April was gone in an instant. In my head, it’s a blur. The days, all looked the same – I could only distinguish weekends from weekdays, because of work. And work… insanely busy.
Yet, am I also reading as much as I can. Only when my eyes hurt for so many hours in front of a computer, I stopped myself from forcing them for longer. My eyesight, bad as it already is, has probably gone much worse in the last year and so.
With April being this muddy memory in my head, I couldn’t quite place which books I actually read. That is why I love Goodreads. Mostly to keep a record. You see, for some reason, I was convinced I had read 3 books last month, and actually, I read four. And all four books were AMAZING.
Conversations with Friends, by Sally Rooney
I kept seeing the name of the author everywhere, so I had to give her books and chance and I’m so glad I did. The plot focus on the relationship between four people – who at some point become friends and lovers. And I came to hate all four characters in different measures and for different reasons. And while this could be something discouraging for some people, I find it so refreshing that we can read more fiction that doesn’t focus on victims, on heroes, on good vs evil. Because that is not how the world works, it’s simply not real. I like the rawness of it. The truth is, deep down, we are egoistic. We can be kind as well, but how many times judgemental. How many times we don’t even realise how much we hurt, and are hurt in return. I just read her book Normal People, and I’m … well I guess you’ll have to wait till next month to find out.
Was I kind to others? It was hard to nail down an answer. I worried that if I did turn out to have a personality, it would be one of the unkind ones. Did I only worry about this question because as a woman I felt required to put the needs of others before my own? Was “kindness” just another term for submission in the face of conflict? These were the kind of things I wrote about in my diary as a teenager: as a feminist I have the right not to love anyoneSally Rooney, in Conversations with Friends
O ano da morte de Ricardo Reis, by José Saramago (English edition: The Year of Death of Ricardo Reis)
Saramago is one of the most acclaimed Portuguese authors, Literature Nobel Prize winner. You may know his book Blindness, made into a movie a few years ago. I did not watch the movie by choice. I had read the book, a masterpiece that left a huge mark on me. And I guess because of that, until now I had only read two books by him, and this was my third. Who is Ricardo Reis? Well, Ricardo Reis is one of Fernando Pessoa’s heteronyms. And he is also the only one who dies after Fernando Pessoa does. It was very clever of Saramago to take this “fictional character” created by Pessoa and I was used to knowing through his poems and make it come to life through yet more fiction.
The reason why I most liked the book is due to the description of Portuguese society, so humorous, often sarcastic. But once again, I hated Ricardo Reis. If I had simply disliked him in his poetry, so stoic, so detached of strong feeling, Saramago depicts him as a man driven by desire, a supporter of the monarchy who is not able to detach himself from his superiority in society and assume the fatherhood of a child.
I think this book can only be fully understood by a Portuguese person and, while there are many passages I’d like to put in here, I’ll refrain from doing so as I don’t want to translate it. Yet, if you’re not a Portuguese person, and read this book, I would love to know what you thought.
Klara and the Sun, by Kazuo Ishiguro
Ishiguro always breaks my heart a little. Makes my mind throb. And his new book was not an exception. One of the things I enjoy about Ishiguro is that you never know what you’re in for. I can’t quite place him a genre, other than fiction. Every time you start one of his books, you’re in for a ride. And what makes me finish his books so quick is that the whole picture isn’t explained to you from the beginning.
I don’t want to give you any spoilers. But this book it’s more in the lines of Never Let Me Go. It takes place is a dystopian reality, where you can get the so-called AFs (Artificial Friends) for your children. These consist of robots, apparently very human-like. They are sun-powered and seem to adore the Sun as their God. Klara is our main AF here, but she is no normal AF. She has extraordinary observational power and, somehow, she seems to be almost human even in the way she thinks, almost as if she could indeed have real feelings. And moreover, faith. Faith in the Sun. When her “owner”, Josie, gets very sick, she seeks the sun. She prays to it, and she promises sacrifices, so the Sun can bring its nourishment to Josie and heal her.
So here’s the irony. It was a work colleague who a couple years ago introduced me to Ishiguro’s books and Ishiguro became one of my favourite authors. This colleague of mine was hospitalised shortly after I finished reading this book. I wanted to discuss it with him and yet I can’t. He’s been ill for a while, and his condition has worsened. I’m not a religious person, but I’m feeling like Klara. Praying to the sun to bring him the nourishment he needs to recover.
Mr Capaldi believed there was nothing special inside Josie that couldn’t be continued. He told the Mother he’d searched and searched and found nothing like that. But I believe now he was searching in the wrong place. There was something very special, but it wasn’t inside Josie. It was inside those who loved her.
Until recently, I didn’t think that humans could choose loneliness. That there were sometimes forces more powerful than the wish to avoid loneliness.Kazuo Ishiguro, in Klara and the Sun
Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This book is simply amazing. I finished reading it on the 2nd of May, but I did read most of it in April, so I’m adding it to this list. I can’t describe how much I’ve learned from reading books by authors from different backgrounds. But reading books from the perspective of black authors it’s been an eye-opener for me for the past few years. And this is something you should read. Adichie depicts the life of a Non-American Black in the United States, the relationship with the homeland, Nigeria, with her old and new friends. There is a part of the book when Obama wins the elections I actually noticed I was crying. Not sobbing. But tears were coming down my eyes. There is just so much in these pages. And there were just so many passages I wanted to keep note of. So much I want to reread.
In America, racism exists but racists are all gone. Racists belong to the past. Racists are the thin-lipped mean white people in the movies about the civil rights era. Here’s the thing: the manifestation of racism has changed but the language has not. So if you haven’t lynched somebody then you can’t be called a racist. If you’re not a bloodsucking monster, then you can’t be called a racist. Somebody has to be able to say that racists are not monsters
As they walked out of the store, Ifemelu said, “I was waiting for her to ask ‘Was it the one with two eyes or the one with two legs?’ Why didn’t she just ask ‘Was it the black girl or the white girl?’”
Ginika laughed. “Because this is America. You’re supposed to pretend that you don’t notice certain things.Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, in Americanah
That’s all from me, fellow bookworms. Have you read any of these books? I definitely want to read more of Sally Rooney and Chimamanda.