Thursday, December 20, 2012

2012 reading recap (self-indulgent and long)

Whenever children get together in a group there’s usually one kid off playing by himself, aware of the action around him but he seems to be happier focusing on what he's doing. If someone else joins in, fine. If not, that’s OK, too. That, in a nutshell, seems to be my blog. It doesn’t purposefully ignore other blogs or people but whatever it seems to be doing at the moment can make it appear that way. When I read my comments I leave on other blogs (after publishing them) they seem to be brusque and not well thought out. Because…well, they’re brusque and not well thought out. Thank you--everyone has been nice and not confused my quickly worded notes (due to time constraints) for intended slights.

I had a few modest plans for reading this year but changed directions early, focusing on many books that aren’t well known. I plan to continue that trend next year. I’m happy to bring to light books that I think deserve a wider audience and hope that others will be inspired to explore a title or two. I’ll post what’s in the towering TBR stack separately since this is long enough already.

Probably what I’ve been proudest of this year has been the responses to my posts on The Peloponnesian War by Thucydides (posted in early 2011). The emails and comments from readers of the work, usually students struggling through it, always gives me a smile. The high mark for the year, though, was being contacted by an instructor with one of the U.S. military branch’s War College who is considering using my posts as supplemental material when covering the book. I didn’t envision any of these responses for something done on the fly during a few hectic work weeks but I'm happy and flattered to see them.

I had not planned on focusing on a particular author this year but I ended up reading and posting quite a bit by Benito Pérez Galdós, in particular during the Fortunata and Jacinta read-along. I'll have more posts on his works in 2013. I know doing a yearly recap is self-indulgent but I also find it gratifying to realize I read more than I remember. When you go at a slow pace like I do and the ‘wish list’ grows faster than the ‘finished’ stack, it’s helpful to recognize that I did actually achieve something during the year. This is titled a recap since little of what I read this year was published in 2012, and if it was, chances are it was a recent translation of something published a while back or nonfiction. Since most of the novels I read this year were translations, I’m going to present them by their original language:

Dancing Lessons for the Advanced in Age by Bohumil Hrabal
Summer of Caprice by Vladislav Vančura
Behind the Lines: Bugulma and Other Tales by Jaroslav Hašek

A Naked Singularity by Sergio De La Pava
The Pilgrim Hawk by Glenway Wescott
Cervantes Street by Jaime Manrique
The lost books of The Lost Books of the Odyssey by Zachary Mason (a look at the first edition by Starcherone Books—very highly recommended)
Three recommendations by D. G. Myers:
  • What Happened to Sophie Wilder by Christopher R. Beha
  • Morte D’Urban by J. F. Powers (why didn’t I read this sooner?)
  • A Month in the Country by J. L. Carr

Georg Letham: Physician and Murderer by Ernst Weiss (powerful and disturbing)
Eyewitness by Ernst Weiss
La Ronde by Arthur Schnitzler
Jarmila by Ernst Weiss

The Adventures of Sindbad by Gyula Krúdy (and more links on Krúdy)
Embers by Sandor Márai
Satantango by László Krasznahorkai (yes!...must read more by him soon)
Voyage to Kazohinia by Sándor Szathmári

The Tartar Steppe by Dino Buzzati

I Burn Paris by Bruno Jasieński
The Doll by Bolesław Prus (very highly recommended…I have a list of characters in a Word doc I’ll be happy to send if you tackle this one...or maybe I'll just do a post on it)
The Stories of Bruno Schulz
The Faithful River by Stefan Żeromski
Ashes and Diamonds by Jerzy Andrzejewski
Ferdydurke by Witold Gombrowicz (one of my biggest joys this year…discovering Gombrowicz)
Pornografia by Witold Gombrowicz (pornographic, but not necessarily how you would imagine)

The Letter Killers Club by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky
A note on “The Last Few Kilometres” by Leonid Tsypkin, which will be in the upcoming release The Bridge Over the Neroch: And Other Works
Cynics by Anatoly Mariengof
Maidenhair by Mikhail Shishkin

Torquemada (yes, yes, yes)
The Torquemada novels by Benito Pérez Galdós
  • Torquemada at the Stake (1889)
  • Torquemada on the Cross (1893)
  • Torquemada in Purgatory (1894)
  • Torquemada and Saint Peter (1895)
The City of Marvels by Eduardo Mendoza
La Regenta by Leopoldo Alas (probably the high point for the year—I can’t recommend this one enough)
The Spendthrifts (La de Bringas) by Benito Pérez Galdós
Fortunata and Jacinta by Benito Pérez Galdós (my third reading of it...and my favorite time so far)
Our Friend Manso by Benito Pérez Galdós
His Only Son by Leopoldo Alas

Non-fiction posts
Joseph Roth: A Life in Letters, translated and edited by Michael Hofmann
Leo Strauss’ lectures on Thucydides (1972-73 at St. John’s College, Annapolis) (I had a blast listening to these)
Winter King: Henry VII and the Dawn of Tudor England by Thomas Penn (audiobook)
Links to a series of posts on Montaigne by Sarah Bakewell, author of How to Live, or A life of Montaigne in one question and twenty attempts at an answer
Bluegrass Bluesman by Josh Graves
Five Billion Vodka Bottles to the Moon: Tales of a Soviet Scientist by Iosif Shklovsky

Movie posts (* indicates a tie-in with a 2012 posted book)
* Szindbád (Hungary: 1971)
A Story of Floating Weeds (Japan: 1934)
Larks on a String (Czechoslovakia: 1969)
The Grandfather (El Abuelo) (Spain: 1988)
Heima (Iceland: 2007)
* La Ronde (France: 1950)
* Capricious Summer (Czechoslovakia: 1968)
* The Hour-Glass Sanatorium (Poland: 1973)
* The Doll (Poland: 1968)
* The Faithful River / Wierna rzeka (Poland: 1987)
* La ciudad de los Prodigios (The City of Marvels) (Spain: 1999)
* Ashes and Diamonds (Poland: 1958)
* Pornografia (Poland: 2003)
* The Desert of the Tartars (Italy: 1976)
Film by Samuel Beckett (US: 1965)
* La Regenta (Spain: 1995 TV series)
Viridiana (Spain/Mexico: 1961)
Random thoughts on the BBC’s adaptation of Parade’s End

There were several books I read or listened to that I didn’t post on this year, especially nonfiction. The one novel I want to revisit and eventually post on is Job by Joseph Roth. My appreciation of it went up markedly after watching the 1936 movie The Sins of Man and I realized how horribly bad the book could have been.

I'm looking forward to reading the books I have stacked in the TBR pile as well as discovering more works and authors in 2013!


Amateur Reader (Tom) said...

This is a pretty juicy list of books.

Maybe I will get to La Regenta next year. Maybe maybe.

Dwight said...

One thing I don't stress enough is how much pleasure I get out of reading a book. I think La Regenta was my most pleasurable read of the year.