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…