Ankomst by Gøhril Gabrielsen

Ankomst by Gøhril Gabrielsen

Norwegian Fiction

Original title – Ankomst

Translator by Deborah Dawkin

Source – personal copy

This is the second of this year’s Peirene series books this year a series called closed universe. It is the second book by the Norweigian writer Gøhril Gabrielsen that they had published the first is one of the few books by them I haven’t reviewed I have a copy so will at some pointreview that one. This is another one for women in translation month. It is the fifth novel from the writer it won the 2017 book prize fort the best book from the North of Norway. 

The bay lies wrapped in darkness, but in the light of the waxing moon. I can make out the waves frothy white crests rushing up into the sshallows. they glide between the rocks on the shore and retreat with a pale metallic sheen. I attach the trailer to the scooter and load it with the mast for the automatic weather station, along with my measuring equipment, guy wires and data logger, the bucket for the precipitation gauge, some antifreeze, my snowshoes, a couple of spades and a can of petrol. Before pulling on the protective cover . I check yet again that my equipment is properly secure.

The remoteness is there as she arrives and start to set up for her experiments .

I picked this as I have always had a love of birds and the fact this follows a scientist in the far north of Norway who has gone to spend a seven-week period as the seabirds she wants to see are due to migrate over and be around she is seeing if climate change is affecting the birds she is her to see the Auks Guilmonts and puffins. As she has done this, she has left her young daughter with her Ex called S who she has regular contact with Skype conversations with her daughter as communication is just basic for her as it is so remote so at times she has no outside contact. There is a lover that may be joining her but the loneliness starts to creep in and the is a s=feeling of a woman on the edge trying to escape the messy break up of her relationship and the idea of this time away seems great but the positiveness of the early part of the book gives way to paranoia as she questions her life and the work draws her to the much earlier owner of the hut she is using. This is a bleak place full of sea birds and nature as it is brought to life in the prose her world collapse will her lover arrive who where is he ?

On one of these January days, as as I sit and ponder the colours in the sky., I think about preception and the sense of sight. I consider those episodes in which I see Borghild and Olaf. I find myself thinikng if them as electrons in the mysterious world of quantum mechanics. electrons jumping from one orbit to another, releasing, with each leap closer to the nucleus, energy in the form of light. Light of varying wavelengths, each ommiting a distinctive colour.

The worldshrinks ghost of the past mix with the colurs in the sky as she finds her minding wandering and drifts.

This is another Peirene gem it took me two sittings thou it is 187 pages long which is one of the longer books. This is a woman on her own going over her past but you can also feel the world around her crashing her life has a rigid routine as she observes the bird, but also a sense of a past in the place she has chosen to live to watch the birds a sort feeling of woe in this place that has seeped into her. Her wanting to make a difference with her work plowing on whilst she reflects on the personal collapsing of her life whilst the lover that is due to arrive never seems to come as time almost slows even when she arrives and sees the boat lights fade off in the distance the remote and rugged world she has left envelopes her. I was reminded of the great book Tartar steppes which saw a soldier in a remote Desert as he waits for someone to attack him. There is a shared sense of remoteness and drifting towards madness. Have you read this books ?

A House in Norway by Vigdis Hjorth

A House in Norway by Vigdis Hjorth

Norweigan fiction

Original title – Et norsk hus

Translator – Charlotte Barslund

Source – personal copy

I brought will and testaments earlier this year then remembered I had this by the Norweigan writer Vigdis Hjorth. Vigdis grew up in Oslo she studied Philosophy, literature and political science and has been writing both adult and children’s fiction. She writes about the dilemmas of living in Modern society, her character struggles to come to terms with a rapidly changing world and to find a meaningful way to integrate with others and realize their own potential. She has won many prizes and has a number of her books translated into English she said her influences are Dag Solstad, Bretold Brecht and Louis-Ferdinand Celine. This is the first book by her I have read.

