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Bookish Serendipity

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Those of you who follow me on social media may have picked up that I’ve been on my travels recently. I usually do a summer round trip to visit the Aged Parent and then the Offspring, all of whom are located fairly close together in the East Midlands. As I don’t drive, I have to make several train journeys, which are usually enjoyable; as I like to settle down with a book and a coffee and let the train take the strain, as the old slogan used to say.

However, the first leg of the journey which involves going via London was horrendous. I ended up standing all the way on a train that felt like a sardine tin and I was Not Impressed. I couldn’t even read… The rest of visit and the train travel went swimmingly, however, and I had a lovely time everywhere. Middle Child put me up (she usually does) and they all looked after me beautifully. So I had several days of socialising, eating out and of course managed to sneak in a little book shopping… (well, it wouldn’t be me if I hadn’t, would it?)

As you can see, I managed to be pretty restrained! Two new books and three second-hand is good for me, and they all felt like essential purchases.

These are the newbies. I picked up the Pessoa in Hatchards at St. Pancras Station (yes, even while rushing frantically to catch a train, I made time for shopping – and only just made my connection by the skin of my teeth…) I’ve heard such good things about the Penguin translation that I wanted to try it, and this was the first Real Bookshop I’d seen it in. The Gonzalez was a sale item in Waterstones, Kettering – ยฃ3 is a real bargain and I had this one on a mental ‘must-read’ list so that was a find!

These are two of the second-hand books, from charity shops in Kettering and Leicester. I seem to be amassing a lot of Robertson Davies without actually reading him and I must get on with it. I also have about 5 gigantic Powys books lurking. I could spend a year just reading him…

And the third second-hand book is very, very interesting:

Finding a Green Virago I want is getting harder, as I don’t intend to try to collect them all, and so I’m quite selective nowadays. “Clash” was sitting in the Age Concern Bookshop in Leicester, and the blurb on the back intrigued me – it’s set around the General Strike of 1926, and as I was feeling the need of something to counteract the hideous right-wing stuff that’s going round at the moment I grabbed it (ยฃ2 – a real bargain). It was only when I got it back to the flat and looked more closely I realised that I had a nice review copy of Wilkinson’s second book at home, waiting for me to read… Serendipity or what! I’m about a third of the way into “Clash” at the moment and loving it, and so I think I might move straight on to “Division Bell” afterwards. How exciting!

So a reasonably small haul on my travels. I did, however, arrive back to find that this lovely review copy had arrived, courtesy of Michael Walmer:

I don’t know that I even knew that F. Tennyson Jesse had a sister, but this is she, and this is her only book. Sounds like fabulous fun and I’m really looking forward to it!

Reviewing has got slightly behind while I was away – I’ve finished Marina Tsvetaeva’s Moscow Diaries for #WITmonth, and also have been dipping into Catherine the Great’s Letters. So I’ve done *some* translated women, and I am well into a Virago – hey, I’m almost sticking to my plans!! ๐Ÿ˜€

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*cough* – “Arsenal!” @BL_Publishing

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The Arsenal Stadium Mystery by Leonard Gribble

Football? On the Ramblings??? Anyone who knows me will be boggling a little at the concept; because, despite having lived near a Big Footballing Town for some decades, I’m not really a fan of 22 men kicking a ball around a pitch… However, as this rather intriguing looking little book is part of the British Library Crime Classics series, I really felt I had to give it a look – and as a non-football fan I found it actually great fun!

Author Leonard Gribble was remarkably prolific; he wrote so many crime novels that he actually had to adopt several pseudonyms. “The Arsenal Stadium Mystery” was originally published in 1939, and features Gribble’s regular detecting team of Detective Inspector Slade and Sgt. Clinton. However, as Martin Edwards’ excellent introduction makes clear, the book has some very interesting aspects to it. For a start, the actual Arsenal squad of 1939 are featured in the book as characters! The book was launched as something of a film tie-in, as a movie of the book was also released in 1939 starring Leslie Banks as Slade. This is quite audacious and probably unusual marketing for the time, and the book also came with facsimiles of the squad’s signatures, which are reproduced in the BL edition. The film apparently also featured members of the team plus manager George Allison, so the whole thing tied together well!

