Although I have a dismal completion rate, I adore book challenges! There are few joys to compare with lovingly pawing through my stacks (and I really do have stacks. And stacks) of unread books, searching for just the combination that will inspire me (for once) to finish whatever challenge it is that I’ve decided to undertake. I think I basically love book challenges for the sense of possibility they offer, the lure that this will be the year I read Ulysses; or five 19th century classics by unfamiliar authors; or a pre-1970 novel that has an animal in the title! Of course, my January exuberance is counter-balanced by my December reality check, when I (again) sadly acknowledge that most of these wonderful accomplishments didn’t materialize (even so, however, I always discover at least a few great new books/authors). But away with the pessimism because — it’s the beginning of January! The possibilities are endless! Reverting to my southern, down-home roots, I tell you, dear readers, that January, with its plethora of fresh, shiny new challenges, is a month when I’m in hog heaven!
One of my favorite challenges from last year was Rose City Reader’s European Reading Challenge, which focuses on reading books by European writers or set in European countries. Given my dismal completion rate for such things, I was sensibly doubtful about participating. The Challenge looked so much fun, however, and was such a painless way to read more translated literature, I decided to go for it. I had only discovered the challenge, however, very late in January and lingered just a bit too long over my selections. Then, with my utter lack of technical ability, I was unable to satisfy Mr. Linky in time to sign up officially. Quel désastre! There was clearly only one solution — I would be a shadow participant! Although I ultimately didn’t review any of my selections, I actually read quite a number of them and, most importantly, really enjoyed the experience. After a few substitutions for my original choices and a false start or two (my apologies to Linda Olsson’s Astrid and Veronica, but the time just wasn’t ripe for you), I read eight books I selected specifically for this challenge.
After shadowing in 2021, I decided that in 2022 I’d do the real thing and officially sign up for this year’s Challenge (besides, I now have almost a month to outwit Mr. Linky!). The Challenge simply requires participants to read books set in a European country or by a European writer; each book must be by a different writer and set in a different country. It’s very flexible in that participants decide how many books they want to read, from Pensione Weekender (one qualifying book in 2022) to a Deluxe Entourage (five). This year, as I did as a shadow participant, I will also observe a couple of my own idiosyncratic rules in choosing my selections. Because my reading is so overwhelmingly slanted towards books originally written in English, I will choose novels by non-Anglophone writers set, where possible, in their native or adopted countries. For the same reason I also won’t select any works by writers from the U.K. or Ireland; at least half of my reading comes from British and Irish writers, and for this Challenge I’d like to continue learning more about books from other European countries. Because I’m full of January optimism, and given that last year I read eight books that met the Challenge’s requirements, I’ve decided in 2022 to sign up for the deluxe package!
One result from a year of massive self-indulgence in acquiring books is that I’ve managed, with very little effort, to compile a list of some very enticing possibilities. This has been aided enormously by the fact that I’d already decided to participate in Annabookbel’s Reading Nordic Literature month; in effect, I’ve already had a lot of fun looking for reading possibilities from Scandinavia. As the reading year develops, my precise itinerary may change, i.e., I may add or eliminate countries and/or books; what you see below is simply the rough pool from which I plan to draw my selections. Although my goal is a minimum of five, I hope to read at least a few more. Because Scandinavia is a very much anticipated part of my tour, I’m starting my European journey with:
After Denmark, I’m on to
It’s now time to head south for to visit the German speaking lands:
It’s finally on to a very interesting tour through France, Belgium, Italy and Spain:
If I’m not totally exhausted by this point, I may take brief side trip:
I’ve had a copy of the great Hungarian writer Miklós Bánffy’s Transylvanian Trilogy gathering dust on my shelves for several years now. I won’t say I’ve totally ignored it; every year or two I read a few pages, scratch my head and decide that, next summer will be the perfect time to dive in! You can imagine my delight when I discovered The Enchanted Night, Pushkin Press’s collection of Bánffy’s short stories. At last, something that fits my attention span and is (I hope) an accessible introduction to Bánffy’s work. Lana Bastašić is a contemporary Serbian writer whose debut novel, Catch The Rabbit, won the 2020 European Union Prize for Literature. Having been in a few myself, I love stories about complicated friendships; Bastašić’s tale of two semi-estranged childhood friends on a road trip through post-war Bosnia looks really interesting.
Well, that’s it for my 2022 trip through Europe. Has anyone read any of my choices? If so, please share your opinion!