Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Summer Reading List

Here is a list of books discussed on today's show and a few more picked by Words Without Borders editor, Susan Harris.

They're organized by region and by reading purpose: Pure information, and pure escape.

Have fun, come back and share your responses to what you've read, and be sure to add your own reading suggestions by adding a comment below.


Escape: Beynam Dayani, "Hitchcock and Agha Baji": An eighteen-year-old boy, a Hitchcock fan, sees Psycho, comes home haunted by the movie, answers the door to an aged friend of his grandmother's, thinks she's Norman Bates's mother, and faints from the shock. The story goes on to weave Hitchcock and Agha Baji's story. More here

Escape: Goli Taraghi, "The Pomegranate Lady and Her Sons". The narrator returns to her home in Paris after visiting her former home, Tehran. An annoying elderly peasant woman, a confused first-time traveler, attaches herself to her. Slapstick ensues; the narrator finally rids herself of the old woman. Weeks later, looking through her bag, she finds the old woman's airline ticket. More here

Current Events: Goli Taraghi, "Encounter". A fashionable dinner party in Tehran is raided by the Revolutionary Guards; the usual bribes don't work, and the entire party is thrown in jail. The narrator recognizes the prison matron in charge of whipping the women prisoners as the nanny she fired some twenty years ago. The hand that rocks the cradle runs the prison. Good example of the oppressive government, but the flashbacks about how the nanny drove a wedge between the narrator and her son also speak to every parent's nightmare about child care. More here


Escape: Can Xue (pronounced Sahn Shway), "The Bane of My Existence": The narrator takes in a tiny abandoned kitten who grows into a feral cat who terrorizes her. More here

Escape: Yu Hua, "Appendix". A powerful surgeon tells his two little sons about a great doctor who removed his own appendix. This backfires when the father falls sick with appendicitis and begs the boys to call an ambulance. More here

Current Events: first English translation of Wang Dan's prison memoirs: More here; Word Without Borders interview with Wu Wenjian about the fate of the "June 4 Thugs" is here; blogs by Wang Dan

Background: Zhao Ying, "Red Bean Sticky Cakes and Running": The narrator recalls fleeing with her pregnant mother (who'd already had three girls and was being pressured to abort this fourth pregnancy) and running from house to house to evade their pursuers until the baby could be born; woman grows up to be a track star. More here


Background: Saddat Hasan Manto, "Toba Tek Singh": the first lines of this classic story are "Two years after Partition, the governments of Pakistan and India decided to exchange lunatics in the same way that they had exchanged civilian prisoners. In other words, Muslim lunatics in Indian madhouses would be sent to Pakistan, while Hindu and Sikh lunatics in Pakistani madhouses would be handed over to India." But the governments did not realize that the newly drawn borders between the countries would complicate the exchange. More here

Background/Current Events: Intizaar Hussain, "The First Morning," about the author's migration to Pakistan from India after Partition. More here

Escape: Muhammad Khalid Akhtar "The Monthly Ulloo," about the narrator's scheming trickster of an uncle. More here

Add your reading suggestions by adding a comment below!

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