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What the world is reading

What the world is reading

What the world is reading, including an incisive account of Putin’s Russia and a novel by a Brazilian nun

What the world is reading, including an incisive account of Putin’s Russia and a novel by a Brazilian nun

April/May 2016

The country’s intelligentsia has been abuzz with talk of “Vsya Kremlyovskaya Rat” (“All the Kremlin’s Men”), an incisive history of contemporary Russia by Mikhail Zygar, the former editor-in-chief of TV Rain, Russia’s last-remaining independent television channel. Zygar blends unusually close access with refreshingly sober prose to produce a remarkable picture of the Kremlin’s opaque inner workings.

There are more therapists per head in Argentina than in any other country – and more than half of them are in Buenos Aires. In “Cara a Cara” (“Face to Face”) celebrity therapist Gabriel Rolón reflects on his career and offers sage advice on love, death, happiness and memory. Porteños simply can’t get enough of it.

Ernest Hemingway’s 1964 memoir “A Moveable Feast”, or “Paris est une fête”, has been a tearaway bestseller since the latest terrorist attacks. People are buying it as a symbol of the café culture which the book celebrates and the attacks targeted. Its sales are outstripping even Asterix’s adventures in the plucky Gaul’s latest comic.

“Hibana” (“Spark”) by Naoki Matayoshi is the latest Japanese publishing sensation. Funny, well-written and insightful, it looks into the world of Manzai comedians (think Morecambe and Wise, but more slapstick). Last year it sold 2.4m copies and won the country’s top literary prize. Fans have praised the salty Osaka dialogue and its insider’s depiction – Matayoshi is himself a comic – of life on the stage.

Not many nuns win prizes for romantic fiction, but Maria Valéria Rezende recently scooped the Brazilian Jabuti Literature Prize in that category. Now 73, Rezende entered a convent aged 23, before being driven out of Brazil by the military dictatorship. Her resulting travels are woven through her latest book, “Quarenta Dias” (“Forty Days”), in which Alice, a retired teacher driven to the limits of sanity, travels from north to south searching for the son of an acquaintance. The portrayal of Alice sets Rezende apart as a missionary for Brazil’s marginalised.

South Africa
The popularity of titles such as “What If There Were No Whites in South Africa?” and “How Long Will South Africa Survive?” says a lot about the gloomy mood just now, but this bestseller by columnist and political analyst Justice Malala offers solutions. “We Have Now Begun Our Descent: How to Stop South Africa Losing Its Way” not only chronicles the erosion of democratic institutions and the rot of corruption but also offers hope that the country can turn things around.

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