Boyhood Island by Karl Ove Knausgaard

Boyhood island Karl Ove Knausgaard

Boyhood Island by Karl Ove Knausgaard

Norwegian fiction

Original title – Min Kamp Tredje Bok

Translator – Don Bartlett

Source – Library

 

“If growing up means it would be beneath my dignity to climb a tree, I’ll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up! Not me!

J M Barrie the writer of Peter Pan

 

Well book two is on the IFFP shortlist of Karl Ove Knausgaard six book collection My struggle and in the time it was longlist and shortlist Book three of the collection has come out in hardback .I have already read books one and two  and have loved a both of them so was excited to get to the halfway point (well not really in terms of pages as the next few books are longer ) .

We moved there in the summer of 1970 , when most of the houses on the site were still being built .The shrill warning siren ,which sounded before and explosion was a common feature of my childhood , and that very distinctive feeling of doom you can experience when shock waves from the explosion ripple through the ground causing the house to tremble was common too .

The house the Knaugaard family moved to on the Island .

So Boyhood island like the previous books is a fictionalized account of the life of Karl Ove Knausgaard ,so far we have seen his relationship with his father ,late teen years and the struggling start as a writer and young father .Now on book three we dive back to his earlier childhood a seventies Norway  we see Karl Ove ‘s school years unfold as he lives with his family in a series of places and small islands were his family settled .Karl Ove making friends ,seeing his parents change ,observing there relationship as a child in hindsight watching them argue .This is really a normal childhood made into high art every little piece of his childhood is taken apart what he ate ,what he watch , the early discovery of books , a love of comics etc etc . We do see what made the man but also what it was to be a child in the seventies in Norway .

The disagreements never lasted long, a few hours later I was playing with them again if I wanted , but there was something awry .I was finding myself in situations with my back against the wall more and more often ,the others were moving away more and more often when I approached , even Geir ,in fact ,on occasion I realised they were actually hiding from me .

Trouble at times Karl Ove struggled at times  with his temper .

Now I must say this one of the three actually is the book I have like least ,still with Karl Ove great style of writing but something feels more forced about this one maybe to many facts ,I felt as though he’d maybe tried to hard to remember his childhood and maybe like we all do is remember the parts around our childhood , in my case the spangles , jackanoary , having snails in my pockets ,childhood fights with my younger brother , playing with my younger brother as we made things out of lego .This is what we get here ,underneath is parts we have seen in the other books hints of troubles ahead between Karl Ove and his father .It didn’t quite click the writers voice in this just isn’t child like enough at times ,not that it is bad now there is still those flourishes of description that for me is his real strength to carry the everyday into something more than the everyday to us the reader is a rare talent .Will I be reading on of course so I will count down the days until vol four arrives with us this time next year .

Have you got this far with Karl Ove ?

The sorrow of angels by Jón Kalman Stefánsson

SOrrow of angels

The sorrow of angels by Jón Kalman Stefánsson

Icelandic fiction

Original title – Harmur englanna

Translator – Philip Roughton

Source – review copy

I might have speculated on my chances of going to Heaven; but candidly I did not care. I could not have wept if I had tried. I had no wish to review the evils of my past. But the past did seem to have been a bit wasted. The road to Hell may be paved with good intentions: the road to Heaven is paved with lost opportunities.

Apsley Cherry Garrard from his book the worst journey in the world .via goodreads

Well yesterday I covered part one of this trilogy Heaven and Hell  ,so far Jón Kalman Stefánsson has written nine novels and in 2005 won the Icelandic Literature prize .Like the first in this trilogy I read this on more than one occasion the prose are very rich and need to be savoured on more than one occasion I feel .

It’s snowing .The snowflakes fill the vault of the sky and pile up on the world .The wind is gentle and drifts hold their shape ,The surface of the sea is calm and ceaselessly swallows the snow .

Weather but a little calmer than in other parts of the book .

