going to do now ;-).

to be continued…

And what are you up to now?