Thread ripper by Amalie Smith

Thread Ripper by Amalie Smith

Danish fiction

Original title – Thread ripper

Translator – Jennifer Russell

Source – personal copy

The last couple of years there has been books from the publisher Lolli editions on the Booker international longlist so I decided rather than wait I would get their latest and this is it. By Danish writer Amalie Smith, she is a graduate of the danish academy of creative writing. and has got a three-year grant to write. This is her second novel to be published in English. I have really enjoyed all the books in the last few years I have read from Denmark they always seem to take a fresh angle on writing styles. So when I read up on this apart from its eye-catching cover with a small picture of Ada Lovelace (someone who does feature in the book) it has a lot of narrative threads to the book. So will it be their book for Next year’s International Booker?

PART 1
THE WAVERING PENELOPE
While Odysseus is away on his long journey, Penelope weaves. Her loom, I imagine, stands by the window. On the road, outside stand her 108 suitors. Penelope leans out. ‘Suitors,’ she says, ‘let us make an agreement. I am weaving a burial shroud for my father-in-law, Laertes. Not until I have finished this shroud will I remarry.

The suitors accept and retreat from her window. Penelope continues her work at the loom. During the day, she stands by the window – weaving as agreed but at night she returns and unravels the days work.

The opening and we see Penelope waiting for her husband’s return and holding off suitors by needlework.

The book has a number of threads the main storyline follows a woman in the present that is working on a big commission to weave a tapestry. Then the narrative then rips apart as we get various threads of thought and as we go from Penelope wife of Odysseus as she is working on her tapestry waiting for the return of Odysseus we are never told what she was working on her loom. it also looks at computers using Ada Lovelace the mother of computing programming as a sort of thread to tie it to. Threads like the moth that originated the term Computer bug which in the late forties was an actual bug, not a programming bug like now but an actual moth. The term had been used earlier but this was the use that came to be used in modern-day stems. Then it threads around invasive plant species like a Japanese bamboo All these treads like the main character working her complex tapestry weave into a work that is unique work.

I select a combination of wool, silk and acrylic fibres in ten colours and, by programming a variety of
satin weaves on the loom, the colours are mixed to create 42 different shades that appear in a gradient at the bottom of each woven swatch. The fibres are dyed using plants and chemicals I’m not familiar with. We continuously adjust the colour scale, either by switching out the fibres or altering the weaves on the computer.

Neural networks see with the eyes of the paranoiac: there are faces concealed in flowers and flowers in faces. Everything is a sign. Space and scale collapse.
Details come flooding in the nuances, in the gradual
transitions.

The loom’s algorithms, on the other hand, are never in doubt: the weft goes either over or under the
warp, never through. How to transfer the images generated by the neural network to the loom?

In the present the complex nature of her commission is shown here.

As I have come to expect this is a complex and compelling work from Lolli edition the books that have made the booker prize the last couple of years have been the ones on the list that have challenged me most as a reader and this is a perfect example it hard not to compare it the tapestry that forms the main character in a way in the book as the threads from programming a complex tapestry in the present to Penelope working and weaving a. shroud as suitors await as she waited Odysseus return. Then the thread around computers Lovelace a female history of computing I love this as I knew about Lovelace but some of the other historic events like the origin of the term Computer bug I wasn’t aware of how the term had come about. This is a fragmented work that weaves a line through tapestry and computing the automation of weaving and how women have been involved over time. I hope this makes next year’s booker as it is a unique work one I won’t forget quickly and will be rereading as it grabbed me so much the first time around. Have you a favourite book from Lolli edtions? Have you a favourite book from Denmark?

Winston’s score – +A is an unusual book mixing the past and present and history.

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After the sun by Jonas Eika

After the Sun by Jonas Eika

Danish fiction

Original title – Efter Solen

Translator – Sherilyn Nicolette Hellberg

Source – personal copy

Every time the booker or old IFFP list comes out there is always open or two books on the list that have just passed me by I especially this last couple of years don’t keep my ear as close to the ground as I once did. So this was one I wasn’t aware of which was the same for the title last year from Lolli editions it seems like a publisher I should maybe keep a closer eye on. This is the first book by Jonas Eika to be translated and is his second book this won the Nordic council Literature prize as Paul on our shadow jury point out this is a prize that has former winners such as Dag Solstad, Son, Kim Line and one of the other Longest writers Jon Fosse. So  for me it must have something about it so I picked it up last week and read the first story but just didn’t connect so I decided yesterday to just sit and read it cover to cover it is under two hundred pages and is a collection of five stories but two are the same story at different angles.

