What are you currently reading? (part 2)

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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby vijayjohn » 2019-07-24, 7:20

See, I told you you'd be done with it years before I got anywhere with it! :P (Yes, I think it will still take me a few years, for reasons that have nothing to do with the book itself).

I read a bit more of كليلة ودمنة, (very little of) طوطی‌نامه, and also got started on قصص النبيين, a retelling of the parts of the Qur'an describing the lives of prophets in the form of short stories of increasing difficulty (the Arabic Study group is currently using this).

In addition to all of that, I read an excerpt from a novel in an old issue (from 2004) of the Mathrubhumi weekly magazine. It was a sample of Dalit feminist literature from a novel called Sangathi (സംഗതി [səŋˈgəd̪i]) by Pama (പാമ [ˈpaːma]), who is probably an Adivasi woman. I'm not sure how to translate [səŋˈgəd̪i] into English; although adopted from Sanskrit, it's a very casual word in modern Malayalam, kind of like jambo in Swahili, with various meanings like 'thing, matter, issue, fact'. Maybe The Issue would be a good translation into English. This particular story in this novel is about people in Pama's community, mainly women including herself when she was young, talking about elections: who to vote for and why, whether to bother voting at all and why or why not, the importance of voting for their community, etc. They laugh their asses off for the most part but also point out a lot of serious issues. It was lots of fun to read, and I couldn't wait to read it out loud to my dad.

One of the most interesting parts of the story is the language, since although the language was edited prior to publication, neither the dialogue nor the narration is in standard Malayalam. In fact, perhaps it was originally not in Malayalam at all but rather in one of the (very, very closely related) Adivasi languages of Kerala, possibly Mannan, spoken east of my parents' hometown but much closer to (if not on) the border with Tamil Nadu. The title of this particular story (and what I read wasn't even the whole story; it was "to be continued," but I don't have the next issue) is പോടുങ്കമ്മാ ഓട്ട്, presumably pronounced more or less as [ˈpoːɖʊŋgəmmaː ˈoːʈɯ] and meaning something like 'vote, lady!'. [ˈoːʈɯ] is simply their pronunciation of the English word vote, but [ˈpoːɖʊŋgəmmaː] (like a lot of other words in this story) looks a lot closer to Tamil than to standard Malayalam. I guess in standard Malayalam, the equivalent of the title would be something like [ˈʋoːʈɪɖɪn].

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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby Luís » 2019-08-03, 10:22

I started reading Iran: Empire of the Mind by Michael Axworthy, a history of Iran from Zoroaster to the present day
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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby linguoboy » 2019-08-06, 15:50

Last week I finished a novel by South African author Zakes Mda /ˈzeːks m̩ˈdaː/, The heart of redness. It weaves together two narratives, a modern-day one about villagers resisting development and a historical account of a very bizarre episode in South African history, the 19th-century Cattle-killing movement among the Xhosa. Sure, this has been done a lot, but he blends them very effectively to show how (in Faulkner's words) "The past isn't dead. It isn't even past". I'm looking forward to reading more from him.

In the meantime, I've started By the sea a novel from Abdulrazak Gurnah, a Zanzibari author now based in the UK. Like Mda, he writes in English, but whereas Mda's style is rather simple, Gurnah's is beautifully ornate. I'm not sure where the story is going yet, but I'm really enjoying the trip.
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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby vijayjohn » 2019-08-07, 21:49

I read a short story in Mathrubhumi called എന്റെ മകൾ ഒളിച്ചോടും മുൻപ്... [jɛnˈde məˈgəɭ ɔɭɪˈt͡ʃoːɖʊm mʊmˈbɯ] 'Before Fleeing, My Daughter...' by an author writing under the very unusual name/pseudonym Susmesh Chandroth [suˈsmeːʃ t͡ʃən̪ˈd̪roːt̪ɯ]. I found it strange and disturbing. It's about a girl who falls in love with and is determined to marry a guy who refuses to help or allow her to take care of her parents when they get old (who the fuck ever does that? This seems like some nightmare scenario some terrible parent and likely child abuser dreamed up). They are shocked and generally struggle to cope with the reality of her growing up. Her mom beats the shit out of her, and her dad tells her to put some medicine on and later asks her to make him tea, which she does. She doesn't say much or seem to show any emotions throughout the whole story.

There's part of a novel in the same issue that also seems to be at least in part about young adults running away from home. I hope it's better since at least it's by an author who I'm pretty sure my dad said was good.

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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby Yasna » 2019-08-09, 0:25

I finished Neuroplasticity, which was a great introduction to the subject. I'm interested in how our expanding knowledge of the brain might be used to improve machine learning systems, beyond how it inspired artificial neural networks. I started reading 파란하늘 빨간지구 (Blue Sky, Red Earth) by Chunho Cho, a comprehensive look at climate change, the Anthropocene, and the Earth system.

Luís wrote:I started reading Iran: Empire of the Mind by Michael Axworthy, a history of Iran from Zoroaster to the present day

I loved that book. Besides being a solid history, it also does a good job communicating the appeal of Persian civilization, which is extremely important in an age where Iran is constantly being demonized and powerful people talk about bombing Iran as casually as they talk about what they're going to have for breakfast.
Ein Buch muß die Axt sein für das gefrorene Meer in uns. - Kafka

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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby vijayjohn » 2019-08-14, 3:48

I mentioned in my previous post that the same issue of Mathrubhumi with the absurd short story also has an excerpt from a novel. The novel in question is by Sara Joseph, probably the only female Malayalee author I've specifically heard my dad express appreciation for, and called ആളോഹരി ആനന്ദം [aːˈɭoːhəɾi ˈaːnən̪d̪əm] (or [aːˈɭoːhəɾi ˈaːnən̪n̪əm]). I'm not sure what that actually means. My best guess is "Joy of the Personal Share." I happen to have the next issue, so I continued reading it there, although I don't have any more excerpts from it yet. It seems to be set alternately in modern Mahé and a (largely?) Christian village that's probably closer to my parents' hometown. It doesn't seem to have such a creepy tone when talking about children running away from home. Most of the parts I read are about an older couple eloping (immediately following the story about a kid running away from home).

