Saturday, April 30, 2005

Books you can't burn

I have been stricken with a book meme, thanks to Nuno at Rua da Judiaria. Hopefully my answers are as interesting as he expects.
What book, other than Fahrenheit 451, would you want to be?
Braudel’s The Mediterranean. If I couldn’t be an indestructible book, I guess I will be a big book about a big sea over a big span of time.

Have you ever been really struck by a fictional character?
I have always identified with Kafka’s doppelganger K, but Egil from the Icelandic Sagas fascinates me: strong, clever, poetic, ugly.

What was the last book that you bought?
Dunya Mikhail’s The War Works Hard: I have been in the poetry kick recently, in part because of National Poetry Month. These are simple, direct works from an Iraqi woman – a Christian, an exile – that are critical of both the old regime and the occupation. Check out this poem.

What was the last book you read?
Rainer Maria Rilke’s Book of Hours: Rilke is an excellent poet. These are exploration of Christian faith and spiritual intimacy. A common theme is the inability of the poet to express his understanding of G-d in images. My favorite part is his poetry on Abel (“before there was death, there was murder”).

Rummel’s The Case against Johann Reuchlin: literary scandal in the sixteenth-century over Jewish books. I wrote about it recently here.

Which books are you reading?
There are many, since reading is an ongoing project.

Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh: I have been reading this slowly, one section every night, to absorb the atmosphere of Persian literature. I love Zahak, the dictator who feeds brains to the snakes growing out of his shoulders.

Jonathan Sperber’s The Kaiser’s Voters: Sperber wrote several books on politics in the Rhineland in the nineteenth century. Rhineland Radicals argued that a strong democratic spirit survived the failed Frankfurt Parliament of 1848-1849 and had to be suppressed by force. In this book Sperber takes a broader look at the democratic process in Germany.

The aforementioned The War Works Hard by Dunya Mikhail.

Reginald Shepherd’s Angel, Interrupted: poetic explorations of Chicago, blackness and queerness. The poems are interesting, but Shepherd takes formalism too far – it becomes a straightjacket for his imagery. Thinking of leaving it aside.

Harry Jansen’s Construction of the Urban Past: Theoretical attempt to create an historiography of urban history. It really has not commanded my full attention, and it might never.
Which five books would you take to a desert island?
I’ve picked some heavy stuff – hopefully I will become the prefect hermit.

Martin Buber’s I and Thou: a reflection on personal relations, especially between the individual and G-d, from the perspective of existentialism and Jewish mysticism.

Edmond Jabès’ Book of Questions: six volumes of poetry exploring French and Jewish traditions, exile, otherness.

Johann Huizinga’s Autumn of the Middle Ages: it explores the limits of medieval representation and chivalry during the decline of the Burgundian state.

Robert Musil’s Man without Qualities: A farcical look at Vienna before the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian empire. It is not so much a novel than a collection of related character sketches, all of which are open ended.

Mario Vargas Llosa’s Conversation in a Cathedral: I love Peru’s Vargas Llosa, but I have been intimidated by this book so far. I guess having all the time in the world to read it, I should.

To whom are you going to send this erm... let's say confession...and why? (three people)

Only three people? Ok, how about Brdgt at Fear of a Female Planet, Philosopher king Brandon at Siris, and Franco-blogging medievalist Zid at Blitztoire.

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