The other woman by Therese Bohman

The Other Woman by Therese Bohman

As I said in yesterdays covers post, I have read a couple of great books from Sweden by female writers this year, this being one of them the other being Wilful disregard by Lena Anderson which I reviewed earlier in the year. It was because I enjoyed wilful diregaerd so much I choose to review this from Other press.Also two great books from world editions from sweden as well it has been a great year for Swedish fiction on the blog .

The other woman is a take on being the other woman like it says on the cover. This is story of the affair told from the female perspective , we see this affair start and how it slowly grows through her eyes. The two main characters work in a hospital , she is a general dogsbody in the kitchen and he is a doctor , she finds out his name  Carl Malmberg and also that he is married  . He captures her eye one day and then they begin to spiral near each eventually coming together in a bang. The affair begins as they meet in secret, but is it all she hoped are dreams and reality the same

Occasionally I have wondered what it would be like to have an affair with one of them. particularly the tall handsome consultant who comes in for lunch all too rarely. I have thought about where we would meet, imagined him at home with me, even if the idea of him in my tiny apartment among my things is an unlikely scenario.I picture him sitting on my sofa, we are drinking a glass of wine , chatting. Perhaps we are discussing literature, which turns out to be a shared passion.

She daydreams of meeting Carl after seeing him where she works .

It is easy to see this as a standard love affair, which has been covered many times in fiction from The end of affair one my favourite Greene novels , through books like Lady Chatterley’s lover, which for me is like this book accept the roles are flipped the male is the one in the role of authority and the narrator is the lowest of the low in this world they live in. Also wilful diregard saw a may to december romance which this novel  is as well.What makes this stand up is the narrator’s voice and the overall world we are drawn into where even in a modern setting Class and social standing still there like in Lawrence’s day.

We get out of the car, he locks it, and we dash through the rain to the apartment block and , inside, over to my door. He stands behind me as I open up, I can feel his eyes on my back. I have rarely felt more present in the moment, I register everything – the grain of the wooden door frames, his scent, the key sticking slightly in the lock before it turns – while at the same time I am acting entirely on instinct .

The dream now is real he does come to her apartment .

For me the main character the unnamed narrator of the book is more than we first see , yes she works in the kitchen .But this woman is one that reads important books ,  she talks about the books she readsones like, notes from underground , Death in Venice and even the huge Magic Mountain she describes how on a course she sees everyone around her reading what she call banal books compared to her. She is a woman wanting to be more than a partner in bed, which it turns out is what she has become.We see a ugly duckling  wanting to be a swan in the world can see do it ?

He is a perfectly ordinary lover too. After I have asked him if he wants to come back to my place, and we have stood outside my door drunkenly searching for topics of conversation to fill the time between both of us thinking that we want to kiss each other and actually doing so, and we have kissed our way through the hallway and into bed, he makes love to me in a way that is kind of functional .

No books to discuss and no fireworks with Carl really .

Add to this a confident of the narrator called Alex , whom she starts to tell about the affair but is this Alex all they seem ? Then there is also the senses that Bohman does so well to ignite through her prose which in Marlaine Delargy translation come through so well. Also the sense of a detached style I have found a lot the last few years in Nordic fiction we almost look into this world of class, love, social standings like a voyeur feeling part of it but not able to touch it .Carl maybe see her as an object in a way even in the way he picks something for her to wear at one point. But for the narrator there is a whole other story and this affair is maybe just the start of her real life .This is Therese Bohman second novel to be translated to English I will be seeking out her first Drowned to read.

Have you a favourite female writer from Sweden ?

Swedish fiction

Translator – Marlaine Delargy

Source – review copy .

 

She is not me by Golnaz Hashemzadeh

She Is Not Me

She is not me by Golnaz Hashemzadeh

Swedish fiction

Original title – Hon är inte jag

Translator – Katarina tucker

Source – review copy

Two ways to choose,
On a razor’s edge,
Remain behind,
Go straight ahead.

Room full of people, room for just one,
If I can’t break out now, the time just won’t come.

Two ways to choose,
Which way to go,
Decide for me,
Please let me know.

Looked in the mirror, saw I was wrong,
If I could get back to where I belong, where I belong.

I choose joy divison as the first lines of the something must break capture the daughters life on a razors edge .