He was sickly pale in the way that people tend to be in pictures from the nineties. “This is me at KFC when the first one opened in Denmark.. Me at the first Burger King, did you know they proposed a whopper-big Mac mash up, in the name of world peace?.. Here I am at subway.. dominoes..The bagel company when they opened their first shop on Gothersgade in 94 I sear, tasting these things for the first time was completely…How should I say unique. Like I was tasting them and only them.I always take pictures for the first time

This description of various fast food and the whhoper Mac mash up made me smile.

I think the reason I didn’t connect with it initially is  the style of his writing which is fast and jarring at times and the first story Alvin our narrator arrive back to fix the bank software as that is his job this is where his path is halted as he arrives the servers he is due to work on and the bank its self has collapsed the story follows the aftermath of this but then like most of the stories in the collection go here and there. The one story that really caught me is the middle story in the collection Rachel Nevada which to me had one of the greatest change of plot in a short story I have ever read and the story follows an elderly couple who had lost both there daughters and then decided the only way for them to cope with this is to sell up and hit the road and this is how they end up at Rachel Nevada this leads to the Husband in the story getting drawn to an object in the desert that seems to be calling out leading to Antonio want to find out more about it.This small town is just near Area 51 the heart of what is UFO country even down to the A’le inn the local pub. But then there is a great plot change and a minor character that had already appeared just in passing we get a bio of her career as a singer songwriter I found myself trying to find if this was an actual singer as the bi was so real. Other stories deal with beach boys and rich customers on the seats.

Antonio awoke almost choking on his own breathing. The pain burned sour in his throat. coughing made the plastic tube writhe in the wound. He took it out of his mouth, leaned his head back and opened the passageway. Then he got back up on his legs and shock the images out of his head, images of jackrabbits with long erect ears and black spotted coats.Hundreds of jackrabbits hopping across the steppes, dry lakes and mountainsides, the jackrabbit being a kind of Totem anti animal in Karen Ruthio’s universe.

Antonio in the desert sees images and also links to the latter part of the story Rachel Nevada.

There is a lot of talk of the Maximalist novel well I think what we have hear is the maximalist short story what Jonas has done is pack lots of ideas they just fall of the page as we see a mind that drifts here and there in the stories hence they seem at times chaotic but isn’t modern life chaotic at times. In an interview I saw with him and his translator he talk about writing just after his nights and just having to get the words out but also means it was a hard book to translated as it has a a feel of being here and there but that is how it was written I was reminded of Burroughs and the effect was like the first time I read Burroughs I remember just eating up Naked lunch then his two trilogies which used the cut up technique this has a feel of that as I said it had a feel of his work also Kerouac that energy you get from On the road which I am just reading at the moment as well.As I said this is the opposite of a the likes of the craved down Raymond craver this is like as he said in the interview the Ursula le Guin essay about writing sci as being like a carrier bag and that is what this is a bit of this and that all stuck together it a fusion of ideas a story that could be a dozen novels in one. This is one of those gems from the longest that I wouldn’t discovered it maybe is chaotic and disorienting but it is also brilliant vivid captures the zeitgeist of the moment and a fresh view of the world.Have you read this book ?

Winstons score – +A one to watch so much energy in these stories maybe the first collection of Maximalist short story collection.

The land of short sentences by Stine Pilgaard

The land of short sentences by Stine Pilgaard

Danish Fiction

Original title – Meter i sekundet

Translator – Hunter Simpson

Source – review copy

I move to Denmark today I’ve had a short break ready to blog a bit more with the booker coming in the next week I will be reading a few more books in the next few weeks. I don’t know about you but Whenever I get sent a book from Denmark I am keen to read it as they always seem to surprise me and this one with its theme of a  couple moving to a small town and not quite fitting in has universal themes add to this the town is like being in wales in a way as they like to sing a lot. This is the third novel from the Danish writer academy graduate Stine Pilgaard, but the first to be translated into English. She is from Aarhus but like the character in this book she has moved to a small rural community in Jutland in Denmark.

