New Year, Final Book Haul

Since I’ll be practically selling my kidneys (and almost certainly my parents’ old age security) in order to buy out the ex’s share of the house, I have to be very, very careful with money for the foreseeable future. So no more book buying for me this year – and this time I mean it!

However, before this frugality kicked in, I had a final splurge of French and Swiss books which I might struggle to find back in the UK, plus some that had been preordered in November or so, but got delayed in the Christmas frenzy post.

The French contingent

I finally bought myself a copy of Montaigne – not one translated into contemporary French but a ‘rejuvenated and refreshed’ edition, based on the 1595 version. I bought an abridged version of The Three Musketeers, in the hope that my younger son would fall for its charm. I got two Goncourt winners (smaller Goncourt prizes – for debut and the one given by high school students, which is often far better than the main one) and wanted to get the 2018 Goncourt winner that Emma rated so highly Les Enfants aupres eux – but they’d sold out and were waiting for the poche edition to appear some time in 2020. Last, but not least, I couldn’t resist this fictionalised biography of Tsvetaeva at a second-hand bookshop. The bookseller said I was the first person there who seemed to have heard of Marina Tsvetaeva, so we had a good long chat about her, how she is my favourite poet, but my Russian friend prefers Akhmatova.

The Swiss contingent

My good friend Michelle Bailat-Jones, whose translation of Ramuz so impressed me, was delighted to take me to a bookshop in Lausanne and recommend some more Ramuz and other Swiss writers. I ended up with Fear in the Mountains and with this trilogy by Agota Kristof, a Hungarian writer who taught herself to write in French. This trilogy has inspired other writers, a film (The Notebook) and even a video game, believe it or not!

Books arriving while I was away

Sadly, Michelle’s second novel Unfurled, which I’d wanted her to sign for me, arrived long after I’d left for Geneva. I had also ordered an Olga Tokarczuk which Tony Malone reminded me had been translated into English: Primeval and Other Times. I’ve been collecting quite a few books about the difficulties of writing and the importance of perseverance lately – Dani Shapiro’s one comes highly recommended. Last but not least, following the death of Alasdair Gray, whom I’ve never read, I wanted to sample some of his writing,but was not sure I could commit to a full novel, so chose these stories instead.

Japanese Literature Challenge

Finally, I have selected a few contenders for the January in Japan challenge. Heaven’s Wind is a dual language anthology of 5 women writers (each represented by one short story, all translated by Angus Turvill) and makes me feel like I almost remember enough Japanese to read it in the original. The translation notes at the back, though, make it clear just how little I am able to grasp the nuances nowadays. Another shortish story about insomnia by Yoshida Kyoko, Spring Sleepers, in that rather lovely publishing initiative by the Keshiki UEA Publishing Project. Then I have Ugetsu Monogatari (Tales of Moonlight and Rain), one of the most beautiful collection of supernatural stories in Japanese literature dating from the 18th century, which has inspired many, many later books and films. A classic of Japanese crime fiction and the author with the highest profile currently in Japanese literature consumed in the West make up the rest of my small selection. Now all I have to do is keep up with the reviewing!

Like a painting, Mont Blanc from the train window.

The holidays were nice, and reminded me once more just how much I miss that particular part of the world. They had the potential to be truly spectacular holidays, but alas, not quite! Sadly, you cannot escape all your problems or the nuisance people in your life, even at times of peace and joy to all humankind, even at a distance of a thousand miles. Stroppy teenagers changing their minds about things at the last minute and bringing plague-like flu symptoms with them meant that there was far less writing, skiing, fondue and chocolate eating, wine drinking, snowshoeing, meeting of friends than I’d planned. I am nevertheless incredibly grateful to my friend Jenny for allowing us to use her flat and partake in her impeccable literary tastes.

14 thoughts on “New Year, Final Book Haul”

  1. When I read your posts, I can’t imagine for one moment why I think the members of my household buy too many books. Bravo! Here in Geneva I miss the specialist bookshops that have closed where I used to buy in English: The English bookshop itself, of course, but also a couple of nice charity bookshops that are gone to make way for more ubiquitous cafes (what else?). On a regular basis, that leaves me with the Plain Palais market and the open air book market on Confederation. Despite that we buy a lot of books here.

    1. Not sure if I should be aiding and abetting you, but you may want to check out the English language bookshop in Lausanne Books Books Books. Matthew Wake, the owner, is both a writer and a great reader and he can order in any books for you. It’s also become a bit of a literary hub for readings, writing groups to meet and so on. You probably do know about the twice-yearly English language book sale at the Library in English in Geneva. Next confirmed date is 24-26 April.

      1. Yes, we go to that sale and also church sales are often good on books. I wonder if it’s lucky that we won’t be in town for the next one. Almost never go to Lausanne, but it sounds like you’ve given us a reason!

  2. Libraries are great! Guilt-free book hauls – and if you don’t get on with a book you don’t have to read it. Though not so good for foreign language books. But if you are interested in classics like Montaigne, you can often get free versions on the Kindle. And then there are second-hand bookshops to browse…we have a book swap box at work, which works well, too.

  3. You did get some excellent books, Marina Sofia. I’m glad you did that for yourself, given that this is going to be a year of austerity. It’s good to have those small luxuries when one has to watch every penny. I’m sorry your visit wasn’t all it might have been, but I’m glad you got the chance to go. And I hope you’ll savour those books.

  4. So sorry to hear about the enforced austerity, MS. Why do these things always happen to the good people?

    As someone else has pointed out, libraries are good things. And there’s always Project Gutenberg for the classics (and not just in English).

  5. Shame about the flu germs, but hopefully the books will compensate a little… I recently read some Gray short stories too, and I thought they were marvellous, so I’ll look forward to hearing what you think of these! 😀

  6. I’m really sorry for the flu attack, I hope you feel better now.
    Great book Haul and I’ll be with you about reading from the TBR.
    There are always libraries. With all the French settled in London, there must be one that has a decent collection of books in French.

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