May books 2023

Reading has always been my solace in hard times. One of my cats is terminally ill, which came as a horrible shock to all of us. While grieving the inevitable, I was glad I could seek refuge in books. Living the life of people real or imaginary through words on a page makes me feel less alone with my feelings.

If you want to check out my reviews of the books I’ve read so far this year, click through this post carousel.

16. Angabe der Person – Elfriede Jelinek

This is more a stream-of-consciousness and a rant than a book. That made it a bit difficult to read at first, but once I got in the flow of the language I very much enjoyed it. I do love an angry woman. In fact, it’s primarily a play, and I can imagine it being SO GOOD on stage with an actress who exudes the necessary zeal and anger. Jelinek’s starting point is a preliminary investigation for tax evasion against her, which inspires her to muse about the question of who gets rich and who gets fined in our society, the death of her family in the Shoah, and the continued thriving of families with a Nazi past in Austria and Germany.

17. Antéchrista – Amélie Nothomb

I normally don’t read much YA, but someone recommended the author to me for her clear and simple French. Despite … um, three years of classes in school, and about two years at uni, my French is very basic. At the most I can form simple sentences, but my listening comprehension is horrible. I’m fairly okay at reading French, though. This is why I occasionally read books in French to at least keep up with that. “Antéchrista” revolves around a shy, introverted girl who lets her beautiful, charismatic classmate into her life. She comes to regret that, as she discovers that behind the shiny facade lurks a manipulative, chronic liar. The books is written in a dry, sarcastic voice, which makes it amusing to read.

18. Der Reisende (The Passenger) – Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz

Otto Silbermann is a Jewish business man and a WWI veteran in 1930s Berlin. When the Nazis knock on his door, he has to flee and loses everything – his family, his business, his image as a member of society, his sanity, and in the end probably his life. On his quest to get out of the country, he takes the train across Germany again and again, and discovers that the country he considered his home has become a prison.

The novel conveys the feeling of hopelessness and dread those persecuted by the Nazis must have felt. It was first published in German only in 2018, even though it was written by Boschwitz in 1939! The author, who had to flee Germany in 1935, channeled his own experiences and anguish into his writings. Sadly, he died at only 27 years old during his return trip to England, when a German submarine torpedoed the ship he was on.

19. Bob, der Streuner (A Street Cat Named Bob) – James Bowen

Cute book. Bowen, a street musician and addict, discovers a cat hiding in his apartment building. This cat, as cats do, decides to move in with him. Bowen names him Bob and nurses his wounds. Bob starts following him everywhere, and his presence earns Bowen surprising fame in the streets of London, which in turn inspires him to get his act together.

20. Geschichte Jugoslawiens – Marie-Janine Calic

If you speak German (there is no English translation, sadly), and are interested in the history of Eastern Europe (which, as recent events have shown, it’s rather helpful to be), this book is a must read. Calic, professor for Eastern European history at Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, traces the history of Yugoslavia beginning with the conflict and wars at the turn of the century that would lead to WWI, then to the formation of the first Yugoslavia. It existed from 1918 to 1941 and was built from territories of the former Habsburg monarchy and the Kingdom of Serbia. The destruction of WWII lead to the strengthening of the communists under their leader Tito. He remained the central figure of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and his attempt to remain independent between the two blocs of the Cold War makes for a fascinating read.

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