The past few weeks have passed in a veritable blur of accumulating deadlines and impending events.
After a hiatus of many months it is a joy to behold and I am rapidly forgetting how to decline, though time will doubtless remind me that it is essential.
One negative affect of the rising tide of work assignments is the correspondingly teetering pile of non-academic books to read over this summer.
Although I rue reaching the end of Slavenka Drakulić‘s marvellous How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed (1993), I am already voraciously eyeing several upcoming novels.
Problem is, like a kid confronted with a table bowed under the weight of a hundred chocolate bars, I cannot decide where to begin.
Having already dipped into The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1984), by Milan Kundera, I am tempted to pick up where I sneakily left off on page 60.
But equally, I am tempted by the vampirical darkness of Stephenie Meyer’s New Moon (2008) and the witty social observations of William Makepeace Thackeray through Vanity Fair: A Novel without a Hero (1847).
(The dichotomy in my taste perhaps has never been so crudely laid bare as by the twinning of the above two books.)
Despite the dark and satirical frivolities offered by Meyer and Thackeray, I am tempted back to Eastern Europe, and to the Czech Republic, for A Summer Affair (2005) courtesy of Ivan Klíma.
Following the tentative affair between a married Prague biologist on a quest to determine the secret of human longevity and a younger woman whose interests lie solely in clothes, lovers and dancing, Klíma promises a Flaubertian feast.
I adore Mahfouz – whether it is the original text or a movie adaptation, his style is inimitable and provides a compelling moral and satirical look at Egyptian society during the 1950s and 1960s.
More contemporary is a clutch of novels by the Jordanian author Fadia Faqir: My Name is Salma (2007) and Nisanit (1987).
Focusing on women, diaspora and the Palestine-Israel conflict, it will not make for uproarious reading, but will doubtless sate my thirst for literature of a more serious nature.
And so, as I pack to head home for a week – the only difference being the location, as the frenetic deadline-beating typing continues unabated – I face the biggest dilemma: which one to take?