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Archive for the ‘Reading Challenge’ Category

I have wanted to read Alfred Döblin’sBerlin Alexanderplatz‘ for a long time, and when I discovered that there will be a readalong hosted by Caroline from ‘Beauty is a Sleeping Cat’ and Lizzy from ‘Lizzy’s Literary Life’, as part of German Literature Month, I was excited! This is the first of the readalong posts in question-and-answer and covers the first two chapters of the book.

Welcome to the #germanlitmonth readalong of Alfred Döblin’s Berlin Alexanderplatz. What enticed you to readalong with us?

I have always wanted to read ‘Berlin Alexanderplatz’. When I discovered that there was going to be a readalong during GLM, I couldn’t resist joining.

Summarise your initial expectations. Are they being met?

I didn’t really have many expectations. I was thinking it might be a bit heavy and hard to read. On actual reading, it seems to be not as heavy as I expected, but there seems to be a kind of ‘stream-of-consciousness’ style thing in it. I am not able to articulate better, but this style makes the reading more challenging.

Which edition/translation are you using and how is it reading? If you’re reading the original German, is there anything noteworthy about Döblin’s language?

I am reading the Michael Hoffman translation. I found it very interesting, because I was expecting long sentences and deep thoughts, but the sentences were short with descriptions and they moved the plot. In some ways, very un-German 😁

What are your first impressions of Berlin and Franz Biberkopf?

Very interesting. From the kind of themes covered in the initial two chapters, the book must have been ahead of its times and probably controversial too. Franz Biberkopf seems to be an interesting character, sometimes happy-go-lucky, sometimes complex.

Döblin’s original title was “Berlin Alexanderplatz” He added “The Story of Franz Biberkopf” at the publisher’s insistence. Why do you think the publisher intervened in this way? How does this duality of focus manifest itself in the structure of chapter 2?

I didn’t know this. Very interesting! Maybe it is the story of both Berlin and Alexanderplatz and Franz Biberkopf, and how they all evolved and changed during this period.

Do you any have any further observations or questions you’ll be looking to answer at a later stage?

Looking forward to finding out what Franz is upto.

Are you participating in the ‘Berlin Alexanderplatz‘ readalong?

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It is going to be September and I am so excited to participate in #ScienceSeptember. I have always loved science books and have been reading them across the years since my schooldays. I have also been collecting science books to read on a rainy day. It is so cool that I now get to focus on science books for a whole month. One of the exciting parts of this is that I get to make a reading list. I always love that. Here is the list I made. I don’t think I’ll be able to read them all. But I hope to read some of them, starting with the slim ones first 🙂

(1) Evolution : A Very Short Introduction by Brian Charlesworth and Deborah Charlesworth

(2) Silent Spring by Rachel Carson

(3) Deep Simplicity : Chaos, Complexity and the Emergence of Life by John Gribbin

(4) Lab Girl : A Story of Trees, Science and Love by Hope Jahren

(5) It Must Be Beautiful : Great Equations of Modern Science edited by Graham Farmelo

(6) Quantum : Einstein, Bohr, and the Great Debate about the Nature of Reality by Manjit Kumar

(7) Infinity in the Palm of Your Hand: Fifty Wonders That Reveal an Extraordinary Universe by Marcus Chown

(8) The Faber Book of Science edited by John Carey

(9) Thirty Years that Shook Physics : The Story of Quantum Theory by George Gamov

(10) What We Cannot Know by Marcus Du Sautoy

(11) The Universe Bellow by William J. Broad

(12) Fashion, Faith and Fantasy in the New Physics of the Universe by Roger Penrose

(13) The Hidden Life of Wolves by Jim and Jamie Dutcher

(14) Lives of the Scientists : Experiments, Explosions (and What the Neighbors Thought) by Kathleen Krull and Kathryn Hewitt

(15) Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Are you participating in #ScienceSeptember? What are you reading?

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Women In Translation Month‘ is hosted by the wonderful Meytal Radzinski and it happens in August every year. I haven’t participated in WIT Month for a while. This year I told myself that I will participate and read books by wonderful women writers in translation, and find out what others are reading and discover new books through their posts.

