Book recommendation – “Ni d’Ève ni d’Adam” by Amélie Nothomb

(I want to make an experiment and write this post in two versions, one in French and one in English.)

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Je viens de terminer la lecture de ce roman qui m’a doucement émue. Il m’est rarement arrivé de me reconnaître autant dans les pensées de quelqu’un d’autre et d’avoir reçu l’inspiration et la calme pour avancer dans ma propre partie d’échecs. Durant ces dernières années, j’ai cherché ce genre de modèle avec une frénesie croissante, n’en trouvant que de très partiels. Le récit de ce début de vie m’a si simplement fait comprendre que je peux renoncer aux développements sociaux classiques (travail, mariage, maison, enfants, chien etc.) sans forcément détruire mon futur ou me sentir coupable pour toujours. J’ai grand besoin d’histoires de survécus. J’ai besoin de savoir qui il y a d’autres histoires où un non n’engendre pas de rage, de bile, de résistance.

De plus, l’autrice est d’origine belge comme moi. Ceci pourrait n’être qu’un mot sur un document officiel, mais c’est ce qui m’a fait dire “Oh, moi aussi!” en lisant les quelques phrases du roman où l’autrice parle des nuages gris de la Belgique avec une affection simple et profonde. Moi aussi, j’aime le temps couvert de la Belgique. Il a été la lumière estompée d’autant de bonnes mémoires.

Je remercie Amélie Nothomb d’avoir réussi un livre aussi sincère et puissant.

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[English version]

I just finished the last pages of this novel and I feel so moved. It rarely happened to me to identify myself so easily with the thoughts of someone else, and to receive inspiration and serenity to keep playing my own chess game. I have been looking for such models with increasing frenzy, as I only found very partial ones. This story made me understand that I can give the usual social upgrades up (good job, marriage, house, children, dog, etc…) without automatically condemn my future or feel guilty forever. I need survivor stories so badly. I need to know that there are other stories where a “no” does not generate rage, acrimony, opposition.

Moreover, the autor is Belgian like me. This could be a dry word on an official document, but it is what made me say: “Me too!” when reading the few sentences in which the author writes with simple and deep affection about the dull grey clouds that are so typical of Belgium. I love the overcast skies of Belgium too. They have been the background and the diffuse light of so many good memories.

I would like to thank Amélie Nothomb for her sincere and powerful book.

Book recommendation – “Mhudi” by Solomon T. Plaatje

Today I wish to write about a book I read several years ago in its Italian translation: the novel “Mhudi”, written by the South African author Solomon Tshekisho Plaatje in 1919 (published in 1930). Plaatje was the first black South African to write a novel in English; he was a politician, activist, intellectual, translator (he spoke seven languages) and writer.

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The narrative is centered on the development of the Transvaal kingdom, seen by the eyes of Mhudi and Ra-Thaga, a Barolong couple displaced by the Matabele invaders. The courage and hope of Mhudi are the moving forces of the entire story, and her point of view was (and still is) a less well-known insight of tribal wars and South African folklore, deeply intertwined with colonial wars.

I remember reading this book in the spring sun on the banks of Adige river. Mountains around, alpine plants, Italian houses around me could not take me away from the parched plains and hot sun of South Africa. The flow of narration was so captivating that I read it in few takes, feeling enriched by the numerous historical references and the personal story of Mhudi and Ra-Thaga. It also remembered me my stay in South Africa, in Gauteng province, with some trips to northern Limpopo, where I took these pictures:

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I hope you enjoy the novel! Let me know your impressions in the comments.