Reading is one of my favorite hobbies. This page lists all the books that I read that won (or was shortlisted for) the nobel prize
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Shikasta cover
Shikasta
by Doris Lessing
My review: I was quite excited to read a science fiction book written by a Nobel Prize Winner. My expectations were quite high, and as a result I was quite disappointed. The book does not even pretend to be allegorical, it often is a political commentary on historical and contemporary events. The science fiction element seems unnecessary, the book would have worked as well, or even better, if the fantastical element was dropped.
This is the first volume in the series of novels Doris Lessing calls collectively Canopus in Argos: Archives, but it can be read and appreciated as a stand alone story. It is a compilation of fictional documents, reports, letters, speeches and journal entries, presented as a general study of the planet Shikasta, clearly the planet Earth, to be used by history students of the higher planet Canopus and to be stored in the Canopian archives. For eons, galactic empires have struggled against one another, and Shikasta is one of the main battlegrounds. Johar, an emissary from Canopus and the primary contributor to the archives, visits Shikasta over the millennia from the time of the giants and the biblical great flood up to the present. With every visit he tries to distract Shikastans from the evil influences of the planet Shammat but notes with dismay the ever-growing chaos and destruction of Shikasta as its people hurl themselves towards World War III and annihilation.
Shikasta's humanity is presented as with no agency, unable to determine or alter its fate, that is predetermined by cosmic energies and powers. Moreover the critique to the evils of colonialism is rendered ineffective by the actions of Canopus, that while presented as morally superior and god-like, treats Shikastan as the most horrible of the colonialist ever was: Canopus values its morals and believes as superior, it perpetrates genocide more than once, and constantly use eugenics to "improve" the local population.
Despite this serious shortcomings, the book has some redeeming qualities: when the author stops focusing on politics and inter-planetary conflicts, when she focuses on single characters, on their stories and inner emotions... then she really shines. The diaries of Rachel are incredibly well written and moving.
I recommend reading Ursula Le Guin's review of Shikasta on New Republic. (★★)
Started: Jan 10 2018 Finished: Jan 28 2018
It Can't Happen Here cover
It Can't Happen Here
by Sinclair Lewis (2014)
My review: It Can’t Happen Here was written in a moment of big social turmoil and tensions both in the United States and abroad. The country was still dealing with the depression. Some populist politicians with platforms that had strong similarities with the one of Hitler were increasingly getting wide support across the country. Sinclair Lewis, the first American author to win the Nobel prize for literature few years before, was seriously worried. His answer was this book, a deeply disturbing piece of propaganda and an attempt to protect the American democracy.
The book is a cautionary tale about the fragility of democracy, it is an alarming, eerily timeless look at how fascism could take hold in America. The book juxtaposes sharp political satire with the chillingly realistic rise of a president who becomes a dictator to save the nation from welfare cheats, sex, crime, and a liberal press. Called "a message to thinking Americans" by the Springfield Republican when it was published in 1935, It Can’t Happen Here is a shockingly prescient novel that remains as fresh and contemporary as today’s news.
New York Times review: https://goo.gl/i4LKGY (★★★★★)
Started: Sep 23 2017 Finished: Oct 19 2017
Dora Bruder cover
Dora Bruder
by Patrick Modiano (2014)
My review: This is the (real) story of an author (Patrick Modiano himself) fighting against the amnesia of time, and of a society that does not want to remember. In 1988 the author stumbles across an ad in the personal columns of the New Year's Eve 1941 edition of Paris Soir: "Missing, a young girl, Dora Bruder, age 15, height 1 m 55, oval-shaped face, gray-brown eyes, gray sports jacket, maroon pullover, navy blue skirt and hat, brown gym shoes". Placed by the parents of Dora, who had run away from her Catholic boarding school, the ad sets Modiano off on a quest to find out everything he can about her and why, at the height of German reprisals, she ran away from the people hiding her. There is only one other official mention of her name: on a list of Jews deported from Paris to Auschwitz in September 1942. What little Modiano discovers about Dora in official records and through remaining family members becomes a meditation on the immense losses of the period: lost people, lost stories, and lost history. Modiano delivers a moving account of the ten-year investigation that took him back to the sights and sounds of Paris under the Nazi Occupation and the paranoia of the Petain regime. In his efforts to exhume her from the past, Modiano realizes that he must come to terms with the specters of his own troubled adolescence. The result, a montage of creative and historical material, is Modiano's personal rumination on loss, both memoir and memorial. (★★★★)
