The fall of Yugoslavia and the wars that followed make for complex, hard-to-parse history. Before I went there, I did a deep dive into some of the best books and movies about Bosnia and the wider Balkans.
It wasn’t until I moved to France that I started to read fiction about World War II, especially stories set there. This is my most recent reading list of the best books set in World War II France — and though it comes in the middle of the list, go with Irène Némirovsky’s Suite Française first — all of these books are gorgeously written, but only Suite Française was written gorgeously while the author was under threat of deportation to the Nazi death camps. (And indeed, she died at 39 at Auschwitz.) The story of the book’s survival is worth a movie of its own, as it was saved by Némirovsky’s daughter for over 60 years and only published in 2004. It’s a miracle that her book survived — and a testament to the power of writing, that after all this time, her voice can still be heard.
I have a small bookshelf devoted to French self help books: people telling me how to do various things better, like dress, cook, travel, and design my home. I do think the French have more of a sense of humor about these things than we do — the vibe is less “You can do it if you really try!” than “We’re all f-ed so you might as well enjoy yourself.” It’s a nice way of lowering expectations.
I am reading a book from every country in the world. This book is intense!(!!) (Jason Mendoza voice). Buy it here, if you like. The last book I read was Austria: Some Girls, Some Hats, and Hitler by Trudi Kanter. THE BOOK: Beauty Is a Wound, by Ewa Kurniawan IN SHORT: This is the bananas recount of the life (and afterlife) of the beautiful Dewi Ayu, daughter of a Dutch man and his Indonesian “concubine”/woman forced into sexual slavery; her four daughters; and the men who rape them. It is also a scabrous retelling of the creation of modern Indonesia, and the millions dead in its wake.