A few days later a woman phined and introduced herself as the interperter for “your tennt Slawomira Tzebuchwaskai”. She spoke broken, but clear coherrent Norweigan. It was concerning her tenant’s housing situation. She said and she wanting to meet with Alama. And Alma was delighted and said yes because she wanted nothing more that to resolve the tenant’s housing situation. The interpreter would visit. Alma in a few days, and the pole would be there as well, almaunderstood, so did this mean that she was moving back in ?

After her husband has to return to Poland she is left as a single parent Alam still willing to help ?

The book follows the life of a divorced textile artist. She lives in an old villa that has an apartment that she has rented out once unsuccessfully so when she lets a Polish Family move in she sees them as steady and she starts work on a large commission doing a tapestry to celebrate a centenary of women’s suffrage in Norway. But then as the Famil have kids and things start to happen like the Husband has to return to Poland leaving the wife and the kids alone in the apartment but they start knawing at Alma like the Mouse that her Polish neighbor says she has but won’t take the traps out like this and other little things start making Alma regret her decision. this leads to a series of letters rent rise changes in the size and description of the apartment it size. This carries on will she get her house back will she finish her commission?

Alma wrote the long-planned letter to her tenant in order to make same demands of her as she would have done of a Norwegian by informing her of the Norwegian attitude to electricty consumption. To be more conscious of her usage and turn down the radiators at night, sort her rubbish for recycling and not mixpaper and cardboard with other waste, and she also requested that she parked her car alongside Alma’s and always in the tarmac rather than on the ground between the treesfurther down where Alma wanted the grass to grow in the summer .

The crack in their relationshipo start after her husband isn’t their little things that build up over time.

 

This is done exactly what the description of her writing does in the book we have Alma she is a fair mind woman in her eyes her kids come ever so often. especially Christmas but in your heart you feel she is only renting the apartment for the money and no matter who was there she would eventually pick fault and her we see this she wants to be fair but at the back of her mind is the wanting a quiet life and the things like clearing the snow which when she contact the landlord advice line she does this a number of times not wanting to be seen as a bad landlord. This is all about manners and trying to be polite but there is a simmering undercurrent slowly growing in Alma that silent anger that is hidden just under the surface we see it building I was reminded of the few books I read by Anne Tyler a writer that also is great at capturing a woman at a certain age that simmers so well like Alma does here. Have you read Hjorth?

Restless by Kenneth Moe

Restless by Kenneth Moe

Norweigan fiction

Original title – Rastløs

Translated  by Alison McCullough

Source – review copy

Well,

I have reached it the 100oth review and I had a few books to choose from but I chose this as it best signifies what the blog has tried to do the last few years and that supports smaller presses through my reviews. Writers and writing that test the bounds of what is literature. So I chose Restless.grew up near Larvik, a small town outside Oslo in Norway. He currently lives in Oslo. He has studied creative writing in Bø, Bergen, and Lillehammer, Norway. Moe’s debut novel Restless won the Tarjei Vesaas debut award. This is the latest book from Nordisk books that have specialized in fresh voices and books from Scandinavia. This book is coming out this month.

We talk all the time in the dark. I give good explanations of everything, persuading you day to day. You’re not really here, and so can never really leave me, either. At nights you snuggle up to me in bed: your slim body with its small breasts against mine. I think even your body is humble. It dosen’t make much of itself. You leaf through the pages of the books- tell me I read such stranges ones. you tease me. I read Marcus Aurelius in bed I read La Rochefoucauld. He writes “weak people cannot be sincere”. I read the sentence aloud to you

ONe the opening paragraghs in the book.

As I said this is a challenging read as it has an unnamed narrator. He is trying to write a letter to women who rejected him but as the pages go on it drifts more into a personal insight into the young man’s mindset and insight into his life a lonely one. A drifter living on a student grant for a course he had left months ago. He observes the changing season the longer days of the summer as the dark night’s end he says to give him a sense of hope but that is short-lived. As he sits in his father’s armchair sinking deeper into it every day as he drifts more into a sort of modern lonely life that many people have. As he drifts off the sense he is losing it as he talks about feeling ill with this and that symptom. Just as he talks about his flat falling apart his blinds being broken and old women in the park having her last summer. Then something happens!