Well I think that quote sums this book up well ,the book follows a journey taken by the still unnamed boy who was one of the main characters in the first book and Jens a postman as they seek to deliver a package for a doctor in the hinterland of Iceland .Now the boy an orphan whom in the first book lost his good friend seems a much more rounded character in this book one who because of his past has fallen in love with books .The journey sees the two battle each other and the elements around them and maybe grow to know each other from this shared journey .As they move from farm to farm to get the item delivered .

The coffee brews .

Oh, the aroma of this black drink !

Why do we have to remember it so well ;it’s been so very long , since we could drink coffee , many decades ,yet still the tast and pleasure haunts us .Our bodies were devoured to the last morsel long ago .

As a coffee lover Stefanssson often mentions coffee .

Snow ,snow ,snow ,cold ,wind this is maybe the book summed up in five words what we have here like the first book is a book is about man and his surrounds ,how we can conquer most things but the elements still even now (although this book is set a hundred years ago ) we struggle in the worst conditions to get by .Again the book is told in a collective voice ,an echo of a past gone but kept alive in these pages .The journey they are  undertaking is maybe an eternal one that man has been taken since the beginning of time  , the one that isn’t about getting there but about taking the journey .Philip Roughton has caught what I call the cold feel of the book ,I assume there is more in Icelandic about cold and cold weather but he has still managed to make you feel a real chill down your spine ,this would be a great book to read on a hot summers day as it will cool you down .This is another from this years IFFP it is on our shadow shortlist .

Have you read either of the books by this writer ?

 

Heaven and Hell by Jón Kalman Stefánsson

heaven and hell

Heaven and Hell by Jón Kalman Stefánsson

Icelandic fiction

Original title Himnaríki og helvíti

Translator – Philip Roughton

Source review copy

Down dropped the breeze, the sails dropped down,
‘Twas sad as sad could be;
And we did speak only to break
The silence of the sea!

From the rim of the ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge .

Now this is a book I have read three times in the last year and it wasn’t till the last rereading this last weekend I finally got what I felt  Jón Kalman Stefánsson was trying to get across . Jón Kalman Stefánsson is an Icelandic writer ,that studied Literature but then didn’t pass his final exams ,so drifted into teaching ,then became a librarian in Denmark ,before deciding to become a writer which he now does full-time .Heaven and Hell is the first in a trilogy of novels ,tomorrow I’ll be reviewing the second book Sorrow of angels ,but too this book now .

The sea is cold and sometimes dark it is a gigantic creature that never rests , and here no-one can swim except for Jonas who works in the summers at the Norwegian whaling station , the Norwegians taught him how to swim , he is called either the Cod or the Sea-wolf the later more fitting considering his appearance .

I loved the image I got here of Jonas .

Heaven and Hell is the story of a boy ,a boat ,the crew of the boat ,a good man losing his life .But it’s more than that its a feeling a world gone the voices in the book are from the past telling of a world that was a world where Fishermen would read Paradise lost .The crew now have to head out further to get the cod one Crew man Barður whom was the one that was reading Milton ,left some of his gear behind and thus dies of the cold  and wet minus his waterproof gear ,this is a harsh world the rest of the crew seem unbothered by this event apart from one the Boy whom is  the other main character of this book we don’t know his name but he sets of with Barður book across the Island to return this book to its original owner a Blind sea-captain .Along the way he meets a bunch of almost surreal characters .A quest to return the book .

Hell is not knowing whether we are alive of dead

I live ,she lives ,they live ,he dies

This rough conjunction stuck us like a mace on the head ,because the story about the boy ,the snow ,the huts ,almost made us forget our own deaths .

I finally grew to love passages like this .

Now the reason I struggled with this book ,I feel is the style of writing is a style I’m not readily use to a collective voice ,but also I like to get a foothold in a story rather like a climb that little slither of rock I can balance and see what is ahead and in the first two reading I didn’t get that and I feel part of that was wanting to compare this to the few other Icelandic novels I have read ,which it really is very different ,so on this last reading I sat and just like a boat set sail in his prose and Got it and actually went Dam Tony whom I know loves this and the follow-up book was right  .How did I make this break it was using my own life and remember a visit to a fishing museum(s) in Fife ,looking after a lady twenty years ago that followed the Herring fleet up the north coast of England and Scotland during the 20s and 30s ,the small fishing huts I passed once a week in Northumberland all shot into my mind as I turned the pages for a third time and I just went why (but that is the beauty of books and rereading  it took me to try to see the beauty and sometimes we need to break something down and just let it drift over us ) .The world you are drawn into is one of hard men , the cruel sea and a boy looking beyond this world and making more of it .Milton maybe this is the world of Paradise lost in the flesh these fishermen are the cast out souls of Paradise lost .I was remind also in this last reread of Under Milkwood ,how much was I had seen it a week earlier but it evokes the same world feel that dark, tough but very real world that Thomas did in his verse poem .

.Fisherman's_hut_by_the_Ouse_with_view_of_Lindisfarne_Castle._-_geograph.org.uk_-_286907

The hut I remember from Northumberland very like the world in this book picture by Attribution: Jonathan Billinger

The Ravens by Tomas Bannerhed

the ravens by tomas bannerhed

The Ravens by Tomas Bannerhed

Sweddish fiction

Orginial title – korparna

Translator Sarah Death

Source review copy

Tomas Bannerhed is a new writer this book was his debut novel it won the big August prize in Sweden and also a Boras prize for a debut novel .He has previously work as a teacher in university .The august prize committee praised it for been a bildungsroman firmly placed in the Swedish tradition .This is one of last years English pen choices .

Sit on the stone wall and see how many different bird calls I can make out ,waiting for the green woodpecker to show herself in the black hole ,poke her bayonet beak and at least say hello .No sign of life .Dead as a may day in church .My greeny yellow friend must have hacked out a home elsewhere ,moved away and laid he gleaming white eggs in a dead pine instead

Klas sees the birds as his friends in the chaotic world he lives in .

 

The ravens strangely enough arrived the same day as Crow blue a book I reviewed last year I had noted how strange it was to get books named after birds in the same family of birds ,in fact they also share narrators coming of age but unlike crow blue ,Klas is a young boy on the cusp of manhood .Klas lives in a rural farming community ,his family farm isn’t doing great this means is father Agne is struggling and is in fact going down a spiral into depression and woe .SO Klas has to live in this world his parents constant worry of how they are going to get by ,they expect him to one day take the family farm over .Klas is discovering the world around him ,girls and also he loves the nature around him especially birds .Klas struggles to order his life and how it is going to turn out for he sees beyond the farm and the life that has seemingly been mapped out for him .But as he is so young his fathwer despair wears of on him and he wonders if he is going mad him self .

“So you’re klas !” said Leo ,taking the floor  .” I recall Veronika mentioned you at some point .and now you are off to play Ornithologist ?”

“I wouldn’t call it playing “I said “we’re bound to hear mash warblers ,reed warblers and nightingales tonight and probably some common snipe and spotted crakes as well

“Oh will you ? well fancy that “

Veroinka is Klas girl he is quite shy round her ,weren’t we all at that age !!

 

I loved this book ,it remind me so much of Black swan green ,a young man’s  struggle to grow into adulthood .I loved Klas world in some ways the seventies Sweden with its mentions of the world around him remind me of my own childhood .I could also associate with his feeling of despair at times as he sees adults struggle as I saw this many times in my own family growing up .Then there is the birds ,Klas is a keen birdwatcher ,this drove me right back to my childhood ,I was a member of the YOC  Young Ornithologists Club a junior club for birdwatchers so loved how Klas connect to the world around him and know why he did it as sometimes opening your eyes to the natural world can make your own world disappear .I hope this is a book that people pick up for in fact I felt as a story of a boy struggling into manhood it bets black swan green hands down ,which is saying something !!!

Have you a favourite book in the Bildungromans style ?