The Arsenal crest in 1939

But what of the book as a detective novel? Well, it opens with the Gunners (ha!) taking on a fictitious amateur side, the Trojans, in a friendly match at Highbury (then the Arsenal home ground). However, halfway through the match, one of the players drops dead on the pitch (fortunately, not a real Arsenal man but one of the Trojans…) It soon transpires that John Doyce has been murdered; but how on earth could that happen in the middle of a match, with no obvious weapon in sight? The cause of death is eventually tracked down, but the murderer is more elusive, and there are several candidates as Doyce was a womaniser and not a popular man. One of the other players has no reason to like Doyce, as the latter was messing around with his girlfriend. However, there are links to a death in the past, and it will take all of Slade’s ingenuity to solve the crime and save the name of The Beautiful Game from being dragged through the mud.

The dispersal of seventy thousand spectators is not achieved in a few minutes. At the top of Highbury Hill foot and mounted police controlled the queues invading the Arsenal Station of the Underground. More mounted police kept the crowd in Avenell Road on the move. All the tributary roads were choked with cars that had been parked throughout the game. A score of taxi-drivers who had seen an opportunity of combining business with pleasure that afternoon now tried to work their cabs through the throng, which took singularly small notice of honking horns and verbal exasperation. Peanut vendors and newsboys were exercising their lungs and taking a steady flow of coppers for their trouble. Over the crown hung a pall of tobacco smoke and dust.

“Arsenal…” was a really enjoyable mystery which rattled along at a good pace, with plenty of sleuthing, not too much football, a bit of romance on the side and plenty of characters with axes to grind. Slade and Clinton, in particular, made an entertaining team, with Clinton sticking obstinately to what seemed to him the obvious solution while Slade went off into the psychology of the case and the suspects. The latter is probably the best drawn character in the book, although I was quite fond of several of the main Trojan characters who by necessity took a more prominent position in the book; the Arsenal team were mainly more what you would call bit parts, apart from real-life manager George Allison who took quite a leading role. I had a wee inkling of who the murderer might be about halfway through, although I wasn’t sure, and although I turned out to be right the ending was nevertheless very satisfying.

“Preposterous?” Slade shrugged. “Read the evidence of most murder trials which result in a verdict of guilty. Most of it is preposterous. Because a great deal of human behaviour is preposterous. But we rarely confess the fact.”

So “The Arsenal Stadium Mystery” ended up being a worthy addition to the BLCC series. The writing may occasionally lack the sophistication of, say, a Sayers, but it makes up for this with a twisty plot, energetic action and some particularly effective prose when scene-setting. The clever publicity stunt of tying the book in with the film (which also featured the Arsenal squad) gives it an extra frisson, but this element doesn’t mean you have to like football to enjoy the book (although if you’re a fan of the game or Arsenal it will be a bit more special). It’s a fun, entertaining read, and ideal for transporting you back to times when football and its followers were less confrontational (excluding the odd murder…); also to when the concept of paying footballers stupid, stupid money would have seemed ridiculous. I did wonder whether the publication date was significant; the book came out in 1939 (the film was the November of that year), a time when the world was entering a period of turmoil and conflict, and it may have been felt that football was something to pull the nation together.

So this was a really good read and I suppose I should come clean here: although I really have no time for football nowadays, back when I was 10 I had a brief phase of following the game, and Arsenal were my team! I soon grew out of it, but nevertheless I suppose I should have been reading this book whilst cheering on Arsenal! Up the Gunners!! :))

NB – if you understand what I’m on about with the heading of this post, you’re obviously as old as I am…. ๐Ÿ˜‰

“One must start accepting that a text can stand on its own” @Wakefield_Press #georgesperec

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Wishes by Georges Perec
Translated and Transmogrified by Mara Cologne Wythe-Hall

My love of the work of Georges Perec is no secret here on the Ramblings; since reading his masterwork “Life: A User’s Manual” I’ve made my way through probably just about everything that’s been translated. So you can imagine how excited was to stumble across a newly translated work this year; “Wishes”, rendered by Mara Cologne Wythe-Hall, has just been published by Wakefield Press, and they’ve been kind enough to provide a review copy.

“Wishes” draws from Perec’s complete works, and collects together a series of homophonic, punning greetings he sent out annually in a pamphlet to friends between 1970 and his death in 1982. Each of these is based on a number of constraints, designed to create a series of jokes that Perec’s cronies could work out and chortle over. In simple terms, the best analogy I can come up with is that of a cryptic crossword clue. The short piece of prose is the clue, the answer relates to a table provided to go with each set, and each answer is a homophone of the particular word or phrase or name in that table. To give an example from 1977’s pamphlet, entitled “Footnotes to musical history”:

‘Clue’: How lovely she is when she puts that big barette on her little hat!

