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
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
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
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!