The lesson is over abd there’s an awkward silence in the car. Since I passed the written test I’ve been taking so-called experience hours, I go to driving lessons the way other people go golfing. Last week my bank called with concerns about all of the transferrs I’ve been making, referring to them as suspicious. Fifty-eight payments, said the banks repreesentiativem and I could tell that she was wondering if I was the victim of balckmail. Nice, nice says my driving instructorm a friendly man from Sondervig who likes giving high fives. Maybe he’s just jovial by nature, but I have a theory that he was once a professional athlete and now he can’t hsake that habit.

Passages like this made me laugh out loud especially as some that probably had as many lessons when I passed a few years ago my test !!

The book follows a young couple where the husband has got a job to teach adults at a sort of adult school where the students live on the campus so to speak. The headmaster seems to keen to draw her into the school life but she has just given birth and just isn’t clicking with the locals. There is a number of threads going on first is her trying to settle into this new smaller town. One feels this maybe is from the writer’s own experience I know whenever I moved to small towns which are a few times over the years it is hard to get the feel of a place sometimes even in the same country people can be very different !!  Then we see her husband a teacher and how he settles which is much easier than his wife. There is a local tradition of making songs a number of which are in the books a sort of Danish sea shanties. add to this she gets a job as the local agony aunt on the paper but as the letters are sent to her she tends to relate the letters with her own life rather than the actual problems but as the stories cross and her husband and a student grow close is there a hint in the letters she is reading is there maybe a few clues dropped then there is another thread this is one of those books about how human we all are and also how funny the world can be at times.

Dear letterbox

I am a thirty-seven-year-old man who is in treatment to deal with my long battle with alcohol abuse. I grew up in a troubled family. but I’ve finally broken free of the destructive patterns I learned in my childhood. My wife has supported me all the way. and I’m deeply grateful to her, but she can’t understanf the demons that I’m struggling with. My mentor at AA is a middle aged woman who knows exactly what I’m living through. My feelings for her have grown during the process, as have hers for me. I feel like she is my true soulmate tather than my wife, even though my wife has always stood by me.I’m confused and I feel so guilty.

Sincerely

The pattern Breaker

Then we have parts when you want to cry like this early letter to her heartbreaking in a way

As I said in my intro I have enjoyed a lot of the Danish books I have read in recent years. It is a comic work in a number of ways a comedy of manners of being new in a place it has a number of different writing styles from dreamlike chapters realistic, songs and epistolary chunks what is woven is a modern relationship where one partner has taken the other out of there comfort zone and in this case at that hardest of times just after a child so this adds to the distance in the relationship here as both settle in at different paces. then there is the juggling of being a new mother and having a new job on top of being in a strange place where she is struggling to connect with those around her. I felt how real this was at times I remember trying to fit in in my late teens moving from Cheshire to the Northeast and feeling like it was a different world for a time I felt this as for me it was a similar jolt to the narrator as Jutland like the Northeast seems somewhere that has a strong identity that is different to the rest of Denmark. Add to that the struggling to cope with being a new mother we have a novel that has a mix of love falling apart, settling in and trying to fit in all at the same time. This is like one of the couples from friends or something like this life had had a child and settle down it is a sort of spin-off from what was maybe a happy city life for the couple its a next step what happens if the Danish Ross and Rachel had a child and he went to teach in Alaska!  ave you a favourite Danish book or writer ?

 

Childhood by Tove Ditlevsen

Childhood by Tove Ditlivsen

Danish memoir

Original title – Barndom

Translator – Tiina Nunnally

Source – personal copy

I am late to the party on this trilogy of books from the Danish writer Tove Ditlevsen. It was published in the 90s as a book with the second vol but it wasn’t till last year the full trilogy came out I was lucky enough to find the first two books in the trilogy in a local Oxfam shop and thought it would be the perfect choice for  Woman in Translation month. Although she wasn’t that old when she died only 58 she was one of the best-known writers in demark having written over 29 novels a lot based around her childhood which was tough and this lead to struggles with alcohol and depression in her adult life. She was married four times and eventually the struggles lead to her taking her own life.