Oh Sweden ! Oh Israel ! by Stephan Mendel-Enk

Oh-Sweden-Oh-Israel

Oh Sweden ! Oh Israel ! by Stephan Mendel-Enk

Swedish fiction

Translator – Michael Lundin

Original title – Tre Apor

Source – review copy

Stephan Mendel-Enk ,is a Swedish Journalist and writer ,he is best known in Sweden for his soccer Journalism ,were he writes for the leading Swedish Soccer magazine Offside .He has also published a non fiction book on Violence  and being male  .He has  also worked in Radio  and the leading Newspaper  ,Oh Sweden ,Oh Israel is his début novel .The original Title is three apes I wonder if this is a reference to the three monkeys hear no evil ,see no evil ,speak no evil and how this relates to Jacob the main character in this book .

Next to the sofa in the living room was a piano .The opposite wall was covered by a brown bookcase .There were hundreds of books on the shelves .Colour photo books from when Israel celebrated its twentieth ,twenty fifth ,thirtieth and thiry-five anniversaries .One self with titles such as The Arab -Israeli Conflict and the Arab Israel wars .

The shelf at his Grans house show how drawn they are to Israel .

Well Oh Sweden ,Oh Israel follows ,Jacob a boy  who is on the cusp of manhood and we follow his life in the run up to his Bar Mitzvah  ,this is a classic coming of age novel .But then throw in Jacob is Jewish and his parents are about to split we have another couple of angles to move this above the mundane everyday Coming of age fiction .So Jacob struggles with who he is like most teenagers ,but with the fact he is part of the small Jewish community in Gothenburg  ,to say the  least of this Community ,is quite traditional the elders in it are mainly people who had escaped the Nazi during world war two they tend traditional views ,so his parents spilt has caused sparks as his mother has started to see a Man who isn’t Jewish  .Then we hear of how they should be New York type Jews and this is all 1987 and the first Intifada is happening in Israel so Jacob is stuck in little old Sweden just wanting to be a normal teen with all this going on in the background this leads to may and laugh and revelation .

She was from the soviet Union.I thought Soviet Jews were exciting .They had to suffer forcible incarcerations in mental hospitals ,work camps and police violence ,For one year in Hebrew school we’d had the Jews of the Soviet Union as our theme .Bewfore we broke up for the summer hoildays we stage our interpretation of the Dymshits-Kuznetovs hijacking affair in the meeting hall .

Jacob like the Girl Zaddinsky ,she came from Russia to Sweden ?

Well this has a huge vein of Jewish humour through it ,I was remind I not got to this last week when I watched the Woody Allen Documentary on TV ,Allen’s great line on growing up was this “what did you want to be when young ? Old !”,that same irony and at time self loathing and worry is rich in Mendel-Enk words  that conjure up the small community with in the large city and also the troubled family  ,tales of a mess up Circumcision ,leads to woe to his forthcoming Bar Mitzvah celebration .The nearest English writer to him is early Jacobson one can see echoes of the Gothenburg of Jacob and the Manchester evoked in some Jacobson novels.What we have is more than a coming of age novel but also a culture clash novel he is caught between being Swedish and being Jewish ,torn between his parents also caught to whom he is as a person   .The book is short only 140 pages  and packs a good punch for such a short book .

Have you a favourite book by a Jewish writer ?

The Human Part by Kari Hotakainen

untitled

The Human Part by Kari Hotakainen

Finnish Fiction

Original title – Ihmisen osa

Translator – Owen F Witesman

Source – review copy

Well day two of Maclehose press celebration here on Winstonsdad .I now move north from Italy to Finland and one of the most acclaimed writers Kari Hotakinen .He is a multi talented writer .He started as both a poet and Journalist,he is a columnist for the finnish newspaper   Helsingin Sanomat. He started writing novels in the mid nineties  this is his tenth novel,and his latest and the first I’ve read by him .It won the Runeberg prize Sofi Oksanen has also previously won this prize which awarded every year . .

