Friday, January 13, 2012

Anar (global reading challenge #2)

After starting the global reading challenge last week, the memory of some older books in the second row of my bookshelf surfaced. They are from Unionsverlag - a german publisher with a focus on books from different and “uncommon” countries. One of the books is from Azerbaijan, from the author Anar. The German book title is "Der sechste Stock eines fünfstöckigen Hauses" ("The sixth storey of a five-storey house"). The original title is: "Bes Mertebeli Evin Altinic Mertebesi". The book was first published in 1982, the German version followed 1989. I googled, but there doesn't seem to be an English version of it.

The book is really good, well-written and capturing. It gives a feeling of life in Azerbaijan, and the changing state of society by telling a love story, only that it’s not a happy story: man meets woman, but man’s family already has wedding plans arranged, and the woman he meets is "modern", as in: has her own take on life. So his family opposes her, and starts to undermine their relationship to make him come back home and follow their arranged plans.

Reading this also made me think of a quote from Nelson Mandela about his biographie, here the historic note: “He and his cousin Justice ran away to Johannesburg to avoid arranged marriages and for a short period he worked as a min policeman." (http://www.nelsonmandela/ )
In the quote i heard, he said: “If I had stayed, my life would have been a very different one, I would have been one of those round-bellied chiefs with a lot of cattle.”

Parallel to reading the book i looked up the country on a map and read a bit about it in wikipedia ( The photo above again is from the older book of maps. Azerbaijan is in the lower left corner, I marked it with an arrow. The photo on the top is the Moscow seen from the sky - which fits, as an essential chapter of the book is set in Moscow.

After listing the links below, i realized that arranged marriage is also a theme that is part of the Tiger's Wife - who was married to a poet who was in love with her sister. Nothing but pain came from the marriage, for both. Looking at it now, it's interesting that both books approach the theme from the view of the male partner, while features in magazines and TV usually pick up the woman's view, at least from what I saw and read.

And another afterthought: the memory of a conversation in India, with a shopkeeper who was curious for life in Germany. Which lead to a dialogue about marriage, "Yes, it's true that in Germany, you can go and look for your partners yourself," I explained, and then asked how it works when parents arrange the marriage. He answered: "It works the other way round: first you marry, then you fall in love." Then he paused, and added: "And you better fall in love, otherwise you will have a very sad life."

Reading Challenge Notes
I am glad I came across this reading challenge. Here the previous notes that relate to it:
Global Reading Challenge
- book 1: The Tigers's Wife (former Yugoslavia)
- virtual bookshelf

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