The Briefcase by Hiromi Kawakami

the briefcase

The Briefcase by Hiromi Kawakami

Japanese fiction

Original title – Sensei no Kaban

Translator Alison Martin Powell

Source – personnel copy

Well the last of the Japanese books for this month and it is one from this years Man Asian prize shortlist .Tony asked us all to post at the end of the month thankfully my copy arrived yesterday ,so I managed to read it overnight .Hiromi Kawakami is a graduate of Ochanomizu women’s college ,she published her first book in 1980 ,with her previous books she has won a number of prizes .This book won the prestigious Tanizaki prize in 2001 previous winners include Ryu Murakami ,Yoko Ogawa and Kenzaburo Oe .

His full name was Mr Harutsuna Matsumoto ,but I called him “Sensei “not “Mr ” or “Sir ” just ” Sensei ”

He was my Japanese teacher in High school .He wasn’t my homeroom teacher ,and Japanese class didn’t interest me much ,so I didn’t really remember him .Since graduation ,I hadn’t seen him for quite a while

Tsukiko saying why she calls him Sensei at the start of the book

The Briefcase or bag of Sensei is a love story .It was published in its native Japan as a serial so its chapters are short and tend to leave you wanting to read the next chapter .The story is the story of The sensei (Japanese for teacher ) and Tsukiko a former pupil of the Sensei who is now in her thirties ,the sensei is retired .The pair meet in a traditional Japanese bar .As the relation ship develops you see them doing many things such as watching the cherry blossom falling of the trees ,picking mushrooms and visiting an Island for a weekend away .This being Japan this very unusual relationship isn’t all about your full-blown passion, no it is more two lonely souls in the sea that is Tokyo that have end up being drawn together ,The sensei is like you would expect a very quiet man but he has the air of some one deep in thought and serious with it .Tsukiko is hard to read but he admiration and love for this older man seems unwavering and maybe you feel she has had her heart-broken in the past by a younger man .

“Sensei ,your is the special ,right ? ”

“that’s what they call it ”

“how is it different from the regular ”

We both bent our heads and examined the two boxed lunches .

“There doesn’t seem to be much difference at all” the Sensei said Amiably

They have lunch and compare lunches a humorousness moment .

 

This is a book that has been made into a Japanese tv series and a stage show A quick search of the internet ,I found a clip showing pics from the stage show .I was reminded of a UK TV series called may to December that was shown in the uk when I was growing up it involved a couple of similar age gap to the couple in the briefcase and actually similar characters to this book .The action was the same on the surface we seem different cultures but as may to December showed it was all about the being together more than the sex and the way the relationship develop was so well done by Kawakami like a time elapse picture capture the relationship stage by stage .Some wonderful moments of humur Tsukiko buying a grater for sensei when it appeared they’d fallen out or compare her normal packed lunch brought from the shop to his special of the same dish and deciding they were actually the same .The fact it was as a serial works well for this story I felt and didn’t feel uneven as sometimes novels made up of serial parts can.

Have you read this book ?

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Revenge by Yoko Ogawa

revenge by Yoko Ogawa

Revenge by Yoko Ogawa

Japanese fiction

Original title – collected from various stories she has written .

Translator – Stephen Snyder

Source – Review Copy

I ve often seen Yoko Ogawa name mention and her books reviewed around the internet and had ordered Hotel Iris from the library for Tony’s January in Japan ,when this fell through my letter box so I decide to read this as I don’t get through many short story collections so this being described as dark and like classic poetry collections I decide to give it a whirl .Yoko Ogawa  grew up in a japanese christian family her grandfather was a teacher ,she grew ,loving literature in particular The diary of Anne Frank ,she then began working  and at 26 published her first book .She has written over twenty books over the last twenty five years .

He died twelve years ago .Suffocated in an abandoned refrigerator left in a vacant lot .When I first saw him ,I didn’t think he was dead.I thought he was just ashamed to look me in the eye because he had stayed away from home for three days .

The two women talk in the bakers in the story Afternoon at the bakery

So to revenge when I opened and read through the title poison plants ,welcome to the museum of torture ,I knew I was on to a strange collection so we open on the first story a mother is at a baker’s shop we meet two women and it turns out one is buying a cake for a son that had died many years ago as the chat away about what they’re doing in the bakery  .As you go through the stories we  start to see links through out ,elsewhere we have a pair of staff whose job is  collecting lab coats at a hospital then ,we see some at the same hospital  someone doing heart surgery in one of  the said  lab coat .The man who works at the strange Museum of torture happens to turn up in the next story doing a completely different job .

she rubbed her cheek against the bundle ;

“Do they have any of your books here ?” I asked .