One of the exciting things about participating in a reading event is making reading plans. I always loved that. So I looked at my book collection, looked at all the books that I wanted to read which fit this theme, and made a reading list. There are 10 books in the list. I don’t think I’ll be able to read them all this month. But I hope to read atleast some of them.

So, here is the list.

(1) Collected Poems 1944-49 by Nelly Sachs (German) – Nelly Sachs is one of the great German poets. She wrote beautiful, moving poetry. She left Germany when the Nazis came to power, and moved to Sweden, from where she continued to write. She won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1966. But, unfortunately, she is virtually unknown today. I have dipped into this collection before and read some of her poems, and found them very beautiful. Now I am hoping to read this collection properly from the beginning to the end.

(2) Land of Smoke by Sara Gallardo (Spanish) – This is a collection of short stories by this new-to-me Argentinian author. It looks quite fascinating.

(3) The Taste of Apple Seeds by Katharina Hagena (German) – I have started this book multiple times and got distracted everytime and left it halfway through. Not because of the book, because the book is really good. I hope to do better this time.

(4) Flights by Olga Tokarczuk (Polish) – I have wanted to read this book ever since it came out. I love Fitzcarraldo Editions – their minimalistic style, with all books having blue covers, no introduction or notes or anything about the author inside, they just let the book do the talking.

(5) Goodbye Tsugumi by Banana Yoshimoto (Japanese) – I have had this book for years. I have never read a Yoshimoto book before. Can’t wait to read my first one.

(6) I Hid My Voice by Parinoush Saniee (Persian) – I discovered this book serendipitously while browsing in the bookshop. This new-to-me Iranian writer’s book seems to tell a moving story.

(7) Child of the River by Irma Joubert (Afrikaans) – I was excited to discover this book because it is written by a South African writer, but it is not written in English. South Africa is a culturally rich country with multiple languages, but unfortunately the literature written in English from that country overshadows everything else. I can’t wait to read my first South African non-English book.

(8) Nowhere Ending Sky by Marlen Haushofer (German) – Marlen Haushofer is one of my alltime favourite writers. Only three of her books have been translated into English. I have read two of them – ‘The Wall‘ and ‘The Loft‘. This is the third one. I have been saving it for a rainy day. But I think it is time now – to read my third and final Haushofer and then mourn that there are no more.

(9) Moshi Moshi by Banana Yoshimoto (Japanese) – This is the second Yoshimoto book on my list. One of my friends gifted it to me and I can’t wait to read it. I think I’ll probably read this one first, before the other one.

(10) Collected Short Stories by Ambai (Tamil) – Ambai is one of India’s greatest short story writers. She is the Indian Alice Munro. She has been writing short stories for literary magazines for nearly fifty years. All her short stories are written in Tamil. They have been translated into English and published in multiple volumes. This collection that I have has all her stories. I have dipped into this collection before. Hoping to read it properly from the beginning to the end now.

So, that’s it from my side. I’m late to the party but I can’t wait to start.

Are you participating in Women In Translation Month? What are you reading?

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As I love mythology, I thought I will participate in the Read-A-Myth Challenge  hosted by Jo from Bibliojunkie and Bina from If You Can Read This. (For more information on the challenge please check the challenge website). I am planning to go up to level 2 – Erlang Chen – in the challenge. I need to read four books on mythology for that.

I am reading ‘Ka’ by Roberto Calasso as my first book for this challenge. It is a book on Indian mythology and its subtitle reads “Stories of the Mind and Gods of India”.

The first chapter is about Garuda the eagle, who becomes Vishnu’s vehicle / mount. I am giving some excerpts from that chapter below (they don’t tell a continuous story – sorry for that).

Garuda flew and remembered. It was only a few days since he had hatched from his egg and already so much had happened. Flying was the best way of thinking, of thinking things over. Who was the first person he’d seen? His mother, Vinata. Beautiful in her tininess, she sat on a stone, watching his egg hatch, determinedly passive. Hers was the first eye Garuda held in his own.

