The Green Pope by Miguel Ángel Asturias

Originally reviewed by LaGraziana

It’s not a particularly secret wisdom that those who have wealth are likely to have power too. After all, it’s money that makes the world go round… at least a materialistic world like ours. Little wonder that our society produces considerable numbers of men and women whose primary goal in life is to gain money and ever more money. In The Green Pope by Miguel Ángel Asturias, Guatemalan winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature 1967 “for his vivid literary achievement, deep-rooted in the national traits and traditions of Indian peoples of Latin-America”, a young American who cares for nothing but wealth and power starts a banana plantation in Guatemala mercilessly ruining, driving out or even killing small local farmers and opponents on his rise. Neither the suicide of his fiancé, the death of his wife in childbirth or the pregnancy of his unmarried daughter make him reconsider his priorities.

My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk

(Turkish title: Benim Adim Kirmizi) - 1998

Reviewed by Marianne
from Let's Read

Every year, when the new Nobel prize winners are announced, I wait eagerly for literature recipient. Seldom have I been disappointed with their books. 2006 year was no exception, on the contrary.

Orhan Pamuk is one of those rare authors who seem to have reinvented the art of writing. His style is quite unique. Even though he settles his story in the 13th century, it applies to actual problems and facts in a way nobody else seems to be able to do. I have since read quite a few of his books, he is absolutely fabulous.

The narrator of the novel changes in every chapter which gives you an insight into the whole story that is beyond comparison. You don't just get the view of quite a few of the characters (including the person who gets murdered right at the beginning of the story) but also of animals and the painting around which the story revolves. This novel doesn't just give you an insight into Islam and art, a tour around Istanbul and life 700 years ago, it is an expression of the quest for the meaning of life.

A wonderful author. One of my favourites.

And here is a brief compilation of our discussion in the book club (years after I read this for the first time). There are a couple of small spoilers in there, so if you haven't read the book, you might not want to read this.

There were a lot of topics, not such an easy read. Many characters, lots of unexpected situations and philosophies. It was not just a murder mystery, there are so many layers. Someone found the book too large. We liked the chronology in the back of the book, unfortunately, it wasn't in all the different editions.

The book didn't grip you right away, only after about 100 pages does it get really interesting. Great writing. No doubt. The author obviously likes to shock his readers. Some couldn't put it down after a while, others still didn't finish it.

His language is quite florid, like Persian that was at its peak at that time, then the arts fell out of favour.

The author uses imagery very well, very colourful writing. He compares the art of the Eastern and Western world, the different way of painting, the religion and culture. Miniaturist Painting was prevalent though that region and time. Art, science, philosophy, concept of making everything realistic is going out of fashion, everything is more abstract now, see the pointillism. Orhan Pamuk wanted to be an artist, he educates us about art history. We enjoyed learning about the art part, depending on who was speaking, seeing how dedicated they were. The descriptions of Istanbul were very good, those of us who had been there enjoyed it especially. We would like to read something else about that time period.

His look at the world is fascinating.

We also had a talk about different cultures and how much they should assimilate when in a foreign country. We agreed that nobody should give up their own culture (but definitely abide by the law of the host country) but try to bring them together, social media is a good help.

We had a discussion about why they always use beautiful young boys or men for their pleasure.
We also wondered why Osman pierced his eyes.

Most of us were surprised who the murderer was.

From the back cover:
"In the late 1590s, the Sultan secretly commissions a great book: a celebration of his life and his empire, to be illuminated by the best artists of the day - in the European manner. At a time of violent fundamentalism, however, this is a dangerous proposition. Even the illustrious circle of artists are not allowed to know for whom they are working. But when one of the miniaturists is murdered, their Master has to seek outside help. Did the dead painter fall victim to professional rivalry, romantic jealousy or religious terror?

With the Sultan demanding an answer within three days, perhaps the clue lies somewhere in the half-finished pictures . . . Orhan Pamuk is one of the world's leading contemporary novelists and in
My Name is Red, he fashioned an unforgettable tale of suspense, and an artful meditation on love and deception."

We discussed this in our book club in February 2013.

I also really enjoyed "The Black Book" and "Istanbul - Memories of a City"

Orhan Pamuk "who in the quest for the melancholic soul of his native city has discovered new symbols for the clash and interlacing of cultures" received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2006. 