Down in the bottom of my childhood my father stands laughing. He’s big and black and old like the stove, but there is nothing about him I’m afraid of. Everything that I know about him I’m allowed to know, and if I want to know anything else, I just have to ask. He doesn’t talk to me on his own because he doesn’t know what he should say to little girls. Once in a while he pats on the head and says “Heh ,heh.” Then my mother pinches her lips together and he quickly takes his hands away. My father has certain privileges because he’s a man and provides for all of us

Her father a socialist and maybe a typical father of the time.

This is the story of Tove and her friend Ruth a red-haired girl that to Tove was a lot of things that she couldn’t be when she was growing up, From the gruff parents her socialist father that doesn’t want her to be the writer and struggles to connect to his kid this typical father of his time. Add to that a brother that is maybe a few years to old to connect too She wants at times. she has and the friendships she has made.  the lack of being able to express herself what comes across is a world that hard she lives in the slums of Copenhagen a tough place where they are considered worse of as the flat hasn’t a view of the street. At the heart is her childhood growing up a reader poor but in love with books. There is a passage I love a piece where the teacher talks about children books and the young Tove turns around and says she is reading Victor Hugo which made me smile in what is a dark world this is what is at the heart of the problem to Tove her childhood is tough as she is different to the other kids it is lat on when she discovers poetry the first light appears.

I was born on December 14, 1918, in a little two room apartment in Vesterbro in Copenhagen. We lived at Hedebygade 30a; The”A” meant it was in the back building, in the front building, from the windows of which you could look down on the street, lived the finer people. Though the apartments were exactly the sames as ours, they paid two kroners more a month in rent, It was the year that the Worl War ended and the eight hour day was insituited. My brother Edevin was born wne the World war began and when my father worked twelve hour days. He was a stoker and his eyes was always bloodshot from the sparks from the furnace.

The tough world she lives in and her brother who is distant as well.

that reminds me of the stories I heard of the thirties in the northeast an industrial area where life was tough and parents and children relationships were far more traditional than they are now what she draws is a world that has gone even though it is Denmark and Copenhagen it could easily be Newcastle, Belfast, glasgow any of those cities where there are large slum areas and poverty was a way of life for many and like her fathers view culture wasn’t for his daughter. It was easy to see why so many people fell for this trilogy there is clarity to the writing. She is like a color-lego figure in a grey-lego city out of place and never quite in place. She depicts a world that has gone but we needed to be reminded off. this is another of those lost gems that keep turning up. also shows that being a biography it doesn’t need to be huge this is under 100 pages long and is a gem. I  have the second part which I will save for the next woman in translation month. Have you read this book?

Winstons score – A+ perfect lost gem.

 

The Employees By Olga Ravn

The Employees A workplace novel of the 22nd century by Olga Ravn

Danish fiction

Original title – De ansatte

Translator – Martin Aitken

Source – personal copy

I start my journey through this year’s Booker longlist with a publisher I haven’t read a book from before and the one book from the list that had passed me by.  Olga Ravn has been a critic, translator, and editor in her time her first novel appeared in 2015 this was her second novel and she has since published a third novel. Her last book title My work in English won the Politiken literature prize. This was the book that struck me as most unusual as it is a sci-fi novel that takes the form of a series of statements from the crew of a ship that is on a trip from Earth to a new planet called New discovery. There has been an investigation asked for by the committee.

Statement 014

The first fragrance in the room is a delicate one, its right there, as soon as you walk in: citrus fruit, or the stone of a peach. Sitting at the table in front of me now, do you think of me as an offfender? I like ti be in the room. Ifind it very erotic. The susopended obeject I can feel sex between my lips. I become moist, regardless of whether I’ve got anthing there or not, The hunters on my team have a name for this object we call it the reverse Strap-on, That may be crude, but I’ve already said I don’t necessarily share your way of seeing things here. Maybe that’s why you think of me as an offender. Half Human. flesh and technology. too living

One of the earlier statments in the book

The crew of the ship the six thousand is a mix of Humans and Humanoids as they take the ship from earth on a voyage to the new planet called New Discovery. But most wonder what the strange objects that are in the ship. They also have seemed the lines between Human and Humanoid seem blurred as the crew ask if they are human if their memories are real or they have been given them. They talk about their work to start with things like cleaning the rooms how hard this can be this made me laugh at two rooms being hard for them. Then the is mention of helmets and how when they put them on they just fit in with the others around them. This is a search for both the Human crew and Humanoid crew to what makes them although there is a biological difference there is also the question of is the longing they feel there all implant in them. The point of the statements is to find out the feeling in the crew but also to find the humanoids and in the end to get rid of one of them to help the ship complete the voyage who will go! The book, later on, takes a dark turn. What will the Committee decide to do?