“They do ” she said ,standing up and going to one of the  shelves .

” This is mine – one that managed to escape the burglar ” she said handing it to me .

Afternoon at the bakery .The book was slender ,and as tattered as her bundle .

The title of another story appears as a book in the story Tomatoes and the full moon

This collection is rather well done .The stories all tend to be  on the strange and unusual  side ,the collection , I was reminded me most of were the stories of Roald Dahl ,the ones that got made into tales of unexpected because a lot of these stories had that feel of weird glances into people’s lives and meeting  odd characters such as  the landlady that grows strange human hand shaped carrots in her garden for example .Another collection of short stories  I was reminded of was the collection by Dan Rhodes Timoleon Vieta come home ,which had a recurring motif through out its stories is that of the dog Timoloen vieta  appearing at some point during the story .Here the motif isn’t so clear but is there and is almost like the Japanese puzzle box my grandparents had where you had push this panel ,move this bit to finally open the box ,here there is a little bit of the previous story that appears in the next story and as you go along you see some other you have to go back and discover .Each story would make a great stand alone this is one of those collections where there is no weak link .The book comes out tomorrow in the uk .

Do you have a favourite collection of short stories from Asia ?

 

Holocaust Memorial day some suggested reading

Here in the UK it is Holocaust Memorial day .The 27th January was picked as it was the day that Auschwitz was liberated by the soviets .The day is a chance for us all to remember those who have suffered at the hands of Tyranny ,ethnic cleansing or unfair regimes .Here at winstonsdad I have read a number of books set before during and after the Holocaust both fiction and non-fiction .So thought be a good idea to suggest a few books you could try that are all about the Holocaust.

Blooms of darkness 2

Blooms of Darkness by Aharon Appelfeld – Last years IFFP winner follows a young boy coming to manhood ,as he tries to escape the Nazis .Hidden in a house of ill repute .Aharon Appelfeld novels have mostly been set and about the Holocaust .

treblinka 1

Treblinka A survivor’s memory by Chil Rajchman When I reviewed this I just start with the words”just read this book .I stand by that Chil takes you through his time in The Treblinka camp and the horrors he saw whilst there .

the emperor of lies

The Emperor of Lies by Steve Sem-Sandberg The story of King Chaim that was the Jewish head of the Ghetto in Lodz and how by being himself and make sure he kept in line with the germans saved many lives of people in the Ghetto .

Lanzmann  the patagonian hare

The Patagonian Hare – Claude Lanzmann The memoir of the French editor and film maker .He made Shoah the most definitive view of the holocaust with numerous interviews people involved .We found out how he made it .

trieste dasa drndic

Trieste by Dasa Drndic A story of a women meeting here son that was part of the Nazis Lebensborn programme ,but also mention and has a list of all the Italian Jews that died during world war two .

the last brother

The last brother by Nathacha Appanah A young boy after the Holocaust trying for a new life in the promised land and he  end up in Mauritius after  he was expelled from Palenstine .

sarajevo marlboro

Sarajevo Malboro by Miljenko Jergovic  A collection stories set in and around the Balkan conflict ,which show the horror of this recent war on the people of Bosnia .

That’s just a few of course there is  many other books out there  by the likes of Primo Levi ,Anne Frank ,Etty Hilesum and many others .The next book to be covered here on Holocaust will be Train to Budapest by Dacia Maaini an Italian novel about a friend trying to find out what happened to her friend after she went to a concentration camp set during fifties as she travels to Budapest .

This years theme for Holocaust memorial day is to build a bridge 

Also visit the main site for Holocaust memorial day 

Have you a favourite read about the holocaust ?

The Human Part by Kari Hotakainen

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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 ?

 

Memory of the abyss by Marcello Fois

Memory_Abyss_HB

Memory of the Abyss by Marcello Fois

Italian Fiction

Translator –  Patrick Creagh

Original title – Memoria del vuoto

Source – review copy

Well he we go its been five-year since Maclehose press started publishing their wonderful  books. I’ve been reviewing their books since the blog started ,so I came up with the idea of Maclehose press week ,to highlight the wonderful books they publish ,it also helping clear the backlog of books I ve read and not reviewed .So here we go with Marcello Fois  this is his second book to reach us in english .He is Italian writer ,playwright and screenwriter he studied Italian at the university of Bologna ,he then published his first book in 1992 aged 32 and has since published 25 books in Italian ,he has also written a libretto for an opera ,also episodes for an Italian TV series .

