Thursday, December 27, 2007

A year In Books

I have included not just novels but essays and literary criticism in book form. The list is chosen randomly, in no particular order. Because of laziness, I cannot describe each in great detail. I managed to write a few posts on some of these books in this blog. The list below does not include every book I read this year but all the notable ones and also does not include re-reads like Turgenev, Goncharov, Nabokov, Proust and many others.

Mourid Barghouti: I Saw Ramallah
A poetic paean to ending an exile, very lyrical and melancholic.

Roberto Bolano: The Savage Detectives, Amulet
The former is on every important list. I wrote many posts on it. It is a savage prose poem. Amulet is a wonderful novel. Bolano is easily Latin America's best writer of the last 25 years!

Magda Szabo: The Door
Hungarian novelist. A restrained evocative creation of sad desires, sad memories. A rewarding book.

Thomas Bernhard: Gargoyles, Extinction, The Voice Imitator, Yes, Old Masters
Much said, much unsaid. I am reading his Gathering evidence. Bernhard is a word nihilist. And entertaining and scathing.

Abdulrazak Gurnah: Desertion
Altogether the first section was better than the second. The writing has wit and charm.

Gabriel Josipovici: In A Hotel Garden, Goldberg: variations
The latter is really a good novel, the first disappointing, but easily the best writer in Britain.

Italo Svevo: Zeno's Conscience
I picked this up after reading Alok's post. Not disappointed at all. A wonderful novel, bursting with humour, sarcasm, wit and occasionally tenderness.

Jose Eduardo Agualusa: The Book Of Chameleons
Angolan and Portuguese, poetry and style.

Jean Genet: Querelle of Brest, The Screens
Words are not enough. Genet is the best prose stylist in any language. I usually read Genet aloud and then think I am lucky. Genet is a writer's, prose poetry, politics, honesty, integrity and living his words through acts. He is thus the only true philosopher in this list, because he was there.

Witold Gombrowicz: Ferdydurke, Cosmos, Possession
The discovery of the year personally. Never self indulgent, always wise, always brilliant.

Juan Carlos Onetti: Let the wind speak
Not as great a novel as I had expected, but easily very good.

Juan Goytisolo: Count Julian, State Of Siege, Landscapes Of War, Makbara
Reading him is to physically destroying chains. inventor of languages, of passions and feelings. intellectual, poetic, surreal, sarcastic, political, mystic. Only reading him would suffice too.

Raymond Rousell: Locus Solus
Magical and other worldly, Witty and fascinating, a novel to be read many times.

Guillermo Martinez: The Oxford Murders
Murders, numbers, intrigue. Slightly disappointing but not boring.

Enrique- Vila Matas: Bartleby& co, Montano's Malady
The first far better than the second, both dealing with a particular disease called literature sickness. A kind of neurosis, but linked to real love of the same.

Robert Walser: The Assistant, Jakob Von gunten
I think that he is the mystical Kafka and pre dated him. To read Walser is to understand the success of failure. Walser is a great writer and unforgettable.

Adolfo Bioy Casares: The Invention Of Morel
What a novel! I am still baffled by its memory, its sheer inventiveness, subtlety and originality.

Laszlo Krasznahorkai: War& War, The Melancholy Of Resistance
The first a poor rehash of America, the second a really good novel, even great.

Laura Restrepo: Delirium
Well written, the author shows Saramago's influence clearly. The sections without his influence, sing song gangster literature are the best portions of the novel.

Georg Buchner : Complete Plays
Perhaps the best German writer of a particular kind. Lenz is certainly remarkable, in fact everything he wrote.

Wilhelm Genazino : The Shoe Tester Of Frankfurt
A brilliant novel. Influences of Bernhard yet an original writer. Some passages are remarkable.

Ghassan Kanafani : Men In The Sun, All That Is Left To You
The style is dense and needs effort. However, he was an experimental writer and so important for Arabic fiction. I think his stories are immensely important for the Palestinian experience.

Sandor Marai : Conversations In Bolzano
Anyone who has read Embers will not recognize this novel as Marai'. Brilliant, revelling in style and farce. Essential.


