For May we tackle Palestinian author Adania Shibli’s novella Touch.
Touch centers on a girl, the youngest of nine sisters in a Palestinian family. In the singular world of this novella, this young woman’s everyday experiences–watching a funeral procession, fighting with her siblings, learning to read, perhaps falling in love–resonate until they have become as weighty as any national tragedy. The smallest sensations compel, the events of history only lurk at the edges–the question of Palestine, the massacre at Sabra and Shatila. In a language that feels at once natural and alienated, Shibli breaks with the traditions of modern Arabic fiction, creating a work that has been and will continue to be hailed across literatures. Here every ordinary word, ordinary action is a small stone dropped into water: of inevitable consequence. We find ourselves mesmerized one quiet ripple at a time.
I am going to be phasing out our current discussion board in exchange for a new one through Goodreads. Please join our new group there!
This month we read a classic of early 20-century Japanese literature with Natsume Soseki’s novel Sanshiro (1908).
One of Soseki’s most beloved works of fiction, the novel depicts the 23-year-old Sanshiro leaving the sleepy countryside for the first time in his life to experience the constantly moving ‘real world’ of Tokyo, its women and university. In the subtle tension between our appreciation of Soseki’s lively humour and our awareness of Sanshiro’s doomed innocence, the novel comes to life. Sanshiro is also penetrating social and cultural commentary.
Join our conversation of this text on our Literary People discussion forum, here.
One of my colleagues recommended J. California Cooper’s novel Family (American 1991) as one of the best works of fiction by an African-American woman writer.
In this wise, beguiling, beautiful novel set in the era of the Civil War, an award-winning playwright and author paints a haunting portrait of a woman named Always, born a slave, and four generations of her African-American family.
Much has been written about the institution of slavery. But with Family, Cooper has taken the slave narrative and recreated it as an epic, yet collo quial, poem. “Mesmerizing . . . Cooper weaves four wry, humorous, tragic tales that envelop and transcend time, offering hope and renewal at the same time they chronicle desolation and death.”
Join us by discussing this text in our Literary People forum here.
Looking forward to discussing this one! Happy reading!
Our first read for the club will be Wilkie Collins’s “The Devil’s Spectacles” (English, 1879).
Plot Summary: The Devil’s Spectacles is perhaps Wilkie Collins’ most unusual and bizarre tale. It tells the story of Alfred, a young landed gentleman who is given by Septimus Notman, a sailor on his deathbed, a pair of unusual spectacles. These, Septimus had received from the Devil in person, under most unusual circumstances. The spectacles have strange supernatural powers, enabling the wearer to see the thoughts and emotions of others around him. Septimus advises Alfred to deploy the Devil’s spectacles to unravel a complex love situation in which he currently finds himself. The results are not in the least what Alfred expects.
You may read the text for free here.
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Read my blog about this text here.