Welcome to Triple Choice Tuesday. This is where I ask some of my favourite bloggers and other bookish bods to share the names of three books that mean a lot to them. The idea is that it might raise the profile of certain books and introduce you to new titles and new bloggers.
Today’s guest is former blogger and devoted reader Kinga, a Polish-Canadian who lives in Poland with her husband and two small children (aged 2-and-a-half years old and seven months). Sadly, she no longer has time to blog, but she does update her Goods Read page, which is worth visiting to see the kind of literature she likes: her tastes roughly correspond with mine.
I’ve known Kinga for years, although we’ve never met in person. In fact, I first left a comment on her blog six years ago — although back then she was known as Kinuk (which was short for Kinga in the UK, where she was living at the time). We’ve been visiting each other’s blogs ever since and have even swapped the odd book, via Book Mooch, when I was an active member.
Where does her love of books come from? “In my previous, pre-motherhood life I was a science teacher and an avid reader. What I should have been all along is a librarian and an avid reader,” she tells me. “So if
anybody has any hints on how to change careers, please feel free to get in touch.”
Kinga’s tastes head towards 20th and 21st-century fiction, evenly split between male and female authors. She also likes to read non-fiction, mainly history and biology. Her favourite author of all time is Margaret Atwood, but she also likes Paul Auster, Carol Shields, Rose Tremain and Ryszard Kapuscinski.
Here’s Kinga’s Triple Choice Tuesday selections:
This is a book about a young German soldier, Paul Bäumer, during World War I and his experiences at the front. The book doesn’t focus on the historical details of battles and skirmishes. Instead, we get a glimpse into the mentality of a soldier in the trenches, on leave and in battles.
I read this book many, many years ago, in Year 9, and have reread it multiple times since then. In fact, writing about it now has only made me want to go and reread it again. It’s by no means a cheery read, but one that has stayed with me for 20 years now.
Here’s a quote: “I am young, I am twenty years old; yet I know nothing of life but despair, death, fear, and fatuous superficiality cast over an abyss of sorrow. I see how peoples are set against one another, and in silence, unknowingly, foolishly, obediently, innocently slay one another.”
This looks like a very innocent, small book of little importance. And it starts off innocently enough: girl meets boy and they become lovers (I can’t say that they fall in love because I don’t think they do). But that’s where the simplicity stops.
The girl, a white young woman, and the boy, an illegal migrant from a Muslim African nation (we never find out which one), find that they’re being torn apart by his looming deportation. So, she follows him back to his country, his village, his family home where the two now live in a simple room at the back of his mother’s house.
The book stayed with me for a long time after I read it because it challenged my way of thinking. Why would an educated, liberated woman chose to follow her boyfriend/husband to a country that, in my view, restricted her freedoms, her choices? But that’s just what Julie does. She follows Abdu/Ibrahim to “this dusty hell of my place” and this has interesting outcomes for her, for him and for their relationship.
At some point in time, I picked up Ryszard Kapuscinski’s Imperium and fell in love with his writing. The book that I feel should be available to a wider audience, however, is his collection of essays called Busz po polsku but it’s unfair to suggest a book that’s unavailable to most of the people reading this, as there is no English translation available. It’s a wonderful set of essays about his experiences in post-war Poland and the lives of people he came across when the country was rebuilding. So I’ll talk about the book that made made me want to read more by this man.
Imperium charts the history of Russia in the 20th Century from Kapuscinski’s point of view. As a Pole, he finds the Soviet Union fascinating and fearful at the same time. His book starts in 1939, when Russians roll into his
town and continues through 1958 when he rides the Trans-Siberian Express; 1967 when he travels through the Caucasus; and finally during the fall of the Soviet Union (1989 – 1991).
Kapuscinski wrote shockingly little about Poland and about the country next door that influenced Poland’s history in the 20th Century. There are hints and nudges in his collection of thoughts called Lapidaria (once
again, published only in Polish). But most of his work, what he’s most famous for, are his experiences in Africa. This is why Imperium needs more attention. It is an excellent book about an Empire, about its people and about the confusion that reigns once the Empire falls.
Here’s a quote: “This ethnic /Homo sovieticus/ is a product of the history of the USSR, a significant portion of which comprises unceasing, intense and massive migrations, displacements, transportations and wanderings of the population…As a result, entire nations find themselves in lands foreign to them, in unfamiliar surroundings, in poverty and hunger. One of the goals of these operations is to create the uprooted man, wrenched from his culture, from his environment and landscape and therefore more defenceless and obedient…”
Thanks, Kinga, for taking part in my Triple Choice Tuesday!
I can vouch for All Quiet on the Western Front and, indeed, it was Kinga who encouraged me to read it many years ago now. Indeed, if you can check out my review you can see our exchange about the book in the comments!
What do you think of Kinga’s choices? Have you read any of these books?