Started: Jan 02 2015 Finished: Jan 03 2015
The White Castle cover
The White Castle
by Orhan Pamuk (1998)
My review: The book reads, at first, as a classic novel. The first person narrator is the main characters, and everything is seen and described from his point of view. At first, the story is a reckoning of his misadventures (he was a 17th century Venetian, that was captured and enslaved by the Turks). Soon enough the book gets more intriguing. The unnamed Venetian is given in custody to the scholar Hoja, which physically resemble him to an almost sinister degree. The East and the West meet in Hoja's house. They start discussing science and philosophy. They discuss the mysteries of the mind, why we are what we are. Hoja's strongly believes that at the end the Christians European will prevail against the Turks thanks to technological superiority. He strongly recognizes the importance of science, and he laments that its importance is not understood by many others, that he labels "the fools". Discussion after discussion, the characters start to blur one into the other, they take the role of the other and at the end it is not even clear which one is the Turk and which one the Venetian. An incredible literary achievement. I am not surprised that the 2006 Nobel Prize for the literature was awarded to Orhan Pamuk "who in the quest for the melancholic soul of his native city has discovered new symbols for the clash and interlacing of cultures". (★★★★★)
Started: Apr 22 2007 Finished: May 01 2007
Dell'amore e di altri demoni cover
Dell'amore e di altri demoni
by Gabriel García Márquez (1994)
Publisher review: In un porto dove approdano i galeoni carichi di schiavi provenienti dall'Africa, è comparso un cane idrofobo. Vittima illustre del suo morso è la figlia dodicenne del Marchese di Casalduero, creatura bellissima e trascurata dai genitori, che passa il suo tempo con gli schiavi di colore e ne ha assimilato gli usi, i costumi, la lingua. Secondo Abrenuncio, medico portoghese che ha fama di negromante ma legge segretamente Voltaire, per il muto dolore di Sierva Maria non c'è terapia, perchè "non c'è medicina che guarisca quel che non guarisce la felicità". Ma per il vescovo del luogo la bambina è posseduta dal demonio e deve essere esorcizzata secondo le regole del Sant'Uffizio. Chiusa nelle segrete di un convento, intorno a lei si moltiplicano eventi meravigliosi e "inspiegabili"...
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Finished: Apr 14 1997
Cent'anni di solitudine cover
Cent'anni di solitudine
by Gabriel García Márquez (1982)
Publisher review: (Book Jacket Status: Jacketed)The brilliant, bestselling, landmark novel that tells the story of the Buendia family, and chronicles the irreconcilable conflict between the desire for solitude and the need for love—in rich, imaginative prose that has come to define an entire genre known as "magical realism."
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Cronaca di una morte annunciata cover
Cronaca di una morte annunciata
by Gabriel García Márquez (1987)
Publisher review: Santiago Nasar morirà. I gemelli Vicario hanno già affilato i loro coltelli nel negozio di Faustino Santos. A Manaure, "villaggio bruciato dal sale dei Caraibi", lo sanno tutti: presto i fratelli della bella quanto svanita Angela vendicheranno l'onore di quella verginità rubatale in modo misterioso dall'aitante Santiago, ricco rampollo della locale colonia araba. Tutti lo sanno, ma nessuno fa alcunché per impedirlo: non la madre della vittima designata, non il parroco, non l'alcalde, neppure una delle numerose fanciulle che spasimano per il Nasar. E così la morte annunciata lo sorprende nel fulgore di una splendida mattinata tropicale. Ma non per agguato o per trappola: un destino bizzarro e crudele fa sì che la fine di Santiago si compia per un concorso di fatalità ed equivoci, mentre gli stessi assassini fanno di tutto perché qualcuno impedisca loro l'esecuzione. Basato su un fatto reale, Cronaca di una morte annunciata venne pubblicato nel 1981 (un anno prima del Nobel a García Márquez) e, pur nella brevità, rappresenta uno dei vertici della sua narrativa: un romanzo magistrale che sa fondere i toni della tragedia antica con il ritmo di una detective story in una grandiosa allegoria dell'assurdità della vita, l'apoteosi della fatalità. Edizione priva di ISBN Edition without ISBN Edición sin ISBN
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