My name is Salme Sinikka Malmikunnas ,and everything that I say will be printed word for word in this book .The author promised me this .In alarm he even suggested that my words be printed in italics ,which apparently emphasizes the importance of the words .

The opening lines of the novel .

So the premise of The human part is a sort off retelling of the old story of some one selling their life to someone else .In this case it is Salame an elderly lady who ran a button shop ,the cover is rather clever a red thread flows through the city and back to Salame at the bottom , she happens to  meets a writer he has writers block and is looking for a story ,so after much persuading and a wad of money she agrees to sell him her life story she had four but only three are still alive and they all have their own problems but their ,mother tends to view their lives with rose-tinted specs .So she starts her story  to the writer ,tell the story of herself ,husband  and her childrens lives .But what is the writer putting down in  writing as she speaks  and is her vision of the family the same as his vision of her family ? What will he write about her kids lives ? ,What will he make of the dark secret that lies at the back of the family ? All this and more is revealed as you move through her life and that of her kids as well  .

The author interrupted to say that he didn’t intend to turn the Dictaphone on for the whole time we were meeting .As he said this he took a notepad and pencil out of  his pocket .I said he needed to put those away while I was speaking as well .The author shock his head and reminded me that he had paid for goods that he would be taking with him in some form ,

The telling of her tale begins .

So its easy to see Salame and the writers pact to sell her story  to him .As a twist on the old Faustian tale of selling your soul to the devil of course the writer isn’t the devil but he does  makes Salame  begin of view her life in a darker way than she did  .the book is also a clever critic on modern Life in Finland but not just Finland ,we all see the world our own ways and we all see our families one way , because they are our family .This book yet again shows we live in an age of changing values of  the general public  and how much  people willing to reveal all about themselves if the  money  is right .Via this story we see pain and suffering with in the family unit in modern Finland  .This is a book that even thou it is set in Finland  , can ring true to every one in this modern world  .

Have you a favourite Finnish writer ?

 

The brothers by Asko Sahlberg

the brothers

The brothers by Asko Sahlberg

Finnish fiction

Ordinal title – He (they in finnish )

Translator – Emily Jeremiah and Fleur Jeremiah

Source review copy

Asko Sahlberg is a Finnish writer he has written 10 novels and radio plays ,he has been up for the Nordic council prize and the Finlandia prize as well .He has previously work as a journalist and in advertising before turning to writing full-time ,he said about his writing “part only partly link in the chain, part of a long literary tradition” .This was his ninth novel and the first to be translated to English .

I have barely caught the crunch of snow and I know who is coming .Henrik treads heavily and unhurriedly as is his wont ,grinding his feet into the earth ,The brothers are so different .Erik walks fast ,with light steps ,he is always in a hurry ,here then gone .

The farm hand hears Henrik returning .

So The brothers does what it says on the cover and that it is the story of a pair of brothers .Henrik and Erik .The action is set in 1809 as Finland is fought over between Russia and Sweden .Peace has come and the brothers return to their farm ,having fought on opposing sides during the war .One brother Henrik  lost his girlfriend during the war and is returning after a long time away from the farm and his family .Then there is also Erik’s  wife ,the farm hand and the horse  to name a few .This book is told in sections by the characters so we see the story unfold bit by bit , of how awkward the rejoining of these two brothers .The house is full of tension as we finds the brothers at one point had been face to face on the field of battle .

