“Every Man Dies Alone” Hans Fallada
An old German husband and wife, their son killed, resist Nazism.
Great but bleak. It could not be true without being so bleak.
I could not bear such a lonely, futile truth, and did not finish it.
” we all acted alone, we were caught alone,
and every one of us will have to die alone”
(ln Order of Greatness)
“Gulag” Anne Applebaum
Scholarly Solzhenitsyn. Every miserable inhuman detail of the gulag system annotated. I could read only a page at a time, but the history dragged me, to the end. A great, saintly opus.
“A Suitable Boy” Vikram Seth
The scope of Tolstoy, the colors of Diwali. The 1st book to achieve greatness from the Table of Contents. A lot of pages, but rioted through them all.
“Cloudstreet” Tim Winton
The larrikin, no-good land I grew up in, gone forever, happily. And a cast for whom I had no sympathy. But somehow he found poetry where I remember there was none, poetry in so many places it should never have been:
“While all about the ferreting bodiless shadows back off,
mute and shaken in the face of passion: the live good heat of the young.
…She takes him down to the jaded flowers of the library rug.”
“A Time of Gifts” Patrick Leigh Fermor
This first 1st part of Paddy Fermor’s 1930s walk from Rotterdam to Constantinople covers up to Hungary. Eighty years ago it was a different world, really still the nineteenth century. His prose is archaic even to medieval scholars, but I enjoyed him rather than the prose. Fermor wore nailed boots and an army greatcoat, carried pencils, notebooks and volumes of poetry, slept in barns, haystacks and inns and lived on 4 pounds a month.
“Half of a Yellow Sun” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Not great, good. This was the Nigerian genocide of the Igbo. But marred by female ‘she was angry with him because he said…’. But to tell of the genocide of 3 million people, you must, you must be great.
“Inheritance of Loss” Kiran Desai
A pantheon of misanthropes, misfits and outcasts. No space for happiness in Darjeeling or in New York. Pessimism stretched to the absurd. Meanders wretchedly nowhere. Glad to finish it. Even the dog gets it in the end. People this grim should have to undergo therapy before being allowed to publish.