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Patricia Schonstein

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Memoirs, poetry and a thriller

I’ve read three impressive books in the past few months. The first is Nine Suitcases by Béla Zsolt, only recently translated from Hungarian.Apparently, it was one of the first memoirs of the Holocaust and Zsolt bears comparison to Primo Levi and Elie Wiesel. It is a powerful and riveting book, revealing a realistic chronicle of great and small crimes against humanity.

I then read The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal which is an absolute masterpiece. It is rich and complex and very beautiful. I felt I needed to pause before reading something else, so that I could continue reflecting on it, but then opened the pages of Orhan Pamuk’s Istanbul – Memories and the City. This is a seductive and evocative memoir.

I’m currently reading something lighter, as a linguistic exercise, the Italian translation of a thriller by James Hadley Chase, Chrysanthemums for Miss Quon.

The book I’ll be buying next is Stoffel op safari by Christiaan Bakkes. I recently met him and his wife Emsie in Namibia. They helped me and others cross some rain-swollen rivers and we camped together at Puros. At our campsite, he recited poems aloud, from memory. I’ve come to associate Christiaan’s strong voice with stars and all that is rich in Afrikaans literature.

I like reading poetry before going to sleep and have just bought Karin Schimke’s debut collection, Bare & Breaking. Finuala Dowling correctly describes it as masterful and heart-rending.  I’ve had the pleasure of hearing Karin read some of the poems at Hugh Hodge’s Off-the-Wall and also at her launch. There’s something about hearing an author read their own work aloud that lingers long afterwards. I recommend it.

On my bedside table: A mix of memoirs, poetry and thriller
Patricia Schonstein
Weekend Argus 18 March 2012


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