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summer reading: anna aslanyan

By Anna Aslanyan, Reviewer

Earlier this summer, talking to fellow reviewers about books we pretend to have read, I promised, rather unwittingly, to read The Man Without Qualities. Although Robert Musil never finished his trilogy, I feel bound by my word to read it from cover to cover. The only choice left is the language in which to read it. Tackling the original would be a lifelong project, but I have a Russian edition handy. Translated by the late Solomon Apt, one of the best translators from German, it comes in two volumes, one over 800 pages long, the other just under 600. That’s most of my summer taken care of.

If reading in German is a project for another summer, I have no excuse to postpone reading Curzio Malaparte in Italian. I first learnt about the author of Kaputt, born Kurt Erich Suckert, from Bruce Chatwin’s collection What Am I Doing Here (which I might, by the way, reread this summer too, along with Under the Sun, Chatwin’s letters selected and edited by his widow, Elizabeth Chatwin, and his biographer, Nicholas Shakespeare). Viva Caporetto! La rivolta dei santi maledetti, sitting on my shelf, opens with the sentence “Not everyone will be able to read this book”, making me even more determined to find out what the revolt of those damned saints was about, and why the book, first published in 1921, caused a scandal in Mussolini’s Italy.

Before embarking on European literature, I have to read The Silent History by American authors Eli Horowitz, Matthew Derby and Kevin Moffett. It started as an app “written and designed specially for iPad and iPhone”, which “uses serialization, exploration, and collaboration to tell the story of a generation of unusual children — born without the ability to create or comprehend language”. The printed book is different from its e-version, which includes “Testimonials” and “Field Reports”, the latter being site-specific and only available once you’re within 10 metres of the specified location. My hardback copy (513 pages) is quite heavy, but at least I can read it on a train anywhere – for instance, to Edinburgh, where I’m going in August. The main theme of this year’s festival programme is, naturally, WWI, so I’ll probably end up rereading some related novels (Front, a multilingual production I’m planning to see, is based on Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front) as well as Wilfred Owen’s poetry, since the shows I’ve earmarked for reviewing include Anthem for Doomed Youth.

My summer reading usually culminates in an equinox frenzy, and this year the most exciting September titles on my list are Samantha Harvey’s Dear Thief (I was impressed by her first two novels, The Wilderness and All Is Song) and Wittgenstein Jr by Lars Iyer, an author whose new book no 3:AM contributor – or reader, for that matter – would want to miss. I could go on and list a few more, but my earlier promise hangs over me, all 1400 pages of it.

First posted: Monday, July 7th, 2014.

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