‘Answer’: Belle A Barre Toque (in English – Beautiful in bar hat)

And the French spoken out loud gives you:

Homophone: Bela Bartok (famous Hungarian composer)

It’s a fiendish piece of work to try and translate as the punning is so specific to the original language, but Wythe-Hall does just brilliantly with the literal version. However she takes things further with a section entitled Transmogrifications where, instead of a direct translation, she takes the end result and creates a new ‘clue’ in English to lead on to the homophonic answer. This is a brilliant and creative idea, and I loved seeing these alongside Perec’s originals. Each little piece of Perecs’s writing could also be funny and nonsensical in its own right as well, so there was a double joy to reading the book.

I was told:
“Give up this deplorable habit you’ve picked up of belching!”
I replied:
“Do you mean to say that the Great Pan is responsible for this inextricable miscellany that my texts have become?”

Perec and his fellow OuLiPans relished wordplay, writing constraints, puns, clues, crosswords and the like. These tendencies do call into question the whole concept of translating of something which relies so specifically on language; is it really going to be possible to produce a version in, say, English which has the effect of the original French while working in the new language. Should the translator go for a direct translation or an approximation of the effect? Well, any number of OuLiPan authors have been successfully translated – Perec most notably by David Bellos, and Raymond Queneau by Barbara Wright. However, with a work so quizzical as this one there might be room for doubt; but I think that Wythe-Hall has succeeded marvellously.

Presenting a literal and an interpretative version alongside is an ideal way to deal with something which might be difficult to render in another language. I was reminded of my teenage browsing of my tatty old film tie-in of Pasternak’s “Dr. Zhivago”; in the back were ‘Zhivago’s’ poems and I remember being struck by the fact that one particularly effective poem was presented in both a literal and a rhyming version. I thought that was a clever thing to do back then, and I still do!

Georges Perec’s “Wishes” is a beautifully produced book on quality paper with French flaps, so as well as being a fascinating and entertaining read it’s also a lovely object in its own right. I’ve not come across Wakefield Press, a US based publisher, before but it seems they’re an independent unit who specialise in bringing us untranslated gems. This is a laudable aim and they’ve produced a mightily impressive volume here. As someone who loves to credit and thank a translator, I was a little perturbed to be told nothing about Mara Cologne Wythe-Hall, who also provides a useful introduction and whose linguistic skills are obviously impressive. I can’t see online that she’s translated anything else, but she deserves kudos for her efforts here!

“Wishes” was a delight, and had me laughing away, appreciating Perec’s original punning as well as Wythe-Hall’s rendering of it and her clever transmogrifications. I love wordplay and I love people who are clever with language; and if that’s your kind of thing too, Perec could well be for you!

(Review copy kindly provided by the publisher, for which many thanks!)

*****

Coda: after scheduling this review and taking “Wishes” off to join the rest of the books on my Perec shelf, I discovered that I *had* come across Wakefield Press before – as they also publish “An Attempt At Exhausting a Place in Paris”, which I reviewed just over a year ago! So kudos to them for flying the Perec flag! ๐Ÿ™‚

Tramping with a poor beast of burden… plus some musings on different editions

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Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes by Robert Louis Stevenson

When I was casting around for what to read after “Flights” it somehow seemed inevitable that my gaze fell on a travel book! ๐Ÿ˜€ I keep meaning to pick up another Robert Louis Stevenson volume, and his books about his trip through the Cevennes with a long-suffering donkey has been on the radar for a while. And I seem to own three copies…

*Why*, you may ask, do I have three copies? Well, I bought the Penguin copy first (I think). The Everyman edition was from a charity shop for 90p and as it had different stories included from the Penguin I thought I would have it as well. The Stanfords Travel Classics edition came as part of a set of three which came from The Book People with some book points I had amassed. All have points to commend them, which I’ll get onto later. But what of the content?

First published in 1879, “Travels…” was Stevenson’s third work to go into print and it tells the tale of his trip the previous year over the Cevenne mountains in the South of France with only a donkey for company. The eponymous ass, one Modestine, is purchased by Stevenson to carry his luggage while they stroll over the mountains, sleep under the stars and see what adventures life will bring them. Of course, RLS has a choice in the matter; the poor donkey does not, which I expect is why her behaviour is often so bad… This was not the first bit of travelling Stevenson had done, as the earlier publication “An Inland Voyage” was about a canoeing trip through France and Belgium in 1876. However, that trip had not been a solo one; this one was, apart from the donkey!

