#6Degrees April 2021

Time for another random bookish chain, where we all start with the same book but end up on very different journeys, as hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. This month we start with the Booker Prize winning Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart, which I have considered reading but fear I might find too depressing. Books about bad parenting get me all flustered.

I mean, the book Back to Delphi by Ioanna Karystiani (transl. Konstantine Matsoukas) was disquieting enough, and the mother in that is not necessarily a bad one, just a tad self-absorbed and trying to hide her suffering from her son… which of course gets misinterpreted. The two of them end up incapable of communicating with each other – and the son goes on to become a rapist and a murderer. He is granted a brief furlough from prison and she takes him to Delphi in an attempt to reconnect with him, and to try and find out where she went wrong.

The next book in the chain is another Ioana, a Romanian one this time: Ioana Parvulescu’s Life Begins on Friday, a time-travelling mystery and love letter to the city of Bucharest, winner of the European Union Prize for Literature in 2013. It has been translated into English by Alastair Ian Blyth for Istros Books, and deserves to be better known.

I used to be more of a fan of time-travelling novels in my youth, not so much now. The last memorable one I read was Lauren Beukes’ The Shining Girls, about a time-travelling serial killer. It is not an easy book to describe, perfectly bonkers, but as always with Lauren Beukes, utterly compelling.

However, I preferred another of her novels, Moxyland, set in an alternative future Cape Town, where people are increasingly controlled by their mobile phones and apps, leading to a sort of corporate apartheid dictatorship.

I haven’t yet read Yoko Ogawa’s The Memory Police (transl. Stephen Snyder) but it seems to have a similar premise, except here the authoritarian regime seems bent on destroying people’s memories. This was written more than twenty years ago. Perhaps if it had been written more recently the internet and mobile phones might have played a bigger part, as they do in Moxyland.

Of course, the concept of erasing memories or of accepting only one official version of history is something that all dictatorships have in common, and one of the best examples of this is the description of the ‘retouched’ photograph, a frequent occurence in an attempt to get rid of someone who became politically undesirable, in The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera.

Scotland, Greece, Romania, Chicago, South Africa, Japan and Czechoslovakia – a well-travelled series of links this month. Where will your spontaneous bookishness take you?

16 thoughts on “#6Degrees April 2021”

  1. I really like your choices, Marina Sofia. You’ve woven in speculative fiction brilliantly, and from several different places, too. That’s crossing the barriers of both time and geography, and that’s not easy to do!

  2. As ever with you, a most interesting and unusual chain. And I haven’t yet commented on your other recent posts which I’ve enjoyed and found thought-provoking. I will! Happy Easter too.

  3. A brilliant and erudite chain as always, bravo! Like Susan, the thought of time-travelling serial killers does not bear thinking about, although it sounds like an intriguing read. I’m half-way through the Memory Police at the moment and it feels so current/near-future. So I am amazed to learn that it was written so long ago. But of course, now that you mention it, this book written today would be totally different, I’m sure. And your link from this to the Kundera is brilliant. I’ll definitely be giving that a look too.

    1. I used to love Kundera in my youth (more for the politics than for the sex), much less so now. That book, however, is one of my favourites by him.

  4. Well, after working with a program in Romania for 18 years and visiting there several times, I think I’d like to read that Life Begins on Friday. Thanks.

      1. That would be fun, but there’s no way I could get a print copy in time to read along with you, and my kindle reading list is SO full right now. I’m just putting this on my wish list and hope to get it soon.

  5. I think, it might be worth giving The Memory Police a try. It’s such a different kind of read, highly disconcerting with lots of food for thought on the importance of our memories. It’s been a while since I read it, but I still think about it from time to time.

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