Statement 054

After I lost my add-on un the accident, I’ve started seeing it everywhere, it’s like it’s stalking me. It pulls at my clothing and sometimes I fell I’ve got to pick it up, cuddle and kiss it. other times, when it appears there between the benches, half digital animal, half child hologram, like the ones allocated to som of the crew members who’ve lost their biolgical childreb, I scream with fright and yell at it and  maybe I jump to my feet as well and give the add-on a slap in the face to make it go away. No one else can see it except me. I’d like to accept your offer of medication

the lines of who is who blur as the book goes on.

This book has echoes of a lot of things I have either read or seen over the years the first and nearest is Blade runner the questions at times remind me of the scenes where Deckard as he questions the androids and the lack of emotions shows. But he is told later that Rachel who thinks she is the niece of the factory owner is an android this is similar to the book where they question have been given memories to make me feel human. Of course, a huge ship that has been out of control from the crew is also like the classic Universe by Robert Heinlein which has a huge ship that has become divided over centuries as the crew has mutated leading to a bizarre history. This is a future where the line between man and machine blur and even crossover at points as those on the six-thousand forget who they are. This is a patchwork of voices we never hear any names just their ranks and also numbers occasionally and jobs done. If you threw in Blade Runner the office and had it written by Franz Kafka this would be the result. An interesting and different start to this year’s Booker longlist.

Winston’s score – -A

Transfer window by Maria Gerhardt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Transfer window by Maria Gerhardt

Danish fiction

Original title – Transfervindue

Translator – Lindy Falk Van Rooyen

Source – review copy

Maria Gerhardt was a Lesbian icon, Dj she was known as Djuna Barnes, she was called the Queen of the night. She was a judge for a while on the Danish X factor. She started a Magazine and wrote three novels that all dealt with her Breast Cancer this was her last book and came out a few days before her death to cancer. This is Nordisk latest books. This seems the perfect choice for my last Women in translation book. I have posted my 30 covers and maybe not done as many reviews as I usually do but feel I taken part more than other years.

The further I fell, the cleaner our place had to be; our books were colour-coordinated, our music was sorted, nothing depressing, please, and our beffing from Egypt was always washed and ironed. Where we’d acquired such tast, I really don’t know. The terrace cane chairs were scored on an auction, likewise, the saucers with a label. Stuffed butterflies danced on the display in the corner cabinet There was not a fault to be found in our French mirrored wardrobes, and nothing but my bare toes adorned our white pigment floors. Monday mornings saw me submerged in a tub with marble lion feet, the black moroccan soap within my reach. The only hitch was my psyche, my sickness and a sprinkle of ah from our fireplace.

A utopia but is it or just a waiting area for death ?

This is an unusual book told in very short vignettes some longer passages. We have a female narrator her life story is a mirror of the writer her self. But this is a parallel universe in the future. She lives in a large Hospice this hospice occupies part of what is Copenhagen now and is run by New age Nuns that grow cannabis for the patients. This Hospice come town in itself has no music, but they can relive there lives through VR booths and they have Juice bars and health food shops instead of the coffee and bars they usually have. This other life she lives away from her friends but reliving her past as the present and future have drawn in as time gets short.  A world she lives in with her fellow patients seem perfect but there is always that clock ticking in the background.

We are given such healthy food to eat. farmers arrive with their produce from Samso, Hven and Amager. Tuborg Harbour looks like a food market in Bangkok, every day of the week. I decide to go for a vegetable juice, I choose to sit out in the sun. This is what grown-ups do; this is how to take care of yourself. The difference is that I din’t have to wash up, and I don’t have to deal with the oesky pulp.A lady in her sixties with a sullen face and crutches jumps the queue. Aruckus about the lack of fresh beetroot juice ensues. I give her a cold stare. “take it easy, lady,”I say, “I’m just here for the sugar”.

The world is healthy as they try to keep them healthy !

