International Club of Berne

Sophie Book Group

  • Wednesday, 24th January 2018 at 7pm
  • Thursday, 22nd February 2018 at 7pm
  • Wednesday, 21st March 2018 at 7:15pm
  • Wednesday, 25th April 2018 at 7:15pm
  • Wednesday, 23rd May 2018 at 7:15pm
  • Wednesday, 20th June 2018 at 7pm

Location: Reformiertes Forum, Länggasse 41

Dates planned for 2018 are 24.1, 21.2 change 22.2, 21.3, 25.4, 23.5, 20.6, 22.8, 19.9, 17.10, 21.11

  • 19:00 on January 24, 2018 - We choose 8 to 10 books on 24 January, and in addition we discuss the short stories by Isaac Asimov: "The Last Question" (1956) and "The Last Answer" (1980)
  • 19:00 on February 22, 2018 - Nadine Gordimer, The Conservationist
  • 19:15 on March 21, 2018 - Sun-Mi Hwang, The Hen who Dreamed She Could Fly
  • 19:15 on April 25, 2018 - Gauss / Humboldt: Measuring the World
  • 19:15 on May 23, 2018 - Jonas Luscher, Barbarian Spring
  • 19:00 on June 20, 2018 - Pascal Merrcier, Lea
  • 19:00 on August 22 - biographies

You are welcome to join any meeting for whichever books you wish to read and discuss. You must have read the book before the meeting!


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Displaying 1 - 10 of 18 comments
Graham wrote
at 6:53pm on Sunday, 4th March 2018
“Measuring the World” by Daniel Kehlmann - April book