This house is a cadaver .The others are too close to see it ,but it has already begun to decompose ,I flinch from its decay .It is a collection of bones had been unearthed and dressed in fine clothing to create the illusion of a real body

Henrik talking about his family’s farm

 

Well this is one of those books I read and got scared how to describe ,yet again Meike has shown her strength in choosing books for Peirene .This book so fits the theme of last years Peirene’s which was the year of small epics ,at 120 pages long thinking back on reading it and how I felt after I imagined it was a thick book because it seemed to convey so much about life brotherhood , Finland sex what it is to be a man  and death .It is compared to Shakespeare and such luminaries on the cover and yes there are parts that do compare with richard the thirds in place a story around the horse and the great line my kingdom for a horse may come to mind . but I felt it maybe does have origins in Scandinavian art  ,Sahlberg as a radio play  writer must have come across   the Danish film group Dogme 95 where the action is set mainly in one place and this book is the same the action is all at the farm-house although they talk about the past  present and future  .I was most remind of the Lars von Trier film Dogville which like this is set in one place and has some on appearing  like Henrik and changing what happens .Another point may even be the Finnish Epic Poem the Kalevala a sort of collection of Finnish folktales that formed the basis of Finland and early Finnish culture .A fine job has been done by the mother daughter team that translated this book .

Have you read this book ?

The whispering muse by Sjon

The whispering muse by Sjon

Icelandic fiction

Translator Victoria Cribb

Now I mention a lot of Sjon past in my review of from the mouth of the whale earlier in the year and had a great interview with him on the blog yesterday .So I dispense with usual bio start today .

So whispering muse ,follows quick on the heels of From the mouth I can’t blame Telegram ,There has already been five of his books translated to English by Victoria Cribb ,I met her briefly at the Iffp prize giving and she said she had done five of his books already ready for sales here but also to show the books to publishers around the world .Right this book centres on Valdimar Haraldson ,he is an oddball Icelander that has spent his life writing a seventeen volume book on the connection between fish consumption and the greatness of the Nordic people .Fisk og Kulture ,came with this on every title page .

Its our belief that the nordic race ,which has fished off the maritime coast for countless generations and thus enjoyed a staple diet of seafood ,owes its physical and intellectual prowess above all to this type of nutrition,and that the Nordic race is for this reason superior in vigour and attainments to other races that have not enjoyed such ease of access to the riches of the ocean .

As you see our Valdimar is a first class bore in a lot of ways ,any way that was in the inter war years also with so far out ideas about where the nordic folk came from ,but it’s now 1949 and he has been invited to spend some time on a Danish merchant ship by a former fan of his books .Well that is half the story and  he arrives on the ship and on the end of the first evening they all gather like you do round the ships table and start telling tales of the seafaring days ,one of this crew says he is Caneus one of argo crew from Jason Argonauts from the Greek myth ,Now I know very little on Greek myth in fact my earliest memories of Greek myths are of two things from tv the first is a French Japanese cartoon series called Ulysses 31 ,which moved greek myths to outer space .as we follow Ulysses in his quest to find his way home after he fell out with the gods for killing the Cyclops (rather like bloom in the pub with the one-eyed Irish patriot  oh wonder where Joyce got that idea from )

The other is the film Jason and the Argonauts that was often shown over holidays as I Grew up so I was vaguely aware of the character Caeneus although not in the actual film ,but if you’ ve not seen the film it is well worth seeing as it features some wonderful stop animation from Ray Harryhausen and great intro into the greek myths for people like me that maybe find the idea rather scary .

But it did lead me to read some of the myths around Jason after seeing the film .Caenus was born a women and then became a man and survived on the argo it is these tales he recalls the crew with every evening .So we see  Valdimar who is maybe in some ways the human incarnation of Douglas adams Vogon’s and one does imagine that his books fish and culture are maybe the equivalent of the Vogon poetry .So we see the bore ,start to open his eyes as he is let into the world of Greek myth but also as always with Sjon it is the fact that this is going on and it is just after the war that maybe shows the changing world around them they have cargo from the soviet bloc ,This remind me of a former colleague when I worked in Northumberland that had  been a merchant seaman and his first run after qualifying as a petty officer was to go to the north of Russia and pick some cargo of course being young and not prepared he said he end up wearing margarine to stop frost bite and in a way Valdimar is a man who is unprepared properly for life maybe a Nordic forest Gump ,no that is a bit  unfair he has intelligence is  just focused in the wrong direction ,you may say he even has a mild form of asperegers  where one is so focused on a subject it hard to pull the blinkers down some time due to the nature of aspergers   ,although this isn’t mention in the book it is just a feeling I got from the nature of my work and people I ve meet over the years  .Know from yesterday we know that Sjon was listening to Thelonious monk and rather like monk who I know very little about other than he was rather good at impro piece of jazz that where  rifts on well-known bits of music that spread out and rather like that this book is a rift on Greek myth and how travel can change people. I know  picture old Sjon with a pot full of ideas for books at home picking a few out  and sticking them in his blender of a  mind and coming out with rather wonderful cocktails or in his case novels  .It’s easy to mix genres and ideas up like a cocktail barman might but it takes skill to make the end product work so well like Sjon seems to every time  .So what is The whispering muse well its part travelogue ,part myth ,part odd couple drama with a large twist of dry humour over the top of it .I leave you with Valdimar

