Thomas Bernhard: Gargoyles
Simone de Beauvoir: A Very Easy Death and She Came to Stay
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: The Thing Around your Neck
Oliver Sacks: On the Move
Reif Larsen's: The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet
The book chosen by Mats Staub for the 2021 Festival Library – W.G.Sebald's The Emigrants, is one of my favourite books. It means a lot to me and I have also composed a work inspired by it – as a musical piece of reading – a long way away.
I often read several books side by side. The most impressive readings of late:
Thomas Bernhard Verstörung (Gargoyles) – Catastrophe begins with getting out of bed. The book devoured me (not the other way around). It was radical, disturbing, unbelievable, existential.
I have (re-)read some of Simone de Beauvoir's work – I was deeply moved by her late book A Very Easy Death (on her mother's deathbed...)... and right now I'm still reading her very first novel She Came to Stay with great enthusiasm and fascination.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie The Thing Around your Neck – these 12 stories are deep, harrowing, full of life.
I have read several books by Oliver Sacks, the famous neurologist, in recent years. His kind, empathetic and wise view of his patients and their otherness always touches me. Finally, at the moment I'm also reading his autobiography on the move – his own partly dramatic story might help me to grasp his insight in a different way…
With my older children David (12) and Leah (11) I have been reading Reif Larsen's The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet for the last few months. Although both of them also read a lot independently (especially my daughter), so far we've retained the ritual of always reading a book together, discovering and discussing it together. Previously, Michael Ende whisked us away to The Neverending Story - to Fantasia. Reif Larsen's book is no less fantastic. It was a very special reading experience for the three of us because not only is the book superbly written, but it has a unique format: Throughout the book there are extra notes, arrows, asides, little drawings - taken from the notebooks of the main character Tecumseh Sparrow Spivet, an extraordinary 12-year-old boy who lives on a ranch in Montana. He maps all sorts of things, and produces scientific drawings, and is unexpectedly invited to Washington as a result. He makes his own way there, on an adventurous journey. At the same time, he still has to come to terms with the accidental death of his brother. A crazy, creative, at times bizarre, funny, but also profound book that should be read slowly because there is so much to discover.
Sarah Nemtsov, Berlin, 19 January 2022