14 Weeks With Dante: Reflections on Reading The Divine Comedy

Last December, I was interested to read an article about the posthumous publication of a new translation of Dante’s Paradise by Scottish author Alisdair Gray. This took me down a browsing wormhole which led to Nick Senger’s blog and his post about a chapter a day readalong in 2021, the first of which would be The Divine Comedy. It’s a sign, I thought!

Continue reading “14 Weeks With Dante: Reflections on Reading The Divine Comedy”

Book Review: Summerwater by Sarah Moss

I wasn’t planning to read Sarah Moss’s new book Summerwater at the moment, not least because I have still got tons of reading I want to do for August’s Women In Translation month. But after watching her online Edinburgh Book Festival session (free to watch until the end of the month), I just had to download the book immediately and make a start.

In just 125 pages, Moss draws the reader in to a familiar scene – a rainy UK self-catering holiday, in this case in the Scottish Highlands. We work our way through a 24hour period, meeting twelve of the campsite’s residents as they ruminate on how well (or otherwise) their longed-for break is turning out. Even though it is so short, you feel as if you know these people. Moss’s rendition of each character’s perspective is packed with insight and I couldn’t help but spot similarities with people I know or seem to know, or (even more painfully), with myself. Continue reading “Book Review: Summerwater by Sarah Moss”

Book Review: A Woman In The Polar Night by Christiane Ritter, translated by Jane Degras #WITMonth #WomenInTranslation

I love the idea of ‘the north’. I guess the idea of Father Christmas at the North Pole set up that notion of a magical fantasy in the snow from a young age, along with children’s classics such as The Snow Queen. More recent fiction includes Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, which was my first introduction to Svalbard. I initially assumed it was an imaginary place, especially as Pullman’s writing is so lyrical and evocative. But of course it is definitely real, as we find out through Christiane Ritter’s travel memoir A Woman In The Polar Night.

Translated from the original German by Jane Degras and published by Pushkin Press, this is a fascinating account of Ritter’s encounter with the far north through her year-long visit to Spitsbergen, the largest island in the Svalbard archipelago. Continue reading “Book Review: A Woman In The Polar Night by Christiane Ritter, translated by Jane Degras #WITMonth #WomenInTranslation”

Book Review: Shadows on the Tundra by Dalia Grinkevičiutė (trans. Delija Valiukenas) #WITMonth #WomenInTranslation

Why do we read? For pleasure and entertainment of course. To expand our horizons when we can’t travel anywhere. And to learn about other lives and experiences.

Shadows On The Tundra falls in the second and third of these categories. It is not a ‘pleasure and entertainment’ book in any way. It is a serious and direct first-hand account of a horrific chapter in the history of the mid-twentieth century and is therefore, in my view, an essential read. Continue reading “Book Review: Shadows on the Tundra by Dalia Grinkevičiutė (trans. Delija Valiukenas) #WITMonth #WomenInTranslation”