My neighbour says I have changed since I came home from my voyage .And I respond with the following question :

“What is the point of travelling if not to broaden your mind ?

Valdimar on his arrival home is he a new man after meeting Caeneus .

 

So do you have a favourite myth or character from myth ?

 

An Interview with the shadow IFFP winner Sjon

1. In both From the Mouth of the Whale and The Whispering Muse there is a seafaring feel do you sail or have a connection to the sea ?

Being born on island means that from an early age you are very aware of the sea. Throughout history things and people have come floating to your shores and the only way out was over the sea. So, I think sailing, swimming, and sinking will always be a part of the stories told on an island. As well as the great depths teeming with strange beings and everything the sea has swallowed.

2. Myth plays a big part in your fiction. What is your favourite myth ?

In general, I like the mischievous gods: the tricksters. So, Loki’s stories are a favourite: especially the one where he helps the Aesir (the principle members of the pantheon of Norse gods) to get out of the deal they made with a giant about building the fortress walls around Asgard. The gods promise the giant the Sun, the Moon and the hand of the fertility goddess Freyja as a reward if he finishes the job in time. When they realize too late that the giant will be able to do it they look to Loki for help. So, Loki transforms himself into a gray mare and lures the giant’s work horse away. Without his horse the giant can’t finish the walls. Later Loki has an affair with the horse, which results in the birth of Odin’s eight legged horse Sleipnir. Sleipnir, is the Nordic Pegasus, who can easily transport us across the borders of the many worlds that make up our universe …

3 .You’ve been connected to music. As I’ve read your books I feel a rhythm. Do you listen to music as you write? If so, what music?

Each of my novels has a special form and style, a new challenge for me to meet, so I listen to different kinds of music while writing them. I usually try to find something that in one way or another fits the theme or the mood of the novel, either by contrasting with it or by complementing it. With From the Mouth of the Whale it was two particular pieces by the Estonian composer Arvo Pärt: Alina and Spiegel am Spiegel; with The Blue Fox it was Schubert’s string quartets and with The Whispering Muse it was Theolonius Monk.

4. We all loved Victoria’s translations. How closely did you work with her ?

And I love them as well! How close she wants me to be depends on the work. Sometimes I get many emails with questions about my intention with this phrase or that, or what outside source I am alluding to in one scene or another. Then sometimes she just asks me to read it over when the work is done. I trust her 100% and am always at her service if needed.

5. Which writers have influenced you ?

Samuel Beckett, Karen Blixen, Jorge Luis Borges, Mikhail Bulgakov, André Breton, Leonora Carrington … To name some of Bs and one of the Cs …

6. As much as your books are historic, are we meant to read a modern context into them ?

Yes, you are!

7 .Which of your books are not yet translated. Should we keep an eye out for any when they come out ?

