Monday, December 19, 2016

Reading Oscars 2016

2016 was a disappointing reading year as far as numbers of books go and I am not at ease with that at all. Reading has always been like oxygen and food for me and the constatation that I get it in fewer doses is truly alarming me.

Too much work, too much hazzle, too many distractions... you name it.

Best Novel in English

* Synge : The Aran Islands. One of my companion books on my holiday trip around Ireland. Not really a novel, more a travelogue by the famous Irish folklorist relating his voyage to the most savage part of the Irish west coast. A good read.

Best Novel in Translation

* Alfred Dôblin : Berlin Alexanderplatz. The tragic story of an ex prisoner trying to stay on the right path in a Berlin enjoying herself between the two wars. Captivating and well written.
* Karel Capek : An ordinary life. An intriguing and profound book about the meaning of life.
* Hermann Broch : Death of Virgil. A challenge and a masterpiece of Modernism. Only three quartered finished.
Winner : Alfred Doblin

Best Poetry

* WB Yeats : Collected poems. Another companion book on my trip to Ireland. I am not really a poetry reader but I like Yeats. And it is the only poetry book I read during the year anyway.

Best Non-Fiction

* Valery Larbaud : Ce vice impuni : La lecture. ( Reading , that unpunished vice ). You would swear that Valery Larbaud was one of us: a kind member of the Tropics. He dissects in this short anatomical essay the evolution from childhood to old age of a very peculiar species : the reader. Tongue in cheek, self-mocking and educated fun. Loved it.

* Hugh Kenner : The Pound era. This book, written by the Canadian literary critic is by far the most exciting discovery of the year. Kenner has completely disappeared under the radar nowadays but this book needs to stay. Here is a quote by Guy Davenport : “The Pound Era is a book to be read and reread and studied. For the student of modern letters it is a treasure, for the general reader it is one of the most interesting books he will ever pick-up in a lifetime of reading”. It is no exageration : The Pound Era is in a class of its own.
* Gordon Craig : The Germans. A book I read in the wake of the Mann's Doctor Faustus experience. Ian Bostridge mentions Craig in his analysis of Schubert's Winter Journey. Craig says interesting things about Thomas Mann, Faustus and the Magic Mountain. Interesting for those who are interested.

* Moses Finley : The world of Odysseus. This one has been on my shelf for several years. The real historic world behind the Illias and the Odyssee by the famous classical scholar. A must read for anyone interested in that period.

* David Van Reybrouck : Against elections. Feeling uncomfortable since many years ( since in fact the election of Coluche in France and La Cicciolina in Italy ) about what I thought was a failure of the Democratic System, I understand now that it is not democracy that is the problem but the technique of elections associated with democracy. The election of the Trump, the Brexit, Kascinsky in Poland and Erdogan In Turkey show us the constant danger to democratically elect the next world-threatening demagogue.

Winner by far ; Hugh Kenner The Pound Era

Best Reread

* Timothy Severin : The Brendan voyage. The inlet where Tim Severin started his epoch making crossing of the Atlantic in a hand-sewn leather Curragh was a compulsive pilgrimage destination when I was in Ireland. The book after all describes a breathtaking sailing adventure and at the same time an exciting inquiery in the boat building skills of the craftsman in medieval Christian Ireland. Read Saint Brendan on the island of Skellig to understand why people need to believe in God and in the skills of a good boat builder.

* Paul Cronin : Werner Herzog. Cronin added a few chapters to his fantastic book made up of a dozen conversations with the incomparable Werner Herzog. Everything you wanted to know about the great man in a single book. And what you did not want to know too !

Winner : Cronin with his fabulous Herzog.

Overal Winner : Kenner with the Pound Era