This is a very short book 90 pages but as most of them are small vignettes it is probably only fifty pages I love the idea of the city as a hospice the other space within the city of Copenhagen I had seen this done before in the Danish film Allegro that had a part of its character past trapped in a part of the city called the zone here we have a woman dying in the present reliving her past via VR in  a hemmed of community in this city. An autobiographical work of a weird future utopia that is really a dystopia as we see a writer facing death by escaping into this world of community hospice but still in the world she wrote having to face the future which like the book itself is short. It is a heart-wrenching work and a perfect example of my love of what make small publishers so valuable in the world of translated fiction a book like this is such a perfect example!

 

When Death takes something from you give it back (Carl’s book) By Naja Marie Aidt

When death takes something from you give it back Carl’s book By Naja Marie Aidt

Danish Memoir

Original title – Har døden taget noget fra dig så giv det tilbage

Translator – Denise Newman

Source – review copy

Books have been with me all my life and they have helped me deal with things and sometimes just escape the world around me this is a book that follows the Journey that the Danish writer Naja Marie Aidt as she tries to piece together the world after the accidental loss of her son at just twenty-five. One of the greatest writers of her generation she struggles to find a way to put down and write about what happened to her son, the aftermath and moving forward with grief. I have taken my time to get to this but I have been two years dealing with the loss of my  mother at what seemed too early and recently as my wife and myself grasp with the loss of her brother who took his own life six months ago and we are still grieving so I found some solace in Naja’s book and the journey she made.

The french poet Stéphane Mallarmé’ never wrote a book about his eight-year-old-son, Anatole, who died in 1879. He wanted to. But could not. He wrote 202 fragments or notes. He wrote:

So as not to see it anymore

except idealized

afterwards, no longer him

alive there – but

seed of his being

taken back into otself- seed allowing

to think for him

  • To see him <and to>

I DARE NOT THINK ABOUT YOU

WHEN YOU WERE ALIVE

FOR IT IS LIKE KNIVES IN 

THE FLESh

The discver of the fragments Mallarme left behind I found very touching.

A tragic accident end Carl Aidt life in 2015. What follows is how Naja piece together what happened and how she came to find a way to put it in words from early memories of Carl growing up it is the gift of a book from a friend of the French symbolist poet Stéphane Mallarmé’s  A tomb for Anatole an incomplete work that is a fragment poem to his dead son showed  Naja she said in an interview the way forward and that it isn’t in a whole but in pieces so the book mix the discovery of how she remembers Carl from those early days to the last few texts between them. works like C S lewis Grief observed and Time lived, Without its flow by Deinse Riley french writer Roubard book about his grief.As we see her trying to cope with death and wrestling with words.

I write in my journal

12 January 2016.

IT’S grey today, there’s a hush in the living room. Death is something we now live with every day. I have no idea how. I’ll be able to put all my energy. So much presence, concentration and energy. Beauty has abandned my language. My language walks in mournu=ing clothes. I’m completely indifferent .

Roubaud writes

To cling to death as such, to recognize it as a real hunger, has meant admitting, something over which I have no control.

I liked the line about words in mourning I have felt that experience of being unable to find words from time to time.

I am just a mere blogger,  a small writer. But I know the struggle death and grief bring to a writer it is wrestling with something so large it fills the room and yes as time pass we see around it and when that happens we maybe have words to fill the void or reading  for me it  was the discovery of Barthes mourning diary that helped me like Naja to  deal with grief. The discovery of that book was thanks to Joe from Rough Ghost who pointed me in the direction of the Barthes and this is another book about how one person has dealt with there grief and loss in Barthes case it is the loss of his mother. How we piece our lives together how we start living that point when the blackness lifts slowly and we want to remember those we have lost a remembrance and this is what this is of Carl this sits alongside the other works mention as how great writers deal with the worst thing and that is the loss of a close one. Have you ever found a book that helps you at a tough time?

Companions by Christina Hesselholdt

Companions by Christina Hesselholdt

Danish fiction

Original title – Lykkelige familier, camillia and family and others 

Translator – Paul Russell Garrett

Source – review copy

I know to expect the books from fitzcarraldo to be challenging and also enthralling to me as a read and her with there latest fiction novel we have a book from one of the leading writers in Denmark. Christina Hesselholdt studied for a degree in Literatue. After that, she wrote for the Danish lit journals Banna split and The Blue Port. She is considered one of the leading figures in Danish minimalism writing. This is her first works to be published in English this is a number of her earlier books all about the same set of friends.

