Author's Bookshelf: Branka Čubrilo

We're bringing something a bit different to Writing in the Modern Age today. Awhile back, I had an idea for a new feature so I reached out to some author colleagues to see if they'd like to participate. I thought it might be nice to show readers a few books that have inspired authors. You might find it enlightening, and at least be able to answer the age old question, "What the heck do authors read?"



Writers are readers too! Most authors love to collect books for their vast personal libraries. The written word is fascinating to us, and many newer authors as well as those in the past have helped to shape who we are today. 



Without further ado, our guest today is Branka Čubrilo, an author of historical and literary fiction. Won't it be interesting to hear about a few books that have inspired Branka on her writing and publishing journey? 

Sounds pretty awesome to me. So, take it away, Branka!



1. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez




One of the 20th century's enduring works, One Hundred Years of Solitude is a widely beloved and acclaimed novel known throughout the world, and the ultimate achievement in a Nobel Prize–winning career.
The novel tells the story of the rise and fall of the mythical town of Macondo through the history of the Buendía family. It is a rich and brilliant chronicle of life and death, and the tragicomedy of humankind. In the noble, ridiculous, beautiful, and tawdry story of the Buendía family, one sees all of humanity, just as in the history, myths, growth, and decay of Macondo, one sees all of Latin America.
Love and lust, war and revolution, riches and poverty, youth and senility -- the variety of life, the endlessness of death, the search for peace and truth -- these universal themes dominate the novel. Whether he is describing an affair of passion or the voracity of capitalism and the corruption of government, Gabriel García Márquez always writes with the simplicity, ease, and purity that are the mark of a master.
Alternately reverential and comical, One Hundred Years of Solitude weaves the political, personal, and spiritual to bring a new consciousness to storytelling. Translated into dozens of languages, this stunning work is no less than an accounting of the history of the human race.


Branka's Thoughts:


I read this book when I was in high school trying to publish my first stories. It stunned me then, as it still does today. The book contains the history of the world and everyone in it. I loved the universality of themes and characters enveloped in that magic prism of ‘magic-realism’ where everything is different or weird, where dreams and reality overlap and I understood back then that this is exactly the way life really is. I always wanted to unlock the magic formula of his breathtakingly beautiful sentences and give myself the freedom to mix so-called reality and dreams, to create something at the same time wonderful and weird.


2. Ulysses by James Joyce



One of Ireland’s most famous writers was James Joyce, a novelist and poet who’s best known for his avant garde classic Ulysses, which was inspired by The Odyssey but written in a completely modern, stream of conscience way. Joyce was also acclaimed for his poetry, journalism, and novels like A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.
This edition of Joyce’s Ulysses includes a Table of Contents.


Branka's Thoughts:


I tried reading this book three times and the third attempt was successful.

Reading it at the age of 15 was too early and I couldn’t grasp any meaning. Reading it at 18 wasn’t a big success either, but at the age of 27 I read it from cover to cover and understood that this is not just the best Irish book but also one of the best books ever written. The blend of irritation and delight for the reader, a stunning richness of imagination and intelligence of his prose and of his characters inspired me to search for similar ones.

3. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy




Described by William Faulkner as the best novel ever written and by Fyodor Dostoevsky as “flawless,” Anna Karenina tells of the doomed love affair between the sensuous and rebellious Anna and the dashing officer, Count Vronsky. Tragedy unfolds as Anna rejects her passionless marriage and thereby exposes herself to the hypocrisies of society. Set against a vast and richly textured canvas of nineteenth-century Russia, the novel's seven major characters create a dynamic imbalance, playing out the contrasts of city and country life and all the variations on love and family happiness.

While previous versions have softened the robust and sometimes shocking qualities of Tolstoy's writing, Pevear and Volokhonsky have produced a translation true to his powerful voice. This authoritative edition, which received the PEN Translation Prize and was an Oprah Book Club™ selection, also includes an illuminating introduction and explanatory notes. Beautiful, vigorous, and eminently readable, this Anna Karenina will be the definitive text for fans of the film and generations to come. This Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition also features French flaps and deckle-edged paper.


Branka's Thoughts:

I read this book at the tender age of 15 when I wanted to know ‘what real love would look like’ or ‘how to capture deep, profound emotions of love and pain and write them on a piece of paper.’ I read this book several times; it is timeless, with its themes and rich language. I thought, if I wish to write about love I have to read it a few more times.  This is the greatest novel ever written, a classic tale of love and adultery.

4. Waiting for Godot: A Tragicomedy in Two Acts by Samuel Beckett



From an inauspicious beginning at the tiny Left Bank Theatre de Babylone in 1953, followed by bewilderment among American and British audiences, Waiting for Godot has become of the most important and enigmatic plays of the past fifty years and a cornerstone of twentieth-century drama. As Clive Barnes wrote, “Time catches up with genius … Waiting for Godot is one of the masterpieces of the century.”