Vinata went on : “My child, I have kept watch over your egg for five hundred years.”

“I’ll go and win this soma, Mother,” said Garuda wth his most solemn expression. “But first I must eat.”

Garuda, who was gazing ahead with his beak half open, just enough to swallow up swarms of Nisadas, suddenly felt something burning in his throat. “That’s a brahman,” he thought. So he said, “Brahman, I don’t know you, but I don’t mean you any harm. Come out of my throat.” And from Garuda’s throat came a shrill, steady voice : “I’ll never come out unless I can bring this Nisada woman with me, she’s my bride.” “I’ve no objections,” said Garuda. Soon he saw them climbing onto his beak, taking care, fearful of getting hurt. Garuda was intrigued and thought : “Finally I’ll know what a brahman looks like.” He saw them sliding down his feathers. The brahman was thin, bony, dusty, his hair woven in a plait, his eyes sunken and vibrant. His long, determined fingers never let go of the wrist of the Nisada woman, whose beauty immediately reminded Garuda of his mother and his treacherous aunt Kadru. This left him bewildered, while he reflected that quite probably he had already swallowed up thousands of women like her.

Garuda settled on a branch. Surrounded by the foliage that enfolded his feathers, he felt at home and couldn’t understand why. Of his birthplace he could remember only sand, stone, and snakes. Whereas this tree protected him on every side with swathes of emerald that softened the merciless light of the sky.

“So many things happening, so many stories one inside the other, with every link hiding yet more stories…And I’ve hardly hatched from my egg,” thought an exultant Garuda, heading north. “No one has taught me anything. Everything has been shown to me. It will take me all my life to begin to understand what I’ve been through.”

At that very moment one of the gods noticed something odd in the celestial stasis : the garlands had lost their fragrance, a think layer of dust had settled on the buds. “The heavens are wearing out like the earth…” was the silent fear of more than one god. It was a moment of pure terror. What came afer was no more than a superfluous demonstration. The rains of fire, the meteors, the whirlwinds, the thunder. Indra hurled his lightning bolt as Garuda invaded the sky. The lightning bounced off his feathers. “How can that be?” said Indra to Brhaspati, chief priest of the gods. “This is the lightning that split the heart of Vrtra. Garuda tosses it aside like a straw.” Sitting on a stool, Brhaspati had remained impassive throughout, from the moment the sky had began to shake. “Garuda is made not of feathers but of meters. You cannot hurt a meter. Garuda is gayatri and tristubh and jagati. Garda is the hymn. The hymn that cannot be scratched. And then : remember that puddle, those tiny beings you found so funny, with their blade of grass…Garuda is, in part, their child.”

Buried deep among the tree Rauhina’s branches, Garuda read the Vedas. It was years before he raised his beak. Those beings he had terrorized in the heavens, who had scattered like dust at his arrival, who had tried in vain to fight him, he knew who they were now: with reverence he scanned their names and those of their descendants.

Finally he reached the tenth book of the Rg Veda. And here he smelled a shift in the wind. Along wtih the names came a shadow now, a name never uttered. What had been affirmative tended to be interrogative. The voice that spoke was more remote. It no longer celebrated. It said what is.

Garuda stopped and shut his eyes. He had never felt so uncertain, and so close to understanding. Never felt so light, in that sudden absence of names. When he opened his eyes, he realized that the nine stanzas were followed by another, this one separated by a space that was slightly larger.

I have read about Garuda being the vehicle of Vishnu but I haven’t read about the feats of Garuda himself. He seems to be a cool Eagle 🙂 I loved the passages where he fights with the gods and brushes them aside and he doesn’t know his own strength – so much power and so much innocence. I also liked very much the quote “I’ll go and win this soma, Mother. But first I must eat.” I don’t know many cool eagles in literature or mythology – the one which comes readily to mind is the eagle which takes Gandalf on its back in ‘The Lord of the Rings’, but that eagle didn’t have a name (if I remember right). Garuda seems to be the coolest Eagle of them all 🙂

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