Embroideries feels like a nice companion to Persepolis, the famous graphic novel about growing up in Iran during the peak of fundamentalism. Embroideries focuses in on the personal stories of a group of women in one of the few feminine spaces allowed for them in their fundamentalist society. It’s hard to describe the story of the graphic novel without giving too much away, but in essence, each woman describes how they’ve dealt with men and their expectations for them while maintaining a sense of freedom.
Basically, if you’ve read Persepolis and enjoyed that, you should read Embroideries, since a lot of the humor and style of the first is present again in this book. There are also some callbacks in this novel that you might not understand if you have not first read Persepolis first.
Availability: USMAI, SMCM
Review Submitted by: Kimberly Boenig
Rating: Recommended with Reservations
Challenge: A book with a one word title, translated book
In this new thriller, Norwegian crime writer Jo Nesbø provides a (more) contemporary take on Shakespeare’s tale of a tormented king. Nesbø sets his Macbeth in 1970s Scotland – in an unnamed lawless city plagued with crime, drug abuse, and police corruption. Macbeth, who leads the city’s SWAT team, comes from humble origins but has ambitions to become police commissioner; ambitions that are stoked by his wife “Lady,” here a former prostitute who now runs a successful casino.
Nesbø does a good job of translating Shakespeare into this new setting. Rather than queen of the witches, Hecate here is the city’s untouchable drug lord, whose employees produce the drug “brew.” Many of the play’s famous murders transpire in a similar way, just updated to include guns and car chases. Macbeth and Lady’s increasingly frequent visions and hallucinations are less supernatural than the result of drug use.
I found the writing to be somewhat uneven (possibly the result of translation from Norwegian to English) and more focused on plot and characterization than language. I wouldn’t exactly call it a page turner, but the novel retains much of the otherworldly nightmarish vision of the play.
Nesbø’s book is the most recent offering by Hogarth Shakespeare, a series in which famous contemporary novelists transform Shakespeare into modern literary fiction. Other authors in this series – which I have so far found interesting but uneven in execution – include Jeanette Winterson, Howard Jacboson, Anne Tyler, Margaret Atwood, Tracy Chevalier, Edward St. Aubyn, and Gillian Flynn (not yet released).
Availability: COSMOS, USMAI
Review Submitted by: Kaitlyn Grigsby-Hall
Challenge: Published in 2018; translated book
I give Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne a ‘Must Read’ rating. This classic adventure novel takes place among the Nautilus, an underwater ship piloted by none other than Captain Nemo. Each chapter is a new adventure or challenge that is posed to Nemo and his companions. It is a fast-paced book for anyone looking for an entertaining and all around enjoyable book to lose yourself in this summer. Definitely a classic worth reading!
Availability: SMCM, COSMOS, and USMAI
Review Submitted by: Erin Crawford
Rating: Must Read
Challenge: A translated book; book to film
Think translated books aren’t for you? Check these out.
Tao te Ching (pronounced Dow Day Jeeng), was written by Lao Tzu (Low-dsuh) and translated by Ursula K. Le Guin.
OK so there are tons of translations of the Tao te Ching, and while this one is not my favorite, the book itself is a wonderful way (haha, get it, Tao means “The Way”) to gain a more mindful approach at life. It is actually a collection of ancient poetry written more than 2500 years ago by a man attempting to lead people to a more mindful, meaningful way of life– one that is harmonious with the natural rhythms of the Earth. One of my favorite excerpts: “The Way never does anything, / and everything gets done… In stillness all under heaven rests” (p.37).
Peace & Love.
Review Submitted by: Jeanette Warren
Rating: Highly recommended
Challenge: A translated book.
Earlier this year I looked at one of those “100 best novels” lists, and I learned that Oedipus Rex was part of a trilogy. I wanted to see what other wackily tragic events could happen to Oedipus, so I read “Sophocles I” by Sophocles (translated by David Grene, Robert Fitzgerald, and Elizabeth Wyckoff). The book contained three plays: Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus, and Antigone. At times, I thought that I might as well be reading the play in ancient Greek for all that I understood the details, but luckily, I think I understood enough to follow the basic story.
Without giving anything away …. Oedipus the King had the most interesting (bizarre) story; although, the key activities took place before the play starts and the action in the play is discovery. Oedipus at Colonus seemed transitional vice tragic in that it: provided a little closure to Oedipus the King and introduced the curse (or maybe it was prophecy) that “set the stage” for Antigone. Antigone, named after one of Oedipus’ daughters, is about conflict between Antigone and Creon and the resulting tragic actions.
I can only recommend this if you: (1) wonder “what happened to Oedipus” after reading the first play in high school, (2) enjoy theater or Greek literature, or (3) enjoy thinking about symbolism/meaning.
Availability: COSMOS, SMCM, USMAI
Review Submitted by: Andy Ashenfelter
Rating: Recommended with Reservations
Challenge: A translated book
Orhan Parmuk introduces us to the culturally rich yet turbulent period of 16th century Istanbul in his murder-mystery novel My Name is Red translated by Erdag Goknar. While the Ottoman Empire has reached its zenith of artistic sophistication under the fervent patronage of Sultan Murat III, there emerges a dire conflict between preservation of traditional Islamic painting and the adoption of European-style illustrations. When the Sultan commissions a guild of miniaturists to illuminate a book in the realist style of the Europeans, the miniaturists must either obey their ruler’s wishes by depicting the universe as the human eye perceives it, or illustrate it as envisioned by Allah. One of the commissioned miniaturists, afraid of his peers violating Islamic artistic traditions, sets out on a killing spree and it is up to us, the readers, to figure out his identity.
Parmuk’s novel transcends the suspenseful nature of our typical mystery thriller through complex philosophical arguments concerning artistic signature and style, blindness and memory. Each chapter is narrated from the perspective of one of the four miniaturists commissioned to create the Sultan’s controversial book or from the perspectives of other individuals who know of the book’s existence and are connected to the miniaturists in some way. Each character talks with a distinct voice, just as each paints with a distinct style. Embedded within each of their narratives are intricate parables that frame their unique personalities and contribute to the unconventional development of this murder mystery.
Availability: SMCM, USMAI, COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Xuejie Kimball
Rating: Highly Recommended
Challenge: translated book, book with a color in the title