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So, what were my bookish things in the first week of September?
As I told you last week my online book group is reading Away by Amy Bloom in September. I’ve sent in my review (in Dutch). Maybe someday I’ll feel like transforming it into an English blogpost for Graasland, like I did on Wednesday with The Little Emperor (De kleine keizer) by Martin Bril, a book about Napoleon that is part of the What’s in a Name challenge, category ‘profession‘. I have read all 6 books for this challenge but still need to review half of them!
But hey, I quickly finished my reading for the JapLit Challenge this week: Butterfly in the Wind (Vlinder in de Wind) by Rei Kimura. A review is upcoming so I’ll keep my thoughts about this ‘biographical novel’ secret just a little longer!
The day I finished Kimura’s novel, the Bookcrossing bookray of To Kill a Mockingbird arrived from Portugal. Just in time because on Saturday I had to travel 5 hours by train! And you can’t travel without a book, can you? (Although I must admit I spent part of my journey preparing this Salon post ;)
With this book I finally picked up on the Classics Challenge again. I didn’t know much about it in advance, just that it is a classic. And from the movie Capote I learned that Harper Lee was Truman Capote’s assistant – but that he didn’t respect her much as an author. Unbelievable, because To Kill a Mockingbird gripped me from page 1!
The novel is also part of my personal 2008-2009 challenge. My last read from the list was in January (!) this year: The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (which I will review for the What’s in a Name challenge, category ‘time of day‘). With 3 more books in my personal challenge and only 4 months to go, it feels good to be back on track!
This week ended with a bookish surprise when I got home from my long journey yesterday. There were no less than 3 books in my mailbox! I’ll tell you about them some other time :)
After I went on a biking trip to Austerlitz Pyramid I started reading Martin Bril‘s book The Little Emperor (De kleine keizer in Dutch). Its subtitle is Account of a Passion, describing the author’s quest in search of Napoleon Bonaparte. That means I am participating in the What’s in a Name reading challenge with another non-fiction book (category: profession)!
The monument in Austerlitz was built in 1804 by the army of general Marmont, to celebrate the French ruling of Holland. Inspired by his adventures with Napoleon in Egypt, he let his soldiers make a pyramid… At first it was called Mount Marmont but soon Louis Napoleon of Holland renamed the structure, commemorating the victory of his brother in Austrian Austerlitz. To be honest this folly isn’t really impressive in real life…
But my trip to this historic site was (of course) not the main reason for wanting to read Martin Bril’s book about Napoleon. My interest was triggered by the first paragraph (in Dutch but I’ll paraphrase afterwards):
“De kist staat open. Op het eerste gezicht zit er niets in, anders dan wat proppen wit, zacht ritselend papier. Eén voor één haalt Mark van Hattem, conservator van het Legermuseum in Delft, ze eruit. Bijna eerbiedig legt hij ze terzijde.
Hij wordt op de vingers gekeken door een jonge, stille Fransman in dienst van het Musée de l’Armée in Parijs – waar de kist vandaan komt. [..] De sfeer is bijna plechtig, hoewel elders in de zaal wordt geboord en gezaagd. De voorbereidingen voor de tentoonstelling ‘Voor Napoleon. Hollanders in oorlogstijd, 1792-1815‘ zijn in volle gang.
Als bijna alle proppen uit de kist zijn verwijderd, blijft er een groot, wit pakket over. Aan de vorm is te zien wat erin zit, zo beroemd (of berucht) is die vorm: een steek, Napoleons hoofddeksel. Van Hattem aarzelt, mag hij het pakket uit de kist tillen? Hij kijkt naar de vertegenwoordiger van het Musée de l’Armée, die glimlacht.”
The paragraph describes Bril’s visit to the Dutch Army Museum in Delft, where he was allowed to witness the unpacking of Napoleon’s cocked hat in preparation of an exhibtion about the emperor’s time in Holland. And… I was working at the museum at that time! When the curator and the French supervisor weren’t paying attention for a minute, Bril managed to secretly touch this relic of Napoleon for a minute! Sssshhht! ;)
In The Little Emperor Martin Bril reports of his Napoleon craze: for a long time he read everything about the man and he went on a pilgrimage to several historically important sites to get a feeling of ‘the events’. He paints a vivid image of Napoleon Bonaparte as a person — and also of himself as an author. His enthusiasm is contagious, his short chapters are easily readable and most times arresting.
A few days before he died in april this year, Martin Bril was awarded the Bob den Uyl Prize for The Little Emperor. The annual award is given to the author of the best literary and/or journalistic travelogue of the previous year. I’m afraid the book hasn’t been translated into other languages (yet). But there are a lot of Napoleon aficionados around the globe that might be waiting for another prize-winning book about the emperor? So you never know what happens next.
It would be cool to bookcross my copy of The Little Emperor at the Pyramid of Austerlitz… But nah, I’ll just keep it as a memento! ;)
After stumbling upon it in Puss Reboots Weekly Geeks post, I decided to join the ‘What’s in a Name?‘ reading challenge (2nd edition): 6 different ‘themes’ requiring a fitting title.
It’s a bit sneaky of me that I can already cross of five of them but hey, it is supposed to be fun right? I just hope I won’t be castigated for taking the categories too loosely… :\ No need to add extra stress to my reading life!
So, here’s the list!
- A book with a ‘profession‘ in its title:
The Little Emperor (Dutch title: De kleine keizer), by Martin Bril
read in May
- A book with a ‘time of day‘ in its title:
The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro
read in January
- A book with a ‘relative‘ in its title:
The Mapmaker’s Wife, by Robert Whitaker
This title also fits review theme 1: profession!
- A book with a ‘body part‘ in its title:
Grey Souls (Dutch title: Grijze zielen), by Philippe Claudel
read in January
In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote
read in November
- A book with a ‘building‘ in its title:
Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh — I could have put this one at 3 (‘bride’) or 4 (‘head’) as well LOL
read in April
- A book with a ‘medical condition‘ in its title:
What came before he shot her, by Elizabeth George
reading in June