Although Humboldt and Gauss were extremely ambitious and highly serious, Kehlmann often presents them humorously. Gauss’s physical complaints and atrocious manners are continually amusing. Humboldt’s resistance to women and unwitting insults to others are equally funny. The scientists’ dialogues with lesser intelligences — and even with each other — often sound like the non sequiturs in “Waiting for Godot.” Kehlmann gives ample credit to his characters’ discoveries — they were two of the most renowned scientists of their time — but his treatment humanizes their authoritarian public personas. Kehlmann includes Gauss’s confusion about statistics and his attraction to spiritualism, and he suggests that Humboldt may have exaggerated several of his exploits. With these not-so-distant mirror characters, Kehlmann usefully reminds us that our own universal geniuses and vaunted measurements of the world will be superseded — and will look comic to people in the next century.
Graham wrote
at 10:54am on Wednesday, 21st February 2018
W meet next on Thursday 22 February, at the Reformiertes Forum Längasse 41. THIS IS A CHANGE.
Graham wrote
at 1:27am on Wednesday, 24th January 2018
We expect 8 persons on Wednesday evening. To see all the proposals, look at the comments below. Plus any more ... Graham
Graham wrote
at 10:19pm on Tuesday, 23rd January 2018
Gesendet: Sonntag, 17. Dezember 2017 um 22:13 Uhr
Von: "bogitruth ." <>
An: GrahamTritt <>
Betreff: Trojanow book for sophie reading?
Hi Graham
I am reading the latest book of the bestseller german author from bulgarian origin Trojanow, with several publications in english,
His last book Nach der Flucht, is a bestseller in Germany, see link below on a Frankfurter Messe interview...
The boom is very interesting, as it gives the perspective of the refugees, in poetic phrases. He says that everybody having left his home is a sort of a refugee, even if he changes place of living in the same country... I think it very worth a discussion in the sophie club...?
Trojanow was born in Sofia, Bulgaria in 1965. In 1971 his family fled Bulgaria through Yugoslavia and Italy to Germany, where they received political asylum. In 1972 the family travelled on to Kenya, where Ilija's father had obtained a job as engineer. With one interruption from 1977–1981, Ilija Trojanow lived in Nairobi until 1984, and attended the German School Nairobi. After a stay in Paris, he studied law and ethnology at Munich University from 1985 to 1989. He interrupted these studies to found Kyrill-und-Method-Verlag in 1989, and after that Marino-Verlag in 1992, both of which specialised in African literature. In 1999 Trojanow moved to Mumbai and became intensely involved with Indian life and culture. He has lived in Cape Town, returned to Germany (Mainz), and then to Austria, where he currently resides in Vienna.
English translations,p_82:B001HQ1LMW
o Custodians of the Sun
o Along the Ganges, translation by Ranjit Hoskote, Penguin Books India & Haus Publishing, 2005
o Mumbai to Mecca, London, 2007, Haus Publishing
o The Collector of Worlds, London, 2008
o The Lamentations of Zeno, translation by Philip Boehm of Eis Tau, Verso Books, New York, 2016
Collector of Worlds (The story of explorer Richard Francis Burton)
A stunning fictionalized account of the infamous life of british colonial officer and translator sir richard francis burton
A nineteenth-century British colonial officer with a rare ability to assimilate into indigenous cultures, Sir Richard Francis Burton was an obsessive traveler whose journeys took him from England to British India, Arabia, and on a quest for the source of the Nile River in Africa. He learned more than twenty languages, translated The Arabian Nights and the Kama Sutra, and took part in the pilgrimage to Mecca, in addition to writing several travel books.
This elegant novel tells the story of Burton's adventures in British West India, his experience on the hajj to Mecca, and his exploration of East Africa. In each section, perspective shifts between Burton and the voices of those men he encounters along the way: his Indian servant recounts his travails with Burton to a scribe; the qadi, the governor, and the shari in Mecca investigate Burton's hajj; and Sidi Mubarak Bombay, Burton's African guide, shares his story with friends in Zanzibar. This remarkable con-centric narrative examines the underbelly of colonialism while offering a breathtaking tour of the nineteenth century's most stunning landscapes.
The Collector of Worlds won the fiction prize of Germany's Leipzig Book Fair in 2006 and the Berlin Literary Award, in addition to being a runaway bestseller in Germany.
o Paperback: 464 pages
o Publisher: Ecco; Reprint edition (January 19, 2010)
o Language: English
o ISBN-10: 0061351946
o ISBN-13: 978-0061351945
Along the Ganges 266 pages
Part adventure story, travel log, and cultural tour it is a great book. It gives the reader the chance to follow along on a trip that very few could take on their own. Mixed in with the description of the trip is a narrative on the mythology associated with the river. Lots of fun to read.
o Paperback: 220 pages
o Publisher: Haus Publishing (May 24, 2011)
o Language: English
o ISBN-10: 1906598916
o ISBN-13: 978-1906598914
In early 2003, Ilija Trojanow -- originally from Bulgaria, but then living in Mumbai -- undertook the Hajj. MUMBAI TO MECCA is his account of the pilgrimage. As the fifth pillar of Islam, the Hajj is a lifetime objective for over 1.5 billion of this planet's people. For someone like me (a non-Moslem), the Hajj is an impossibility. Reading the book, therefore, gave me a glimpse and rudimentary understanding, otherwise unavailable to me, of an event central to the lives of so many of my fellow world-citizens.
o Hardcover: 215 pages
o Publisher: Haus Publishing; 1st edition edition (February 1, 2007)
o Language: English
o ISBN-10: 1904950299
o ISBN-13: 978-1904950295
Nach der Flucht
audio interview

I do not find this in English - Graham
Graham wrote
at 10:11pm on Tuesday, 23rd January 2018
From Ruramisai

My suggestions are two fiction and two nonfiction books, all of which I have linked to Amazon (sorry independent booksellers):

Jenny Erpenbeck (trans. Susan Bernofsky), Go Gone, Went (fiction)
The novel tells the tale of Richard, a retired professor who lives in Berlin. His wife has died, and he lives a routine existence until one day he spies some African refugees staging a hunger strike. Curiosity turns to compassion and an inner transformation, as he visits their shelter, interviews them, and becomes embroiled in their harrowing fates
A thoughtful, touching, painful, real story of refugees caught in limbo. It unfolds naturally so you meet and get to know the Africans as Richard does, so you see the levels of complexity and humanity in the refugee experiences.
• Paperback: 320 pages
• Publisher: New Directions; Reprint edition (September 26, 2017)
• Language: English
• ISBN-10: 0811225941
• ISBN-13: 978-0811225946

Souad Mekhennet, I was Told to Come Alone (nonfiction)
In this compelling and evocative memoir, we accompany Mekhennet as she journeys behind the lines of jihad, starting in the German neighborhoods where the 9/11 plotters were radicalized and the Iraqi neighborhoods where Sunnis and Shia turned against one another, to the Turkish/Syrian border region where ISIS is a daily presence. In her travels across the Middle East and North Africa, she documents her chilling run-ins with various intelligence services and shows why the Arab Spring never lived up to its promise.
• Hardcover: 368 pages
• Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (June 13, 2017)
• Language: English
• ISBN-10: 1627798978
• ISBN-13: 978-1627798976

