Getting what you want is so much more important than the surprise element, isn’t it? So I’ve just finished buying my Christmas presents. All books, of course, I completely agree with the Icelandic tradition. Here they are:
From Rousseau to the Romantics, Conan Doyle, Patricia Highsmith, John le Carré and even Fleming’s Bond – all sorts of writers have found themselves attracted to the humble or luxurious or well-hidden Swiss chalet, the spas, the sanatoriums, the money-laundering, the tax-haven… From the blurb: ‘Part detective work, part treasure chest, full of history and scandal, The Gilded Chalet takes you on a grand tour of two centuries of great writing by both Swiss and foreign authors and shows how Switzerland has always been at the centre of literary Europe.’
Here’s what Tony Malone says about this compassionate and very topical novel about a German academic and his gradual understanding of asylum-seekers and refugees in Berlin.
‘It’s this idea of individuals which the novel eventually focuses on, showing the importance of looking beyond the surface and seeing the people behind the story. In fact, the importance of individuals actually refers just as much to those watching the refugees stream across the borders. Yes, it’s easy to believe that it’s all too hard and that individuals will never be able to do anything to help out. However, Erpenbeck and Richard show that this is far from the truth – even the largest of endeavours has to start somewhere…’
- Alina Bronsky: Scherbenpark
Also the story of immigration: a young Russian girl, living with her family in a council estate ghetto in a German city. I’ve heard this is much better written than Tigermilk, so I’m hopeful.
But it’s not just for myself. I’ve also bought books for my boys:
- David Walliams: Grandpa’s Great Escape
- Matt Haig: A Boy Called Christmas
- The Guiness Book of World Records
Will the children be pleased? Well, they are still negotiating for a much more prized Wii U. Sadly.
And finally, I did also receive a book in the post from my own father: his memoirs about his career at the United Nations and working as a diplomat. While it’s not quite the ‘warts and all’ gossipy type of political memoir which would have become a bestseller, it is a lovely way to archive some of his pictures, achievements and documents for future generations.