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 ?

13 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Maryom
    Jan 08, 2013 @ 16:45:43

    Yes, another great choice from Peirene! To my mind it had a bit of greek tragedy mixed up with a classic “western” movie – think lone stranger returning to the home farmstead – I can almost hear the Ennio Morricone soundtrack! More of my review here –


    • winstonsdad
      Jan 09, 2013 @ 03:28:06

      Thanks for link Mary yes there is some Greek myth there I think it is linked to the Finnish myth I mentioned which I think like most myths maybe came fri oral reading of Greek myth in the past in finland all the best stu


  2. parrish lantern
    Jan 08, 2013 @ 19:04:09

    I enjoyed this book and thought that the way
    each character takes their turn in revealing more of the story in a series of dramatic  monologues, it that made me think of Alan Bennett’s TV show Talking Heads


  3. Tony
    Jan 09, 2013 @ 08:26:11

    A bit late with this one Stu 😉

    I enjoyed this, but I wouldn’t say it’s one of my favourite Peirene books. I haven’t read ‘Sea of Ink’ yet, but I’d have to say that perhaps the books of 2012 weren’t quite as strong as the previous two years. What does everyone else think?


  4. Bina
    Jan 09, 2013 @ 12:32:46

    Love the sound of this one, I’m always interested in sibling relationships. And Finland has been sadly underrepresented in my reading.


  5. savidgereads
    Jan 09, 2013 @ 15:42:26

    I have got shamefully behind with the Peirene books sadly Stu, and this sounds like a corker, but then all their books are so good. As someone who has siblings but way, way, way younger than himself I am always quite fascinated by sibling relationships.


  6. Lindsay @ The Little Reader Library
    Jan 09, 2013 @ 19:20:42

    This one sounds really good, I enjoyed your review. The only Peirene I’ve read so far was The Murder of Halland which was a fascinating read. I am looking for books for a translation challenge I’m taking part in this year and I might think about getting hold of this one.


  7. Trackback: Added To The Wishlist This Week « Alex In Leeds

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January 2013


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