February/March 2021 Reading Roundup

I missed my monthly reading roundup in February, so here are two months together. As you’ll see, they were dominated by one huge book: Marcel Proust’s seven-volume, 3,000-page masterpiece. But I managed to squeeze in a few more good books as well.

The Ants Will Come and Tell Me by Lena & Daniel Platt

I enjoyed this chronicle of a Guyanese political family from the independence movement to the present day. It was an interesting combination of history and biography that shed light on the difficulties for resource-rich countries in escaping from imperial control. Full review here.

Nordic Fauna by Andrea Lundgren

Nordic Fauna

You know those books that you enjoy reading, but that don’t leave much of an impression on you? This was one of those. My memory of it is already hazy after less than two months. And yet I know I enjoyed it. A series of short stories set in the far north of Sweden. Beautiful descriptions of nature combined with intriguing character development. That’s all I’ve got, folks.

In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust

In Search of Lost Time by Proust

I’m counting this as one book instead of seven because that’s what it is: one long, immensely rich and detailed novel about memory, time, sexuality, the senses, writing, beauty and a whole lot more. My mistake in the past was trying to read the first volume, Swann’s Way, as a standalone book. It doesn’t make sense as a standalone book: it’s a very long prologue for a much larger work. Clearly I need to write a whole post about this book, and I hope to write it soon, but here I’ll just say that I’m glad Emma prompted me to read it finally, and if you’re planning to tackle Proust, don’t do it piecemeal as I did in the past: set aside some time to read all seven volumes together, slowly and with attention. The book will reward you.

The Magic of Belgrade by Momo Kapor

The Magic of Belgrade	Momo Kapor

This was my Proust antidote: a series of light-hearted fragments written about Belgrade by a Serbian journalist and writer called Momo Kapor. It’s an endearing book, and even as someone quite new to the country I recognise some of the quirky habits he writes about, such as the morbid fear of “promaja”, otherwise known as a draught. So many people here seem cavalier about COVID-19, but leave a window open and they’ll think you’re trying to kill them.

On a side note, this book also made me sad that this kind of whimsical column of somewhat literary, somewhat down-to-earth observations doesn’t exist any more in British or American newspapers. It reminded me of Joseph Roth’s feuilletons in The Hotel Years or of some of Orwell’s newspaper writing from the 1930s. But these days, you either get politics or some consumption-heavy, advertising-friendly lifestyle shit.

What Did You Read Last Month?

I always enjoy getting your recommendations, so please let me know your best books of the month in the comments. Or if you want to rant about a book you hated, that’s fine too!

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There are 11 comments

  1. Hi Andrew,

    I’m so happy you decided to read In Search of Lost Time and congratulations on reading all the volumes in a row.

    I hope you’ll write a post about it, I’m curious to read your thoughts.

    PS : Thanks for the mention.

    1. I’m happy I did it too, Emma. I had a bit more time last month, so I was able to really immerse myself in it, and reading the whole thing at once let me see connections I might otherwise have missed. Thanks again for the reminder!

  2. I have trouble reading a regular sized novel sometimes – so reading Proust’s much larger work seems like quite an accomplishment! The Kopur and Platt books look like they’d be pretty interesting.

    Visiting from the monthly wrap-up at FYFA

    1. Hi Kym, Thanks for visiting! Yeah, it was quite a commitment 🙂 I’d been putting it off for years for that reason, but I’m glad I finally made time for it.

    1. Hi Aj, Yeah, it was quite a marathon 🙂 But I see from your blog that you’re a long distance runner too, so you know the satisfaction that can come from reaching the finish line! Reading Proust also gave a lot of enjoyment along the way. Thanks for visiting, and have a great April too!

  3. What an amazing reading experience; I’d not really considered reading it “all in one go”, so that’s advice I truly appreciate. Do you have any interest in reading the Proust-reading-related books out there? I can’t think of the titles and authors off-top-of-head, but I think there was a small crop a few years ago. (I have a handful of old cookery/health books-a pet interest-and they take drafts very seriously too!)

    1. Yes, I know what you mean about the Proust-reading books—I think there was a little outbreak around the centenary of publication. In fact, it was Emma’s post about reading one of these books that prompted me to read Proust finally. Hers was published in French only, but I could look up English ones.

      It’s not something I feel motivated to do right now, but I think it might be good in a few years, when my memory of the book has started to fade a little, and reading about reading Proust might make the memories of that immersive reading experience come flooding back. As Emma said:

      “When I started A Summer With Proust, I re-connected to Proust’s world immediately, like you do when you meet up with good friends, even if you haven’t seen them for a long time. The reconnection is instantaneous.”

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