The philosophical and literary writings named below cannot be described in haste. I tried to read Deleuze earlier but struggled. Two regimes is more accessible. Edward Said is so keenly intelligent in both the books I read, always demanding and questioning. Adorno is my favourite poet- philosopher. Baudrillard is so inventive with language, so sheeny, and so mercurial but Adorno's melancholy is nearer home.

Sontag's essays are brilliant, in addition introducing so many writers like Gombrowicz. The Josipovici essays do him justice, he is really an essayist but his essays lack the poetic charm of Sontag's. Eqbal Ahmad and Pankaj Mishra's essays and writings are easily the best from south Asia, even though the former is purely a political writer. Negri- Hardt and Agamben books did not try me so much, though Agamben's style is not so easy. I have not read the entire Blanchot book. The style is unlike I am used to but I aim to plod.

Many books remained unread, some half finished, some deserted near the end for unknown reasons. This pattern will continue. I have not mentioned all half read or partly read books. I think the number of books read and unread is not a reflection of anything apart from a virulent chase after words, a melancholic and despairing attempt to find a voice in the voices of others, like Bolano's Savage Detectives. I find this list by Alok here as another wander lust. I wonder what Antonia's would be?

Edward Said: On Late Style, Culture And Imperialism

Theodor Adorno: The Stars Down To Earth

Gilles Deleuze: Two Regimes Of Madness

Susan Sontag: Where The Stress Falls, Against Interpretation

Negri- Hardt: Empire

Eqbal Ahmad : The Selected Writings

Pankaj Mishra: Temptations Of The West

Claude Addas : Quest For The Red Sulphur

Agamben : Potentialities

Daniel Varisco: Islam Obscured

Jean Baudrillard: Cool Memories vol 1,2 & Simalucra and Simulation

Michel Focault: Power, vol 3

Negri- Hardt: Multitude

Pier Paolo Pasolini: Heretical Empiricism

Maurice Blanchot: Fiction And Literary Essays

Gabriel Josipovici: The Singer On The Shore

Irwin Yalom : Love's executioner and other tales of Psychotherapy

Thomas De Quincey : On Murder

The worst read of the year......War And War by Krasznahorkai.
The best read of the year..........that's always tricky. I don't want to be held hostage by any writer, even Bolano.
And so, continues this love, these yearnings, a fire, funeral pyres, nights of unrest, days of images, and more so, the always important comments of my fellow travellers, without whom there is no blog.


Alok said...

quite a challenging list, specially the non-fiction section which is really heavy. I started so many non-fiction books this year but couldn't sustain enough concentration for long to finish most of them. Some of your favourites like Savage Detectives, Ferdydurke, and also Malcolm Lowry's Under the Volcano, are lying on my table still half-read. I don't know from where this energy and concentration to finish and then think about a book comes from.. may be it is just a specific mood which works for one book and doesn't work for the other. It is nice in a way... it keeps reading from becoming another academic, dry and impersonal exercise.

Alok said...

i also must congratulate you on blogging. specially the seriousness and thoroughness of most of your writing which is really commendable. I don't always comment because I have nothing specific or intelligent to add but I always enjoy what you write and always find them instructive in many different ways.


Kubla Khan said...

I was inspired to write this post by yours, and follows your format!
i immensely enjoy your blog too and yours is really one of the best!.....and i aim to watch many movies like you do.

Anonymous said...

oy booklist. ok i promise, the next days to get round to do it. but first i have to agree with alok on your writing, i really do mean it with the novel and when in scotland, you need a castle with ghosts to spook you. i read the Szabo book too, a time ago.

Kubla Khan said...

Thank you both. well, how about a collaboration?
waiting to see your list.

Anonymous said...

not a bad idea, collaboration, in what sense? ideas?

Kubla Khan said...

we could write a novel together....or write two parts separately and i am sure you w'd edit it. the third part has to be ghost written!
on a serious note.....we can circulate ideas and then frame them into words......

Anonymous said...

ok, you start, and what does alok think?

swiss said...

cool list! will be checking out a couple of these i think. though not if i'm in the mood for comedy! lol

coincidentally i've just been getting into my end of year review. no lists tho.