The story revolves around two seemingly homeless men waiting for someone—or something—named Godot. Vladimir and Estragon wait near a tree, inhabiting a drama spun of their own consciousness. The result is a comical wordplay of poetry, dreamscapes, and nonsense, which has been interpreted as mankind’s inexhaustible search for meaning. Beckett’s language pioneered an expressionistic minimalism that captured the existential post-World War II Europe. His play remains one of the most magical and beautiful allegories of our time.


Branka's Thoughts:


This classic is suited best for those who enjoy absurdism. That was another book I tried to read too young and didn’t succeed in finishing it the first time; only the second time did I enjoy this tale of “Nothing happens, nobody comes, nobody goes, it’s awful.” This phrase was said by one of the main characters.  The unanswered questions: “Is Godot God?” and, “Are Didi and Gogo heroes for their seemingly indefatigable faith he will arrive, or, are they fools for hinging all their hopes and dreams on a man who never seems to arrive to alleviate their suffering?”

5. Collected Fictions by Jorge Luis Borges



Jorge Luis Borges has been called the greatest Spanish-language writer of our century. Now for the first time in English, all of Borges' dazzling fictions are gathered into a single volume, brilliantly translated by Andrew Hurley. From his 1935 debut with The Universal History of Iniquity, through his immensely influential collections Ficciones and The Aleph, these enigmatic, elaborate, imaginative inventions display Borges' talent for turning fiction on its head by playing with form and genre and toying with language. Together these incomparable works comprise the perfect one-volume compendium for all those who have long loved Borges, and a superb introduction to the master's work for those who have yet to discover this singular genius.


Branka's Thoughts:


I fell in love with yet another of the greatest Spanish writers of our century in high school. In his short stories evident is Borges’ immense talent for turning fiction on its head playing with form and genre and toying with language with ease and astonishment. His prose gave me liberty to explore my writing, giving it more freedom from form.

Thank you, Branka! :)

And here is a little about Branka's new book, The Lonely Poet and Other Stories!


Book Blurb:


"Otto Visconti creates a theatre of the absurd in which he is the main character and the anti-hero, the victor and the victim, the celebrity and an irrelevant, obscure and insecure poet misplaced in an isolated and cold world created by his insecurities, obsessions and illusions, governed by the strange inner forces throwing him mercilessly into absurd situations and even more bizarre conclusions and outcomes. He is the main protagonist and the narrator of his misfortunes in the first part of the collection. The second part of the collection offers stories collected from Sydney to New York featuring odd characters in their constant search for meaning, for satisfaction, fulfillment or adventure. They chose unusual avenues in their pursuit of personal happiness; the avenues that often lead them astray."


Here is an excerpt.


-from “Simona”