Katherine Boo, Behind the Beautiful Forevers (nonfiction)
the gap between the haves and have-nots in India is staggering to behold. This first book by a New Yorker staff writer (and Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter for the Washington Post) jolts the reader’s consciousness with the opposing realities of poverty and wealth in a searing visit to the Annawaldi settlement, a new slum in the west of the gigantic city of Mumbai
• Paperback: 288 pages
• Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition (April 8, 2014)
• Language: English
• ISBN-10: 081297932X
• ISBN-13: 978-0812979329

Nadine Gordimer, The Conservationist (fiction)
This is yet another beautifully crafted novel from Nadine Gordimer, framed within the early pre-revolt period of the Apartheid era in her native South Africa. Through Gordimer's craft in use of language, she provides for the reader a visual masterpiece of the land and the people as they live together and separately during that period.
Mehring is rich. He has all the privileges and possessions that South Africa has to offer, but his possessions refuse to remain objects. His wife, son, and mistress leave him; his foreman and workers become increasingly indifferent to his stewardship; even the land rises up, as drought, then flood, destroy his farm.
• Paperback: 272 pages
• Publisher: Penguin Books; Reissue edition (February 24, 1983)
• Language: English
• ISBN-10: 0140047166
• ISBN-13: 978-0140047165

Graham wrote
at 9:48pm on Tuesday, 23rd January 2018
? Mine (Melinda) were
Heat and Light by Jennifer Haigh
"Acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Haigh returns to the Pennsylvania town at the center of her iconic novel Baker Towers in this ambitious, achingly human story of modern America and the conflicting forces at its heart—a bold, moving drama of hope and desperation, greed and power, big business and small-town families.
Forty years ago, Bakerton coal fueled the country. Then the mines closed, and the town wore away like a bar of soap. Now Bakerton has been granted a surprise third act: it sits squarely atop the Marcellus Shale, a massive deposit of natural gas."
• Hardcover: 448 pages
• Publisher: Ecco; First Edition edition (May 3, 2016)
• Language: English
• ISBN-10: 0061763292
• ISBN-13: 978-0061763298
Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
"#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • With richly layered characters and a gripping moral dilemma that will lead readers to question everything they know about privilege, power, and race, the stunning new page-turner from Jodi Picoult." Quotes are from Amazon.
• Hardcover: 480 pages
• Publisher: Ballantine Books; 1 edition (October 11, 2016)
• Language: English
• ISBN-10: 0345544951
• ISBN-13: 978-0345544957

As these may be too long for our group, shorter ones follow:


Between the World and Me by Ta Nehisi-Coates
In a series of essays, written as a letter to his son, Coates confronts the notion of race in America and how it has shaped American history, many times at the cost of black bodies and lives.
• Hardcover: 176 pages
• Publisher: Spiegel & Grau; 1 edition (July 14, 2015)
• Language: English
• ISBN-10: 0812993543
• ISBN-13: 978-0812993547

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
• Paperback: 227 pages
• Publisher: Harper Perennial (4 Sept. 2006)
• Language: English
• ISBN-10: 0007216858
• ISBN-13: 978-0007216857
Graham wrote
at 9:45pm on Tuesday, 23rd January 2018
Measuring the World
Die Vermessung der Welt by German author Daniel Kehlmann, 2005

Alexander von Humboldt and Carl Friedrich Gauss are both great mathematicians of the late 18th and early 19th Centuries in Germany. Humboldt journeys across Europe, crosses the Atlantic to South America and maps the Orinoco River, measuring every geographical feature, and even social features, that can be measured or counted, making huge volumes of notes. Gauss measures the universe from his desk, but does depart to do his own measurements across Prussia and Russia. But all the math is wrapped most humorously in the astounding events and comic relationships, the contrasts and ironies surrounding their separate tales. There was a political tragedy befalling persons close to them, not to mention diseases and the stresses involved with travel and adventure in the world of 1800. Kehlmann’s sense of humor intertwines with his keen appreciation for hardship and mathematical genius throughout the narrative.

Paperback: 272 pages
ISBN-10: 0307277399
ISBN-13: 978-0307277398

Other material
Two hour movie:

Graham wrote
at 9:44pm on Tuesday, 23rd January 2018
The History of Bees - Maja Lunde
Following a simple premise—what would happen if bees disappeared?—Lunde’s novel, originally released in Norwegian in 2015, jumps back and forth, across time, between the stories of three beekeepers. There’s William, a British biologist in the mid-1800s; George, a farmer in the contemporary Midwest; and Tao, a young Chinese mother in a bee-less 2098 who spends hours performing manual labor in the fields to make up for the lack of apiformes. All three are dealing with personal problems brought about by the existence—or lack—of bees in their life. But the novel smartly relies limitedly on its ecological-disaster framework and instead gains its best footing in the quiet and intimate relationships it depicts between its characters. At times, it’s easy to forget you’re reading a novel exploring the consequences of a species extinction—instead, you’ve become invested in the lives of the people whose stories it follows.
In Deutschland wurde ein Roman über Bienen zum «Buch des Jahres» gekürt
The Secret Life of Bees is a 2008 American drama film, adapted from the novel The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd.
Graham wrote
at 9:41pm on Tuesday, 23rd January 2018
Barbarian Spring by Jonas Lüscher.
On a business trip to Tunisia, Preising, a leading Swiss industrialist, is invited to spend the week with the daughter of a local gangster. He accompanies her to the wedding of two London city traders at a desert luxury resort that was once the site of an old Berber oasis. With the wedding party in full swing and the bride riding up the aisle on a camel, no one is aware that the global financial system stands on the brink of collapse. As the wedding guests nurse their hangovers, they learn that the British pound has depreciated tenfold, and their world begins to crumble around them.
So begins Barbarian Spring, the debut novel from Jonas Lüscher, a major emerging voice in European fiction. In this delightfully bizarre and cynical novel, it should be noted that the wedding guests are all newly-rich, hotshot traders at leading British banks and that the world which crumbles around them has left their credit cards worthless. They are stuck high and dry in a posh resort in the Tunisian desert facing 'the natives' with nothing left of their wealth and power. It is a story of attempted survival. The book was written in German and was on the short list for the Swiss Book Prize two years ago.
• Paperback: 192 pages
• Publisher: Haus Publishing; 1st UK Edition 1st Printing edition (March 15, 2015)
• Language: English
• ISBN-10: 1908323833
• ISBN-13: 978-1908323835
Graham wrote
at 9:40pm on Tuesday, 23rd January 2018
Founded in 2003, Words Without Borders is an organization that promotes cultural understanding through the translation, and publication of contemporary international literature. Every month the group publishes eight to twelve new works by international writers, including Nobel Prize laureates and new writers. To date Words Without Borders has published more than 2,400 pieces from 132 countries and 112 languages.
Kathleen Kelly Janus' Books to Make the World Better

The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change
by Adam Braun
"In this gripping story, Braun recounts how one interaction on a study abroad trip completely transformed his life. This book is an inspiring guide for how to transform serendipity into action."
Good Minds Suggest: Kathleen Kelly Janus' Books to Make the World Better

The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change by Adam Braun
"In this gripping story, Braun recounts how one interaction on a study abroad trip completely transformed his life. This book is an inspiring guide for how to transform serendipity into action."

The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity
by Nadine Burke Harris
"A remarkable account of Dr. Burke Harris' journey to find a cure for toxic stress in children and a compelling case for how we can all be advocates for the rights of children."

I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai
"An extraordinary story about a girl who took a stand for what was right and inspired a generation of women and girls globally by her actions."
The Life You Can Save: Acting Now to End World Povertyby Peter Singer
4.05 avg rating — 2,577 ratings published 2009
Using ethical arguments, provocative thought experiments, illuminating examples, and case studies of charitable giving, philosopher Peter Singer shows that our current response to world poverty is not ...more
The Life You Can Save by Peter Singer
"Peter Singer reminds us that eradicating world poverty is within our reach and makes a strong case for why we should all be doing more for those who are suffering most in our world."


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By Graham on 14th March

Thursday 15: meditation
Sunday 18: Canadian Brunch
Tuesday 20: Club Meeting - challenges of the digital future
Wednesday 21: Sophie Book Group


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