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The Arabic Summer Reading Challenge and Japanese Lit Challenge IV

June 12, 2010

I know: more challenges! Especially when I’m spending my June reading trying to catch up with the ones I’ve fallen behind in. ;) But the Once Upon a Time and Canada challenges are coming to an end, and I’ve found two new challenges too tempting to refuse!

For the Arabic Summer Reading Challenge, I’m committing to the higher level of reading one book a month from the lists of recommended ones on the blog. So, here they are:

  • June: I Saw Ramallah by Mourid Barghouti: I was attracted to this memoir by a Palestinian poet about the exiled, state-less condition because I’m deeply interested in refugee issues. I haven’t read many Palestinian authors before (just Khoury, and I can’t say I enjoyed The Gate of the Sun), so it’ll be good to read such a well-respected author.
  • July: Cities of Salt by Abdelrahman Munif : this is a historical novel set in a Gulf country among a Bedouin community whose lives are changed when an American company discovers oil. It’s been banned in Saudi Arabia, which is reason enough for me to want to read it! ;) Anyway, I’m a sucker for huge historical epics, especially ones with a hint of the political. :)
  • August: Women of Algiers in Their Apartments by Assia Djebar OR The Map of Love by Ahdaf Soueif: the former is a collection of stories set during Algeria’s war with France while the latter is an epic family saga spanning generations and set in Egypt. I’ve put in an ILL request for the Algerian one, in large part because I haven’t read any Algerian authors, but if it doesn’t arrive, my library has a copy of the latter. I’m hoping I’ll enjoy it more than the other Soueif novel I read (In the Eye of the Sun).

For this fourth round of the Japanese Lit Challenge, participants technically only have to read one book by a Japanese author between June 1 and January 31. But I’m still in the habit of the older rules, which had participants read three books, so that’s what I’m signing up for! I wanted a mix of contemporary and classic, and of authors new-to-me and ones I’ve already loved.

  • After the Banquet by Yukio Mishima: I loved the first Mishima novel I read (The Sound of Waves), and I’ve been wanting to try more of him ever since! This one, about a strong woman who’s forced to choose between her career and love, sounds right up my alley.
  • The Sleeping Dragon by Miyuki Miyabe: I’ve never tried any Japanese horror stories, simply because I’m not a fan of gore and the ones I’ve come across sound too hard-core for me. But this one sounds more like a suspenseful mystery than horror, what with a teen claiming to have psychic abilities, a murder, and a journalist who decides to become amateur sleuth.
  • Kusamakura by Natsume Soseki: I’ve been curious about Soseki ever since the I Am a Cat read-a-long at the beginning of the year that I had to sit out. This one is translated by Meredith McKinney, whose translating skills impressed me with The Pillow Book, and simply follows a young artist on his meandering walk in the mountains. Doesn’t that sound a bit like Mrs. Dalloway, which I love?

Have you read any of these books? Where should I start?

25 Comments leave one →
  1. June 12, 2010 6:29 am

    You’re better at challenges than anyone else I know, so I know you’ll do great with these. Have fun!

  2. June 12, 2010 6:33 am

    I do love your challenge lists, Eva! Your Japanese titles have me intrigued; I love how you have gone off-the-beaten-track with your selection instead of the tried-and-tested authors and books that are forever cropping up (and which I too will be guilty of this challenge).

    I read The Map of Love early last year (pre-blogging) and was only thinking of it the other day; I remain impressed by how subtly yet powerfully the story folds itself around you and pulls you in.

    • June 13, 2010 7:31 am

      Thanks Claire! I did want to go a bit more unusual, since in the past I’ve definitely gone for the best known Japanese authors. I feel like now it’s time to dive into a different side of Japanese lit, especially since I don’t need a challenge to convince me to read more Yoshimoto or Murakami!

      I’m glad you enjoyed Map of Love; it makes me more excited to give it a try!

  3. June 12, 2010 6:51 am

    I’m going to experience these challenge through you — I need to catch up with what I already have.

  4. June 12, 2010 7:17 am

    I love your challenge lists – my TBR list always expands after reading them. Have to admit that I’ve only ever heard of one of these titles (The Map of Love has been on my TBR list for a while), so I’ll be interested to hear what you think of them!

  5. June 12, 2010 9:15 am

    I’ve not read any of those you’ve listed for the JLC4, so I’m looking forward to what you think of them. It made me smile when you said you’re in the habit of the older rules, three books required, which was from several years ago. So, it meants a lot that you’ve participated for this long! Thanks for your great enthusiasm and participation, Eva. I’m sure you’ll have great books to add to the list of suggested reading on the review site.

    • June 13, 2010 7:34 am

      I have participated for awhile now: it’s a great challenge! :)

  6. winstonsdad permalink
    June 12, 2010 9:46 am

    some great choices eva ,like japanese choices only read one yuiko so far ,good luck ,all the best stu

  7. June 12, 2010 9:50 am

    Oh, now I’m tempted to join both of these challenges! :) Your lists are always inspiring.
    I have read The Map of Love quite a few years ago. I don’t remember the details of the book, but I do remember liking it quite a lot.


    • June 13, 2010 7:34 am

      I’m glad to see another vote in favour of Map of Love. Now I might decide to read it regardless of whether Women in Algiers arrives or not! :)

  8. June 12, 2010 12:02 pm

    The Arabic Literature Challenge has been calling out to me, but I’m trying to ignore it because I’m already participating in too many challenges. It’s hard to resist however.

  9. JoV permalink
    June 12, 2010 1:25 pm

    Thanks for introducing me to the Arab-lit blog, I have been searching for one for a long time, but this one is great! Thanks again. I do inspire to read “After the Banquet” for the challenge.

  10. June 13, 2010 2:33 pm

    I’ve got another of Miyuki Miyabe’s novels on my list for this year, Crossfire; her work looks fascinating to me. The challenges look like fun: enjoy!

  11. June 15, 2010 12:31 am

    Ooh, I haedn’t heard of the arabic one, will go check it out! I participated in the japanese one a couple of times and the ran out of ideas for what to read – all your choices sound so interesting that I may have to join in too! :-)

    • June 15, 2010 5:48 am

      lol! You should join: it’s only one book. Surely you can find an interesting sounding one! :)

  12. June 15, 2010 1:58 pm

    Hey Eva, the titles for your JLC4 sound intriguing. I’m going to participate the first time myself. I think I will start with Out by Natsuo Kirino. For the other two books I determined to read I’m tending to wait for the reviews of your books.

  13. June 20, 2010 8:41 pm

    I’m going to read Kusamakura for the Jap Lit Challenge too! Do read Mishima’s The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, it’s amazing.

  14. July 5, 2010 5:55 pm

    I am taking part in the Japanese literature challenge too! I have only read and reviewed one book so far, but have another two on the way! :) Very much looking forward to getting into this challenge!

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