So RLS and Modestine head off through the mountains, encountering Trappist Monks, Catholics, Protestants, country folk and the great wide world. The writing is beautiful, with some lovely descriptions of the countryside, and also very funny in places. Stevenson has a dry wit, and despite his mostly genial good nature, he can’t resist the occasional snippy aside, like a little sideswipe at a book written about a notorious wolf that stalked the forests in one part of the region:

M. Elie Berthet has made him the hero of a novel, which I have read, and which I do not wish to read again.

He’s also very funny on the trials and travails of trying to steer a poor recalcitrant donkey the way he wants her to go!

In a path, she went doggedly ahead of her own accord, as before a fair wind; but once on the turf or among heather, and the brute became demented.The tendency of lost travellers to go round in a circle was developed in her to the degree of passion, and it took all the steering I had in me to keep even a decently straight course through a single field.

Interestingly, for a travel book, musing on religion occupies much of Stevenson’s time. Of the quiet of a religious Sunday, he observers: It is only a traveller, hurrying by like a person from another planet, who can rightly enjoy the peace and beauty of the great ascetic feast. The sight of the resting country does his spirit good. There is something better than music in the wide unusual silence; and it disposes him to amiable thoughts, like the sound of a little river or the warmth of the sunlight.

I found myself wondering about the motivation of this element of the book, but more of that later. It’s clear, however, that RLS loves to travel – his story could easily have fitted into “Flights”; with his eternal restlessness, searching for freedom from petty restrictions and a healthy climate for his tuberculosis, Stevenson could have stepped right out of its pages. He is, after all, the man who states in this book: For my part, I travel not to go anywhere but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move; to feel the needs and hitches of our life more nearly; to come down off this feather-bed of civilisation, and find the globe granite underfoot and strewn with cutting flints. Alas, as we get up in life, and are more preoccupied with our affairs, even a holiday is a thing that must be worked for. To hold a pack upon a pack-saddle against a gale out of the freezing north is no high industry, but it is one that serves to occupy and compose the mind. And when the present is so exacting who can annoy himself about the future?

I enjoyed reading “Travels..” very much; Stevenson’s lyric and evocative writing appeals to me, and although only 95 pages the book brought alive the journey he made through the landscape in Southern France. However, as a vegan animal lover, I was less than comfortable with his attitude to the poor donkey. Whether factual or fictionalised, his treatment of her wasn’t very humane at time and I did get a little crabby at this element of the book.

The Everyman edition

As I said, I have three different editions of “Travels…” and it’s relevant to share a few thoughts on these for reasons which will become clear… Initially, I read the Stanfords Travel Classics edition, published by John Beaufoy Publishing Limited, and it really is very lovely. Although a paperback, it’s made up on three sewn signatures on very nice quality paper which are firmly fixed into the spine. I would recommend it wholeheartedly except for one slight issue – there is no extra or supporting material at all.

You might argue that the book should stand on its own as a travel classic and not need notes etc, and to a certain extent that might be true. However, I think because of its age, “Travels…” needs some context and the introductions/notes in the Everyman and Penguin edition provide that. Coyly, the back cover of the Stanfords edition declares that Stevenson was pining for a lost love when he undertook his journey, but the other editions give much more information, and necessary detail at that. RLS had fallen in love with Fanny Osbourne, a married women 10 years his senior, who had returned to America and whom he had no idea if he would ever see again. The journey in “Travels…” was undertaken to produce a book to sell and make enough money for the impoverished author to pursue his lost love (they did eventually marry and were together till Stevenson’s death).

The Penguin

Additionally, the Penguin supporting material is particularly useful in placing the religious material in context. RLS had majorly fallen out with his father over the son’s declaration of atheism; however, when faced by a predominantly Catholic society he found himself defending his Scots Protestant upbringing, and knowledge of this certainly helped this reader understand Stevenson’s musings.