 My Husband does not believe I have a flair for words. Nor does he think I know how to move. One night when I couldn’t sleep I went into the kitchen to fetch some water, and when I came back to bed he said: “Your shuffling is keeping me awake”

I shuffle.I stomp. I shuffle and stomp and trudge about.Shuffle-shuffle-stomp-stomp-trudge-trudge.

I can’t sing, hence my husband thinks I am unable to hear music, I didn’t sing. I refused to sing. I trudged around the Christmas tree like a silent vessel

Kristina talking about her husband Alma and how he views her.

 

Camilla and Charles are the main figures during these books (I love the fact these two share the same name as our royal family).Then there is Alma, Edward, Alwilda and Kristian. The first part of the books follows Alma and Kristina mainly on a holiday in the UK. That starts in Wordsworth country as they talk about the poet and also move around many lit sites in the UK the husband is a writer himself. But this is a couple just getting by and lost faith in one another as the wife says my husband believes I have no way with words or to understand music.Then Wedward dealing with losses in his life and writing int in his Mourning diary-like Barthes did.  Then we meet Camilla and Charles as they go for an expensive meal out, in which they envoke the love of all things Slavoj Zizek and how well he has his finger on the pulse of the modern world. Edward had split with his other halfAlwilda before the events in the books. What follows is the year and glimpse of all the pasts of the friends as we follow them telling their tales in small glimpse and Monologues. A rye look at how lives loves and relationships shift over time this is like a map to there worlds but six individual maps to these lives.

I wish I was Zizek. Zizek can get everything to ,make sense, if I had been Zizek now, right now, I would be lying in a punic bordello having a fucking match with houellebecq, the whorse would not be traffiked, just glo-ba-lized – can you hear it being sung by Gregorian monks, or a eunch: glo-ba-lized pro-sti-tutes, ohh the humans, the oh so Zizekiaan eed to make sense of things where none exists.What is it that I cannot make sense of ? My Memory? My Love life ? we will have to take a closer look at that.

 

This book owes much to the Modernists writers. I saw one review mention Waves by Woolf which is told in Six voice like this book. I was also reminded of other writers of that generation Waugh there is a turn of humour like Waugh had at times also Powell as it follows a group of friends as they grow and shift through time. I may also note having read Havoc recently read and also his poetry is mentioned in the book, his minimal style is maybe the best guide to modern Danish minimalism writing.

 

Mirror , Shoulder , Signal by Dorthe Nors

Mirror, Shoulder , signal by Dorthe Nors

Danish fiction

Original title – Spejl, skulder, blink

Translator – Misha Hoekstra

Source – personnel copy

This was the second book I read after the longlist was announced on th train home from london book fair is where I read this book although only a few weeks ago it seems an age . I was in two minds about this one first I had read some great Scandinavian female writers in recent years . But Dorthe Nors first books was rather hyped when it came out and I am always wary of hype . So this short novel was one of two books I brought in london yes even after two pushkin press weeks i rarely get books sent by them shame . So this is hype or not hype

He pointed to the spot on her throat where they were supposed to imagine her breathing had gotten blocked. He did the Hemlich on her , his fingers up in her face, inside her collar up and down her arms.At one point he put her into a stranglehold, but that wasn’t the worst of it . The worst was when they had to do the exercises themselves. It was humiliating to be placed in the recovery position by a boy of eighteen,It also made her dizzy .

At the driving school Of folkie she has to do first aid and a nod to her balance problem

the story follows Sonja , I must admit now I have been thinking about the book today I actually connect a bit with Sonja more than I did when I read the book she is like me in her mid forties . But unlike me her relationship she is a translator (another odd connection !! lol ) and her partner a fellow translator has left her he is translating a big star of Swedish crime fiction !thou she finds this crime fiction overly bloody at times  so she tries meditation and she is now trying to reconnect to her sister and also like me I have just decided to start driving . She has two instructors thou they won’t even let her change gears yet , she is their oldest pupil . Then add to this she is drifting in her m ind ot her past maybe in a way retracing those steps she took that lead her to where she is now . This is a woman in a sot of modern mid-life crisis that isn’t a crisis she has lost her connection to the world with no partner and no family tie she is drifting .

