Last Week’s Reading: Communists! Communists Everywhere!

That time again: some short blurbs about what I’ve just finished reading, as well as a week-themed rating: if Monday is the day we most despise, and Saturday is the day we most look forward to, then this scale represents my rating system:

Monday = “I threw the book across the room (from the free throw line, into the trashcan).”
Tuesday = “I threw the book across the room (then picked it up and reluctantly finished it because I need to know what to complain about most).”
Wednesday = “I (sort of) tossed the book (half-way) across the room (into a bucket of lukewarm water).”
Thursday = “I threw the book across the room (so that I could crawl back to it).”
Friday = “I threw the book across the room (because I saw someone who needed it in their face at that very moment)”
Saturday = “The book threw itself across the room (because I don’t deserve its explosive brilliance).”

I have a lot athletic-like emotions about books, okay?

9781632061157_74a84History of a Disappearance: The Story of a Forgotten Polish Town by Filip Springer
translated from the Polish by Sean Gasper Bye

One would think to use the word “haunting” when talking about a book about the disappearance of a medieval mountain town, But Springer avoids this cliche by focusing almost exclusively on the human memories of the town. From the beginning, when highlighting the 700 year history of the town, Springer draws the reader’s attention to the stone monument on the road between Kupferberg/Miedzianka and Jannowitz/Janowice Wielkie–two stone crosses, one bearing the Latin “Memento”: remember. What begins as a reminder becomes a command as more and more of the town disappears: first a few sons in WWI, then a few more in WWII…then all the German residents evicted as this mountain village becomes part of the region annexed to Poland and occupied by Soviet forces in 1945. The remaining native Polish residents are conscripted to work in the old mines, digging anew when uranium ore is discovered throughout the 1950s. Soon, sinkholes open up under farms, roads, building, pulling the town itself underground. By the 1970s, the entire town is relocated to one crappy apartment complex in a neighboring town. Now, nothing is left of Kupferberg/Miedzianka: its church, manor house, villa, brewery, cemetery and homes, all gone…but for the memories.

Publishing date: April 2017
Publishing house: Restless Books
Rating: Friday – the equity and inequity of memory makes this one all too human

9780802124944_90e361The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Imagine the whole of nothingness. What it means. Its weight. Nothing encompasses everything because it is everything that everything is not. An interrogator tells the narrator, “I can no longer imagine your suffering to be greater than mine.”

Now imagine sympathy. The effort and ability it takes to truly sympathize in the face of nothingness. Nothing calls one to be sympathetic. “I can no longer imagine your suffering to be greater than mine.” In this you have the most human of stories.

I don’t know why it took me so long to read The Sympathizer, (I have one of the first galleys that Grove/Atlantic sent to bookstores–I held onto it for years) but my book club is reading The Refugees later this month, so I decided to pick up the book-I’ve-been-meaning-to-read-but-haven’t-gotten-around-to-it. I’m still stirring this complex, messy, darkly sardonic book in my brain, and I’ll write a longer review of it later this month. In the meantime, I recommend this review by Molly Odintz on the MysteryPeople blog.

Publish date: 2015
Publishing House: Grove/Atlantic
Rating: Saturday – worth all the awards, despite the masturbation into a squid corpse scene.

I love it when two books have an unexpected, simpatico relationship. In this week’s case: communism leading to absolute nothingness. Happy reading!

~jan