Last month I review a storm blew in from paradise , another swedish novel about the refugee experience that one was about the trip of coming to a country and how the next genration deals with it . Anyway World edition the publisher  said they had another book from Sweden about being a refugee they felt I may enjoy as well . They sent me this the debut novel from Golnaz Hashemzadeh , she arrived in Sweden when her family fled Iran as a child .She studying at the Stockholm school of Economics , she was the eighth woman to study there and the first to be president of the students ,She has worked in finance and set up the non profit Inkludera invest a company that invest in social enterprise and ideas in Sweden .

In the beginning Mama and the Girl were joined at the hip. She sat on the toilet seat while mama showered in the mornings. Mama sat on the floor next to the desk with her strong tea while the Girl did her schoolwork. They changed together when it was time for the night shift at the nursing home. Mama changed into her nurse’s uniform , the Girl into he pyjamas .

They were close once but life draws them apart.

She is not me is maybe mirrored by Golnaz own experiences in a way it follows the fortunes good and bad of a family from Iran that have arrived in Sweden, we see the parents dreams of this new freedom not come quite the way they wanted them to end as they don’t quite fit in their new homeland .So it is their daughter who they start to push getting her in the best school .The daughter unnamed within the book is the main character as we she how she gets in school but finds she has to change who she is as a person and as she does we see how she struggles to fit in and how that affects her as a person as she walks a tightrope between what her family want her to be and what her peers want her to be .The point comes where tis has a long term effect on her .

Papa was the one who found the Elite School. He understood tha elite meant taking advantage of opportunities, that elite was the result of dreams and hard work, Papa understood that she should elite . He placed the pink business paper next to her physics books , circled photos and headlines .

All of them attended the Elite School

The father pushes her to become the best she can , but maybe to hard at times as she bends to fit in .

 

This is the story we don’t often see  on the news or in papers , we she people arrive in a new country and then see the next generation maybe. But what about the kids and families that arrive their .What happens to them , I not read many stories about that Golnaz captures well what a struggle it must be to try to stay in one world with your parents the world they escaped, but never quite leave in their minds .Where as she is of the world she has come to but not fully so she is caught with a foot in each camp being Iranian but growing up swedish but also wanting to be accepted by her peers .This is a real struggle and this is what Golnaz captures so well the emotions of growing up a divide soul .

Have you read a book about living in a new country after you escaped tyranny ?

 

A storm blew in from paradise by Jonannes Anyuru

A storm blew in from Paradise by Johannes Anyuru

Swedish fiction

Original title – En storm kom från paradiset

Translator – Rachel Wilson -Broyles

Source – review copy

Father
It’s not time to make a change,
Just relax, take it easy.
You’re still young, that’s your fault,
There’s so much you have to know.
Find a girl, settle down,
If you want you can marry.
Look at me, I am old, but I’m happy.

I was once like you are now, and I know that it’s not easy,
To be calm when you’ve found something going on.
But take your time, think a lot,
Why, think of everything you’ve got.
For you will still be here tomorrow, but your dreams may not.

Father and son by Cat stevens is the song that leaped in my head .

I said I would tell the story the opposite way round to the last book I reviewed .This is someone leaving his home in Africa (Uganda in the seventies ) and making a new home and life in Europe as a refugee .Another thing has happened since I read this book and that is the story in the book has maybe become more relevant than it was earlier in the year given the current crisis in europe of refugees . The writer of this book Johannes Anyuru was born to a Ugandan father and swedish mother , he first started writing as a poet and spoken word artist  , this is his second novel and the first to be translated to English .

The first time he heard Amin speak on the radio was the same day he received the news of the coup from the Greek cadet .He had gone to the barracks and sat on his bed ; one of his classmates was there , an Acholi .P passed on the news to him . and both of them tried to call relatives from a payphone in the corridor .

Idi Amin took the country whilst the father P was in Greece learning to fly .Note the mention of his classmates tribal heritage

The book is a story of a father and son and is told in the here and now and back in the seventies when P the father in this story is a pilot in trains for the Ugandan airforce in Greece  .He grew up in a rural village in uganda  , had lost his own parents and had an older brother that to say the least was rather hands on in his care of him .So he fights his way to be a pilot and train at the point he is training .The country’s regime changes when Amin seizes power and this leads to him trying to escape after returning home and finding tribal lines have changed  .So p tries to get back to europe . We follow him through interrogation by people in Tanzania (the neighbour of Uganda ) , but this shows the tribal lines of the people don’t always follow the lines that craved up africa on the map as the main thing they have against him is his heritage .The second part of the book is P son’s story of him trying to write his fathers story .