EDIT: I forgot to mention that I've also been rereading parts of The Poisonwood Bible, but that's nothing particularly new. I do that every now and then.

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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby Antea » 2019-08-25, 20:44

R.U.R. by Karel Čapek. Amazing, it’s a science fiction classic theatre piece and I didn’t know anything about it. And it was written in 1920 if I am not mistaken.

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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby Yasna » 2019-08-28, 19:53

I finished reading 인간병기 흙피리, which was a terrible book, but good for my Korean.

Now I'm reading a collection of mysteries by Siyan Lin called 霧影莊殺人事件 (The Villa of Fog).
Ein Buch muß die Axt sein für das gefrorene Meer in uns. - Kafka

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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby vijayjohn » 2019-09-04, 18:52

Finished rereading The Poisonwood Bible, currently rereading and reading a new part of Colloquial Amharic

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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby linguoboy » 2019-09-04, 20:09

I was reading a volume of short stories by Ajay Navaria in English translation, but they're very repetitive--all tragic tales of caste discrimination--so I'm putting it aside for now and starting on『黒白』by the great 谷崎潤一郎/Tanizaki Jun'ichirō, which was only recently rediscovered. It was originally serialised in a newspaper and I'm not even sure if it's been published in book form in Japanese yet. The version I have is an English translation by Phyllis I. Lyons, who I met only last year before the book had even been come out.

At lunch I popped into the bookstore where I bought it and found they had a used copy of Louise Erdrich's The round house, which I'd been thinking of reading. So I bought that, too, and read a bit of it on the way back and I might not be able to resist starting it as well. I want to make the fall mostly about Native American fiction anyhow--I have an ethnography of the Pawnee to finish and novels by a Choctaw author and one of mixed Cheyenne/Arapaho descent. We'll see if I get to all of them before it gets close to Samhain/Calan Gaeaf and I go Celtic again.
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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby vijayjohn » 2019-09-21, 5:42

Finished reading a short story today by T. Padmanabhan called മണ്ണും മനുഷ്യരും [ˈməɳɳʊm mənˈʃɛɾʊm], meaning 'Land and Men'. It was the first story in the Malayala Manorama annual double issue released around September 2012 for Onam, our biggest holiday of the year. It's about a man and his mysterious neighbor who keeps to himself and is rarely seen in the area.

EDIT: I've also been reading a few of my Teach Yourself books.

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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby linguoboy » 2019-09-23, 15:19

I finished the Erdrich and really loved it. Now I'm on to the Choctaw novel, LeAnne Howe's Shell shaker. The first chapter, which is something of a historical prelude, really grabbed me with its masterful diction and vivid imagery. After that, the contemporary narrative begins and it's much clunkier. In particular, the chapters where the two sisters of the apparent protagonist were introduced were almost cringeworthy. Hopefully she finds her stride again soon.
"Richmond is a real scholar; Owen just learns languages because he can't bear not to know what other people are saying."--Margaret Lattimore on her two sons

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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby Luís » 2019-09-23, 19:26

I'm currently reading The World Until Yesterday by Jared Diamond. And of course, now I'm wanderlusting for Papuan languages.
Quot linguas calles, tot homines vales

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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby vijayjohn » 2019-10-04, 7:20

:D

In addition to Teach Yourself Bulgarian and, to a much lesser extent, Teach Yourself Estonian, I've also been reading bits of Teach Yourself Ancient Greek, Teach Yourself Greek, Complete Xhosa, and the Oxford First Bilingual Dictionaries for (Se)tswana and Sepedi/Northern (Se)sotho (+ English). These last two books are basically like the "first 100 words of x language for children!" books with all the cute pictures and words for things in the pictures, plus some short dialogues or monologues and reading passages, except that they're all bilingual. Both of them have everything in English, but one also has a Tswana version of this side-by-side with the English one (or underneath or whatever), and the other has Northern Sotho instead of Tswana. It's kind of interesting since they're pretty closely related to each other.

Basically, I've just been trying to read my own books more especially since I can't really decide what to read in the bathroom. :lol:

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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby linguoboy » 2019-10-08, 15:41

Unfortunately the Howe never did shake the issues I found initially. The historical narrative remained compelling (though it got confusing towards the end) while the contemporary one developed into a kind of wish-fulfillment fantasy. I could see why this would be satisfying to Choctaw and other American Indian readers but I found it kind of cheesy. I would much rather have had a shorter novel with only the historical narrative.

Now I'm reading An excess male by Taiwanese-American author Maggie Shen King. It's set in a near-future China grappling with the issue of millions of "excess men" as a consequence of the one-child policy. So far it has strong characterisation and I'm interested in seeing where she takes the story.

While visiting St Louis last weekend, I picked up a copy of St Louis noir. This is the volume in the Akashic Noir series set in St Louis and anthologising a dozen local authors. The first story is set in Dogtown, the working-class Irish neighbourhood adjacent to where I grew up.
"Richmond is a real scholar; Owen just learns languages because he can't bear not to know what other people are saying."--Margaret Lattimore on her two sons

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Re: What are you currently reading? (part 2)

Postby vijayjohn » 2019-10-09, 6:17

Read (roughly) four chapters each of Complete Xhosa and Complete Zulu


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