Books I read in May:
1. ‘My Father’s Book’ by Urs Widmer: A son describes his father ‘s life, growing up in Switzerland in the early 1900s-going through two wars, his painter and architect friends, a brief spell of being a communist, following a woman to Paris and living the life of poverty yet voraciously reading, setting up an enviable life with his wife, nonchalantly digging into her inheritance to buy records and books and wine, a career in translation and publishing, battling with chronic pain, but above all a glimpse into rural/ small town Switzerland and making me aware of its vibrant culture. I had always tagged Switzerland as ‘neutral’ (read bland), and known only for its cheese, banks and scenic vistas. But this book gave me a glimpse of its early and mid century politics, response to war, art scene, literature. What stood out: character quirks, the idea of documenting everyday of one’s life in a fat blank book gifted to them on their twelfth birthday (a tradition in the village of the author’s father), the practice of keeping open coffins outside the village homes for each of the family members (a daily morbid reminder of life’s brevity). This book meant more to me because I visited Switzerland for the first time last year, and was highly impressed by its beauty and efficiency. And this book offered me a view of the rough, uncertain and slow evolution of this wonderful country.
2. Close Company – A Virago New Fiction collection of short stories depicting lives of mothers and daughters throughout the century. It highlights the (often very, very) subtle inequalities and prejudices faced by women at home, work and society at large; the largely invisible chores assigned to and demands made of them ; the guilt and subtle shaming still being the price of their seeking independence; relationship power dynamics and mostly their dreams or its graveyard. The stories range from a couple of pages to longer ones, and includes a variety of authors from Alice Munro to Fay Weldon to Margaret Atwood. I was struck by the palpable helplessness I felt on reading Fay Weldon’s ‘ Weekend’
3. Currently reading : Atomic Habits. Lesson imbibed in the first few chapters. Strive for 1% betterment in all spheres of life and goals. Gradually accumulate the benefit of these consistent mini-improvements.