the books i read this year

since i failed to blog about any of the books I read, here they are in reverse chronological order with a little snippet about each of them:

The Star by Yukio Mishima

A young, sexy actor at the peak of his career, followed everywhere by adoring fans, is carrying on a secret relationship with his ‘ugly’ assistant who is twice his age. They both get a thrill out of the fact that no one would ever imagine them together, that it is impossible, for both of them, that they should be together. Also featuring plenty of the fear of aging and obsession with youth and death/suicide that is signature Mishima. Love it, and have never not loved a Mishima novel.

Rock Crystal by Adalbert Stifter

Some children get lost in the snow in the mountains. This is extremely beautiful, but it felt empty to me. It’s just stuff happening with pretty descriptions. I wanted more.

El túnel by Ernesto Sabato

The first real literature book I’ve read entirely in Spanish. An obsessive painter sees a woman at his art gallery looking at one of his paintings in a certain way that makes him believe she truly understand the painting. Without knowing anything about her or even her name he decides she’s the one for him and tracks her down. Full of all kinds of insane obsessing which is nonetheless very identifiable. A great read.

Woodcutters by Thomas Bernhard

An old man sitting in a wing chair bitterly complains about a distasteful artistic party he is attending for 200 pages. Peak Bernhard. I love it

The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke by Rainer Maria Rilke

A collection of poetry that I read very slowly over the course of the whole year. Some very beautiful ones, especially the elegies. Increasingly Rilke is a favorite

Solenoid by Mircea Cărtărescu

Impossible to describe, really. From tesseracts to mites to the Voynich manuscript, this book goes everywhere and nowhere at once. I’ve you’ve read Blinding by the same author, multiply that by itself. It has altered the way I look at the world, art, and myself, and I’ll likely be thinking about it for the rest of my life.

Netochka Nezvanova by Fyodor Dostoevsky

An unfinished novel that I’d never heard of until it was referenced in Solenoid. A very enjoyable read, full of passion and emotions. I wish he’d managed to finish it, but instead he was arrested and sent to Siberia and never got back to it.

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

After reading this for a second time, 5 years after the first, I am even more aghast and baffled at the public’s reception of this book. Humbert is an obviously violent monster as early as page 30. The average person’s complete inability to see past the thinnest glittery skin into the deep, vile swamp, says a lot about the mind-numbed world we live in.

Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee

Like Lolita in a way, featuring an appalling narrator who pretends to be aware of his issues but in fact continues to be the same gross monster as always throughout the whole book and is incapable of change or remorse even after hurting people again and again.

Old Masters: A Comedy by Thomas Bernhard

An old man sits on a settee in the Kunsthistorisches museum and bitterly complains about the paintings (except for Tintoretto’s White-Bearded Man, which is the only good one) for 200 pages.

The Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares

A man washes ashore a strange island, only to find it is populated with people who seemed to appear out of thin air. A plot driven story which seems like complete nonsense, only to make perfect sense in the end. A really fun, short read.

Forbidden Colors by Yukio Mishima

A bitter old writer befriends a beautiful youth one day, who he finds out is gay. He then uses the young man’s looks and charms as a way to break the hearts of all the women who have wronged him. Because Yuichi (the young man) is gay, the writer believes he will be incapable of having any feelings for a woman, and thus be immune to them. It turns out things are more complicated than that.

Requiem and Poem without a Hero by Anna Akhmatova

More poetry that I loved! I enjoyed her individual poems much more than the longer ‘Poem without a hero’ but still good.

Eugene Onegin: A Novel in Verse by Alexander Pushkin

A fun read about a Don Juan type character who gets his heart broken in turn. The version I read was translated by Nabokov, and he chose to try to capture the spirit of each line rather than try to force things into the rhyming scheme of the original. Many people were very upset by this, but I am so glad, because I hate rhyming poetry. A fun read.

