Top of the Pile #15: Saturday & #16: The Book of Disquiet

Ian McEwan and I go back a long way.

Our relationship started a dozen years back with Amsterdam, a Man Booker Prize winning novel recommended to me by my best friend, C (I’ve written a bit about him here). Later on, I bought Solar from a second hand book shop in Soho, during my first year in London. It marked, along with a thick, hardcovered edition of William Styron’s Sophie’s Choice, the beginnings of my UK based book collection. I followed that with Atonement a couple years later, while visiting my sister in Romania, after I’d already seen the movie, and twice. It wasn’t entertaining in a Amsterdam and Solar kind of way, but it quickly became my favourite McEwan read. Until now.

Because now, I’m reading Saturday.

I got it from the Vyne’s used book shop on our anniversary weekend this February, and I’ve so far read about one third of it. And you know what, after many many weeks of unsatisfying reading, Saturday is turning out to be just my kind of book. I’ve tried to keep myself away from online reviews and spoilers, so all I know is that it’s about a Saturday in the life of a neurosurgeon living in London.

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[ Later edit, as this post was originally started 9 days ago (!!!), and my reading adventures have since evolved. ]

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I finished Saturday last Friday (now that’s a confusing sentence to read out loud!), on the company shuttle on my way back from the office. What can I say, Mr. McEwan most definitely didn’t let me down and in fact, I think he may just have rekindled my hunger for reading, after a few weeks of lit hiatus. Or it may just be the fact that it’s finally spring here in Thames land, and I’ve found a shortcut (it’s actually about 5 minutes longer, but it’s so worth it) on my way home from work, cutting through this lovely park I didn’t know existed, where you can walk the grass to your heart’s content.

But I digress. My newly finished Saturday paperback tucked in my backpack, I decided I couldn’t face the weekend without something new and exciting to dive into, so I stopped by our local Waterstone’s to stock up on reading material. I even had a book shopping list, humanity! As in, written down on paper with a pencil, like in the old days. It was almost exclusively inspired by Guardian’s Top 10 Overlooked Novels, so it contained Oblomov (Ivan Goncharov), Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant (Anne Tyler, loved her Breathing Lessons!), The Book of Disquiet (Fernando Pessoa), and Strangers (Taichi Yamada), the latter recommended by a friend from work.

However, I soon discovered that half the books in my Waterstone’s bookshop are about vampires, teenage witches, this dude who wears grey ties and is into S&M, and the Dukan Diet. Out of the four clearly unusual titles I’d scribbled on my list, I only managed to find The Book of Disquiet, which I would have bought even just for the cover. So I only got that and ended up ordering the other ones from Amazon (Used. I. Am. Cheap.).

I started on The Book of Disquiet this weekend and I’ve got about a third left now, but it hasn’t been the easiest of reads. If you don’t know much about it, it’s Pessoa’s posthumous masterpiece, a journal of one of his several writing selves, Bernardo Soares, an accountant living in Lisbon. Now, this Soares dude is, lacking a better word, complicated. Suffice to say that most words, phrases and ideas throughout this book touch upon tedium, various degrees of pain, isolation, hopelessness, and life simply not being worth the effort of living. It hits close to home as well, as a couple of my friends are battling depression or simply going through a rough time these days, so I’ve been reading it in short, ten pages at a time sessions, obsessively rooting for Soares to come out of it all right throughout.

Next on the list is probably Strangers, but I’ve got yet another couple of days of tech conferences and Friday deadlines ahead, so it’ll probably be a while before I start on it. In the meantime, if you haven’t recommended me anything to read yet, you can do it here.

 

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