Gurnah, Abdulrazak "Pilgrims Way"


Reviewed by Marianne
from Let's Read

Daud is a Muslim from Tanzania who goes to England in the 70s. He works as an orderly in a hospital, does what thousands of immigrants do, cleans up after the white people. He meets prejudice and racism, the promised land is not what he expected it to be but a return into his home country is impossible.

In this situation he shares his thoughts, his fears, his hopes with us. And that of other immigrants but also the "hosts" which are not always that hospitable, so we better call them the natives.

The author describes an England shortly after the colonial period when they still had to get used to not being the "master race" anymore. I don't just speak about the British Isles, there are people all over the world who still don't understand that.

But, even more, he describes the problems of an immigrant. If you really want to know, read this books.

Oh, one thing he talks about a lot is cricket. I still don't understand it any better.

Book description:

"By the winner of the 2021 Nobel Prize in Literature An extraordinary depiction of the life of an immigrant, as he struggles to come to terms with the horror of his past and the meaning of his pilgrimage to England. Dear Catherine, he began. Here I sit, making a meal out of asking you to dinner. I don't really know how to do it. To have cultural integrity, I would have to send my aunt to speak, discreetly, to your aunt, who would then speak to your mother, who would speak to my mother, who would speak to my father, who would speak to me and then approach your mother, who would then approach you. Demoralised by small persecutions and the squalor and poverty of his life, Daud takes refuge in his imagination. He composes wry, sardonic letters hectoring friends and enemies, and invents a lurid colonial past for every old man he encounters. His greatest solace is cricket and the symbolic defeat of the empire at the hands of the mighty West Indies.Although subject to attacks of bitterness and remorse, his captivating sense of humour never deserts him as he struggles to come to terms with the horror of his past and the meaning of his pilgrimage to England."

Abdulrazak Gurnah received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2021 "for his uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents".

Read my other reviews of the Nobel Prize winners for Literature.  

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Buck, Pearl S. "My several worlds: A Personal Exile"


Reviewed by Marianne
from Let's Read

I read this book ages ago and don't know why I never reviewed it. It left a vivid memory about Pearl S. Buck and her life. She belongs to my list of favourite authors, she was actually the first grown-up author I read and therefore occupies a special place in my heart.

In her autobiography, she writes just as well as in her novels where she manages to show us Chinese life as if we lived there ourselves. And here she becomes a close acquaintance of us, if not even a friend.

I know there was a controversy about her award of the Nobel Prize for Literature but that might have been because many men couldn't see a woman getting the award. So they had to find a reason why this was wrong. But her biographies are truly masterpieces and her descriptions of peasant life in China truly epic and rich. There certainly have been laureates who didn't deserve the prize, Pearl S. Buck isn't one of them.

She was a remarkable woman and writer.

From the back cover:

"Autobiography of Pearl S Buck. A memoir of the life of the first female Nobel Laureate for Literature, who was also a world citizen and a major humanitarian, Pearl (Sydenstricker) Buck (1892-1973) three quarters of the way through her life. Published by the John Day Company to whose president, Richard John Walsh (1886-1960), she was then married, the book was successful and temporarily revived her waning reputation. The China oriented writer Helen Foster Snow described her partnership with John Day and Walsh as 'the most successful writing and publishing partnership in the history of American letters.' The firm had published everything she'd written since their marriage in 1935. Her biographer, Professor Peter Conn, describes the book as 'a thickly textured representation of the Chinese and American societies in which she had lived.' Friend of Eleanor Roosevelt, cultural ambassador between China and America, tireless advocate for racial democracy and women's rights and founder of the first international adoption agency, this is a book by and about a special American citizen of the twentieth century."

Pearl S. Buck received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1938 "for her rich and truly epic descriptions of peasant life in China and for her biographical masterpieces".

Read my other reviews of the Nobel Prize winners for Literature.  

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Vargas Llosa, Mario "The Feast of the Goat"


(Spanish: La fiesta del chivo)

Reviewed by Marianne
from Let's Read

This was one of the toughest books I ever read. The descriptions of the torture are quite vivid and detailed. I wouldn't recommend it to someone who has a weak heart.

