25 August, 2012

A Life Full of Holes by Driss ben Hamed Charhadi (1964)

This is a most unique book. Charhadi was an uneducated North African house servant encouraged to record a series of tapes on his life by the author Paul Bowles. The tapes were transcribed and published as A Life Full of Holes. The result is a remarkable story of the precarious hand-to-mouth existence led by untold numbers of people around the world. Through forced migrations, prison terms, betrayals and more, Charhadi comes across as charming, positive and yet somehow resigned to his lot in life. He is a compelling storyteller from a long oral tradition, and his observations on Christians – or Nazarenes as he calls them – are fascinating.

04 August, 2012

The Pages by Murray Bail (2008)

I'm sorry but this book just didn't cut it. OK, so Bail's prose is enigmatic and slippery, but the premise here is contrived at best: an academic is sent to a remote farm to read the writings of a little known hermit philosopher who has passed away. What follows unsurprisingly is a thinly veiled philosophical indulgence with some equally thin characters. Look, I did quite enjoy his earlier Canowindra book, even allowing for the unexpected Clare Quilty-like appearance of the suitor. But The Pages has made me reconsider the premise of that book in a different way now too.