크라이스트 쳐치의 봄은 바람이 분다

이달은 온통 바쁨니다. 마음이 바쁨니다. 해아할 일들이 산입니다. 시작을 해야 하는 때인지 마무리를 해야하는 때인지 아직도 헤메고 있습니다. 11월이 봄이라서 그런가 봅니다.

이달에 소개할 책들 입니다.

모스크바 1957년 서곡 – 공영희

Korean books on shelf
Korean books, Flickr, Korean-Nov-2015-IMG_1471.jpg

모스크바의  밤은 길고 깊었다. 인적 없는 거리의 가로등 불빛으로  미친듯이 휘몰아치는  눈보라를 바라보며 모스크바의  겨울을 지냈다. 그때, 나는 생각했다. 토스토예프스키나 솔제니친의 소설 속에 나오는 시베리아 유형지를. 러시아의  긴 극한의 겨울밤에 나는 ‘참으로 고독했고 고향을 떠난자의 슬픔은 떠난 자만이 알 수 있다.’라고 생각했다. 모스크바에서 만난 특별한 인연들, 그분들과 나는 오랜 시간 정치, 경제, 문화, 예술에대해 그리고 조국에 관한 이야기를 나눴고, 정을 나눴다. 한국에 사는 사람들은  상상할 수 없는  한 뒤안길에, 그분들은 있었다. 역사는 누가 만드는 것일까, 역사 속엔  누가 존재하는가, 한 개인에게  국가는 어떤 존재인가. – 작가의 말 중에서

코끼리는 안녕 은 이종산 작가의 제1회 문학동네 대학소설상 수상작입니다. 드라큘라와 미라가 등장하는, 시공간을 넘나드는 판타지 로맨스….. ? 젊은 작가들의 신선하고 독특한 그들만의 도전은 기존의 틀을 깬 것 만으로도 그 가치를 인정받는 것 같습니다. 왜냐하면 그들만의 젊은 산고가, 그 시작이 새로움이라는 알을 낳았기 때문일 것입니다. “오래 품고 있던 마음을 전하려 매일 조금씩 썼다. 마지막 문장을 쓰고 나니 다음이 생겼다. 나에게 다음 같은 것이 생길 줄은 몰랐는데 신기하고 고맙다.”  작가의 수상소감에서

강태식작가의 굿바이 동물원 은 처절한 경쟁 사회에서 밀려난 주인공이 동물원의 동물로 취직하면서, 고릴라의 탈을 쓰고 철제 구조물 엠파이어스테이트빌딩을 오르내리면서 살아가는 이야기입니다. ”나는 안다. Cover of The Name Jar매운 건 마늘이 아니다. 눈물을 흘리는 것도 마늘 때문이 아니다. 사는 게 맵다. 매우니까 눈물이 난다. 한때는 나도 마늘을 까면서 눈물을 흘린 적이 있다. 그래서 안다. 마늘보다 사는 게 백배쯤 맵다는 걸. 그리고 마늘을 깐다는 게 사람을 얼마나 외롭고 쓸쓸하게 만드는 지도.” (p.159)

11월의 어린이 도서는 최양숙 선생님의 ‘내 이름이 담긴 병‘을 소개합니다. 이 책은 eBook (전자책) The Name Jar 으로도 읽을 수 있습니다.

The Best and Worst Children’s Books of 2015

Best and Worst Books posterThe end of the year is approaching and that means it’s nearly time to evaluate the best and worst children’s books of 2015. Hosted by Christchurch City Libraries, in conjunction with the Canterbury Literacy Association, the Best and Worst Evening is a Christchurch literary tradition. 2014’s event was so popular the event has been moved to the larger venue of the Everglades Golf Club on Marshland Road.

Speakers this year include Mary Sangster (chairperson of Booksellers NZ and the new owner of The Original Children’s Bookshop), Kirsten Smith (Kaitakawaenga – Ngā Ratonga Māori at Christchurch City Libraries), Karen Healey (Young Adult author), Trevor Agnew (children’s book reviewer) and Eibhlin and Saoirse Hill-Shearman (Youth opinion).

Our annual Holiday Reading list will also be officially announced on the night. Holiday Reading is a recommended selection of new titles added to Christchurch City Libraries in 2015 and includes picture books, chapter books, young adult, non-fiction and Te Reo titles.

Come along on Wednesday 25 November to the Netherlands Society Clubrooms, Everglades Golf Club on Marshland Road, from 7-9pm. Bring a gold coin for refreshments and early Christmas raffles.

Avian Flu and the ‘Quiet Days of Power’

It started with the destruction of the world via avian flu and ended with mind control and memory loss via music. My last few weeks have been filled with two books from my go-to genre, dystopian science fiction, and both were rip-snorters.

Cover of Station ElevenStation Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel is a classic post-apocalyptic tale. A deadly flu that kills within hours sweeps through the entire world population, laying waste to all but a few hardy souls. We follow a group of survivors, whose lives intersect at various stages throughout the book. The interesting decision by the author to switch between the time when the flu hit and then twenty years later to see how society survived, coped and altered gives the story movement and contrasts, and I loved seeing where and when the characters met and re-connected.

The main story centres around a band of actors and musicians who travel through mid-west USA performing Shakespeare and classical music to the few survivors in scattered outposts: people eking out an existence without any infrastructure, centralised government and dwindling resources. Holding onto history, art and culture in such a bleak landscape seems both foolhardy and wonderful in equal measures.

The Chimes by Anna Smaill is a very different animal. Yes, people are struggling, living in a London very different to the one we know, but things are very different from Station Eleven. There is a power in charge, a cloistered order that have developed a powerful weapon they use on their own people to keep control. The weapon? Music.

Cover of The ChimesThe Chimes are sent through the air and there is no escaping them; they wipe people’s memories and keep them subdued: you almost feel music has become an opiate that makes the populace feel safe. With no written word, people use music and song to remember things, such as how to travel from one place to another. They also keep objects that help them remember family, places and their history.

I love the use of musical terms in their language, many of which I had to look up, such as Lento, which means slow and Tacit, which means a sudden stop in a piece of music. I was fascinated by the way music was both their prison and their saviour, the way the protagonists in the story used music to keep themselves alive and to try to bring down those in power.

The run was tacit. Clare and I followed the first of the two strange, twisting melodies. Ours moved straight into the fourth chord and pushed on presto, skipping and meandering and returning almost completely on itself  before branching straight out in a modulation to the dominant.

Simon, our main character, is an orphaned young man who soon discovers he has a gift that could change all of this forever.

Both books fit my ideal of dystopia. People struggling in an alien world, even if it is our own in a different time or altered state. Heroes, villains and fascinating ideas to transport you and challenge you. Both books get the Purplerulz  purple seal of approval… read them now!

To learn more about the writing process and ideas behind The Chimes, read Masha’s great post about her interview with Anna Smaill.