This year I am finishing the third volume of a trilogy I have been working on since the early 90s. It tells the story of a man in Reykjavik who is telling an eager but sceptical listener the story of how he came into being as the result of the rendez-vous between a Jewish man fleeing the concentration camps and a chamber maid in a guesthouse in northern Germany in the middle of WWII. That he believes himself to have been fashioned from a lump of clay taken from the remains of the Golem of Prague is just one of the threads in the novel. There is also a corrupt stamp-collector, a gender confused archangel, a self-mutilating swimming pool attendant, a government official who believes half of the Icelandic population are descended from werewolves, a girl with four fathers, and many more characters with their own stories and occupations. Yes, I hope you will be on the lookout for those three …

8. For the person that has not read you, can tell them what to expect from you in one sentence ?

The smell of a puffin stew cooking over camp fire flickering in the shadows of gallows built on the ruins of a great library.

9. What’s the literary scene like at home and are there any writers from your
country we should read?

It is quite robust, thank you. Of our contemporary authors, I recommend Kristín Ómarsdóttir. Her novel Children in Reindeer Woods has just been published by Open Letter Books in the US. And for the deceased ones, I recommend our Nobel Prize winner Halldór Laxness. I am especially fond of his turn of the 20th century novel The Fish Can Sing.

Raid and the Blackest sheep by Harri Nykanen

Raid and the blackest sheep by Harri Nykanen

Finnish crime fiction

Translator – Peter Ylitalo Leppa

When I was contact by Diane a Us based pr about this publisher I was very happy I ve read a number of the books you’d call nordic noir .But among them had never read any from Finland and with the other Finnish novels I d read I was sure the crime fiction from there would be very different so I had two from Ice cold crime arrive this the first I read is by Harri Nykanen ,he used work as a crime reporter in Helsinki ,he describe his books as viewing the underworld through the eyes and rules of the criminals .This is the fourth book in the raid series after the first three were written there was a very succesful tv series made in Finland that at the height of the show it was watched by twenty percent of the population .I found a trailer but its in finnish but from watching it you get the feel of the series .

So to the book Raid ,I don’t like joining books in the middle of series but it wasn’t til I started to write-up this review I found out it was the fourth book in the series .So it stood up well by itself ,Raid is a hitman but he is a quiet character in the book ,I was remind a bit of the saint by Leslie Charteris ,a bad guy but with a moral code as that is what Raid seems to have .The story is a road movie in a book .Raid has been hired by Nygren a large figure in the criminal underworld to drive him around the north of Finland as Nygren is facing a race against the clock to sort some untie threads in his life .We start at a church were we have to deal with a crooked preacher ,on the way Nygren meet friends and enemies as he tries to put right what he once did wrong (sorry paraphrased  that line just from quantum leap ) .There is a second storyline that is a Detective lieutenant Jansson this is a 50 year rotund balding with his marriages on the rocks ,he has had a run in or two over the years with Raid and wants to pin something on him this time  .So we see the two  storylines  the police and criminals getting close as Jansson follows Raids path via local police reports of people Nygren has dealt with in the past  .

Nygren was approaching sixty .His face was lean and furrowed with an inch long scar at the left corner of his mouth ,With his blond hair combed straight back to the nape of his neck,Nrygen looked almost boyish .The expensive watch on his wrist topped of his stylish attire .

Nygren as the book open sleeping in the back of the car with raid.

What I enjoyed about this book is the feel of it gritty ,a bit more masculine than other nordic crime books I ve read and also the way Nygren had flipped  the storyline round .So the main drive of the book is the viewpoint of the criminals as they head round north Finland sorting things out .Raid is a character I could read again and again ,I can see why he has become a real star in Finland he is a bad guy you like ,ok he kills people but only the  right people the truly  bad people ,he is a quiet guy but one that is loyal to whoever is paying him in this case Nygren as he need Raid to make sure he gets all he needs to get done in the race against time .I said he remind me of the saint I meant the saint is a character that walk line of morals  was he good or bad he helped people I also felt raid had the same air of mysery simon templar had .My one big qualm with the book is it cover I find rather non de script and   it does this wonderful book no real favours .So if you like to read a criminal viewpoint on nordic crime with a dose of action and drama this is the book for you .

Have you read any Finnish crime novels ?

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