Rafael Trujillo was the dictator of the Dominican Republic from 1930 until his assassination in 1961. Of course, I had heard about the dictatorship and recently read "In the Time of the Butterflies" by Julia Alvarez, so I should have been forewarned enough. But I wasn't. The way, this dictator ruined almost everybody's life and what people can do to other human beings, it's just unbelievable.

The story is told by Trujillo himself, by Urania Cabral who is the daughter of one of his followers, and by his assassinators taking turns and making the story even more suspenseful than it is already. We see the different points of view - not that it makes us understand the dictator any better, I wouldn't want to anyway. Supposedly, he loved his country and its people but how can you treat someone like that if you love them.

It is unbelievable how the author managed to put this remarkable story on paper, I guess you have to be a Nobel Prize winning writer for that.

Comment from one of our book club members.
"This book provides wonderful insights into Rafael Trujillo, once dictator of the Dominican Republic. The reader can see his strength, his discipline, his idealism and the corruption of all that into a hideous corrosive force degrading himself, his collaborators and the innocent alike. The writing and storytelling are compelling. This is the best book I have read in a long time."

She is right. Unfortunately, her description fits many dictators.

Another comment:
"Reading the book started out quite slow for me, because of the different time and point of view changes, but after about half the book I could not put it down again until I finished it. It was really horrifying and revealing about history and places I had no idea about. And I dont understand at all how people can be so evil, cruel, manipulative. I absolutely also can recommend this book!"

I totally agree. It is unbelievable what people can do to each other.

"One of the most valuable things about this superb piece of literature is that it gives us a close-up, vivid, and personal view, partly factual and partly imagined, of the perpetrators of gross injustice so we can begin to understand how people can be so evil, cruel and manipulative. It worked for me."

We read this in our international online book club in August 2022.

Book Description:

"Haunted all her life by feelings of terror and emptiness, forty-nine-year-old Urania Cabral returns to her native Dominican Republic - and finds herself reliving the events of 1961, when the capital was still called Trujillo City and one old man terrorized a nation of three million people. Rafael Trujillo, the depraved ailing dictator whom Dominicans call the Goat, controls his inner circle with a combination of violence and blackmail. In Trujillo's gaudy palace, treachery and cowardice have become the way of life. But Trujillo's grasp is slipping away. There is a conspiracy against him, and a Machiavellian revolution already underway that will have bloody consequences of its own. In this 'masterpiece of Latin American and world literature, and one of the finest political novels ever written' ('Bookforum'), Mario Vargas Llosa recounts the end of a regime and the birth of a terrible democracy, giving voice to the historical Trujillo and the victims, both innocent and complicit, drawn into his deadly orbit."

Mario Vargas Llosa received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2010 "for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual's resistance, revolt, and defeat".

Mario Vargas Llosa received the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade (Friedenspreis) in 1996.

Read my other reviews of the Nobel Prize winners for Literature.  

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Buck, Pearl S. "The Patriot"


Reviewed by Marianne
from Let's Read



Pearl S. Buck was always a great writer of historical fiction. Here, she talks about the problems between China and Japan during Chiang Kai-Chek's time and the Sino-Japanese war.

A mixed marriage brings two families together, and nobody can tell the story of two cultures clashing better than the Nobel Prize winning author.

The history intermingles with the lives of the protagonists - it would, of course, and we can see how politics influence the family and how their reactions influence their lives.

As all books by Pearl S. Buck, a great tale of different cultures.

From the back cover:

"A Chinese dissident is torn between love and country in this novel from the New York Times–bestselling author of The Good Earth.

When Wu I-wan starts taking an interest in revolution, trouble follows: Winding up in prison, he becomes friends with fellow dissident En-lan. Later, his name is put on a death list and he’s shipped off to Japan. Thankfully, his father, a wealthy Shanghai banker, has made arrangements for his exile, putting him in touch with a business associate named Mr. Muraki. Absorbed in his new life, I-wan falls in love with Mr. Muraki’s daughter, and must prove he is worthy of her hand. As news spreads of what the Japanese army is doing back in China, I-wan realizes he must go back and fight for the country that banished him.

Pearl S. Buck received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1938 "for her rich and truly epic descriptions of peasant life in China and for her biographical masterpieces".

Read my other reviews of the Nobel Prize winners for Literature.  

Original Post on "Let's Read".


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