And so to B…

Posted on July 17, 2012


Moving on



And so the As are finished and we move on to the letter B.  That’s not to say that we’re a 26th of the way through. Some letters don’t have countries. Where are Xylophonia and X-rayland when you need them? Maybe we can look at xenophiles and xenophobes when we get to X.    Then again, some letters have loads of countries. B for instance.

  • The Bahamas
  • Bahrain
  • Bangladesh
  • Barbados
  • Belarus
  • Belgium
  • Belize
  • Benin
  • Bhutan
  • Bolivia
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Botswana
  • Brazil
  • Brunei
  • Bulgaria
  • Burkina Faso
  • Burma
  • Burundi

Daunting, but I’m looking forward to B.  It contains two of the countries on my ‘most like to go to for real’ list – Bhutan and Burma.  It also holds the possibility of our first guest blogs if I can persuade my Belarusian and Bulgarian friends to participate and my Serbian friend to read something in Portuguese – he’s a polyglot and a Brazilophile.  I might even persuade one of my brothers to tackle Brunei. It wouldn’t be the first time. He lived in the jungle in Brunei for a while and tackled far worse than its literature.   The upside of all this guest blogging is that you get a break from hearing my voice and I can get drunk, read crap (the absence of a comma is rather significant here I’ve just realised) and not have to think about it.

Pace, Poetry, and Partition

I was once in a play called Passion, Poison and Petrifaction which the alliteration of this rubric reminds me of.   If you ever need a funny one-act play for whatever reason, I can recommend this Shavian piece of silliness.   But back to Pace, Poetry and Partition which isn’t nearly as funny.   The first three books I’ve chosen for the Bs come roughly under these headings.


  • The Bahamas

Gareth Buckner – Thine is the Kingdom

We can all breath a sigh of relief and read something plot driven and pacy.   Thank you, Bahamas!


  • Bahrain

Laala Kashef Alghata – Behind the Mask: A folded heart

It was hard choosing something from Bahrain.  I couldn’t face reading Sarah A. Al Shafei’s Yummah at the moment. I’m sure it’s a very good novel  – it gets universally good reviews and I may read it at some point in my life, but in the synopsis it says of the main character that  ‘grief and sorrow become her two best friends’, and there’s only so much grief and sorrow a girl can take. So I’ve chosen a collection of love poems.   Of course love poetry can be very painful, but at least the misery will be expressed economically – well, one hopes.


  •  Bangladesh

Tahmima Anam – A Golden Age

Having said I didn’t want more pain and grief, A Golden Age is described as ‘heart-shattering’, by the Guardian and ‘heart-stopping’, by the Sunday Telegraph.  Will we survive?  The reason I’ve chosen it is because it’s been on my list for a while. It won the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize Best First Book award and was one of the first novels written in English by a Bangladeshi not of the diaspora. So no translation issues and an anticipation of the fresh use of language you find in Indian English writing.

…and a little bit of personal politics

I feel I should come out of the Commonwealth cupboard and say that I’m a huge fan of the Commonwealth.   That’s not to say I’m a fan of colonialism. Nor do I support the hangover of having the Queen as its head nor the lingering whiff of Britishness.[1] But my hippy heart beats faster (got to exercise it if it’s to survive the heart stopping and shattering that’s coming) at the thought that there is a cultural, sporting and trading connection between 1/3 of the world’s people.  I’d like to think it’s a connection that’s driven more by an open-hearted sharing of values than corrupting self interest.  That’s probably naïve and, sadly, I’m swimming against the tide. The Commonwealth is in crisis due to its inability to address issues of human rights and the constitution of democratic norms.  Malcolm Rifkind, not a man I would normally cite, had this to say:

“The Commonwealth faces a very significant problem. It’s not a problem of hostility or antagonism, it’s more of a problem of indifference. Its purpose is being questioned, its relevance is being questioned and part of that is because its commitment to enforce the values for which it stands is becoming ambiguous in the eyes of many member states. The Commonwealth is not a private club of the governments or the secretariat. It belongs to the people of the Commonwealth.”

And finally…


I’ll leave you, if I may, with a quotation from Mother Teresa:

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

[1] Spellchecker suggests Brutishness for Britishness – indeed!