Today the sun is shining on my street again, but I have my back to the light and the trees outside the window. I’ve always been the type to shut myself in my room for days, weeks at a time, to work on some project or the otherthat I think will save me, withput any clear ideas as to exactly why this ine should save me when none of my previous projects have. Right now, for example: a book, a letter. I’ve chosen to prefer solitude, and would have preferred to prefer something else. All my longings are equally paradoxical. I constantly doubt whether I should want you and what I’d use you for should I get you, but I know that…

Later on and the sense of his mind drifting and his sense of lonliness.

This price winning debut is made up of short paragraphs and even a single sentence his aphorisms of the world around him. it is a book that has a restless feel a man that has been rejected wrestling with his life rejection the coming summer that changed from the dark nights and the light evening the soul of a man wrestling to write but also with discovering who he is himself like those other men on a quest Pessoa or even Leopardi he wrestles with why we are here as he tries to write this letter this is a shorter work but maybe like those great dishes you see in modern Scandinavian cooking where the portion is small but the enjoyment is in the complex nature of the taste mix the best of what i at hand to the chief at the time and this is a writer doing the same in a way. A modernist gem a man hunting for the what of modern life after a rejection one of those milestones on a young man’s journey. Another unusual gem from Nordisk books I have their last book to review but it is worth looking at all eight of there titles.

The Bell in the Lake by Lars Mytting

The Bell in the Lake by Lars Mytting

Norwegian fiction

Original title –  Søsterklokkene

Translator – Deborah Dawkin

Source – Personal copy

I reviewed his debut novel sixteen trees of the Somme, a couple of years ago. Lars Mytting first caught the English readers with his Non-fiction book about wood Norweigan wood chopping, stacking, and drying. Then his debut np0vel that tracked history via a tree and a coffin and a family history was touching so when I read it. So when this dropped in on winstonsdad’s tower. This is the first of three books and it is based around a wooden Stave church on the side of a lake that is meant to be moved to German to make way for the New.

The sister rarely left the Hekne farmstead, even though they got about better than folk might think. They walked in a waltz- like rhythm, as if carrying a brimful water pail between them. The slopes below the farm were the only think that defeated them. Hekne was situated on a very steep incline, and in the winter the slippery paths were treacherous. But since it was a sunny slope, the spring thaw came early in the year, sometimes by March, ad then the twins would come out with the springtime sun .

Henke was amoung the earliest settlements in the valley and the family had chosen one of the bestg spots for a faermstead. They owned not one , but two seters- summer farms further up the on the mountainside, each boasting a fine milking shed and dairy and a herd of well-fed cows that grazed on the deep green grass all summer.

The Hekne have long been there and have one of the best farms that the conjoined twins live in.

we first find out about the sister bell that is in the church. The church was made in the 1200’s and the bells where cast in silver after the story of two conjoined sisters Gunhild and Halfrid Hekne. The sisters learned to weave four-handed. whose story mixes myth and history and the story of the casting of the bells that are still two hundred years later in the church. But the myths have grown as the bells have a truly unique sound. So When the village of Butangen is given a new young priest Kai Schweigaard is trying to bring the parish into the modern world as the village is caught up in myths and folklore of the local area like that of the sisters and their bell. As part of that modernizing of the parish s the removal of the stave church, he has found that some Germans want it they send a young german architect to oversee this job now add to the mix that descendant of the sisters Astrid she is a headstrong twenty-year-old. She isn’t the usual village girl that wants to settle down she is caught between her modern mind and her family history add to that she falls for the German Gerhard and struggles to battle the new priest and his changes as she juggles her history and the wanting to find out more about Gehard why this man is a ray of light to her with his city ways. Then the bells take over!!!