Here is the body ; it had its history , it came out of a life that could have been a different life .But a storm blew in .I stand beside my brother .Soon we will have to push the alarm button and tell them .But for a moment we stand on either side of the body .I take of the oxygen mask and hang it beside the bed .A storm blew in from paradise .The storm was life

The title is the last lines as father and son are together .I was touched by these words very poetic .

This is autobiography as fiction this is a son trying to find his father and trace his route back to his roots and that of his father . It is about fatherless families both his own and his fathers , this is a story that crops up so often how many Steven speilberg film had a missing father at their heart ! This is also a story of lost dreams in one generation but the hope of being in a safe place the story of the journey refugees take from a pilot to no one is such a common journey .I myself worked in a factory in Germany alongside a number of Kosovar couple one of whom was a professor of Albanian literature and her husband work on the Balkan version of match of the day .I can see why this was such a huge hit in his homeland and why it is so poignant a read now .There will be a good many sons in thirty years writing their stories but how many will be in english !!!! Sorry .

Have you a story of refugees that has touched you ?

 

Wilful Disregard by Lena Andersson

 

Wilful disregard a novel about love  by Lena Andersson

Swedish fiction

Original title – Egenmäktigt förfarande – en roman om kärlek

Translator – Sarah Death

Source – Review copy

You spurn my natural emotions
You make me feel I’m dirt
And I’m hurt
And if I start a commotion
I run the risk of losing you
And that’s worse

Ever fallen in love with someone?
Ever fallen in love?
In love with someone
Ever fallen in love? (Love…)
In love with someone
You shouldn’t’ve fallen in love with

I can’t see much of a future
Unless we find out what’s to blame
What a shame
And we won’t be together much longer
Unless we realize that we are the same

I thought of Buzzcocks Ever fallen in love with just for the line Ever fallen in love with some one you shouldn’t fall in love with , just perfect for this book .

Well I move to Sweden for the second book for this women in translation month .A prize-winning novel from Lena  Andersson .A well-known Journalist and radio presenter, she has hosted a show called summer over a number of years  .She also writers a columnist for the Dagens Nyheter  .She has so far published seven books this is her fifth novel and won the August prizeone of the biggest book prizes in Sweden .This is her first book in English .

Two weeks had passed by the time she went to him , one carefully chosen evening .In the course of those weeks she had thought of nothing else .The fact he had asked her to drop round to the studio for copies of his early works meant she had the right to seek him out ,So as not to seem too eager , she waited for as long as she could bear to

I was reminded of a scene in the film swingers where they talk about how long before you should contact some one . Has Ester waited to long .

Wilful disregard is as it says a novel about love and being in love and maybe not being in Love  .The say love comes in all shapes , sizes and they say you never know when it is going to hit you .This is the love story of Ester Nilsson , she is a sensible girl in a steady relationship .When she gives a talk about an artist she loves Hugo Rask .She doesn’t know the man himself is there .He introduces himself and ask her to come to his studio , but is this just an innocent invite . They talk and then start meeting this becomes a pursuit for Ester ,as Hugo isn’t maybe quite what he seems to her and maybe what she sees he doesn’t .His disinterest is hard for her to get over .As one woman risks losing it all .

When you love and someone receives that love , the body feels light .When the opposite happens , one kilo weights three .Love that is just beginning is like dancing on a finely honed edge .It can happen that kilo never regains its proper weight , which generates a degree of apprehension in the fearful , the experienced and far-sighted .And in those who do not have esters extraordinary capacity for hope .

Haven’t we all felt this before when in love that light then heavy feeling as we start on the road of love

This is a book about love and how it makes us each act .I was sent this pleased I wouldn’t pick this to read my self and even though I read it early in the year . I knew it would be perfect for woman in translation month .The book is about what we view in others Ester has put as we used to say on a pedestal , so no matter what he does she sees no wrong .In reading swedish interviews with the writer and about the book , the events in the book thou not directly about her , events in her life had an effect on the writing of the book  and some of what Ester went through she has gone through herself .I have maybe been painting a black picture , but no this has humour in it as well a sort of comedy of modern loving in some ways .Lena takes love and breaks apart what makes one woman rick in Ester , how we maybe don’t always take the easiest path in life

Have you a favourite book about love ?

