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:
My favourite book of all time – All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
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.”
A book that changed my world – The Pickup by Nadine Gordimer
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.
A book that deserves a wider audience – Imperium by Ryszard Kapuscinski
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?
24 thoughts on “Triple Choice Tuesday: Kinga”
All Quiet is one of my favourite books. Good choice.
Eden, it was an agonizing decision as there a lot of books that could have qualified, but All Quiet won in the end. There’s just something about it that keeps me reading and rereading it.
I also have loved All Quiet on the Western Front. It is one of the books I read in my youth that made me hate the futility of war and made me a pacifist. I also liked Arch of Triumph by Remarque, which is about postwar displacement.
I am overjoyed to meet a reader who considers, as I do, Margaret Atwood her favorite author of all time!
I think this means I’ve really got to read more Atwood!
I read All Quiet at school, so I can’t remember all that much of it, but I do remember being impressed. I can’t go past Possession by AS Byatt. For me, that book showed just what magic a storyteller can weave. Always my fave.
Triple Choice Tuesday is yet another good idea, and in turn another reason your blog is my favorite literary blog (and I have several in my faves box). I will, no, I MuST read All Quiet on the Western Front. Why I haven’t is a personal mystery. The Soviet memoir sounds inticing as well.
Imperium sounds fascinating! I know of Kapuscinski only by reputation, but I’m delighted to know there’s a book that addresses his Polishness (since there’s a little of that in my blood as well). I’ll definitely be picking this up.
Judy, I haven’t read anything else by Remarque, which really is a huge oversight on my part. Will look into his other books now. Postwar displacement sounds like something that I’d also find fascinating.
Margaret Atwood is amazing, isn’t she? I just find her books so very good, despite their varied styles, themes and approaches. What’s your favourite Margaret Atwood book? I’d have to say either Handmaid’s Tale, Oryx and Crake, Cat’s Eye, Alias Grace or Moral Disorder. Hmmm, ok that’s 5 favourites. 🙂
I do think you should. You would enjoy her a lot.
Sarah, I’ve had Possession on my bookshelf for a few years now, but its size intimidates me. Should I just plunge in?
Mike, All Quiet is an amazing book but very understated. And Imperium is well worth the time and effort invested into it.
I look forward to more Tripe Choice Tuesdays to discover more books that I should read.
If you’d like more detail on Kapuscinski, you might want to start with his semi-autobiographical Travels with Herotodus. It’s quite short and flashes between his life and the life and travels of Herotodus. Very well written and really interesting. I just wish someone would translate the Polish-only books (the Lapidarium series, is ok, but Busz po polsku is really good).
Fascinating choices. I’ve been meaning to read All quiet for a long time … I know it’s short, so I really must get to it. And, while I haven’t read THAT Gordimer, I have read some of hers and they certainly packed a punch. I have heard of Kapuscinski but haven’t read any. Clearly I should.
Thank you, Mike, thats really nice of you to say. I do spend a lot of time and energy on this blog, so its always a buzz to find other people who appreciate the effort.
Ive got one or two in the queue – I need to dig them out. I wasnt so enamoured of the one (and only) Atwood I read, hence my reluctance to try more of her stuff. But I trust your judgement so need to give her another whirl.
I read Possession about 20 years ago and found it a difficult read but I do remember liking it a lot. At the time it was a bit of a shock to the system because I tended to read genre fiction rather than literary fiction back then. I expect I would love it a lot more now.
Which other Gordimer would you recommend? I’ve read The Pickup and July’s People, but the second left me feeling a bit “meh…”. I’d love to read more by her but am not sure where to start.
Oh my. My favorite Atwood. I have read all her novels over so many years. Alias Grace does stand out in my memory. The Oryx and Crake/Year of the Flood sequence is an example of how she can a) do anything she puts her mind to and b) the most dastardly way she always sneaks in the female viewpoint and makes me happy!
Very soon I am going to start rereading the novels in the order that she wrote them. I’ll get back to you.
I would probably find it hard to go past my introduction to her, which was the set of short stories called Six feet of the country. They got me in big time. I read July’s people – I rather liked it as I recollect but time may have dimmed my memory.
Nice to see you here, Kinga! I haven’t read any of these but The Pickup intrigues me.
Judy, that is a brilliant plan. I really need to read hers in the order in which they were written, too. I’d imagine you could see how she developed as a writer and how she progressed. I just love how she can write pretty much in any style and still be very, very good. I can’t think of any book that I read by Margaret Atwood that I didn’t enjoy. A genius!
Thank you for that recommendation. I will put it on my list of books to read. I liked July’s People, but after The Pickup it didn’t have as much of the wow factor. I’ve said this with Kim before in the comments section…I think it’s a book that benefits from being read in huge chunks. My life at the moment is such that I sneak a page here, a couple of pages there, a paragraph while stirring the sauce, etc. Only in the evenings (when I’m knackered beyond belief) do I actually get any proper reading time. I’ll leave July’s People for now but will re-read it at some point in the future.
Lovely to see you, too! I seem to spend more time at this blog than anywhere else.. 🙂
I think you might like The Pickup. Looking at your book choices from your blog, it would definitely appeal to you.
Kinga, I’ve put a request in at my mobile library to borrow The Pick Up. The library van was being serviced yesterday, so I missed my usual Thursday lunch time visit (you wouldn’t get that with a normal bricks-and-mortar library, would you?), but they’ve promised me it will be ready next week. Looking forward to reading it. Did you hear she will be at the Hay Festival this year?