Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Resisting one temptation only to give in to several others

Even though there are three books on my current pile, four on my outmoded authors challenge list, and over two dozen on the TBR pile, I couldn't help myself. On Sunday, I read about Petropolis a recent first novel by Anya Ulinich in an interview of the author by Kevin Kinsella over at Maud Newton's. It defied me to leave and not want to pick up a copy of the book. And, well..., it appealed to my Russian obsession, and I guess I was weak to the power of suggestion and, well, I ended up trolling my favorite book websites in search of it. When the dirty deed was done an hour later, I had jumped between Books-a-Million, Alibris, Powell's, and the library coming away with:

Notice, no Petropolis. I could justify the Pinker as a school-related purchase but Life and Fate? I certainly seemed to have Russia on the brain. I also tried to get A Good Thief's Guide to Amsterdam, but it's not to be released here in the U.S. until November, and I tried but failed to find a copy of Nicola Barker's Darkmans, after reading the Dovegreyreader's encomium. But I read about Petropolis a little more, and it was like going to the refrigerator for a piece of chocolate cake. I opened the door to look at it and other dishes seemed more my fare. So much for not being able to walk away without a copy - my original reason for this mad shopping spree. Has anyone read it? Will I regret it? And what did you walk away with on your last impulse book purchase?


Anonymous said...

Imperium could be my favorite of Kapuscinski's, although The Soccer War is considered his best. Imperium was the real beginning for me - my intense fascination with Central Asia, and the long-lasting evil of Stalin - but it's just how Kapuscinski' writes!!! I went to the big tribute given to him at the NY public library after he died - and Salman Rushdie was there (they'd been best friends for decades) ... an amazing night - because the audience was full of mainly Polish people - so there were translators, etc.

Kapuscinski has since been revealed to be a part of the secret police - which I suppose does not surprise me - others seem totally BETRAYED by it ... but his books were always so vague (in a way - more ruminations than indictments) that I figured he did what he had to do.

It's not like discovering that, oh, Robert Conquest was a member of some totalitarian secret police!! THAT would be grounds to dismiss his work completely - because his stance against totalitarianism and Communism is so strong! ... but Kapuscinski always had a little bit of a blurry edge to him, a black-market "you scratch my back I'll scratch yours" sensibility. He was not an ideologue - although he knew evil when he saw it, and was not afraid to call a spade a spade.

Anyway, enough. Imperium is one of my favorite books EVER, ted. Enjoy!!

Ted said...

I knew you liked his work and figured you had probably read Imperium. It's hard to know what living in such a regime day after day is really like. That's one of my interests in reading him.

Anonymous said...

The most interesting thing (to me) is that he spent the 60s and 70s writing about oppressive regimes in the Middle East and Africa - because he was unable to criticize his own regime at home.

They're wonderful books in their own right - about Iran and Ethiopia, etc. - but they're also great examples of subversive literature.

Ted said...

That's an interesting lens through which to read the other books (although I haven't) - it makes me more interested in them.

Anonymous said...

The Emperor (about the fall of Haile Selassie) is generally seen as his masterpiece - but I love them all.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and so with perestroika and glasnost - he opened the floodgates to criticize his OWN oppressive regime - which is why Imperium is so haunting and personal. Great book.