That he would be called Samuele was decided by Father Marci :

“Samuele was one of god’s knight .The fact is that every time the children of isarel failed to keep the covenant which they made with god which was honour him above all things.

Even his name has a mythical beginning

Memory of the Abyss is set in Sardinia  like an earlier book I read by Maclehose also set in Sardinia  from a female perspective  that was Accabadoa by Michela Murgia this book is told from a male perspective and roughly at the same time  ,So the book is set in Sardinia just as Il Duce has come to power and the main character is returning to  Italy after being in North Africa .This Guy  Samuele Stocchino is a well know Italian gangster ,what Fois has done is taken his return to Italy and his battle with the fascist forces and reimagined him as an almost mythical figure .We see him as a youngster enlist in the army go to North Africa to fight for the italian army against the natives .He returns disliking the empire italy has built ,but also still very proud of being Italian .He also hates what Il Duce and his fascist followers are doing to his homeland .Thus we see how this man takes on the authorities ,killing and genrally causing trouble as he does so the price on his head  grows as he ends up battling with just one figure from the regime who really want to get Samuele  ,but  his legend grows .So we see a mythical figure appearing from the pages a man of legend .

I saw Stocchino when everyone was saying he was dead ,and the Manai and Bardi clans and all their friends had paid for a mass and a new processional rob for the madonna ,embroidered by the nuns ,as well as jewels and a crown of solid silver .

Near the end his myth is huge he almost becomes a myth .

This book fits in the field of lack comedies dealing with war ,So the real life gangster Stocchino becomes like an Italian robin hood or kray twins where the fact he is a killer is overshadow by the fact he is fighting Fascism and trying to keep hold of an older vision of Italy he loved .The language of this book is very rich one imagines Patrick Creagh had a real task trying to get the beauty of Fois writing into English and I think he has succeed ,Fois imagery at times reminds you the richness you find in the Italian masters where you look and keep seeing more and more detail ,this is like that I kept finding myself turn back and rereading passages to get full beauty of the words .Yet again the feel of Sardinia is a world of old values and traditions fighting the changing world rather similar to the world of  Michela Murgia painted in the earlier Maclehose book I’d read also set in Sardinia .

The A26 by Pascal Garnier

The-A26-large1

The A26 by Pascal Garnier

French Noir fiction

original  title L’a 26

Translator by Melanie Florence

Source – Review copy

I mention a lot about the late french writers Pascal Garnier’s life in my first review of his debut in english translation .I would add this is the third book by Gallic  fiction ,I ‘ve been sent and I so pleased they did send me all three because Pascal Garnier was a writer that it is impossible to compare with any other writer ,he seems to be a true one-off .

Yolande could have been anywhere from twenty to seventy .She had a blurry texture and outline of an old photograph.As if she was covered in a fine dust .Inside the wreck of an old woman there was a young girl .

She had been in the house so long she hadn’t aged it seemed.

 

So when this his latest translation into English  fell through my door, two things flashed in my mind reading the blurb on the back first was hitch-hiker guide to the Galaxy (mainly the not wanting a road to be built which is of course the starting point of that book ),the other was league of gentlemen,the UK comedy series and the characters Tubbs and Edward ,they live together like Yolande and Bernard in this book and are also brother and sister .In fact that isn’t where the comparisons end Yolande has been stuck in the house since world war two ,it turns out she had a liaison with a german solider and that made her exclude post war so she got more and more of a recluse her only out look on the world is the little peephole or “arsehole on the world ” as she calls it .So since 1945 she hasn’t been out and now the diggers bulldozers are bearing down into her world (the exact time of this event isn’t clear but one feels it is in the last twenty years ,this would be about right as the road is a link from central France to the port of Calais and a lot of work was done to this road in the nineties as it is the main road people use from the channel tunnel .so does the road get built that is up to Bernard Yolande’s brother a retired train worker ,who himself is terminally ill (people dying or on the verge of death finding new lease of life is a recurring theme in Garnier’s books his other book how’s the pain that I read last year and will be reviewing next month also had a similar theme ) but this fight has given him ,a new darker lease of life defending his sister from the road builders .