Gerhard Schonauer stared after the girl for a long time, Her features made him want to draw her, there was a unique quality about her. She was quick and less reserved than the other villagers he had met that morning. The description in meyer’s seemed to sum them up precisely. “The Norwegians are a proud and strong race of Germanic descnet, They are more stoic and slower than the Swedes, but not a phlegmatic as Danes. They can seem very closed and sceptical, but once one earned their trust they are loyal and open-hearted, and they are outstanding sefarer, with the world’s best martitime pilots.

The first meeting of Astrid and Gerhard left a huge impression on him as he watched her walk off after first meeting.

This is a wonderful work there is a real feel of a village caught out of time in the way the voices of Astrid and the other locals have been translated with what feels like a country twang to there voices. The book is about change that old clash of an old and new world together and the actual history of a place the village is fictional but the small mountain village he describes and the way of life lived in the village is described as very well crafted in a Norwegian review of the work I looked up to see how much research he had done on the churches places and time. This is a novel that captures you from the first line to the last and brings the reader a real sense of place it is a well craft historical novel that has a love story, family history and folklore.

The other Name by Jon Fosse

The other name septology I-II  by Jon Fosse

Norweigan fiction

Original title – Det Andre Namnet 

Translator – Damion Searls

Source – review copy

I have twice before reviewed books from Jon Fosse I first reviewed him as he was a name that always is high on the list of Nobel Hopefuls. So when he made the Booker longlist I was happy.  He is a writer that is considered one of the best around the world at the moment and this is the first two-part of seven books. He has won the Nordic council prize and in Norway was given a Grotten one highest honors from the Norweigan royal families for his contribution to the arts. The translator learned Norweigan just to be able to translate his books. That is how good he is as a writer that said he isn’t the biggest on plot but there is more questioning within his writing on many levels.

The Art School, I think, and ever since my first show at The Beyer Gallery it was Beyer who’s sold my paintings, I think, and he always manages to sell almost allof them, but sometimes, in the first couple of years. I have to admit, they sold for a terrible price, to tell the truth, but most of the pictures sell for a good price now, and there are always a few that don’t sell for a good price now, and there are always a few that don’t sel, the best pictures too a lot of the time, and beyer doesn’t sell those ones cheap any more, he stopped doing that a loing time ago, He’d rather put them in what he calls the bank, the sideroom of the same gellery. Where he keeps and storees the lictures gthat aren’t in the show

He has brought his painting for years to help him make a living.

Here the question is one of what makes us who we are the two books tell the tales of an Asle and aging painter. They had a happy marriage but is now lonely with only his neighbor Aselik a fisherman and Beyer that runs a gallery that sells his work this is one story. But then in the same town is another painter Asle.  but this is where the paths split as one seeks salvation in people the other takes it in a bottle this leads to the usual questions of life why are we here. This is a slow work nothing really is quick it is a slow descent into the bottle and then the flip side of finding a different path out of grief this is about love but the aftermath of love those space in our world an artist can fill them with art but then as we have seen other time overs break and fall into the bottle. As they asses their lives they see that in the same place and same time things can be different. At times the prose cross and events in one life seem to be happening in the other lives.

You and this faith iof yours. Asleik says

I don’t always understand you, he says

But no one can think their way to god, I say

Because either they can feel that god is near or they can’t . I say

Because god is both a very faraway absence, yes well, being itself, yea and a very close presence I say

Maybe it’s like that for you. Asleik says

But it doesn.t really make sense, he says

God is there as well well faith and what it means at times .

I read an FT interview with Fosse in looking for info about this book he described his books as slow prose. He taught Knausgaard a long time ago. He is often compared to his pupil but I feel they are different this isn’t about his own life. In a way he is the anti-Knausgaard this is slow-moving works that explore the innermost thoughts and desires that drive us all but also those demons yes Knausgaard talks about demons in his life and his family but this is in a different way Asle’s show the flip side we all have like the dice man is life can sometimes just be broken down to a few decisions or events. so yes even a turn of dice can decide a life as death and loss of a loved one can lead to many different paths. I wonder where he will take us in the next five books this is the quiet man’s Knausgaard this is a work from a quiet man that loves to challenge his readers and himself as a writer. What are your thoughts of his writing I am a fan I like Karl Ove but this guy is next level to me he is one of the most human writers you can read?

Termin by Henrik Nor-Hansen

Termin front cover.png

Termin by Henrik Nor-Hansen

Norwegian fiction

Original title – Termin

Translator – Matt Bagguley

Source – Review copy

I said last night when the winner was announced for this year’s Man Booker that small publishers like the winner Sandstone press and the publisher of this title Nordisk small presses are the lifeblood of fiction in Translation. They bring us those gems that the big boy publishers can’t so here is a book that was nominated for the Nordic council literature prize. Henrik Nor-Hansen has written four novels and poetry and short story collections this book was his latest novel. There is an interesting interview with the translator Matt Bagguley He describes the trouble find terms in English and the uniqueness of the voice

Kjetil Tuestad reportedly moved to his own place in late august. It was a basement flat in Bjergsted. It is known that he called his parents and wife. He had apparently said that he needed time alome. They showed understanding. In hindsight, this approach has been questioned. the immediate family were perhaps not good enough at recognising changes in Kjetil’s personality.He remembers very little from this period. In many respectshe still required help .The flat never quite came together.

The first signs he isn’t quite the man he was when he tried to set up hime alone.

The full title of the book is Termin An inquiry into violence on Norway. The book is only 80 pages but what we see is the aftermath of a violent attack on one mans life. Kjetil Tuestad was a normal man working in the Stravanger shipyard as an electrician. He had married his wife Ann and they had decided to settle down in the small village of Hommersak a place that was growing as the oil boom was in full swing at the time. that was all in 1998 and in Midsummer night he was found beaten on the outskirts of the town. The actual injuries are listed three fractures to the jaw his teeth completely bent the wrong way. Blood coming from his ear what follows is an account of his life for the next twenty years from his slow recovery with first his parents than trying to rebuild his relationship with the wife they try and have a normal life and have kids. But he is a changed man and there is a detached nature to the way his life is described and the world around him. But his world is changed and he is on the path to be a loner as he has lost that ability to connect with people. This is one man’s life falling apart after a vicious attack but also a changing world around him and a village that has changed after his attack.

Kjetil Tuestad stresses that he is only occasionally able to picture his wife in the home. He says it is also difficult to visualise the infant as he would have  looked in the summer of 2001. Kjetil reacts to the fact that he did not participate more often in this. Other memories well up quite clearly. During the holidays what would become a string of severe animal welfare cases began. Cats in particular were made to suffer.

His behaviour years later is very different and his brain injury becomes much clearer.

I choose The years as my Man Booker winner. as it broke the boundaries of what fiction is here and for me, this is what Nor-Hansen has done here it is the sort of anti-Knausgaard as whereas Karl Ove tells us everything. this book is a sort of bare minimum of a man’s life over the same period from 3000 pages to 80 pages.  I remember the scene in the film a river runs through it where the writer Norman Maclean is given a task to write by his pastor father but as he says the less we say the more we say. In fact, there is another connection as the book follows the vicious attack and in a river runs through it the end is like the beginning of this book when Normans brother is attacked. So this has a blunt style a detached nature as Kjetil life is told post attack. The only thing I have read that repeats the style of the narrator is the character in curious incident of the night there is a similar way of view the world I found that it is now just black and white but also there is no real emotion in it  that is what he lost more than the outside injuries it is the loss of empathy this maybe is one of the best views of a man with brain injuries trying to live his life as best he can when what is us is gone and maybe the shell is left to carry on and rebuild. In what is a harsh world than it was. This book comes out this week from Nordisk books.

Zero by Gine Cornelia Pedersen

Zero

Zero by Gine Cornelia Pedersen

Norweigan fiction

Original title – Null

Translator –  Rosie Hedger

Source – review copy

Today sees the start of Woman in translation month a month that has taken off over the years I haven’t much planned but will try and fit a few books in among my Spanish and Portuguese lit month books. So to Kick off I have a powerful debut novel from Norway from Gine Cornelia Pedersen is both a writer and Actress this her debut novel won the Tarjei Vesaas award for a first book. She has also starred in the tv series Young and promising also Valkyrien both of  which are  on Walter in the Uk.

I’m 10 years old

I absorb everything unfiltered

I think that gos is listening whien I pray

I’ve seen three dead bodies, two old and one young

I cry at night and feel as if I’m all alone and no one can save me

I feel sorry for mum and dad

I realise that the concept of home has never truly existed.

I think about the fact that when I grow up and I’m allowed to decide things for myself, my joy will be complete.

I feel certain I’m going to live forever, but I think about death almost every day

The opening lines even at ten there is something in what she says that seem more than a normal ten year old would say.

This is a story told in Burst the narrator is a yoiung woman growing up. We follow her from teenager till she is in her early twenties. We find her life told in single sentences. like tweets where when they first started this is a novel in pieces.  This is a tale of a woman on a downward spiral of her life. We are let into her troubles bit by bit from the early feeling of being trap. Also not wanting to be too visible as her body changes in her puberty. Her wanting to go to Oslo. She has  a spilit with her boyfriend  of two years before she goes to the city. When she finally gets her mother to let her go. Then a spiral of self abuse, drugs and violence she ends upo for the first time in a ward then has a support worker. Then Peru and getting their becomes a dream that she finally does susing her benfit money to get there but then ends up on a holidat from hell with Men and drugs that leads her down a disaterious hole.

People on the stret stare at me

Everywhere I go they stare

I scream at one woman on the tram

Tell her she’s a bad person, that it’s people like her who are destroying the planet

She loooks away

I tell her she can look the other way for what it is worth she can turn away, but that only makes things worse

I ask if there’s something odd about me

She shakes her head

I tell her that she’s one who’s odd, with her ugly clothes and her wrinkles

Money can’t save her, I tell her

She can’t take her fur coat to hell

Later you she her parnoia when she verbally attacks a woman on the tram thinking it is her that is in the wrong for starring at her.

This was described a being like a Punk rock single by a revieew in Norway. The style is like a punk song short repeative sentences thart are like snapshot and captured insights into a life falling apart and how Mental helath can affect someones life so completely. The narrator is always claiming to be better as she hates her meds and said she doesn’t want them on more than one occasion but as the book goes on youn can see how a life can fall apart and that the drastic nature of someone offf their meds for a serious mental health issue can lead her as in the book to a far away country and into the arms of preditary men. Which leads to her downfall as she heads towards Zero. An interesting debut novel about a subject that isn’t touched enough in fiction. That of Mental Health but also what it is like being inside that downward spiral that to the narrator doesn’t seem a downward spiral.  read it in a day the pace is so fast with these choppy sentences you get drawn through the world she lives in as she describes some horrific events in snatches. This is the latest book from Nordisk books there third book 

Scenes from a childhood by Jon Fosse

Scenes from a childhood by Jon Fosse

Norwegian short stories

Original title (part of ) – kortare Prosa

Translator and selector of the collection – Damion Searls

Source – review copy

It is strange I choose this book today. As it was just a couple of days ago we found out that the Nobel prize for this year is due to be announced in a years time alongside the 2019 Nobel. Well, today’s writer Jon Fosse is a writer that has been slowly climbing the ladder of Nobel betting. He has written a number of Novels and plays. He has won various awards Including the Nordic lit prize and the French order of merit. I have featured him in his novel Aliss at the fire . So I was pleased to see a collection of his stories, coming out from Fitzcarraldo.

THE AXE

One day Father yells at him and he goes out to the woodshed, he gets the biggest axe, he carries it into the living room and puts it down next to his father’s chair and asks his father to kill him. As one might expect, this only makes his father angrier

One of the vignettes from the first piece.

 

This is a number of stories collected together the first part of the collection is a collection of Vignettes about a childhood , there is a child like sense to the prose from Father holding an axe, through those points in childhood when things start to be notice like the time someone has a pink handbag, girls, the first smoke, the odd youth Asle we see through the young boys eyes drunk at first on some community steps and then later the older lads father grabs the youth as some pallets come crashin down on the dock near where he just was. Then we have a longer novella which in some ways had a similar theme to the curious incident of the dog in the night as a dog is killed. This death involves a dispute between neighbors. It is told from a young boys perspective so we see his view of the world. Then the last part is an older brother still a young voice talking about his young sister in another collection as his sister is born and the times they have together like falling asleep in the same bed his sister’s hands in his hair.

I think the man by the bend has shot your dog.She says

I hear her say that she thinks the man by the bend has shot my dog. What ? what is she saying? shot the dog? What can she mean someone’s shot my dog.

I saw the go and I heard a bang.

What the fuck is she saying ? shot the dog ? What the fuck does she want ?

Just now, she says

Shot the dog? I say

Yeah. I saw the dog, she says. I saw the dog run up to his house and then I heard a bang, it had to be a gun.

I looked at her and I know that if someone’s killed my dog i’m going ti kill whoever did it

THe novella “And then my dog will come back to me ” about a dog dying and who did it

This has a real sense of a writer at the height of his powers. That as a writer Fosse likes to use the bare minimum view of the world. These stories show what a subtle touch can do, these stories are like the diamond that is seen by the diamond cutter as they see it in the rough diamond each story has been cut and polished til they sparkle. The vignettes are like a captured glimpses of a life almost like the snatches of dreams those glimpse we each remember in the morning maybe not even place or time just what happened. Fosse has been compared to the greats and as this is the second book by him I have read and I am still left wanting to try more. Have you read Fosse?

 

Love by Hanne Ørstavik

Love cover

Love by Hanne Ørstavik

Norwegian fiction

Original title –  Kjærlighet

Translator – Martin Aitken

Source – review copy for Asymptote book club

A fellow blogger Marina of the blog finding time to write is involved with the website Asymptote. Ask me if I want to review this book to highlight there Book club they also have a page on book trail. I was happy to review this as it is the second book by this writer her first was available from Peirene in the Uk the blue room I reviewed it here. This is her latest to be translated to English Hanne Orstavik has lived in Oslo since being 16, her first novel came out in 1994 when she was 25, she has since written twelve novels this was her third novel.

She gets through three books a week, often four or five. She wishes she could read all the timer, sitting in the bed with the duvet pulled up, with coffee, lots of cigarettes, and a warm night dress on. She could habe done without the TV too, I never watch it, she tells herself, but Jon would have minded

The opening I wish I could do four orr five books a week. Most weeks I struggle to hit three books.

Love is maybe a strange title for this book as it is about love but maybe the distance in love. The story is about a mother and son. The two the Mother Vibeke has moved her and her Son Jon too a distant village as she has taken a new job as an Arts officer. A lot of her story is about what she likes books trying to find articles that have been talked about at work. There is a sense as the narrative jumps between the two of them that there is a distance in the relationship it is a matter of months since they moved there. Jon is trying to fit in we see this as he goes around selling raffle tickets for the local sports club he has joined as he tries to fit into his new home. All this is the evening before Jons ninth birthday as we see him going out alone. This is a book that shows the detachment of modern society sometimes they both seem in the own world as the evening unfolds.

