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There’s something about this book that breaks down the wall of fiction and leaves the reader feeling viscerally overwhelmed by what they‘ve just read.
At fifteen, I discovered Raymond Carver in a book of short stories that two friends of my parents kindly let me lift from their house in the middle of a car trip. Carver writes wonderfully about empathy.
The novel, Bel Canto, is one of my favourite books of all time. It offers suspense, well-developed characters, and universal themes of love and forgiveness.
Does it make sense to “review” great poetry? The following is from Milosz’s Campo dei Fiori:
“In Rome, on Campo dei Fiori,
baskets of olives and lemons
cobbles spattered with wine
and the wreckage of flowers.
George Eliot (Mary Anne Evans) was a great believer in the power of empathy to move her readers. Back when she was writing in the 19th century, empathy was generally known as ‘sympathy’.
What exactly does it mean to be human? Andrew Martin, a Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge, is not himself. This becomes clear when he’s found walking naked through the manicured grounds of his own college, apparently having suffered amnesia or nervous breakdown brought on by overwork.
The novel is set in German Occupied Paris in 1942. The central character is Lucien Bernard,a talented young architect, who is enlisted by a rich Frenchman to build an ammunitions factory for the Nazis.
This is a classic short-story from Ursula Le Guin, one of the greatest sci-fi writers ever. You can find it in her collection The Wind’s Twelve Quarters. It’s not long but it has a powerful empathic message at the heart of it.
Things Fall Apart tells two intertwining stories, both centering on Okonkwo, a “strong man” of an Ibo village in Nigeria. The first, a powerful fable of the immemorial conflict between the individual and society, traces Okonkwo’s fall from grace with the tribal world.
I was hugely impressed when I came across Malaria, Poems. This collection really is a moving and powerful feat of the empathic imagination. Poems such as 'Still Born' take us into minds and lives that most of us barely or rarely think about, and the result is both shocking and inspiring.