As he was about to get back into the car ,Bernard felt as if someone’s gaze was burning into the back of his neck .The moon pierced the clouds like a cigarette hole in a black-hole curtain .As with Maryse ,the moon was full .Pure chance.But that wouldn’t stop them talking of a serial killer ,the full-moon murder .

What is he up too ?Bernard at night in the dark

Well as you can see another darkly odd piece of the French world ,this could almost be a documentary you see on channel Four “the French recluse and the road builders “.Garnier was a clever writer we see as little as possible apart from the main characters and the plot there is no fancy dressing in this story ,so all this is squeezed into a mere 100 pages .This book will to appeal to fans of League of Gentlemen I feel as I said this is a French cousin of theirs ,Yolande and Bernard are very much a French Edward and Tubbs .The great thing is translating his French wiki page  via google shows that in the twenty five years he was writing Garnier produce quite a few other books that will hopefully reach us in English . .

Have you read his book ?,

 

 

 

Grotesque by Natsuo Kirino

grotesque natsuo kirino

Grotesque by Natsuo Kirino

Japanese thriller fiction

Original title Gurotesuku

Translator – Rebecca Copeland

Source  Personnel copy

I tend to buy most books I see second-hand in translation ,that appeal on some level this was the case with this book I saw it in a charity shop last summer and put up on the shelf so when tony announced that he was doing January in Japan it seemed a perfect time to read this crime thriller .Natsuo Kirino is female Japanese writer .she is a leading figure in the current boom in female detective fiction this is the second of three crime novels she has had translated into English .She also writes romance novel in Japan under a different name .So to Grotesque the title is maybe a comment on the world that is involved in the book ..

It was the kind of navy-blue knee sock most everyone wore .Only this one had a Ralph Lauren logo on top

Everyone was completely nonchalant .No one seemed to care if they’d lost something because unlike me ,they could go out and buy another one .That is why I found it odd that this girl was making such a fuss over a lousy sock .She held it out to show her friends.

The school where it starts is rather posh .

Well I was a bit nervous about this book as I’m not a huge Genre reader at best of times .But as I started I was slowly drawn into this world of women with secrets ,those secrets selling their body to men for money and  two women that end up dead but have different journey into prostitution but did start at the same school growing up .these two women Yuriko and Kauze had problems at school but both end on the streets now they’ve been murder Yuriko younger sister is trying to find out what happened and is delving into the dark underground world that her sister ended up living in .She sees how via her Journal she start with rich business men but like a footballer that stays on playing to long she started to slid and ended on the street corner rather like seeing a once great player plying their trade for a lower league club .The world we are drawn into is very seedy her sister went to an expensive school and gets dazzled by the labels and life that she see this is how she ends up in the game so to speak .We see how these girls fall and how the police and the sister try to find the killer .

When I met Yuriko ,it spelled misfortune for us both .I heard from detective Takashi that Ms Hirata had once been beautiful and had worked as a model .Detective Takashi went on to say that as she grew old and ugly she became a cheap street-walker ” But I thought she was beautiful .

One of the men that her sister used to meet .

Well I wasn’t looking forward to much to the subject matter in this book but Kirino handles it with a careful hand not making the early life in prostitution with the rich business men  for the sister and her school friend seem to glamorous, she also makes the gritty descent  to street walker and the working and perverse men she meets on street corners seem real and Yuirko in particular is a character that in the end I felt really sorry for because she had it all and threw it away  and the way  she was murdered and how this one beautiful women had fallen .The lives are fleshed out by the fact a couple of chapter are written as if they are the girls journal .I felt this book had quite a feminist feel to it and about how women are viewed in Japan and how wrong this is sometime .  This isn’t so much a crime novel as a study into the underworld of prostitution and the men that use them the murders are only a sideline in the narrative .

Have you read this book or any books by Kirino ?

Sea of Ink by Richard Weihe

sea-of-ink-richard-weihe

Sea of ink by Richard Weihe

Swiss fiction

Original title – Meer der tusche

Translator – Jamie Bulloch

Source – review copy .

So I come to the last of the year of  small epics by Peirene press .I’ve  over last week or two have  reviewed the other two books  in the series .This the final choice for last year  was written by Richard Weihe .Richard is a Swiss writer .He studied in Zürich and Oxford ,he has written a number of  very poetic biographies of artist ,he also translates poems and plays from American English .He also presented a Swiss TV series on philosophy .So to sea of ink not a non fiction bio but a Novella following the life of Chinese painter Bada Shanren .