Stevenson, looking rather elegant and fancy

I found myself pondering the whole historical context of the journey itself, in a France of less than 10 years after the Paris Commune. The country had entered its Third Republic and yet still was a country riven; here it was by religious differences as much as anything else, and RLS spends much time musing on the history of those differences. As a plain-speaking Protestant he’s wary of the Catholics although willing to waive conflicting beliefs in the pursuit of peace and harmony. Of course, the world of country France is very different from the northern capital city and even the variations between two different areas of his route was profound.

So “Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes” is really much more than an account of a jaunt through some mountains with an ass. It reveals much, I think, about Stevenson himself; his beliefs, his convictions, his search for meaning and companionship; as well as the world he was moving through. And much as I loved the look and feel of the Stanfords edition, if I was recommending one I would really have to suggest going for the Penguin. The notes and introduction are superior, it is of course a nice-looking edition, and having read all the supporting material after reading the actual book I did get so much more from it. However, I shall no doubt be holding on to all three of my copies, because one is pretty and the other two have additional stories in them. That kind of attitude isn’t going to help with my attempts to declutter, is it??? ๐Ÿ˜€

The trick is to keep moving… #WITmonth #OlgaTokarczuk @jenniferlcroft

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Flights by Olga Tokarczuk
Translated by Jennifer Croft

I can’t think of a better book to start off Women in Translation month!

Author Olga Tokarczuk and translator Jennifer Croft won the Man Booker International Prize this year with “Flights”, and although I tend to avoid most book prize winners like the plague, this one was shouting out to me to be read. Having spent several stimulating days in its company, I can say that in many ways it’s a hard book to review because it’s a hard book to define. Is it a diary? A novel? A collection of interlinking philosophical musings? Short stories? A series of travelogues? An extended meditation on the human need to make journeys? A study of the study of human anatomy and the art of preservation? All of these things and none of these things? It’s certainly dark and provocative in places, yet entirely intriguing and inspirational, and full of the most beautiful writing (elegantly rendered into gorgeous English by Croft).

It is widely known, after all, that real life takes place in movement.

In simple terms, “Flights” is a book about travel. In a series of pieces of varying length, Tokarczuk’s narrator ranges through time and location to explore human beings and their constant inability to settle (a syndrome from which the narrator also suffers). These individual his/herstories range far and wide, taking in such disparate tales as the last journey of Chopin’s heart, a missing wife and child on a Croatian island, a variety of Cabinets of Curiosities, the morals of preserving a human being’s body against their will, tales from a harem and the last cruise of an ageing professor. This latter thread, towards the end of the book, has some of the most beautiful yet achingly sad writing where Tokarczuk describes with stunning and chilling imagery the effects of a stroke, drawing on the motif of water and its destructive power against paper which she uses throughout the book. As my Dad suffered from several of these, it touched a nerve.

The author – by Tomasz Leล›niowski [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons

However, we always return to the framing narrative which deals directly with movement itself, travel psychology, the growth of airports, encounters with strangers en route and so much more. There are recurring themes – Moby Dick and whales, embalming and the preservation of the body, the endless questing nature of humans, the slippery nature of our perceptions of reality – all stitched together into a rich and compelling narrative.

… the Earth is round, let us not be too attached, then, to directions.

And the overarching theme is always movement, travel, flight – the latter word with a double meaning, as we are often in flight, running during our lives, either to or from people or places. “Flights” taps into the human spirit, recognising that we are restless, constantly searching beings, always moving on from what we already have. As a species we are unable to keep still, constantly driven to explore – and it could be argued that that is why we’re in the mess we are nowadays. A very pertinent and relevant short section of the book details carrier bags travelling the world as if they were some strange new species, which was funny and tragic at the same time.

We are the individual nerve impulses of the world, fractions of an instant, barely that part of it that permits the change from plus to minus, or maybe the other way around, and keeps everything in constant flux.

Tokarczuk is a Polish author and activist who trained as a psychologist (and I think this shows in the depth of her work); she’s courted controversy over the years by expressing views which have been unpopular with some patriots from her country. She’s won numerous awards for her writing in a variety of countries, and certainly if “Flights” is anything to go by, she’s an author to explore further. Croft seems to be her ideal translator (I love it when there’s a meeting of minds between the author and the person who renders their work in another language) and apparently she’s translating another of Tokarczuk’s works, which is very exciting for us Anglophones.