 

Fall of man in Wilmslow by David Lagercrantz The death and life of Alan Turing

Fall of man in Wilmslow by David LagerCrantz

Swedish fiction

Original title – Syndafall i Wilmslow

Translator – George Goulding

Source – review copy

 

 

Will you say that we were heroes
Or that fear of dying among strangers
Tore our innocence and false shame away?

And from that moment on deep in my heart I knew
That I would only give my life for love
Brothers in arms in each others arms
Was the only time that I was not afraid

What will you do when the war is over, tender comrade?
When we cast off these khaki clothes
And go our separate ways
What will you say of the bond we had, tender comrade?

I felt Billy Bragg’s  song Tender comrade about gay soldier in the war was a fitting song for a book about Alan Turing !

Now Lagercrantz is a new name as he has written a number of books including ghost writing I am Zlatan Ibrahimovic the biography of the Swedish footballer . This is his first book to be translated into english and is like a taster of what is to come as he was chosen to take over and finish the fourth book in Steig  Larsson’s millennium . Which is coming out later this year . So we get to see a new thriller writer from Sweden . For me the main buzz of the book dropping through my letterbox was it was set in Wilmslow I grew up in Cheshire and never knew it was where the real Alan Turing had died .

He did not like his job . He did not like the salary , the walking , the paperwork , or godforsaken Wilmslow where nothing ever happened . It had got to the point where even now he felt nothing but emptiness .

Corell arrives at the Turing’s  bored of Wilmslow , but is just getting himself started on his toughest case .

The book is a police investigation and biography  of Alan Turing  rolled into one really . The book follows a police detective Constable Corell is trying to discover more about a man who is found dead in his home in the sleepy town of Wimslow .A man is found after dying eating a poison apple . The man is Alan Turing one of the best minds of his genrations a war hero that was never appericated in his lifetime . As Corell starts to piece together Turing life and how he ended up in this sleepy town . The further down the road he gets the darker the past is and the more confused the present becomes .

Turing appeared to find the dream interesting . Corell gathered that the mathematician had a special interest in dreams . He had after all recorded his own dreams in three notebooks , and this conversation also gave rise to a sense of intimacy , and the offence was committed once more .

Corell discover everything about this Genius Turing that has been found dead on his patch !!

This remind me of the film Enigma which mixed history , the second world war , mystery and Bletchley park . The book is like a crime novel but we learn a lot more about the life and times of Alan Turing ,also his rise and fall during and after the war . Add to that the bizarre way he died a poison apple could he have been killed if so whom by ? the story has a great rhythm Corell is more like a guide we see the story unfurl at the same time he does .For me the connection to places I know so well . I must have been passed his house a hundred times during my life not knowing it was his house an old school friend even found an advert from a few years ago when the house was last sold and showed me . I know it is hard to step into the shoes of Steig Larsson , is David Lagercrantz a good choice . Well from this one book yes he seems to pace his story well which for me when I read the millennium series was part of what I enjoyed you were drawn into a world and Lagercrantz has done this in this book .I look forward to see what and where he is taking Lisbeth so if you are waiting to read The girl in the spider’s web ,why not try a bit of post world war two drama .

What are your thoughts on writers carrying on series after the original writer has died ?

 

The whales in Lake Tanganyika by Lennart Hagerfors

 

The whales in Lake tanganyika by Lennart Hagerfors

Swedish ficion

Original title – Valarna i Tanganyikasjön

Translator – Anslem Hollo

Source  – Personnel copy

 

Africa land for preachers gold
Land for everybody young and old
The place that holds for some bright future,
But for others the future tend to torture
Ma’ Africa.

What went wrong with your brains?
You kill each other you destroy human dignity
People of Africa lets stand together
And make it the land of hope!

I want to tell everybody about myself

ma africa by One giant leap featuring  The Mahotella Queens & ulal maybe captured the book a bit .Africa is a character in this book .

One of the things I love about shops like Oxfam that seem to get donate quality books is looking through the shelves and finding books that I’ve never heard off , and in this case titles that gr
.ab me .Lennart is a swedish writer , but had spent time in the Congo as a kid as his parents were missionaries .He is a literary critic as well as a writer , he has written twenty plus novels in Swedish .This looks to be the only one of his books to be translated into English in the late 1980’s , yet another Oxfam Chesterfield gem !

