False Dichotomies

Archive for April 26th, 2011

Favourite 30 Books

The ‘Favourite 30′ series continues! This time it’s my favourite 30 books, accompanied by a pithy and pretentious explanation as to why.

30. Varlam Shalamov: Kolyma Tales - For taking us into the Gulag with clarity, compassion, and – above all – dark wit.

“Five or six persons follow shoulder-to-shoulder along the narrow, wavering track of the first man. They walk beside his path but not along it. When they reach a predetermined spot, they turn back and tramp down the clean virgin snow which has not yet felt the foot of man. The road is tramped down. It can be used by people, sleighs, tractors. If they were to talk directly behind the first man, the second group would make a clearly defined but barely passable narrow path, and not a road. The first man has the hardest task, and when he is exhausted, another man from the group of five takes his place. Each of them – even the smallest and weakest – must beat down a section of virgin snow, and not simply follow in another’s footsteps. Later will come tractors and horses driven by readers, instead of authors and poets.” Read more