Unfinished Books

Ah, lists. 2017 marks an experiment to read outside my taste. Every year there are unfinished books, but this year I’ve decided to keep a list to see if any patterns emerge that might themselves be intriguing. I generally don’t write unfavourable reviews because I rarely finish a book I dislike, but a few words on this page, buried off blog might aid my search for patterns.

If, in my eagerness to read great literature, I’ve mistakenly abandoned a fine piece of art, please let me know in comments.

  1. Carmen Boullosa, Texas: The Great Theft (trans. Samantha Schnee) – Abandoned at page 75/281. The story’s context is so densely drawn that it is too substantial for its innumerable characters to bear.
  2. Antoine Volodine, Post-Exoticism in 10 Lessons, Lesson 11 (trans. J. T. Mahany) – Abandoned at page 31/93. Perhaps not a place to start with this writer; hermetic game-playing.
  3. Sergio Chejfek, My Two Worlds, (trans. Margaret B. Carson) – Abandoned at page 39/103. Sebald imitation without personality: ponderous.
  4. Fleur Jaeggy, Last Vanities, (trans. Tim Parks) – Abandoned at page 9/96. After reading two Jaeggy novels, which, despite appreciating the sentence-by-sentence technical skill, left me cold, this seemed just more of the same.
  5. Ilya Ilf and Evgeny Petrov, The Golden Calf, (trans. Konstantin Gurevich and Helen Anderson) – Abandoned at page 10/315. Trying as I am to read against my taste, this sort of heavy-handed humour is several steps too far. I’m probably not the reader for ‘wild tales’ and fun-filled ‘romps’ (see also The Master and Margarita).
  6. Nadja Spiegel, sometimes i lie and sometimes i don’t, (trans. Rachel McNicholl) – Abandoned after trying several stories. I’ve little patience for this type of thing. In this case it ran out quickly.
  7. Claire Donato, Burial – Abandoned at page 19/90. Twee and irritating.
  8. Camilla Grudova, The Doll’s Alphabet – Abandoned at page 27/182. Not without charm, but leans too far towards magic realism for my taste.
  9. Roberto Bolaño, 2666, (trans. Natasha Wimmer) – Abandoned at page 183/898. Unconvinced by the characters and the world that Bolaño conjures; ultimately I didn’t care enough, at any level, to continue.
  10. Osip Mandelstam, Noise of Time (trans. Clarence Brown) – Abandoned at page 89/249 – First-rate introduction by Clarence Brown; charming, colourful, disjointed vignettes until the charm faded.
  11. Rachel Bowlby, Everyday Stories – Abandoned at page 62/176. Mildly thought-provoking, but mostly slight.
  12. Jean-Michel Palmier, Weimar in Exile: The Antifascist Emigration in Europe and America (trans. David Fernbach) – Abandoned at page 140/864 – Much as its subject fascinates me, defeated by its definitiveness.
  13. Joseph Roth, The Radetzky March (trans. Joachim Neugroschel) – Abandoned at page 91/331. Published in 1932, though every bit a 19th century novel; some nice set pieces but swamped by overwriting and overmanipulation. No Stendhal.