Orhan Pamuk received the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade (Friedenspreis) in 2005.
  Read my other reviews of the Nobel Prize winners for Literature.  

Original Post on "Let's Read".

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck


Reviewed by Marianne
from Let's Read 

The first volume in the "Good Earth Trilogy", the second one is "Sons", the third "A House Divided".

I absolutely love this book. Pearl S. Buck was my first "grown up" author, I read all the books our little village library had.

The description of all sorts of people in pre-revolutionary China is really interesting, Pearl S. Buck manages to describe every single person and event so vividly, you feel like you're almost there.

We lead a very different life today and I'm grateful for that. It was a hard life back then, especially for women who were considered a burden to their families and often sold when they didn't have enough money.

Wang Lung, the protagonist of the story, manages to get very rich through the land he buys. He owes all this to his wife who used to be a slave. But he doesn't really recognize this and leads a life any male would lead at the time. I cannot really judge him for that because he didn't know any better. I feel sorry for his wife, O-Lan, though for whom life was one big misery.

From the back cover: "This Pulitzer Prize-winning classic tells the poignant tale of a Chinese farmer and his family in old agrarian China. The humble Wang Lung glories in the soil he works, nurturing the land as it nurtures him and his family. Nearby, the nobles of the House of Hwang consider themselves above the land and its workers; but they will soon meet their own downfall.

Hard times come upon Wang Lung and his family when flood and drought force them to seek work in the city. The working people riot, breaking into the homes of the rich and forcing them to flee. When Wang Lung shows mercy to one noble and is rewarded, he begins to rise in the world, even as the House of Hwang falls.

Find other books by Pearl S. Book that I read here.

Pearl S. Buck received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1938 "for her rich and truly epic descriptions of peasant life in China and for her biographical masterpieces" and the Pulitzer Prize for "The Good Earth" in 1932. 

Read my other reviews of the Nobel Prize winners for Literature.  

Original Post on "Let's Read".

Sugar Street by Naguib Mahfouz

(Cairo Trilogy 3) 
(Arabic Title: السكرية/Al-Sukkariyya) - 1957

Reviewed by Marianne
from Let's Read

Seldom was I so sad than when finishing this novel. Not because of its contents although they were not all happy events but because this is the end of the story about the family Abd al-Jawad. I would have loved to carry on following their lives and that of their descendants even into the present day.

After reading "Palace Walk" and "Palace of Desire", the first two novels in this trilogy about the author's home town Cairo, I couldn't wait to read the next one.

Same as in the two previous books, we don't just meet the family but also learn about the Egyptian history. This book takes us through the years 1935 to 1944. We can tell the difference in society between the beginning of the saga in 1917 and the (almost) end of WWII. There is quite a difference between how women are treated, what they are allowed to do, even though there are still some people who live in the previous century. Same as today, I guess.

I would love to read more about Egypt later on. There is another Egyptian author that I really like, Ahdaf Soueif, I have read her novel "The Map of Love" and a collection of short stories "Aisha", and I am sure I will find other good Egyptian authors that will continue this story. If anyone has a suggestion, I am always happy to receive recommendations.

From the back cover:
"Sugar Street is the final novel in Nobel Prize-winner Naguib Mahfouz’s magnificent Cairo Trilogy, an epic family saga of colonial Egypt that is considered his masterwork.
The novels of the Cairo Trilogy trace three generations of the family of tyrannical patriarch al-Sayyid Ahmad Abd al-Jawad, who rules his household with a strict hand while living a secret life of self-indulgence. Sugar Street brings Mahfouz’s vivid tapestry of an evolving Egypt to a dramatic climax as the aging patriarch sees one grandson become a Communist, one a Muslim fundamentalist, and one the lover of a powerful politician. Filled with compelling drama, earthy humor, and remarkable insight, Mahfouz’s Cairo Trilogy is the achievement of a master storyteller."

Naguib Mahfouz "who, through works rich in nuance - now clear-sightedly realistic, now evocatively ambiguous - has formed an Arabian narrative art that applies to all mankind" received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1988.

Find other books by Naguib Mahfouz that I read here.

Read my other reviews of the Nobel Prize winners for Literature.  

Original Post on "Let's Read".

© Read the NobelsMaira Gall