An Iceland Fisherman by Pierre Loti

A cute romance between a fisherman who travels out into the icy arctic sea for months at a time, and the girl who waits for him in town. It did not end how I was expecting.

Five Modern Nō Plays by Yukio Mishima

No, or Noh theater is a traditional Japanese theatrical form and one of the oldest extant theatrical forms in the world. But the art, in Mishima’s day, had grown stale, with the same stories being repeated for hundreds of years. These plays were his attempt at modernizing the artform. Since it’s Mishima, they of course surround youth/age/death/suicide, and are generally pretty dark. But also humorous at times and over all enjoyable.

Correction by Thomas Bernhard

A man reads through the memoirs of a friend who has just committed suicide, and as the pages roll on the line between the narrators thoughts and the thoughts of the dead friend becomes increasingly unclear. Probably the darkest and strangest of the Bernhard’s I’ve read.

The Metamorphoses of Ovid by Ovid
I read the Allen Mandelbaum translation because it was the most beautiful of all that I looked at. So much good stuff in here, its not surprising at all this has lasted for so many hundreds of years.

Shores, Horizons, Voyages…: Selected Poems by Soph de Mello Breyner Andresen

I bought this based on the collection’s title alone when I was searching for Portuguese poets. I chose wisely, and loved the poem, all of which were about the sea. I’ll probably read it again at some point.

Several Short Sentences About Writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg

The best book about writing I’ve ever read. This was the second read for me and I still got a lot out of it. I recommend it to every writer I know.

Tao Te Ching: The New Translation from Tao Te Ching: The Definitive Edition by Lao Tzu

An ancient philosophy still relevant today. I really connected with a lot of this, and I think it is something I will be rereading often.

The Complete Works of Alberto Caeiro: Bilingual Edition by Fernando Pessoa

I absolutely love Pessoa, and Caeiro is, I think, his best poetic incarnation. This was a huge influence on how I write poetry, and I still love to open it at random and read a poem now and then. Just great stuff.

The Essential Neruda: Selected Poems by Pablo Neruda

My first experience with Neruda, and instantly captivated me. I was inspired to write my first long form poem this year by a poem in this collection. Another one that I open and peek through now and again.

By Night in Chile by Roberto Bolaño

The deathbed ramblings of an old man, the cadence of it and unending nature of the rant pull you in. The narrator knew a lot of poets and had connections throughout the literary society, and so the story includes Neruda as a character. This book has my favorite cover of any book I own.

The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge by Rainer Maria Rilke

Rilke’s only novel, a faux journal full of hallucinatory descriptions and strange thoughts. Reading this I could see how big of an influence Rilke had on Cărtărescu. I guess it makes sense that I only read Rilke in the first place because one of his poems was quoted in Blinding…

White Flock: Poetry of Anna Akhmatova by Anna Akhmatova

More poems that I enjoyed. This was a while ago so I can’t remember much except that I enjoyed them.

El Asesino del Lago by Raúl * Garbantes

A murder mystery. Some people are being murdered, and then in the end we find out who murdered them. Not very enjoyable, but I was reading it in Spanish for practice and it was written at a YA level, and that’s all I could manage at the time.

Poems and Fragments by Sappho

A poet from ancient times, these were so great, it’s a shame that most of her work has been destroyed over the years because she was gay. Definitely read these if you have any interest in poetry (or history) at all.

The Wreath (Kristin Lavransdatter, #1) by Sigrid Undset

The first of the Scandinavian epic trilogy, written in the early 1900s and based in 14th century Norway. A family story that takes place over the lifetime of the main character, Kristin. I enjoyed this first book a lot but somehow never continued the series. I am easily distracted!

The Stones Cry Out by Hikaru Okuizumi

A book about a man that collects stones. He has a dark history that we eventually learn about, through how he feels about his stones and geology. However, to me this felt very rushed. I thought it could have easily been 200 pages instead of 140.

The Pastor by Hanne Ørstavik

The only book I blogged about this year, read here.

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