Mircea Cărtărescu’s Nostalgia is a world in miniature, and also, a people. In fervent minds such as Maria Gabriela Llansol’s and his, ideas come together from will to achievement to produce an extraordinarily rich vision, a higher synthesis in which contrasting ideas come forth to forge an incomparable unity. Like every brilliant work, Nostalgia and Llansol’s Geography of Rebels trilogy need nothing. The tone and flavour of their work makes allusions to art that has gone before, but they are uniquely their own. Made of nothing but words they transmit a vital atmosphere that seems freshly formed from nothing.
Of this year’s reading, a good year in which I’ve read several fine works that will stay with me for a long time, it is these two writers that give me both the passionate excitement and the contemplative rapture I find only from literature. Both stem the flow of time and leave me refreshed to perceive the world with altered lens.
I am reading Nostalgia again, so I shall begin the new years’s reading as I end this one. The list below summarises the books that stayed with me from this year’s solitary and mediative pursuit of reading literature. In Jon Fosse I think I may also have found another literary companion to accompany me through the dark forest of the next decade. I’ve long awaited a translation of Bazlen’s Notes and it was all I hoped it would be.
Fanny Howe, The Wedding Dress
Hermann Broch, The Sleepwalkers (t. Willa and Edwin Muir)
Reading and re-reading Maria Gabriela Llansol’s trilogy (t. Audrey Young)
Ricardo Piglia, The Diaries of Emilio Renzi: Formative Years (t. Robert Croll)
Reading Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle end to end (t. Don Bartlett)
Moyra Davey, Moyra Davey
Roberto Bazlen, Notes Without a Text (t. Alex Andriesse)
Thomas Bernhard, The Loser (t. Jack Dawson)
Jon Fosse, An Angel Walks Through the Stage and Other Essays (t. May-Brit Akerholt)
Mircea Cărtărescu, Nostalgia (t. Julian Semilian)
A special thanks to Andrei, keeper of The Untranslated blog. It is through him that I discovered both Llansol and Cărtărescu and, of course, to the bold translators and publishers that interpret these remarkable texts into the English language.
I always glean so much from your blog, this list not the least of it. At your recommendation, I started in on Llansol and so far am through the first novel (it’s included on a “Best of” list I’ll be posting tomorrow). Broch has been recommended so many times that I feel I have to get to him this year. Now I have to go look at your posts on some of these others like Howe, Davey and Fosse… I hope your 2020 reading year is as exciting for you as this past one!
I’ve got Satta’s The Day of Judgment on order. It sounds fascinating. I very much look forward to your post tomorrow, and I am so pleased you are reading Llansol. Best wishes for 2020.
I just responded to your second Best of 2019 post, but not sure at this point whether the comment went through. I’m so pleased you read Llansol. Her work is extraordinary. I hope very much more of it is translated, but I’m slowly translating it for personal use. I will read Anniversaries one day, but whether it makes it into my 2020 plans, who knows. I am looking forward to reading Satta, and am curious about Margaret Miller.
What an interesting list! I, too, get such great ideas from reading your blog. You were the first one to alert me to Fanny Howe. I have dipped into The Wedding Dress, which I purchased earlier this year. I read an interview with her and learned that many people really admire her novel, Indivisible, so I purchased that. And I want to read Love and I: Poems this year. I have owned Sleepwalkers and The Death of Virgil for many years, and I started Sleepwalkers a few years ago only to stall out. But I picked it up again yesterday, and I found myself immersed in it so that will bring me into the new year. I am looking for my arrival of Fosse in the mail, and I want to check out the Piglia.
I look forward to more of your posts in the new year. You have introduced me to quite a few works in translation, and I am increasingly interested in foreign literature so thank you.
I very much enjoyed Fanny Howie’s novel Nod, and hope to read more of her fiction next year. I’m so pleased that my blog inspires your reading. Thank you so much for your comments here. What’s on your “best of” list for 2019? Best wishes for 2020!
My favorites for 2019 are Handke’s Repetition (it has really stayed with me); Stead’s Man Who Loved Children (such a brutal, unflinching novel); Bernhard’s Extinction (I find him relentless, but so honest); Bachman’s Malina (her sentences intrigue me); and Conrad’s Victory (I loved the story and his writing though I know many critics panned it). In retrospect, I see I need to get off the computer and spend more time reading. Social media is my downfall, and I want to focus on more sustained reading in 2020.
These days I am less interested in the conventional story (love story, stories of middle class people living their lives), and I’m more interested in how an author uses language and what they have to say about how we live. I did read Ford’s Good Soldier this year, too. And while I very much appreciated his use of language and interesting unreliable narrator, it left me feeling sort of cold.
I have a list of writers I want to read in 2020, but I always change up my intentions. I do want to finish the Broch, read Paradise Lost, parts of the City of God, Proust, more of Conrad, some of Nabokov, more of Handke, and more of James (who does write the conventional stories, but uses language in such interesting ways that he’s an exception to what I wrote above).
Repetition is brilliant! I’ve been rationing both Handke and Bernhard.
Are we connected on Twitter? It’s the only social media I use and I’m always a day away from deletion. It has merits but it’s such a time sink. I delete when I get too absorbed and I’d like not to reactivate one day!
No, I don’t have an account on Twitter. I just look at the book bloggers I have found over time and their accounts on Twitter. I only use it for bookish purposes, but it can still cause me to waste a lot of time. But the value is that I learn about a lot of new fiction that way. None of my close friends are as obsessed with reading and books as I am!
That’s why I started my blog, ten years ago, for want of people who were as equally obsessed about reading.
I found this website from The Literary Salón link, fantastic work and very interesting. I had to respond as I have read many of these this year, Repetition was magnificent and Slow Homecoming equally as good. I look forward to browsing through the rest of this site. Just finished The Rings of Saturn which was exceptional.
I just found this site today from a link from The Complete Review. Very impressed. This year the best books I read were Handke, Repetition and Slow Homecoming, both magnificent. Just finished Sebald The Rings of Saturn which is also beautiful. Looking forward to browsing through the rest of this website and catching up.
Thanks for taking the time to comment. Handke and Sebald are old companions.