Michelle Bailat-Jones

Writer, Translator, Reader

Non-stop bookishness today that began with a trip to my favorite 2nd hand bookstore in Lausanne. I had to engage in a small but mostly polite skirmish with another Anglophone and obvious book-lover as he and I negotiated four slim shelves of English books, eyeing each other to make sure the other wasn’t about to grab a coveted title. I was in a hurry but did get this little stack of paperbacks:

  • The Penguin Book of Welsh Short Stories
  • Borges and the Eternal Orangutans by Luis Fernando Verissimo (I read almost a third of this on the train ride back to home and so far it is a light & clever satire, written as a letter to Borges and involving a fiftyish translator and an Edgar Allan Poe conference in Buenos Aires)
  • The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
  • Best American Essays 1987, edited by Gay Talese & Robert Atwan (some great names in this collection)
  • The Calcutta Chromosome by Amitov Ghosh
  • Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour An Introduction by J.D. Salinger

I also raced through the French section and picked up Alain de Botton’s Petite Philosophie de l’Amour.

Then onto lunch with a good friend of mine who is also a translator and we had a quick book trade – I’m pretty sure I came out the winner here (although I did give her a copy of Robert Pagani’s Mon Roi, Mon Amour, a book I really enjoyed) with these lovelies:

  • Une Forme de Vie by Amélie Nothomb
  • The Frozen Thames by Helen Humphreys (Apparently the Thames has frozen over exactly forty times between 1142 and 1849, and this is a book of stories that tell of those freezings – it’s small and square and has plenty of illustrations. It looks wonderful).
  • Fireworks by Angela Carter
  • The People’s Act of Love by James Meek
  • The Diving Pool by Yoko Ogawa
  • Foreign Words by Vassilis Alexakis
  • See Under: Love by David Grossman (this book looks wonderful, but no publisher should ever be allowed to print in type this small)

On the back and forth from my still-moderately-snowy mountain to town, I read Salman Rushdie’s essay in The New Yorker about the beginning of his time in hiding, about how it happened that he needed to invent a new name and life for himself after the publication of The Satanic Verses. It’s a personal history piece and he’s written it, but it’s done in the 3rd person, which tricks you into thinking it’s investigative journalism (and there’s probably much to be discussed about this choice), but it’s clearly an excerpt from his memoir Joseph Anton and I enjoyed it, especially the history he gives on the inspiration for writing The Satanic Verses as well as his telling of how he came up with the pseudonym he would live under for so many years.

And finally, as if all this concentrated bookishness were not enough – I arrived home to a box of books from The Folio Society, including a really beautiful and slim edition of Turgenev’s novella First Love. I think it’s safe to say that if the snow comes back and I’m forced to stay inside, I’ll have plenty to read.

9 Responses to “book collecting”

  1. whisperinggums

    What a haul Michelle. I’ve only read two of those, the Meek and the Zafon. Both good reads. I want to read an Ogawa book, but haven’t yet. And I’d be intrigued by the Ghosh.

    • Michelle

      I have been meaning to read Ogawa forever… I finally have a mix of her books here at the house, in both French and English (more of her work has been translated into French than it has into English) and I should just sit down with her soon.

      Very good to hear that you enjoyed the Meek and the Zafon – I’m looking forward to them!

  2. sylviemarieheroux

    Hi Michelle, I started reading Joseph Anton on the subway coming home from having bought as a present for my husband and it was quite fascinating… but I have had to stop reading it and have to wait until HE reads, because it was HIS present… I do have piles of other things to read through.

    • Michelle

      I really enjoyed the excerpt, and will definitely read the book at some point – hope your husband reads it soon, so you can read it soon after!

  3. helen

    They do all look good. I got all excited about the Turgenev because I confused it with Spring Torrents, which I loved, and then I realised that I’d never read First Love, so got all excited again in the hope that you would write about it and I would some time read it.

    I hope your daughter’s feeling better.

    • Michelle

      Oh, you give me great reason to get more Turgenev – this will be my first. Adding Spring Torrents to the list right away.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: