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 .

 

The prophet of Eternal Fjord by Kim Leine

the prophets of Eternal Fjord

The prophet of Eternal Fjord was a book that arrived late last year and grabbed me straight away from the Jacket Copy. Plus my lack of knowledge of Greenland the main setting for the book, I have  wanted to read a book about Greenland after two things Hearing   the pogues song Greenland whalers that evoked the world of the whalers when a place like Greenland was central to the world for it supplies from the whaling industry  and also  learning a bit about it at school in a project about vikings . So this book seemed the perfect chance to learn a little history of Greenland at a pivotal moment in their history .From a prize-winning Danish novel.This is Kim Leine fourth book and this one won the prestigious Nordic council Literature prize.

The widow has come up here of her own accord, no one forced her. She has beaten the lice from her finest clothes and put them on. She has washed her hair in the urine tub of the communal house and tied it up. Silently observed by her heather cohabitants, she scrapped the sooty grease from her cheeks and consumed the good meal that had been put before her. Then she came up here, carried along by a lightness of step. Now she sits on the brink of happiness, expectant and with warmth in her cheeks, at the edge with her legs tucked decorously beneath her in the way all widows, the way she sits at home on the little side bench under the window opening.

The opening lines drag you in with this rich opening passage.

The prophets of Eternal Fjord is set in the late 1780’s. In 1787 Morten Falck a new priest from the hustle and bustle of Copenhagen is given a new job on Greenland, his job to get the Godless Inuit to convert to the Danish church he is consider the man for the job as he is very evangelical . So he sets of on a whaler ship top the far corner of the Danish empire. When he arrives he finds things are far worse than he had been lead to believe before he left, some of the villages have joined together and broken away from the Danish rule wanting their own freedom. Added to this Morten isn’t all he seems whilst studying he discover he had a liking for being close to women.So he arrives in Sukkertoppen with a priest in two minds surround by a harsh world.Ready to try to get the people of the Eternal Fjord on his side (this is the area that has formed their own colony away from Danish rule )

Jesus christ, our Heavenly father!

It gushes from him the moment he pulls up his cassock and sits down on the privy seat, a mud-like mass, almost without smell, an inexhaustible landslide of brown. His intestines writhe in agony, and yet there is a considerable element of joy at being able to release, to discharge this spray of filth and empty the bowels. He groans, bites his hand and chuckles. His sphincter blares and squelches, and then there is silence.

I know this is a rather bad passage but it capture the earthy dark feel of this world broken and with illness.

 

 

The book has a rich style almost like Dickens, I was also reminded of the world painted in Eleanor Cattons book The luminaries. This is also a  world of tough men and brave women similar to Catton’s world. among these brave women would be the widow she is involved with the breakaway from Denmark but has also caught the eye of Morten. I loved the feel of a world at breaking point almost as though the string from Denmark to its distant outpost has been stretched, worn down by the sea and is ready to break. All seen through the eyes of this confused priest a man with his own demons trying to rid the locals of their demons. A classic tale of colony’s and colonism  we could change this for any outpost of the british empire at the time they wanted to break away.Martin Aitken has done a wonderful job in the way he has kept what is a poetic dark world or Greenland.

Danish fiction

Original title Profeterne i Evighedsfjorden

Translator Martin Aitken

This should be written in the present tense by Helle Helle

 

This should be written in the present tense by Helle Helle

Danish fiction

Original title -Dette burde skrives i nutid

Translator – Martin Aitken

Source review copy

Being boring

I came across a cache of old photos
and invitations to teenage parties
‘Dress in white’ one said with quotations
from someone’s wife, a famous writer
in the nineteen-twenties
When you’re young you find inspiration
in anyone who’s ever gone
and opened up a closing door
She said we were never feeling bored

’cause we were never being boring
We had too much time to find for ourselves
and we were never being boring
We dressed up and fought then thought make amends
And we were never holding back or worried that
time would come to an end

I choose this as in someways it is maybe a writer looking back on her youth” her twenties “

Helle Helle is one of the leading writers in Denmark .She studied literature in Copenhagen , she started writing after that she has worked in radion and written childrens books .But with her adult fiction has won a number of big prizes such as the PO enquist prize . This is her first book to be translated to english .I am pleased to add Helle Helle to the list of writers I have reviewed this woman in translation month .

I slept soundly that night .I didn’t hear a peep from the couple in the front room , or from the trains ,or the boiler in the utility room next door.It must have kicked in during the night , the place was sweltering when I woke up .My cheeks felt like they were on fire .It was light outside and the sky was blue .I stared emptily at the bark of the old pear tree for a minute , then came another gentle knock on the door and after a second it opened .

Haven’t we all slept and then woken in a newish place expecting it to be one way , I once woke thinking it was Germany but found out I was still in Holland !

 

This was a book I read the back end of last year , I quickly read through it this week just to refresh me of parts of the book .This should be written in the present tense is a vibrant book about being young it is the story of Dorte she has just left home moved into her own flat near the university in Copenhagen .Well that is what everyone thinks she is doing busy studying .But no she is busy well doing nothing much other than a journey of her own to discover who she is as a person .As she is busy doing this in the shopping district of the town with her poet friend and her boyfriend Per .What we see is the stor is a series of episodes of Dorte’s life rather than a straightforward short glimpses of a young womans life .As she finds friends herself , men and the wider world instead of studying at university .

One day I went for a bike ride while Per was having a nap .I cycled aimlessly in the direction of the nursery ,it was late afternoon .The forsythias were in bloom in a few small front gardens .I was soon too hot in my jumpers .I stopped to take it off , then carried on in my t-shirt.A smell of seaweed and salt waters hung over the fields .

Smells bring back the memories of growing up .

Maybe books are like the countries they come from ? well if that is the case maybe this book This should be written in the present tense is the perfect novel for how we see Denmark and the danish ! Maybe this book is clean in the way it is written as I said it has a epsodic nature about it and the passages are little gems of writing maybe like little lego blocks that we put together one by one to build what is a model of Dorte and her world but in that lego way all clean lines and bold strokes .Now that title where did she get this should be written in the present tense from , I did wonder and found out she was parapharse a quote from Samuel Beckett ,whilst doing that it said in the same article in Danish (using google translate )I discovered that she views the book as her most personnel book and parts of it is autobigraphical .I loved Dorte’s life it remind me of my younger years I was a wander in my teens instead of college I used hitch into Newcastle most days and wander arond this city meeting and observing the world .

Special Delivery by Iselin C. Hermann

IMG_1189

Special Delivery by Iselin C. Hermann

Danish Fiction

Translator – G. Forester

Original title – Prioritaire

Source – Personnel copy

The other day Alan was asking about modern Epistolary novels ,I of course mentioned Love virtually and its follow-up Every seventh wave two of my favourite epistolary novels .But in the back of my head I had a nagging thought that I had recently brought another epistolary novel and so I had it was this one so looking for something short to break up a run of long novels I choose to read Special delivery .Iselin C hermann is a Danish writer that studied the Theatre at university and then moved into working at a publishing hose specialising in art books ,then in 1998 became a full-time writer .This book was her début novel and she has since written ten other novels .

Delpine Hav

I was very pleased to get your post card .

I was pleased because I know that feeling exactly .A particular poem by Walt Whitman does the same to me ,and so do some of Beethoven’s late sonatas .I’d go so far as to say that at the same time as I feel I own these things ,not that anyone can own them ,I have a feeling that the piece of music or the poem in question has been created specially for me .

The opening of Jean-Luc first reply to Delphine

Well the book starts with a young Danish girl Delphine writing to a French artist called Jean-Luc Foreur .She says she may not own the picture ,which she saw in a gallery in Paris but she says “the picture is mine” out of the blue she gets a reply and thus starts a correspondence between the two .This exchange of letter is like a slow blossoming of a flower the letters get more and more sordid in their town .Now Jean-Luc is married and is middle-aged ,his letter are spaced ,Delphine is a youngster (here aged is never fully revealed but the is a letter where she writes what she can and can’t do due to her age , but  I would have said she was between 19-22 ,she loves writing to Jean-Luc one can almost see her letters as  young girl just coming to realise who she is as a women .Jean-Luc on the other hand is hard to read as a person , via his letters who he really is he tells Delphine how much he wants her but in doing so rarely lets her other than little glimpse know a lot about his life . They are drawn towards a meet  after 18 months of writing to each other ,but at this point Jean-Luc seems reluctant ,then we have the huge twist at the end !

Thinking about you is a pleasure and a curse .And I think “I am wasting my time missing him ” or “Does one miss most what is impossible and what is unattainable ?” But I also think :”The real waste would be to go without him and what he does to me ”

An extract of a later letter where you see Delphine’s feeling have grown somewhat for Jean-Luc

Now I love the books Meike does for Peirene ,well this would have been one they would have done for sure it is one of those Novellas it 126 pages but feel much larger than that.What is at its heart is the paths love and attraction can run .Can a couple of fall in love without ever have met or seeing each other ?   It maybe shows how we can trust too much at times although this is an exchange of letters it brings up the current use of Facebook and messengers and young women talking to men that may not be all they seem .To me this book should be a modern classic it is just perfect and although I ve decide against scoring books this one would be a 10/10 for sure .A great take on the epistolary form one that maybe should be more widely used even these days as so much of what we communicate isn’t face to face but in the form of messages ,tweets ,e mails and via Facebook .

Have you a favourite Epistolary novel ?

Have you a favourite Danish novel ?

Previous Older Entries

June 2017
M T W T F S S
« May    
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
2627282930  
%d bloggers like this: