Looking Back and Ahead: 2018 Highlights!

So, 2018 has ended with the last book of the year, The Maharaja’s Household by Binodini! (The review coming up tomorrow!)

2018 has been great for the blog since I finally decided to restart it after about 3 years of being missing in action and it has been such fun to write reviews and come up with interesting series that hopefully grow in 2019!

(Side Note: Shameless promotion: Check out all of The Book Cafe’s new series: Travelling Diaries, Blurb Appreciation Reviews, Pardesi and Musically Yours)

In terms of reading, I think it was remarkable since I managed to read about 41 books. I do not know the exact number since I had, like my blog, also neglected Goodreads for quite a while and hence could not keep track of books I read!

But in 2019 I hope to read about 50 books!

The highlight in terms of reading has been reading more books that are translated. Plus, I found out about the idea of Women in Translation month as well and hope to celebrate it next year too!

Off late, I have been very conscious of reading books that are unusual, different and not canonical and that means it opens up infinite avenues of reading books with different styles, from different languages and of different countries as well.

Thus, I took baby steps in reading books from Japan, China and South Korea and I hope that this continues in the next year as well.

I tried to challenge the grand narrative in India too by looking at how many books I have read from different states in India and realised that I have still a few more states to cover.

And the most important of all is the discovery of the amazing number of books that female writers have written but whose works are regularly ignored for several reasons. I am glad I was able to read and find out more about female writers be it Indian, translated or from other different countries as well. I ended the year by reading an unusually styled memoir written by Manipur’s well known writer, Binodini. I hope to start the new year on such a diverse note as well.

So what bookish expectations do I carry as I go into 2019?

  • Firstly, to read more diverse books – be it from different states, from different nationalities, genders, about different not that well known issues etc.
  • To read more and buy less (Let me see how this works out!) 😛
  • Read more books by women writers.
  • Read more books in translation.
  • Read books in different mediums such as graphic novels and manga.
  • More stories on cats!
  • To read more books in Hindi. (This has been quite a challenge as it requires quite a lot of patience!)
  • And of course to continue writing more book reviews on The Book Cafe.

So books I would love to read and explore are:

  • K.R. Meera novels.
  • Apple and Knife by Intan Paramaditha.
  • The Marioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki.
  • Touching Earth by Rani Manicka.
  • The Impossible Fairy Tale by Han Yujoo.
  • The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter.
  • The Colour of Earth by Kim Dong Hwa.
  • My Brother’s Husband by Gengoroh Tagame
  • The Emperor and I by Mato.
  • A Strangeness in my Mind by Orhan Pamuk.
  • Pachinko by Min Jin Lee.
  • And many others that might discover in the library and in my to read bookshelf!

Here is wishing everyone a Happy New Year and looking forward to another wonderful year of reading!!!!

 

The Devil and Satire

What happens when the devil and his henchmen including a pet demon cat walk into a bar?

A. Utter Chaos.
B. Nobody believes this can happen.

Both happens in the utterly eccentric masterpiece by Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita. Except that it takes place in Moscow’s streets and theatre and not in any bar!

The novel begins with two characters, Berlioz and Bezdomny, who talk about the latter’s poems when they run into “an eccentric foreigner” who joins in the conversation and rants on while also claiming to have met the likes of Kant and even Pontius Pilate!

wp-1546181567999.jpg

He even predicted how Berlioz would die!
And what do you know! That is exactly what occurs.

So who is this mysterious person?

Bezdomny goes berserk after the stranger’s prophecy comes true and  now wants to find where he is but alas no one believes his story at all!

Would you?

Continue reading

To Live

When the protagonist, Fugui, loses all his money and property because of his addictive gambling right at the beginning of the novel, To Live by Yu Hua (translated by Michael Berry) , we know that it will not be a typical hero who succeeds in all his endeavors.

IMG_20181209_121118528.jpg

What is the book about? 

After squandering all his family’s wealth that was accumulated over a long period of time, Fugui is consigned to a small piece of land on the outskirts of his village. Not able to take the shock of Fugui’s mistake, his father soon dies while he is left to take care of his wife, mother and daughter, Fengxia.

Thus, from being a landowner’s whoring and gambling son, he becomes a mere peasant. The whole family now struggles to survive.

Continue reading

Born in Jangbi

Not many know about the tiny Himalayan country, Bhutan. They may know about its two neighbouring giants, India and China but not so much of the country sandwiched in between.

Even fewer would know about the ethnic diversity of Bhutan.

Born in Jangbi by Damber S. Mongar is a fictional account of one Monpa, Sangayla’s struggle to achieve something in his life and bring about the development of his fellow people as well rather than continuing to languish in poverty.

The author informs us that the Monpas are a community living in three villages of Jangbi, Wangling and Phumzur villages of Trongsa Ddzongkag.

True to its title, Born in Jangbi is set in the village Jangbi and begins with a birth. A very painful birth. One that ends in death of both the mother and the child. Birth and death commingled at the very beginning.

Instantly, we see through that pain the isolation of the village and the lack of amenities.

Continue reading

In the Time of the Butterflies

Based on a true story of the Mirabal sisters and their bravery, In the Time of the Butterflies, is a luminous and an imaginative story of the lives of the four sisters and how it was intertwined with the brutal regime of the Dominican dictator, Trujillo at that time.

Julia Alvarez has infused the truth with her own creativity and has skilfully sketched out each sister’s lives and thoughts.

In the Time of the Butterflies has been told from the point of views of the four Mirabal sisters: Patria, Dede, Minerva, and Maria Teresa. Each sister has her own unique personality and way of thinking which shines through when the story moves through their different point of views.

Continue reading

Quick Reviews: Lomba

Lomba is a novel by one of Bhutan’s youngest authors, Pema Euden. Lomba is a young adult novel about discovering true friendships and an appreciation of your own culture and society through a wild ride into the spirit world.

IMG_20181205_215658269.jpg

What is the book about? 

The novel, Lomba revolves around Seday, a school going girl, who has to move from Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital city to Haa Dzongkhag in the Western part of Bhutan. Like any other school going person, she dreads the thought of leaving behind her friends and going to a remote part and starting in a new school as a complete stranger. Atrocious, wouldn’t you think so? And that is how the novel, Lomba begins:

“Atrocious. That was exactly how the past week had been.”

Now how would she get out of this dilemma?

Despite Seday’s misgivings and drama, as she starts her new school, she does meet terrific and friendly people who are do not simply exist to make her life hell!

Around the time that she had to shift to Haa, the place was abuzz with festivities because Lomba festival was just around the corner!

Lomba is a new year festival celebrated in Haa Dzongkang.

Her family was excited to be part of the festivities and they did all that was required to do as part of the festival; and that included making delicious hoenteys and making Lus which are as the author describes, “like gingerbread men, which can be made out of any kind of flour, really….These lus are said to have the ability yo take away our sorrows and misfortune.”

There is also a belief that if one does not eat dinner on the night of Lomba, one gets kidnapped by the lus.

Seday was skeptical about such traditions and superstitions. She did not believe any of the ideas behind lus kidnapping people that her friends filled her in with about this new festival that she had not celebrated.

To test the tradition, she decided to not eat dinner and prove them wrong about whether lus kidnapped or not!

So what happened next?

Read on….

Continue reading