Travel the World in a Book!
Whether you’re jet-setting around the world, or staying planted at home, books can take you anywhere. This summer, leaving the planes behind and travel around the world to fourteen different countries and different times, getting a taste of life around the globe through 13 excellent works of fiction.
- •Beauty Is a Wound by Eka Kurniawan (Indonesia)This epic novel follows the beautiful prostitute Dewi Ayu and her four daughters as they are beset on all sides by hardships. Kurniawan’s sometimes grotesque prose critiques the turbulent past of Indonesia as a nation, drawing on Indonesian folk tales and shadow puppetry to create an entirely distinctive story. This is Kurniawan’s first novel to be translated into English.
- •The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota (Britain & India)Thirteen young men in a house in Sheffield have left India for Britain, each for their own reasons, and make an unlikely family together as they build their new lives. Flashing back and forth between childhoods in India and the present in Britain, Sahota sketches a portrait of human dignity in the face of adversity.
- •Death in the Andes by Mario Vargas Llosa (Peru)This mystery set in a remote Peruvian mining village is both expertly suspenseful and an astute political allegory by one of Peru’s masters of literature. Suspects behind the disappearance of three laborers include the Sendero Luminoso guerillas, the bloodthirsty government troops, or even a cult reviving pre-Columbian rites of human sacrifice.
- •A Golden Age by Tahmima Anam (Bangladesh)Set during the Bangladesh War of Independence, the young widow Rehana Haque struggles to keep her two children safe as the political landscape changes around her. Gradually, Rehana finds herself drawn into the conflict, and increasingly personally involved in the violence of the rebellion.
- •Empress Orchid by Anchee Min (China)The story of Tsu Hzi, a young imperial concubine who rose to become China’s last Empress, is brought to life by historical novelist Anchee Min. During the late Qing dynasty, Tsu Hzi, more commonly known in the West as Empress Dowager Cixi, maneuvered her way into power after her son became Emperor in 1861. While the historical figure has frequently been vilified, Empress Orchid tells the story of her rise to power from her point of view.
- •Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese (Ethiopia)Twin brothers Shiva and Marion were orphaned by the death of their Indian mother and disappeared British father in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 1954. A coming-of-age on the eve of Ethiopia’s revolution, joined by a preternatural bond and an interest in medicine, Verghese weaves a story of family against a backdrop of political turmoil.
- •Claire of the Sea Light by Edwidge Danticat (Haiti)The people of the seaside village Ville Rose search for the young Claire Limyè Lanmè (the eponymous Claire of the Sea Light), who vanished on the eve of her father’s sending her away for a better life. Around this central story, Danticat paints portraits of a village of unique personalities, connected to Claire and to each other.
- •Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigeria)The bestselling author of Americanah here tells the story of the struggle and disappointment of the Biafran struggle to form an independent republic in Nigeria in the 1960s. As in her other books, unforgettable characters and gripping story combine to create a searing novel, evocative and absorbing.
- •Our Lady of the Nile by Scholastique Mukasonga (Rwanda)Taking place in a fictional girls school in 1970s Rwanda, Mukasonga writes about a group of girls sent to Notre-Dame du Nil to be shaped into the feminine elite of their country and to protect them from the dangerous outside world. However, within the walls of the school, the group of young women quickly become a microcosm for the political chaos about to unfold outside.
- •A Strangeness in My Mind by Orhan Pamuk (Turkey)Nobel Prize winning author Orhan Pamuk’s most recent book, published in 2015, tells the story of a poor street vendor in Istanbul and the great love of his life. In this tale of great longing and coming of age, Mevlut Karataş, a newcomer to Istanbul, comes to the city to seek his fortune, but always seems to miss it — just like he missed the girl he saw just once at a wedding.
- •The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Vietnam)Winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize, this debut novel is narrated by a half Vietnamese, half-French communist sleeper agent, posing as a captain in the Southern Vietnamese army. Taking place in Vietnam during the fall of Saigon and the following years in American exile, the thrilling story and prose offer a new perspective on the legacy of the Vietnam War, and explore the complexity of questions of loyalty.
- •Midnight in the Century by Victor Serge (Russia)Inspired by Serge’s own captivity and exile in Stalinist Russia, this novel explores the responses of revolutionaries who lived to see Stalin’s betrayal of the revolution. A group of exiles and true believers flee captivity to find new life in the wild, in the unlikely company of a group of Russian Orthodox refugees.
- •The Bus Driver Who Wanted to Be God and Other Stories by Etgar Keret (Israel)Keret’s snapshot short stories have become well known for their sharp intelligence and ability to capture powerful truths in few words. His dry wit makes these stories, easily read in an afternoon, crackle with energy.
- •Killing Auntie by Andrzej Bursa (Poland)This surreal, macabre novel about a college student who kills his aunt for no apparent reason, and his quest to dispose of the body, was Bursa’s only novel. Rife with black humor and existential satire, this book is a unique story of disenchanted and restless youth.