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A Well Tempered Heart by Jan-Phillip Sendker, a FLTW Book Club Pick

A Well Tempered Heart by Jan-Phillip Sendker

 

A Well Tempered Heart

I just finished reading A Well Tempered Heart by Jan-Philip Sendker which is February’s pick for From Left To Write virtual book club.  I think you’ll laugh at the irony of how I came to read this book: Last year Thein-Kim (of FLTW) and I met Jan-Philip Sendker at a party at BEA, Book Expo America.  Kim was familiar with the author because the club had read his other book, The Art of Hearing Heartbeats. I somehow had missed reading that book and since I’m always keen to connect with an author at a party, I tagged along with Kim to say our hellos. We made our niceties and as Kim and Jan-Phillip chatted I found his German accent and his personality appealing.  In a party of suits and ties, his suit was pretty appealing as well; he looked like a priest.

Anyway, as I listened to the two of them reminisce about The Art of Hearing Heartbeats, I felt like perhaps A Well Tempered Heart might make a nice addition to the books we read at the book club I host at work.  Kim and I chatted about the first book and I thought that perhaps I would need to read the first book before picking up the second.  I was disheartened because I know how busy my reading schedule gets and I doubt if I would have time to read a backlisted title. Onward and upward!

Imagine my surprise the next day as I’m roaming the conference floor at BEA and I come across Jan-Philip’s book signing booth!  The night before Jan-Philip and I had spent a few moments chatting about traveling or Germany or Austria or something which left me with a warm and fuzzy feeling, although it could have been the wine.  I stood in line to secure a signed copy of the book and what do you know, he remembered me and called me by my name! I was smitten all over again.

A Well Tempered Heart

Can you read his handwriting?

It says For Pam! I hope you will like it! yours jPS

Isn’t that great?  With those memories freshly unearthed I plowed into the book; fearful that, based on my chat with Kim, that I might not be able to follow the story because it’s the second in the series.

How pleasantly surprised I was.  Reading about Julia reminded me about my own wanderlust; always seeking that next adventure, that next place to discover a bit of myself in other foods (mostly) and cultures.  Kind of like Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love without Javier Bardem and all her  whining.  The first item of business was to discover where Burma was (it’s in SE Asia near Thailand and now called Myanmar).  The second was to discover what a longyi was.  It’s an item of clothing , much like a sarong, that’s worn by both sexes, although for the life of me I cannot figure how they stay on!

But back to wanderlust. Perhaps it’s a romantic ideal but the thought of living longer than 6 weeks in another country is appealing.  Especially given that we are having a very snowy winter in the Northeast, my thoughts think of nothing but warm climates. I’ve heard it said that in order to truly appreciate something, you should live in another country for longer than a week to 10 days.  I’ve been fortunate enough to experience that: I lived in the Southern Czech Republic for approximately 6 weeks.  I traveled in and around Prague and some of the smaller provinces, learning Czech (difficult), accidentally learning German (easier than Czech), and immersing myself in their culture by devouring Czech writers:

  • Milan Kundera
  • Karel  Capek
  • Josef Skovercky
  • Jaroslav Hasek

Since I’d grown up as a musician I was already familiar with Czech composers Dvorak and Smetana but developed a deep love for Smetana’s symphonic poems Ma Vlast, which means my country.  When my brain needs quieting, these musical pieces sooth my nerves and settle my need to wander.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get to Burma. I hear it’s not too safe to visit and I’m sure they don’t carry Zyrtec there for my allergies but you never know. Thailand is nearby; and “we are responsible not only for what we do, but also for what we fail to do.”

So there’s that.

Have you ever lived in another country?

 

This post was inspired by the novel A Well-Tempered Heart by Jan-Philipp Sendker.  Feeling lost and burned out, Julia drops her well paying job at a NYC law firm. After hearing a stranger’s voice in her head, she travels to Burma to find the voice’s story and hopefully herself as well. Join From Left to Write on February 4 we discuss A Well-Tempered Heart.

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Books

Great Reads Around the World

I recently came across a post by the cerebral Maria Popova at Brain Pickings.  The title?  Stone is Not Cold: Miroslav Sasek’s Playful Vintage Illustrations of  Classical Sculpture.

Quite a mouthful to be sure.

What’s so intriguing about the book is that the author takes classic sculpture and turns it into silly illustrations for children.

If the cover doesn’t make you chuckle, some of the illustrations inside should.

 

 

 

This example is the famed Medusa with snakes for hair, at the hairdresser.

Ok, not your average children’s illustrations, but that’s why adults love these too.

Why am I so intrigued by this book?

I have a special place in my heart for Czech literature and Miroslav Sasek is a mid century illustrator.  Many years ago I spent some time in the Czech Republic and found their culture to be artistically rich and full of humor.

I’ve read several books by the Czechs:

The Good Soldier Svejk by Jaroslav Hasek

Which is not a children’s book and contains language that is offensive but is indicative of the era and is suitable historically.  It is darkly funny. Sveijk  is a soldier in the war. And he’s a boob; yet somehow manages to get himself into and out of the silliest situations.

I’ve also enjoyed other Czech authors such as Josef Skvorecky, Franz Kafka, and Milan Kundera.

I suspect the Czech’s had to keep their sense of humor as they were under Russian rule for such a long time.  But that my dears, is another post.

Not sure if you’re familiar with the Czech Republic? I’ll bet you’ve heard of the famous and beautiful clock in Prague?

image by An Unconventional Librarian

While I did try to learn the Czech language, I read these particular books in English.

What’s your great read from around the world?