Sunday, June 30, 2013

Half-Year Review & Projections for July

Reflections on the First Half of the Year
The end of June also marks the end of the first half of the year and an assessment of progress has to be made. But a friendly one. For this activity is only a hobby and rakes in no financial benefits. However, whatever thing that is worth doing is worth doing well. That said, lets jump straight to what I set out to do from the beginning of the year and what I have achieved so far.

It is good to talk about successes first and failure last. I set out to read 70 books by year-end December 31, 2013, at an average of almost 6 books a month,  repeating what I did in the year 2012. However, when I saw the kind of books I had to read for the Year of Russian Literature (a challenge I had set for myself), I swiftly readjusted it to 60, averaging exactly 5 books per month. So far I have read exactly 30 books and 1 Single Story, which is half of the total books to be read at half of the year. Comparatively, a year ago by this time I had read 37 books and 15 single stories but at a lower total number of pages (June 2012: 9,862; June 2013: 10,695). But all these numbers are vain. The blog and the stats I keep are to help me not to slack in my reading.

On the Year of Russian Literature, I have read some very interesting and fulfilling books like Crime and Punishment and The Karamazov Brothers by Fyodor Dostoevsky, War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, and The Government Inspector by Nikolay Gogol. I am glad I did and I know it might not have been possible without this blog since there would be no commitment. I have learnt a lot from these books and I am a better person from reading it. I hope to read a total of 12 Russian books (novels, play, poetry anthology, creative non-fiction, collection of essays etc. whichever I get). I would also, accessibility permitting, like to spread it across the years so there would be the 18th, 19th, and 20th Century writers and some contemporary authors.

On the Non-Fiction I set out to read around the themes of Development, Culture and the Human Mind; Thought and Language; and Philosophical, Political and Economic Writings about Nation States and Humanity. However, I have hardly touched upon a book that addresses any of this. I am nowhere near fulfilling this challenge.

On other African (Alain Mabanckou, especially) and Non-African (Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Kobe Abe, Umberto Eco, Mario Vargas, Bogdan Tiganov, and Yudit Kiss) writers and titles I listed to read, I am again sad to say that I have failed woefully. First, I have not actively searched for the books and so have even partially forgotten about them. I hope the second half of the year will bring in something better.

Review June

I read a total of six books in June, three of which were part of the four books I projected to read. I continued with the Year of Russian Literature project reading The Karamazov Brothers by Fyodor Dostoevsky.  Also I read three of Bessie Head's books - When Rain Clouds Gather, Tales of Tenderness and Power  and The Cardinals, with Meditations and Short Stories- towards the commemoration of her birthday. But that was not the first reason for reading that many Bessie Head. The Writers Project of Ghana's Book and Discussion Club discussed A Question of Power in May. The book received great acceptance among the discussants. That book was dichotomous: the part that took place entirely in the author's mind or which addressed her psychotic visions and the part that concerned the physical environment, the real part. Though I have read Maru (about discrimination among the tribes of Botswana especially against the so-called Bushmen) and A woman Alone (essays, short stories, letters about Bessie Head), I thought the two are not enough to understand which part of Bessie dominates or pervades her writings: the psychological or the realist (for lack of a proper word). Hence, I decided to explore her writings. It also happened that Kinna was proposing to read Bessie to commemorate her birthday, so I joined her and killed two birds with a stone. The following were the books read:
  • Infinite Riches by Ben Okri. [394 p.] This book is the last in the Okri trilogy that began with The Famished Road. It concludes the story of the spirit child Azaro. However, it is also about the struggle of the people with the political elites and political parties. Okri's stories are fantastic and show the vastness of the African's belief.
  • The Palm-Wine Drinkard by Amos Tutuola. [125 p.] This was the selection of the Writers Project of Ghana for the month under review. This is a folkloric tale about a Palm-Wine Drinkard who embarked on a long seemingly impossible journey to Deads' Town to bring back his dead Palm-Wine Tapster. Though the scenes and the stories seemed impossible, this is the characteristics and elements of folklores. There is also a moral lesson in it.
  • Tales of Tenderness and Power by Bessie Head. [144 p.] This is a collection of stories that speak on issues of politics, general life and set in either South Africa or Botswana. The stories are diverse, steeped in Bessie's realist approach to writing. They are wide and contain historical essays on apartheid and traditions of the Tswana people. In politics, she showed that the people are more important than the rulers and it is the willingness of the people that creates a leader.
  • When Rain Clouds Gather by Bessie Head. [199 p.] Set in a village in Golema Mmidi, this story tells of the life of livestock and crop farmers and their problems with drought and progress. Again, Bessie showed the contrast between apartheid South Africa and protectorate Botswana, albeit subtly. She also showed that progress is possible and people yearn for it, pointing out that black and white can live together harmoniously that it is systems that create problems; systems like apartheid, like traditional superstitions and the power associated with chieftaincy.
  • The Karamazov Brothers by Fyodor Dostoevsky. [870 p.] A beautiful book that explores human suffering, thoughts, actions, and the overall good of human kind. It analyses the effects of getting trapped by a single idea and how one's cumulative behaviour could lead to people forming wrong impressions and judging you by it. Its section titled The Grand Inquisitor provides an deeper exploration of life and the importance or otherwise of religion. This is a definitive work, or so I presume, on human psychology.
  • The Cardinals with Meditations and Short Stories by Bessie Head. [144 p.] This book is set in racial South Africa and talks about repression and its consequences such as the destruction of the family system, and also workplace sexism. Like a typical Head, it is based on realism and it is here that Bessie somewhat discussed how she believe short stories should be: it should be based on real people. The sections on meditations are brilliantly written and explores the author's deepest thoughts on such issues as Africa and politics.

Projections for July

In July, I will continue with the Russian books and hope to read the books as and when they become available. The following books are projected to be read:
  1. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. This obviously goes to the Year of Russian Literature project. 
  2. A Heart's Quest by Elikplin Akorli. This is a poetry anthology by a Ghanaian.
  3. Ama - a Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade by Manu Herbstein. I scheduled this book for last June but I failed to read it. I hope to pick it up this time round.
  4. God Dies by the Nile by Nawal El Saadawi. This is the Writers Project of Ghana's book for the month of July. The Writers Project of Ghana holds a monthly book discussion on twitter and also at a physical location. You can follow us @WritersPG. All tweets on the book and about the discussion could be obtained using the hashtag #wpghbookclub. You are kindly invited to join us.
I will read these and one or two other books I can't foretell. Keep following ImageNations and together lets promote reading and African Literature.

5 comments:

  1. Congratulations for your achievements so far!

    You read The Karamazov Brothers and next you're tackling Anna Karenina, you're a brave man!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Miguel. I know what you mean. I told a friend that should you read three or four of these great Russian novels in succession, you're likely to develop a mental problem. So I'm not surprised about this. I have not fared well with Russian Literature and I am only now working to correct it. Thus, I have to beautifully punish myself. I am enjoying them though.

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    2. Congrats! :-)
      Interesting.

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    3. I have Anna Karenina on my TBR for the Classics Challenge. I would be looking out for your review. Congrats, Nana.

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