Lefkosia (aka Nicosia) is, quite famously, the world's last divided capital, spelled Λευκωσία in Greek and Lefkoşa in Turkish. An island nation sitting at the crossroads of history in the Mediterranean Sea, Cyprus has seen more than its share of political struggles.
Lefkosia is also home to an amazing bookstore, the Moufflon Bookshop. That's where I picked up my copy of Ledra Street by Nora Nadjarian, a collection of short stories that explore the lives of ordinary people living in an extraordinary place, watching politics play out in ways small and large, comic and tragic. Choosing an author of Armenian heritage who writes in English for the #worldreads challenge was my way of avoiding "the Cyprus problem."
Nadjarian is a poet, and her skilled but playful use of words comes through on every page. As when a character in the story No-Man's Land remembers her father:
And we walked and walked the narrow streets, down the alleys, round corners, and when we reached the Venetian walls, he would put my small hand on the rough stone, cover it with his, and say 'Shhh! Listen to the story on the other side.'
There is a document at the center of Secrets, a novel by acclaimed Somali author Nuruddin Farah. It first appears as part of a childhood prank, albeit a serious one. Then it disappears for long stretches of the story.
Later, when it reappears, it changes the life of the book's protagonist, Kalaman.
The story of Kalaman and his old flame Sholoongo is told primarily by him in the first person, although we get parts of it from the points of view of his lover, his mother and his grandfather. In the background of it all beats the outbreak of Somalia's bitter civil war:
I can't bear the thought of generalizing. I am a person, a clan is a mob. Talk to me, sell me things, I am reasonable. Clans are not.