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Recommended reading, vol 1

04 02 08 - 14:23 Kropka czytaIntroducing some of the best books I have read in the past few years: On the Road by Jack Kerouac, Pan Tadeusz by Adam Mickiewicz, The Poor Mouth and The Third Policeman by Flann O'Brien, and Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov.

Interestingly, all of them are classics in their own field and have received much due praise, but most of them are also virtually unknown outside their native regions..

On the RoadOn the Road by Jack Kerouac is one of the best books I have ever stumbled across. Written by one of the most important writers of the US history, On the Road is a story of travelling, jazz, sex, taste of freedom, and most of all searching for fulfilment. The writers alter ego, Sal Paradise, shambles after his hero Dean Moriarty, the living epitome of Beat, ravaging and digging everything, towards the sunset with passion and energy that left me absolutely breathless. The Dharma Bums from the same author is also an absolute must read.

Adam MickiewiczPan Tadeusz by Adam Mickiewicz is the national epoch of Poland, and widely regarded as one of the greatest pieces of Slavic literature. It is a poetic tale of life of the Polish aristocracy during the 19th century, with love, action, excitement and humour in an intersting and spellbinding package. It took me by complete surprise with its easy-to-read format, sense of humour and insight. The Polish version is available online over here.

The Poor MouthThe Poor Mouth is Flann O'Brien's satirical answer to the typical "romantic misery" that Irish literature is well-known for. A pretty descriptive quote from here : "The Poor Mouth relates the story of one Bonaparte O'Coonassa, born in a cabin in a fictitious village called Corkadoragha in western Ireland equally renowned for its beauty and the abject poverty of its residents. Potatoes constitute the basis of his family's daily fare, and they share both bed and board with the sheep and pigs. A scathing satire on the Irish, this work brought down on the author's head the full wrath of those who saw themselves as the custodians of Irish language and tradition when it was first published in Gaelic in 1941."

Third PolicemanO'Brien's The Third Policeman is a strange, existential book. There's a story of the narrator meeting people like two policemen, of whom the first one has his own atomic theory (that involves bicycles), and the other is making chests that go inside each other, and of which the smallest ones are so small that you can't even see them. Simultaneously there are excerpts and explanations of the philosophy and research of "de Selby", the most insane scientist/philosopher the world has ever known (more info about him can be found for example here ). The Third Policeman is hilariously bizarre, and leaves the reader highly suspicious at bicycles.

BehemothMikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita is a true Russian classic, but not in the heavy "War and Peace" style. The Master and Margarita is a story of Satan and his henchmen coming to Moscow and causing quite a bit of confusion among the people. Simultaneously an account of things leading to Jesus' crucifixion is related. All the characters are described extremely well, and the humour is just splendid. I'll be ever-grateful to Kasia for making me read it. There's an ebook over here, with excellent footnotes.

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