114 days or 17 weeks until the 29th of March, which is my self-imposed deadline for the #EU27Project. Yes, by then I want to have read at least one book from each of the EU member countries with the exception of the one flouncing off. I started this project quite a while ago, even before Britain triggered Article 50 in 2017. And, just like Britain, I was not quite prepared and spent a lot of time faffing about and procrastinating. Or doing the same thing over and over, like reading books from France and Germany.
So let’s do some arithmetic, shall we? I still have 15 countries to go through, for which I’ve read absolutely nothing. In the case of some countries (Cyprus and Luxembourg), I am struggling to find anything in translation. And I am likely to want to ‘redo’ some of the countries, for which I didn’t find quite the most satisfactory books (Romania, Greece or Italy, for example). That means at least one book a week from this category. Eminently doable, until you factor in all the review copies and other things that crop up. However, this will be my top priority over the next few months – my way of saying goodbye (sniff!) to the rest of Europe.
Here are some books that I have already sourced and will be ready to start shortly:
Bulgaria: Georgi Tenev – Party Headquarters (transl. Angela Rodel)
Hungary: Miklos Banffy – well, I need to finish that trilogy, don’t I? (Especially in the centenary year of the end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire)
Slovenia: Goran Vojnovic – Yugoslavia, My Fatherland, transl. Noah Charney – struggled to find something from this country, but this seems to fit the bill: the author, like the protagonist is Serbian/Slovenian and this novel about discovering your father is a war criminal will fit in nicely with my Croatian read.
Croatia: Ivana Bodrozic – The Hotel Tito, transl. Ellen Elias-Bursac – another author and protagonist who experienced the war as a child, considered one of the finest works of fiction about the Yugoslav war.
Estonia: Rein Raud – The Death of the Perfect Sentence, transl. Matthew Hyde, described as a spy and love story set in the dying days of the Soviet Empire
Latvia: Inga Abele – High Tide, transl. Kaija Straumanis – experimental and anti-chronological story of a woman’s life
Lithuania: Ruta Sepetys: Between Shades of Gray – this is not a book in translation, as Ruta grew up in Michigan as the daughter of a Lithuanian refugee, but the book is very much based on her family’s tory at a crucial and tragic time in Lithuanian history
Slovakia: Jana Benova – Seeing People Off, transl. Janet Livingstone – winner of the European Union Prize for Literature
But then I met Julia Sherwood at the Asymptote Book Club meeting, and she has translated Pavel Vilikovsky’s Fleeting Snow from the Slovakian, so I had to get that one as well. So two for Slovakia.
Malta: Very difficult to find anything, so I’ll have to rely on Tangerine Sky, an anthology of poems from Malta, edited by Terence Portelli.
Belgium: Patrick Delperdange: Si tous les dieux nous abandonnent – bought a few years back at Quais du Polar in Lyon, highly recommended by French readers
Denmark: Peter Høeg: The Elephant Keepers’ Children, transl. Martin Aitken – one of the most experimental and strange modern writers – I can see some resemblances to Heather O’Neill, whom I also really like, but they are not everyone’s cup of tea – this one I found at the local library, so yay, finally saving some money! But it is quite a chunkster, so… it might be impractical.
Greece: Ersi Sotiropoulos: What’s Left of the Night, transl. Karen Emmerich – because Cavafy is one of my favourite poets
So, have you read any of the above? Or can you recommend something else that won’t break the bank? (I’m going to try not to buy any more books in 2019, which may be an obstacle to reading my way through the remaining countries, as libraries do not stock them readily).
Final point: I do not intend to stop reading books in translation from all of these countries after the UK leaves the EU, by any means. In fact, I’m thinking of doing the EUVelo 6 cycle route from Nantes on the Atlantic to the Danube Delta across all of Europe and reading my way through each of the countries en route (10 of them). Maybe when the boys leave home, if my joints will still allow me to…
15 thoughts on “Reviving the #EU27Project”
Good luck! I’m sure you can do it. I’ll definitely be stealing some of these for my Around the World in 80 Books challenge (which has also floundered somewhat…)
What a great idea, although Britain is not saying goodbye to Europe, but to the EU. It is interesting looking at the Scandi countries and their literature compared to the Med.
Thank you! And yep, it’s EU not Europe, that’s why I’m not adding Norwegian or Swiss or other non-EU writers there, although I’ve read quite a few of those in the last couple of years.
Ah, your list is so ambitious! But I am sure you can do it! You are certainly the most read person on or off the Internet that I have ever encountered.
I adore that picture of the Montbeliard cows. Sweet as a Dutch landscape. I’ll bet they produce incredible butter.
They also produce my favourite cheese, Comte! And thanks for your kind words. I’ve also had great inspiration from all the other people who linked up with their own reads.
Good luck, Marina. Perhaps you won’t need to meet that deadline. The fat lady hasn’t sung yet! Ever the optimist…
Yes, we live in hope…
What an interesting project. I read very little in translation, so really I can’t help with your search for books. The only one I can think of is Burying the Typewriter: Childhood Under the Eye of the Secret Police by Carmen Bugan – nonfiction, a childhood memoir of political oppression and persecution during Romania’s Ceausescu years, but I think she wrote it in English and you probably know about it anyway. It’s a remarkable book.
I don’t think I’ve seen the UK’s attempt to leave the EU as ‘flouncing off’ before 🙂 Judging from what’s happening now I can’t see we’ll ever leave anyway.
I can sympathise, my own “world literature” project has stalled because its so difficult to get books from some of the countries on my list. Have you tried asking via Twitter? I know that’s how Sophie Baggott gets some of her ideas – she is @sophieb30
Bon chance! It’s such a great project, and we should be reading masses in translation I think (but then I’m very biased….)
I give you a lot of credit for doing this, Marina Sofia. You’ve got some very interesting book choices, even though it’s not easy to find books from some of the places on your list.
I’m reading High Tide at the moment. It was a bit difficult to get into at first, but now I’m really liking it!
For Luxembourg, I recently bought a poetry collection by Anise Koltz. I think it’s called At the Edge of Night.
What a fantastic reading project Marina. I’ve been trying to read more work in translation this year so will follow along with interest.
What a great list. Different writers get translated into English compared to French so it was nice to see the books you suggest for central/Eastern Europe. I’ll have to look them up.
I heard a Maltese writer, Clare Azzopardi, explain how she takes part in efforts to keep Maltese going as a literary language, at the Budapest book festival in spring. She has short stories translated into English: https://www.midseabooks.com/publications_detail.aspx?pid=11747. Might be helpful (though not from the book-buying-ban point of view, sorry).