Sonja’s come to a standstill in front of her mirror .A  short while before, she was on her way through the bedroom , sandal in hand, when she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror on the inside of her wardrobe. It looked as if kate were standing in the wardrobe . That’s weird , she thought. Kate and I never resembled each other, So She stepped over to the mirror to have a proper look.

Kate’s got two sons and her husband Frank.When they’re in Copenhagen , they make a beeline for Tivoli, but other wise they go around  trying to disguise the facts that they’re from Jutland.

Sonja thinking on the sister she has no contact with now .

I initially really didn’t get this book , but since I read it .I have grown to like to Sonja is hapless in a way more of a character that is in a classic comic works by the likes of Wodehouse . The way she is hapless in her various quests to reconnect to her sister  no joy , driving her instructors holding her back and even her job she get pain typing and hates what she works on at times . This is bare of lot more a link series of adventures rather like the cuisine that has swept Denmark in recent year where everything is local but is the also cut back so everything in the meal is just enough to give ut taste and not to many tastes . Like the other Danish novels I have read by Pia Juul and Helle Helle plot is twisted this is a midlife crisis stripped to the bare a woman struggling to get balance , even she has an inner ear problem meaning that this is both actual and literal balance she is struggling for in her own life .A quirky fun novel about struggling to be middle aged and with no one !

 

Havoc by Tom Kristensen

Havoc by Tom Kristensen

Danish Modernist fiction

Original title – Hærværk

Translator – Carl Malmberg

Source – review copy

I was so pleased when I was contacted by Duncan from Nordisk the publisher , I had heard of them late last year via Susan from Istros who said they were publishing a classic Modernist Novel. The fact that this book isn’t as well known as many other books from its time.say Vile Bodies or USA both modernist classic published the same year as this book. THe book Havoc was the best known book by its writer Tom Kristensen  a poet as well as a novelist in fact the poem in this book Angst about the effects of drinking. Like the main character in this book Kristensen work for most of his life as a book critic for a newspaper.

“mother madonna, and comrade in battle,

Beloved woman and happy warrior,

Mother of revolutions

He intoned the words crudely, apropos of nothing and without looking at Jastrau, who cringed at hearing quoted the words of “proletarian woman ” one of his youthful revolutionary poems

Saunders smiledmaliciously

Jastrau made a wry face. “Oh that!” he said

His two friends remind him of his past and his present using one of his old poems as a weapon for him.

AS I said in the intro this is Ole Jastrau is a lit critic for the newspaper Dagbladet , is sat with two friends just as the election of 1929 is happening the two friends are communist and one is a poet like the writer himself. There future is pinned on the election , they remind him of his own past as a poet on the edge before he married and settled down with his wife. So as the two poke fun at him for his comfortable life, This then as his wife choose to spend time away from him, he decides rather than going to the paper one day he visits the bar opposite and then gets drunk , this starts off a series of nights and days where he lose time drinks and goes down a spiral into the darker side of the city of ladies of the night and cocktail bars and the colourful characters that live in them, Will Ole Jastrau come up of air pr will he fall of the cliff into the depths of the drinking world.

Jastrau got up quietly. Here among this group, he suddenly felt like a person in disguise, like a sober fool at a carnival.He had to believed that he belonged here? why did the memory of the two hooligans who had been locked in the cell next to his suddenly become so warmly intimate and pleasant ? was it there that he belonged down at the lowest level of existence where things were so nice ?

Jastrau sees where he ending up and still not sure if it is really for him .

When I start this blog it was to discover the world of books from around the world but now in recent years I feel part of the reason I love blogging is discovering those books that have been lost or missed and this is one of those , I can see why Duncan was so keen to republish the book , it did come out on a small university press in 1968. This is a true lost classic , a wonderful Modernist novel Part Blaugast part Vile bodies. Like both of them books it follows the inter war years where a certain class started drinking more and being in clubs ,cocktail bars and wild parties like Adam in Vile bodies Ole is drifting into the world of drinking the mad world of the bright young things in Copenhagen but like Waugh this is a thinly veiled version of the world he lived in the setting and jobs is all very similar to the writers own life at time and also shows  how easy it is to fall down that spiral of drinking like the lead character in Paul Leppin book Blaugast another man stuck in a mundane job in Mitteleuropa is driven this time by a woman into a spiral of drinking.This is an epic book of one mans life over a few tough months of his life .

 

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