Jon goes back over the road, back to the house. Stepping inside he makes sure the door behind him, there’s ice on the sill. He pulls his mittens and drops them in the little white basket in the corner. He goes downstairs to his room with his coat still on, and puts the bag down woith the raffle book and the money in it from the old man. On the his way out the man cut him a little chunk off a ried ham hanging from a hook in the vestibule. He puts it down on his desk

Jon arriving home here grabbed me as so lonely an eight year old just wanders in by himself.

This is a cold book in a way a mother and son that have grown apart. A strange dark feeling as for why she would let her eight years old out to sell the raffle tickets in the evening unsupervised. Maybe this is my oldfashioned views of the world but it just felt as thou the mother was so absorbed in her own world she hadn’t even thought of her poor sons birthday. A simmering undertone of a relationship broken by the move and a young boy drifting towards disaster. I can see why Karl Ove called this her strongest book it is bleak and dark but also a compelling read as over the even the story of the two characters unfolds. As an ever-growing sense of foreboding is given in the book. The Asymptote book club is a great idea to draw reads into world lit and this is a great choice as it leads to the current crop of the great Nordic writer’s around at the moment like Karl Ove or Helle Helle which Martin the Translator of this book has translated.

The boat in the evening by Tarjei Vesaas

 

The Boat in the Evening

 

The boat in the evening by Tarjei Vesaas

Norwegian fiction

Original title – Båten om Kvelden

Translator – Elizabeth Rokkan

Source – personal copy

Well when Karen and Simon announce the last year club this time around it is  1968 , I decide I would get at least one book for it so I set to the internet and find a  book published in 1968. I found two books published in their original language in 1968. This is the first and is by Norwegian writer Tarjei Vesaas, he has long been on a list of writers I have been wanting to feature on the blog. He grew up in the remote Telemark region of Norway. Where he had the chance to take over the family farm but didn’t do it. This one event influenced his later life and writing he is considered the best Norwegian writer since the second world war.

There he stands in sifting snow. In my thoughts in sifting snow. A father – and his winter-shaggy, brown horse, in snow

His brown horse and his face. Sharp words. His blue eyes and his beard. The beard with reddish tinge against the white. Sifting snow. Blind, boundless snow.

Far away, deep in the forest. Sunken roads in the drift, gullies dug out of the drifts, logging roads walled in by snow

The opening lines give a sense of the wintery nature of the world Vesaas lived in

This book is a series of pieces that are all set in the wild north of Norway. They all draw on the nature of the land around that region. From watching the cranes arrive from the south and later glimpse the magical dance they do as a child.A man is drifting done a flooded river with just a log clinging to his life.This is a man looking at his homeland in an abstract nature the land and weather and creatures of the land drift off the page in his faint sketches. This is a world of tough nature and land.From the family caught in their home by a snowstorm view the white world around them. The stories are hard to capture as they are more meditations on the world and draw you emotionally into the world, rather than narratively.

The cranes intensify this feeling. One can always find out more. As long as the mirrored head or the upsight head is above the surface. As long as one manages to travel accross floating, shivering tussocks one can find out more.

From these bewitched birds one can find out more.

If only one could give them a message about this, telling them to dance ore and to dance differently, very differently. They look as if they can do it

The cranes mating being watch by father and son

 

This is a complex book that is more like a skeleton leaf caught in the ice the very fragile nature of what it once was is there and this is the same here in Vesass prose have a  sense of what might have been. The fragile nature of the world he lived in, there is no names to his character. But people living on the edge of nature. A man gripping a log, a family in the white out of a snowstorm. A father and son glimpsing the cranes the child’s wonder at the dance. But at the heart of this is the world he grew up in this is a novella that will make you want to wear a jumper as you read it. As you view human life as just a flake in a snowstorm of nature its self and how powerful nature is and what memories it can lay on a man’s mind. I see why he was actually nominated eight times for the Nobel prize this is a work of a thoughtful and deep writer more the sort of writer we want winning the Nobel. Also a testament to the catalogue of Peter Owen books

 

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