Sunday Salon: Replenishing the book stock

PurchasesWhen you have some time to spare and it’s a cold, dark November afternoon, then the warm interior of a really good book shop is the ideal place for any avid reader. Which was my excuse for popping into Blackwell’s in Oxford while on a visit to the city this week.

I have no excuse for the fact I emerged with three new books to add to the two I’d already picked up in the Oxfam shop (thanks to Ali and Liz for directing me there). It wasn’t as if I was running short of books to read. But it is hard to resist when you’re in the flagship store of a book seller in the heart of academia and faced with an extensive array  of authors and titles.  So of course I succumbed. But I did something I have not done for a very long time – I didn’t take out my wish list and head straight for those authors. I just browsed. My only ‘rule’ was to find authors I had never read before and, ideally, from countries whose literature I know little about.

I could have come away with a suitcase full but since I didn’t happen to have one with me at the time I had to curtail my enthusiasm.

Four of the new acquisitions will go a long way to helping me venture into more world literature but the fifth is very firmly rooted in England.

Diego Marani: New Finnish Grammar

The title was what caught my eye initially but the synopsis also appealed.

“A wounded sailor is found on a Triest quay. Amesiac, unable to speak and with nothing to identify him except a name tag pointing to Finnish origins. A passing doctor resolves to teach him Finnish to restore his memory.” Apparently this was shortlisted for the 2012 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize.

Yukio Mishima: After the Banquet

I don’t think I’ve ever read anything by an author from Japan. I picked this one up without knowing that Mishima is considered one of the most important Japanese authors of the 20th century and was nominated three times for the Nobel Prize in Literature. After the Banquet is about  a middle-age proprietress of a fashionable restaurant that caters to politicians. She falls in love with one of her clients – a retired ambassador – but conflicts arise between them and she is forced to choose between marriage and her independence. The New Yorker called it “the biggest and most profound thing Mishima has done so far.” 

Nadeem Aslam: Maps for Lost Lovers 

This is set in an unnamed town in England where a close-knit Pakistani community is disturbed by the murder of two lovers and then the arrest of a brother of one of the victims. It’s a portrait of an immigrant family over the course of 12 months during which their culture, nationality and religious beliefs are tested.

And from the Oxfam shop I picked up the first of Angela Thirkell’s novels High Rising. I’ve never read any of her work but there seems to be such a buzz about her on various blog sites that I  thought I’d give her a go. I also found The Hour of the Star, a novella by Clarice Lispector, a Brazilian author whose name I came across while researching authors for my Reading the Equator challenge.

About BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

Posted on November 24, 2013, in Sunday Salon, world literature and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 19 Comments.

  1. Oh, New Finnish Grammar has been on my TBR list for awhile. One day. I’ve read a short story collection of Mishima a number of years ago and loved it. And Hour of the Star, oh it’s a beautiful, sad, brilliant book and made Lispector into one of my favorite authors.

    • Yikes you have just made a difficult decision even more difficult Stefanie. I learned last night I will be making a trip to Japan in a week so of course I spent all night worrying about what books I can take to keep me occupied on a long flight. I thought I’d resolved it and now you go and make me think I have made the wrong choice… oh heck

  2. What a wonderful selection of books. Maps for Lost Lovers is a book I’ve been meaning to read for ages, I remember reading praise for New Finnish Grammar, and I’ve read the early chapters of High Rising and suspect I will be adding my voice to the chorus of praise very soon. I do miss Blackwells since I came back to Cornwall …

    • Fleur, my only consolation in not having easy access to such delightful emporia as Blackwells, is that it saves me money. I am sure if I worked in a city, I would not be able to resist visiting every few days

  3. Nice haul. Sometimes quality is much better than quantity, isn’t it?

    I’ve heard great thing about Aslam and Mishima, looking forward to your thoughts on those

  4. So I’ve just added After the Banquet and New Finnish Grammar to my wish list. They both sound wonderful. And I would like to recommend Haruki Murakami to you (Kafka on the Shore for magical realism and Norwegian Wood for non-magical realism – I love them both).

    • I’ve skirted clear of Murakami until now, not being sure I wd enjoy his style but so many people recommend him that I think I should at least give him a go. Thanks for the nudge Christina.

  5. Many years ago I took a summer program (all Americans) at Trinity College at Oxford. Your post wings me back to that time. Oh how I loved Blackwell’s. I wish I were there now too.

  6. I can never walk out of Blackwell’s without at least half a dozen books in my arms. (I do normally pay for them; they tend to get shirty if you don’t.) And, I always console myself that I was once there with my College Principle on the day when she paid over £450 for just two volumes. I’ve never quite managed to equal that !

    • And unless I should win the lottery – which is unlikely since I don’t participate – I am unlikely to ever be in a position of spending that kind of money on a new book. Did she pay for them I wonder or did they come from faculty funds?

      • To be fair to her, I’m sure she did pay herself. Having said that, while I don’t know what she was paid I do know what her successor got because I was on the committee that appointed him and she could definitely afford it.

  7. Fab finds 🙂 I adore Maps for Lost Lovers and have read it twice, I think it’s a wonderful novel. I loved High Rising to when I read it,I have two more Thirkell’s waiting TBR I can’t wait to get to. Glad you found the bookshops.

    • All I need now is about a few months off work so I can actually read all these wonderful purchases Ali. Sadly I can’t even get a few days off to do Xmas shopping it seems

  8. What a great foray into a bookstore! I love hearing about your picks and why you picked them.

  9. You’ve made me nostalgic for the days when I use to browse the bookshop and pick up whatever caught my fancy! All those books sound amazing too – and of course – it’s my favorite thing to read books by international authors! I’ve been particularly drawn to mysteries by said authors, lately.

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