Book Rambles, Media

Book Rambles: Around Europe in 14 Books (Overview)

During the summer of 2016, precisely between the beginning of July and the end of September, I embarked on a literary journey that took me to 14 destinations around Europe. Through European contemporary literature in translation, I have discovered some precious novels and novellas (of course, I’ve had some disappointments as well).

This is the final post about this summer reading challenge. First of all, I wanted to collect the links of all 14 reviews on one single post, for an easier perusal for readers and for myself as well. Secondly, I wanted to write my final comments on this stimulating reading experience.

First, here’s the list of all the reviews in their original order and with my ratings (out of 5 stars).

#1: Ireland – How to Fall in Love by Cecelia Ahern – 3.5/4

#2: Iceland – Butterflies in November by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir – 3

#3: Norway – Doppler by Erlend Loe – 4

#4: Denmark – This Should Be Written in the Present Tense by Helle Helle – 2

#5: Sweden – A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman – 5

#6: Finland – The Year of the Hare by Arto Paasilinna – 3

#7: Russia – Homo Zapiens by Victor Pelevin – 3

#8: Ukraine – Fieldwork in Ukrainian Sex by Oksana Zabuzhko – 3.5

#9: Poland – Chasing the King of Hearts by Hanna Krall – 3.5/4

#10: Germany – The Eye Collector by Sebastian Fitzek – 4/4.5

#11: the Netherlands – The Dinner by Herman Koch – 3.5

#12: France – Reader for Hire by Raymond Jean – 3

#13: Spain – Stone in a Landslide by Maria Barbal – 4

#14: Italy – The Sense of an Elephant by Marco Missiroli – 4/4.5

Around Europe in 14 Books… on a map!

As this challenge was conceived as a journey, I created this map so as to give a clearer picture of this literary travel plan. If you compare my reading order to the locations around the continent, you’ll also notice that the course I took has the shape of a real road trip!

If you click on each coloured peg, you can see the name of the book and its author and the link to the review. I tried to pin the exact location in which the book is based, but that wasn’t always possible because in some cases, the stories happened in unnamed places. In those instances, I pinned the capital city, but that’s ok because the majority of stories are based in or around the capitals.

I tried to be as diverse as possible in my choices, but now that I see the map, I notice that Eastern Europe was more or less neglected. That’s mainly because of the difficulty in finding good editions of English translations from this side of the continent (on the other hand, I have an excess of Scandinavian, German and French translations in my TBR list). I really hope to have another challenge and focus on these missing countries.

And now here are some random short lists that break down the books I read in terms of positive/negative qualities and particular interests.

5… Best Books According to Me

1. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman (Sweden)

2. The Sense of an Elephant by Marco Missiroli (Italy)

3. The Eye Collector by Sebastian Fitzek (Germany)

4. Stone in a Landslide by Maria Barbal (Spain)

5. Doppler by Erlend Loe (Norway)

1… Major Disappointment

1. This Should Be Written in the Present Tense by Helle Helle (Denmark)

3… Books that Will Make You Want to Leave Everything and Go on a Road Trip

1. Butterflies in November by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir (Iceland)

2. The Year of the Hare by Arto Paasilinna (Finland)

3. Doppler by Erlend Loe (Norway)

5… Books that Will Make You Want to Fall in Love

1. How to Fall in Love by Cecelia Ahern (Ireland)

2. Stone in a Landslide by Maria Barbal (Spain)

3. Chasing the King of Hearts by Hanna Krall (Poland)

4. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman (Sweden)

5. The Sense of an Elephant by Marco Missiroli (Italy)

4… Books with Strong Women

1. Fieldwork in Ukranian Sex by Oksana Zabuzhko (Ukraine)

2. Chasing the King of Hearts by Hanna Krall (Poland)

3. Stone in a Landslide by Maria Barbal (Spain)

4. Reader for Hire by Raymond Jean (France)

3… Stylistically Difficult Books

1. Fieldwork in Ukranian Sex by Oksana Zabuzhko (Ukraine)

2. This Should Be Written in the Present Tense by Helle Helle (Denmark)

3. Homo Zapiens by Victor Pelevin (Russia)

2… Thrillers that Will Make You Feel Anxious

1. The Eye Collector by Sebastian Fitzek (Germany)

2. The Dinner by Herman Koch (the Netherlands)

1… Book that Will Make You Fall in Love with the Art of Reading Books

1. Reader for Hire by Raymond Jean (France)

What I Learned from this Reading Challenge (And What You Can Learn as Well)

1. I discovered new authors that are well-known and bestsellers in their native country

2. I discovered a small part of country-specific literature which I didn’t know yet, thus expanding my literary horizon

3. I learned to detect some thematic and stylistic elements that may be related to that specific country’s culture

4. I learned to compare books from different countries, especially from countries within the same area or with similar cultures

5. I learned to appreciate publishing houses dedicated to translating international literature, as well as translation in general as a difficult job and as an art

6. I learned that not only do I crave to read more international literature but also that I’m feeling more determined to focus on global literature and literary translation

~*~*~*~

That’s all from me on reading challenges for the time being. I do encourage you to try reading books in translation, if not the above then some others (you can research your favourite genres, for example). I hope I will be able to entertain you (and myself) with a similar reading challenge in the near future.

Have you read these books? Do you have any similar recommendations? Leave a comment on this post or drop me a mail!
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2 Comments

  • Reply kooksnfrills 16th April 2017 at 9:20 pm

    This is such a great idea! I’m definitely going to have to do a similar challenge this summer!

    • Reply Tiziana 17th April 2017 at 12:08 pm

      Great, I’m glad you like the idea! I’m slowly building a list of books/countries for a follow-up but I don’t think I will have the time to do it this summer as I’ll be busy reviewing books for my thesis. But I was also thinking of doing something similar with films.

      Thanks for the comment!

    Any thoughts you would like to share?

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