By Lotte Timmermans
With all of us adjusting to the Dutch autumn (which is the same as Dutch summer and winter but with even more wind), nothing beats snuggling under a warm blanket, rain trickling softly on the windows, to open the first page of a new book. Unfortunately, after hours of investing emotionally in your favourite characters, every book comes to an end…luckily for you, we’ve found a solution for your heartache! In this brand-new ‘dating section’, your new literary-love-of-your-life is just around the corner!
Our first candidate is a 23-year-old male, who likes books (obviously) and hot chocolate!
George Orwell: 1984
At 16, this was the first book that I read completely in English (and then a second time in German, just to be sure), and it really awoke my critical thinking and disdain for totalitarian ideologies. I saw scary parallels to reality – at that time (gosh I feel old), the NSA surveillance scandal swept over Europe, enraged many people and then was forgotten as quickly as it came. Afterwards, I deleted my Facebook account and became more aware of related issues like privacy and surveillance. While Facebook has hooked me again, I still value 1984 for giving me an understanding of how societal control and totalitarianism can play out.
Albert Camus: The Stranger / The Myth of Sisyphus
The Stranger was one of those books that completely changes the way you think. I read it when I was 19 in that wonderful, still ongoing, phase of finding and defining your own outlook on the world. It tells the story of Meursault, who goes through life completely indifferent and detached from any emotions or considerations for anyone else. It is written in such dry, cold language that after reading it you too will feel like you are in an absurd and indifferent universe. A scary thought, but also one that carries freedom. If the universe does not care, you can do what makes you happy – a thought he expands on in The Myth of Sisyphus, which outlines why we must imagine Sisyphus as happy. Though his task is absurd, it nonetheless gives him a purpose and meaning to his (after-)life. If you are looking for some absurdity, read The Stranger, if you want to know how to deal with it read The Myth of Sisyphus.
Pascal Mercier: Nighttrain to Lisbon
Though this did not have the same philosophy-altering effect as the others, I want to talk about it as a representative for all those books that are written so well, that the language alone absorbs you, and you cannot lay the book down until the very last page. This captivated me thoroughly, even though I can’t necessarily identify with the main character. Raimund Gregorius. A teacher of Latin and Greek at a high school in Bern, finds a book from the Portuguese doctor-philosopher Amadeu Inácio de Almeida Prado, and suddenly decides to take a break from his life. He boards the next train to Lisbon, where he follows the traces of said philosopher. While he discovers the life and story of the Portuguese doctor, he recapitulates his own steady and ordered (but also unsatisfying) life. The grand and beautiful language fascinated me, though I read the book in German, so I am unsure about the quality of its English translation.
Were these book choices a perfect match? Or does your own taste in books differ completely? If you’d like to contact our anonymous reviewer, or would like to be featured in the next issue, email your submission to firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact Lotte Timmermans.