Micheal Stipe sang about a perfect circle ,he of course meant a perfect circle of friends ,but Bada Sharen the star of the novella spent six years trying to just draw the perfect circle freehand .This novella is a study and insight into the man as an artist ,that man Bada Sharen is one of the most revered Chinese artist .He was also a poet and showed talent from an early age,We see the young boy move through his life training to be a pain ter a monk and nearing the end of the book a descent into madness .The book is structured in very short snappy chapters little glimpse into his life,his working style and why he painted that way  ,we also are treated to 11 of his pictures ,we see a change in his art through the pictures his early examples seem less assured .Bada was a man who sort perfection in his art and maybe let his life fall to the side at times due to this  .

Bada Shanren had become a master and young painters came from far and wide to show him their work and seek advice .They generally brought small gifts ,ink tablets from their Provence or jars of jam ,and he would thank them politely .These visits were punctuated long periods of silence ,when he would immerse himself completely in his work .

Bada Shanren at the height of his powers as a master artist

I struggled with this I loved Weihe writing style and would read his work again at times I was reminded of Thomas Bernard another writer who used art and artist in his work , in his novels but Weihe is a far more  minimalist compared to him in his careful use of words and just the bones of the story or the description of Shanren working on one painting .  Yet again Jamie showed what a great translator he is ,he work on love virtually one of my favourite books of recent years and has translated other books I’ve read and a couple on my tbr pile ,so to see his name as a translator is always one I know I ll get along with .Back to the book I think what the problem was is Bada Shanren himself I just didn’t click with him as a character I admired his art but  just couldn’t connect with him as a person. I may return to this book at a later date ,if I knew more about chinese art and culture maybe I would be more engaged .But this is a book for anyone that likes art or is artistic .

Have you read this book ?

Have you a favourite novel about art ?

The murder of Halland by Pia Juul

Murder of Halland

The murder of Halland by Pia Juul

Danish Fiction

Orginal title Mordet pa Halland

Translator Martin Aitken

Pia Juul is a Danish poet ,playwright and novelist ,she also translates books from English into Danish .She joined the Danish academy in 2006 and won a big poetry prize in 2011 for her collection radio theatre.This book won Danish banks literature prize a big prize in Denmark .

As I stood under the shower ,I suddenly realized that I had seen his coat and briefcase in the hall .He hadn’t left the house at all .Turning off the water .I called out to him nothing .The silence made me anxious .

Bess finds something isn’t right the morning after Halland is murdered .

The murder of Halland is a crime novel, but it is not the normal detective novel you may expect with the murder and detectives at the centre not in this book it is told from the point of view of Bess she is the wife of Halland in the title of the book is her husband who has been found murdered . The book follows what happens after that event .His body was discovered in the main square of the small town they live in . So Bess has to try to cope with his death and how it happened this make her to start to see those around here in a completely new light .Bess is a writer by trade so she starts to work out what happened between her and Halland and dealing with her own grief ,we start to see that every thing in their marriage isn’t as clear as it was first seems and many things had been Kept from Bess in the past .A refreshing change and twist on the normal crime novel

When’s the funeral ?

“Funeral ?” the concept seemed beyond me .

“Won’t there be one ?”

I felt like saying , ” how should I know ?” stupid but true .I supposed there would ne a funeral .But what was I meant to do ? how did one go about getting people buried ?

Bess struggles to cope at first .

Well the second in peirene’s year of small epics books and the first crime novel well that said ,it isn’t a crime novel in the true sense of the word .In fact more some one trying to fathom out what lead to the crime . A sort of paint by numbers to fill in the last bit that will be who killed Halland ,but as Bess goes along filling in the gaps she uncovers much more than a murder .The one book I’d compared it too after I read it was a south american novel by Horacio Castellanos Moya and his novel The she devil in the mirror ,in which a friend comes to find out what happened after the murder to find out what happened ,that story also had secrets in the background like this book did .I had found this one of the cleverest crime novels I ve read because you don’t have an idea who killed Halland and in a way the discovery of the murderer plays second place to Bess discovering what her life really was and how she has been hidden away from truths .Another book mention on the cover is Umberto Eco’s “The name of the rose “on the cover ,I can see the comparison with this book and Eco’s crime based books where the discovering of what went on takes a whole new angle and leads to wider discoveries usually .Well as I said with the first in tis series yesterday another gem from Meike and after 300 plus books I finally read a book from Denmark .

Have you read this one ?

What type of crime fiction do you like ?

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 ?

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