We were sitting at the table having breakfast. Father said:
“I have something to tell you ... Simona’s pregnant ...”
Upon delivering this sentence his face had become as red as if he had said something very shameful.The very same redness spilt over mother’s face; her neck, even her hands became red and sweaty and her fingers started to tremble heavily, which caused the tinkling of the spoon in the sugar bowl, and mother muttered a red-hot sentence from her flaming throat with a voice tinkling with excitement (everything, everything tinkled during that particular morning):
“You don’t have to say a word, I know it all. You can go, but you have to know one thing—you are not going to take a single thing with you. Go!” Red and trembling she stood up and ran towards the bedroom where her tears had caught up with her after she had tried to keep them on the edge of her eyelashes while she was still at the table. When she slammed the bedroom door, silence was hanging over the table; the tinkling of the cups, the saucers and her own fingers had stopped, the tinkling of her voice had stopped, too, the only thing that could be heard was my father clearing his throat while looking at the cup of now absolutely cold coffee.
Simona. We knew Simona well. Why did mother get so upset? Why did her fingers tinkle in chorus with fine china while the redness spilt all over her face? Why did father’s face get so red that he resembled a little embarrassed boy who had just told a shameful lie to his parents?
We know Simona well; she is my father’s secretary. And what a secretary she’s been; father always used to say that God, himself, had sent Simona to his office, he used to say that he would lose his head without Simona ... I can’t see why mother got so agitated ... so what if she is pregnant, she is not irreplaceable.
I said to my father:
“Are you afraid that now she is going to leave because she is pregnant? Does it worry you to look for another secretary?”
He did not look into my eyes but rather somewhere around my chest, and with a still dull, quiet voice said:
“Otto, are you really that stupid or are you just pretending to be that way?”
I did not understand what he was asking. He stood up and walked out without a coat into a cold Milan morning.
We knew Simona. She came into his office some five years ago, that’s exactly how much older she was than I - five years. She was eighteen when she started to work for him. When I had laid my eyes on her, I thought, “This is exactly how my future wife is going to look.”
Oh merciful Lord, she had the most beautiful smile, I had never seen a smile like hers. It adorned her face so beautifully that I was not able to notice anything else: the coulour or the shape of her eyes, the shape of her nose or chin ... bah, what shape? No other shape was there to distinguish, nothing, there was only Simona’s smile on that face. Simona’s smile was always there like the sun in a cloudless sky.
Whenever I came to father’s office Simona would treat me with chocolates, which she kept in the first drawer on the left hand side of her desk. I would always take one, but Simona would not take any, for she would say she had already had one in the morning, which was exactly what she would allow herself to have (I marvelled at her discipline!)
My first cup of coffee ever! Simona had prepared it for me. I came to father’s office carrying some papers which mother had sent on father’s request. He was not there; Simona said:
“Sit down, Otto. Have a cup of coffee with me.”
There I had enjoyed my first coffee, the sweetest, and I had never ever experienced that sweetness again but I had promised myself once again that the woman I was going to love would carry on her face the ever-present Simona’s smile (was it good or bad luck, the devil knows; later I met Her with that smile which overshadowed even Simona’s seemingly perfect smile.)
Whenever I would meet Simona my hands would tremble just as my mother’s hands had trembled today. I never knew the real reason for the trembling of my hands ... was it because of her smile or was it because of her pitch-black hair, combed and sleek looking as if it was made of tar ... or was it because of the fireflies in her eyes which flew towards you as she talked to you or they flew towards the window to reach the wide sky? ... Live fireflies in Simona’s eyes.
When father had walked out without a coat (was it really too hot for him, or was he in such a hurry that he had forgotten his coat, who would really know now?) I had entered mother’s room. I found her lying on the bed crying, I sat down on the edge of the bed without a word. After a short time she got up, wiped off her tears and said:
“Don’t just sit there. I want to be left alone. Get out!”
“Mother, why did you get so upset about it? He is going to find another secretary.” She gave me one of her dumbfounded looks and asked:
“How old are you, Otto?”
“Are you really brainless or are you pretending to be?”
“I don’t get you ...”
“Your father is going to leave us.”
“But why? It’s not like he and ...” I left the room without ending my sentence for my mother needed solitude. Only in solitude could she find peace and comfort.
In the dining room, everything was still the same as it was in the moment when we left it. Like some sort of theatre scene ... without protagonists ... it looked as if they had left in search of new roles.
Simona!No, this is not possible!This is what she thinks. That’s why she said to him, “You don’t have to say a word, I know it all.”
This is not possible!
Simona! With her smile, with fireflies in her eyes, with her white teeth and dimples in her cheeks.
My father - the man whose face never showed a smile, whose teeth are brownish from smoking and age, and gum disease has left them rickety regardless of his daily hygienic routine and efforts.
Simona—one head taller than him, slim with a tiny waist and long, long legs and a little bottom like an Easter bun, with elegant hands and slim, long fingers adorned with numerous yellow rings.
My father ... stocky, short. He is already belting his pants underneath his sagging breasts. Short-legged, shortsighted, sullen, unapproachable and a know-it-all.
Simona ... with her pitch-black hair, dark but shiny, she looks like a perfectly crafted doll from some exotic place ... with her big almond- shaped eyes, the eyes of a child where fireflies are shining a light with their little brilliant torches wooing observers to drown in it.
My father ... half-bald but convinced that, yet, nobody can really notice it (nor can Simona), since he is combing his hair across his head, over the bald patch, from left to right avoiding the wind at any cost ...
No, it can’t be true. Can it be true?


Genre:  Literary Fiction

Purchase Links:


Amazon Universal link:

Barnes & Noble:



Wow! Thank you for stopping by to give us a glimpse of your bookshelf, Branka!  :)


Readers, don't forget to pick up your copy of The Lonely Poet and Other Stories!


About the Author:


At the age of eighteen Branka Cubrilo wrote her first novel, I Knew Jane Eyre, which won the Yugoslavian Young Writers Award in 1982. Soon after she wrote a sequel called Looking for Jane Eyre. In 1999 Branka published the book Fiume Corre – Rijeka Tece, a year later Requiem for Barbara, and in 2001 Little Lies – Big Lies (as a part of a trilogy called Spanish Stories for which she obtained a scholarship from the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs in order to research the cultural and historical settings of Cadiz in Andalusia). The Lonely Poet and Other Stories is Branka’s third book published in English by Speaking Volumes, following her earlier novels The Mosaic of the Broken Soul (2011) and Fiume – The Lost River (2014). Branka’s latest novel, Dethroned, will be published with the same publisher in 2017. Branka has been living in Sydney with her daughter Althea since 1992. Now she predominantly writes in English and translates her earlier works in English. Praise for Branka Cubrilo 5-Star Reviews on  

Author Links:  


Amazon Author Page:




Branka's Books


Once again, let's thank Branka Čubrilo for allowing us to see her cool author's bookshelf! :)

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