Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Summer reading

AOG, Madrid

Summer vacation is just around the corner and I've lately been a bit preoccupied with my Summer reading list. 

Every year I take a small army of books with me to whichever place I happen to be visiting, and every year I return home with 98 percent of the pages intact. 

I read on the plane, but I'm not a beach reader. Nature gets too in the way for that to happen. I don't get up early enough to read either, so I spend most of the day doing things and not reading, but glancing now and again at the untouched stack of books by my night table. 

I wish this weren't the way things happen, but it is.

This year, this little literary ritual will probably continue, untouched. But I have to say it started a bit early, insofar as the sourcing of the material was concerned. 

Two weeks ago I met with two friends by Madrid's 'Cuesta de Moyano' street. 

This is a place, behind the beautiful Ministry of Agriculture and next to the Botanical gardens which goes from the Prado Boulevard upwards (it is on a slope) towards Retiro Park. 

What is nice about this place is that there are about 20 bookstalls all along one side of the street which sell anything from second hand books, to newly printed books, magazines and literary collections from mid XX century to now.

There are, of course, books from the XIX century and before, but those are slightly out of my price range at present.

I like that here, of all places, all sorts of books can be found. And two weeks ago, I came across 4 strange magazines which immediately caught my eye.

On the first stall I chanced upon there were four copies of the Spanish-language version of "Soviet Literature", printed as they were in Mexico City in 1979 (three of them) and 1978 (the other one). I wasn't sure what to make of them at first, but I guess I was in a Russian writer kind of mood, and I snapped all four for a mere 2 Euros after having a quick perusal.

Now, of course, I am in somewhat of a conundrum. You see, in one of the issues, there is an excerpt of Irina Grekova's novel 'The Faculty' (Kafedra in Russian). 

I've been reading it these past few days and, Soviet overt propaganda aside, it is very well written. I am really enjoying it. 

And, given my ignorance of Soviet writers, I was surprised, pleasantly surprised, to discover how much I was enjoying the excerpt.

Of course, the problem is that this is one novel I'll never be able to finish. I have combed the Internet and discovered that Irina Grekova happens to be one of the greatest Russian women writers of the XX century. 

I have also discovered that that particular novel is nowhere to be found in English, or Spanish, 0r French. 

I can't find it anywhere. There are some of her other novels available, so, since I do like her style very much, I'll have to "settle" for one of those instead.

And on a Soviet-Russia related moment, last weekend in London, I came across Alexander Solzhenitsyn's 'One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich'. An edition from 1979. 

I picked it up because, strangely enough, it was around 1979 when this writer came into my radar as a kid. 

I remember the media circus around him back then, and how all the adults were talking about this book. 

I thought at the time that I would have to read it eventually, but I came across 'The Gulag Archipelago' first about 10 years ago. So I thought it was fitting that I should read this now, so many years later. 

Will I read it over the Summer? Well, certainly it will come with me on vacation, but, as per usual, it will have to fight Nature and its never-ending distractions. 

This is all very interesting because this year, I was planning on reading Roberto Bolaño's '2666'. 

That may have to wait until 2012 now.

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