The translator, by Norapushkin [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons

There is always the risk when writing a work as audacious and ambitious as this (and Perec’s “Life: A User’s Manual” springs to mind) that the whole will not cohere and will simply be a collection of parts. Tokarczuk acknowledges the difficulty of writing early on in the book:

Anyone who has ever tried to write a novel knows what an arduous task it is, undoubtedly one of the worst ways of occupying oneself. You have to remain within yourself all the time, in solitary confinement. Itโ€™s a controlled psychosis, an obsessive paranoia manacled to work, completely lacking in the feather pens and bustles and Venetian masks we would ordinarily associate with it, clothed instead in a butcherโ€™s apron and rubber boots, eviscerating knife in hand. You can only barely see from that writerly cellar the feet of passersby, hear the rapping of their heels. Every so often someone stops and bends down and glances in through the window, and then you get a glimpse of a human face, maybe even exchange a few words. But ultimately the mind is so occupied with its own act, a play staged by the self for the self in a hasty, makeshift cabinet of curiosities peopled by author and character, narrator and reader, the person describing and the person being described, that feet, shoes, heels, and faces become, sooner or later, mere components of that act.

However, I think she succeeds brilliantly with “Flights”, which is an extraordinary work, a real tour de force with soaring prose and unforgettable stories. Tokarczuk weaves a wonderful tapestry of travellers’ tales whilst all the while digging down into the human psyche to see what it is that motivates us and what it means to be human. Reading “Flights” is like taking a wide-ranging and thought-provoking journey. It’s a book that certainly deserves slow and close reading, and then reading again to truly appreciate its complex and multi-layered narrative; and it’s most definitely deserving of the praise and prizes it’s received. A wonderful start to #WIT month.

Exploring Zoshchenko’s wonderful Russian satire @ColumbiaUP @shinynewbooks #zoshchenko #borisdralyuk

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I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to review some wonderful volumes in the Columbia University Press Russian Library over the past year or so for Shiny New Books; and I’m delighted that my review of a very special book is up today over at Shiny!

Mikhail Zoshchenko is one of Russia’s best-loved satirists; his “Scenes from a Bathhouse” is probably the title most known in English (and I do have a copy somewhere in the stacks…). “Sentimental Tales” is a newly selected and translated collection of linked tales, rendered beautifully in English by Boris Dralyuk, and it’s a real treat.

The Russian Library books are beautiful to look at and contain some marvellous gems – although I think this might be the jewel in the crown so far! You can read my review on Shiny here, and I can’t recommend this one enough! ๐Ÿ™‚

Plans? What plans?? #WITmonth

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It’s no great secret that reading plans and I don’t get on that well together. More often than not if I make a schedule, join a challenge or even just try to think a few books ahead to what I’ll be reading next it all tends to go straight out of the window while I follow some random reading whim. However! August is Women in Translation month and I *do* always try to join in with that one – particularly as I read a lot of translated work and a lot of women’s writing!

So here is a little pile of possibles off the TBR which may attract my attention during this month. You’ll see one book which ticks the box for another August event – All Virago, All August, a little challenge by the members of the LibraryThing Virago Modern Classics group. This takes in Viragos, other books by Virago authors and Persephones too, and although I don’t commit to reading only those for the month I do try to enjoy at least one title. And the Triolet counts for WIT too so that would be ideal. Although a re-read of the Colette is very tempting. And I love Tsvetaeva at the moment so her diaries would be fab. And the others sound great too…

However, this is the book I’m currently reading and loving, and so as it will be the first book I finish and review in August, it will also definitely be my first WIT book!

Unfortunately, there are other volumes vying for my attention… As I was having a rummage for WIT titles I came across a few others which caught my eye:

The Spark, of course, would tie in with HeavenAli’s Reading Muriel celebration. The Baudelaire is Baudelaire and therefore needs no explanation. And the Malcolm Bradbury was mentioned on the From First Page to Last blog and I recalled I had a copy which I have now found! It’s set in a university and since I find universities and academics endlessly fascinating (probably because I never went to one…) it sounds like I really might enjoy it.

And then there are the review books lurking:

And don’t they look pretty and appealing, and I wish I could read them all in one go… Fortunately, I shall be doing some train travelling this month which may mean that I can get through a few of these titles while on the road (or the rails…). Come to think of it, Catherine the Great’s letters would count for WIT month as well, wouldn’t they??? ๐Ÿ˜€

So lots of choices again, alas. Are you planning any Women in Translation books this month, or any Viragos? Are you a planner or do you just follow your reading whims? Do tell! ๐Ÿ™‚

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