ON MY BEDSIDE TABLE
I have just finished The Mountain Whisperer by Jia Pingwa, translated by Christopher Payne. It’s a richly humorous folk tale about the peasant life in the mountains. It’s one of several memorable Chinese novels I’ve read this year, which makes we wonder why Chinese writers aren’t more widely read in the West.
I’ve also read my first book from Bulgaria: the excellent Four Minutes by Nataliya Deleva, translated by Izidora Angel. It’s a moving and sensitive short novel about an orphaned girl and the rootlessness that follows her into adulthood as she rebuilds her life as gay woman in post-communist Bulgaria.
I also ho-ho-hope to revisit some seasonal favourites. I have an avid reader friend who lives in Tokyo, and we’re going to buddy-read The Christmas Tree by Jennifer Johnston. I first read it at school and she’s a writer I’m long overdue in revisiting. I’ll also reread one of my favourite Christmas novels: Berlin Poplars by Anne B Ragde, translated by James Anderson – a warm and funny book about family and friendship at Christmas. And on St Stephen’s Day, I’ll revisit Let Me Be Frank With You, by Richard Ford, a seasonal gem that captures with wry humour the clumsy adjustment of the middle-aged male to modern sensitivities.
Rónán is the author of Leonard and Hungry Paul. His latest book, Panenka, is out now, published by Bluemoose Books.
Always in Print: Father Christmas by Raymond Briggs (1973)
Blooming Christmas. Blooming chimneys. Blooming soot. Grrr. Father Christmas is not some distant magic maker in the North Pole but a grumpy old git living in an ordinary house with no elves to help. Writer and illustrator Raymond Briggs drew on the memory of his own father, a milkman, doing his early rounds in winter for the book, but there is no shortage of magic in the everyday. The fire in his stove glows red as he makes breakfast, feeds the reindeers, gets dressed, packs up all the presents in his sleigh and sets up across the night sky with his flask and sandwiches in a satchel. It’s the little things that thrill, like Father Christmas sitting on the loo and showing his bum or sharing his turkey with his faithful cat and dog. Brigg’s other Christmas classic, The Snowman, tends to get all the attention thanks to an inspired musical score, and hit song, “Walking in the Air”, but Father Christmas has the better deal, tucked up in his own bed when all the work is done.
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