“My name is Stanley . Henry Morton Stanley  I am a correspondent for an american paper , the New York herald .Its manager , young James Gordon Bennett , jr has sent me out to lead an expedition into the heart of Africa .I am offering you the position of third man – you would be the third white man in the expedition .

Stanley offers Shaw the chance to join him .

The book follows Stanley’s journey through Africa( I keep saying africa as it is how it is described in the book it actually congo we are in )  to find David Livingstone .We are told the story by one of the other two white men that went with Stanley on this Quest to find Livingstone , John Shaw a drinker and ex sailor , but someone who has been in Africa a while and has let the place and people soak into him as a person and lets it still give him wonder he loves what he sees the wonders of the nature around him  , but in may ways is maybe a weak man who is in  love with world  around him .Then we see Stanley through his eyes this brash american has come to tame africa , has no time for customs or Shaw at times .This shows what is a well-known moment the meeting of  Stanley and Livingstone , through another’s eyes .But also shows the way westerns view on Africa  at the time . We follow the two men all the way to they meet Stanley .

Then Stanley got to his feet again slowly .

“Dr Livingstone . I presume ”

The old wretch barked a little laugh but then looked terrified again ..

Those famous words left Livingstone bewildered it seems here .

Now in some ways part of this book can be dated , but maybe inline with the way people spoke and view the world at the time and at times the speech used by Shaw and Stanley would be very offensive now .It also shows that one event remember the meeting can be viewed differently when seen  from another’s eyes .Lennart spent time in Congo which is of course where the actual meeting took place .Shaw was on the expedition with Stanley but  had left before he found Stanley so the part of the book where he sees the meeting is imagined .What we do see is Stanley maybe a brutal strong-headed man set on finding this man .Shaw is a softer figure a broken man in many ways but one in total awe of all that surrounds him .I was reminded of books like the secret history of Costaguana , a book that also tells another tale of colonial life all bit in latin america but the is parallels in how westerns treat the native folk .Well a gem from Sweden brought second-hand a real one evening book to read but you find yourself in 1870’s Africa in the deepest jungles struggling to find a missing Scottish man .A great way to spend an evening .

Have you a favourite books set in 19th Africa ?

The Ravens by Tomas Bannerhed

the ravens by tomas bannerhed

The Ravens by Tomas Bannerhed

Sweddish fiction

Orginial title – korparna

Translator Sarah Death

Source review copy

Tomas Bannerhed is a new writer this book was his debut novel it won the big August prize in Sweden and also a Boras prize for a debut novel .He has previously work as a teacher in university .The august prize committee praised it for been a bildungsroman firmly placed in the Swedish tradition .This is one of last years English pen choices .

Sit on the stone wall and see how many different bird calls I can make out ,waiting for the green woodpecker to show herself in the black hole ,poke her bayonet beak and at least say hello .No sign of life .Dead as a may day in church .My greeny yellow friend must have hacked out a home elsewhere ,moved away and laid he gleaming white eggs in a dead pine instead

Klas sees the birds as his friends in the chaotic world he lives in .

 

The ravens strangely enough arrived the same day as Crow blue a book I reviewed last year I had noted how strange it was to get books named after birds in the same family of birds ,in fact they also share narrators coming of age but unlike crow blue ,Klas is a young boy on the cusp of manhood .Klas lives in a rural farming community ,his family farm isn’t doing great this means is father Agne is struggling and is in fact going down a spiral into depression and woe .SO Klas has to live in this world his parents constant worry of how they are going to get by ,they expect him to one day take the family farm over .Klas is discovering the world around him ,girls and also he loves the nature around him especially birds .Klas struggles to order his life and how it is going to turn out for he sees beyond the farm and the life that has seemingly been mapped out for him .But as he is so young his fathwer despair wears of on him and he wonders if he is going mad him self .

“So you’re klas !” said Leo ,taking the floor  .” I recall Veronika mentioned you at some point .and now you are off to play Ornithologist ?”

“I wouldn’t call it playing “I said “we’re bound to hear mash warblers ,reed warblers and nightingales tonight and probably some common snipe and spotted crakes as well

“Oh will you ? well fancy that ”

Veroinka is Klas girl he is quite shy round her ,weren’t we all at that age !!

 

I loved this book ,it remind me so much of Black swan green ,a young man’s  struggle to grow into adulthood .I loved Klas world in some ways the seventies Sweden with its mentions of the world around him remind me of my own childhood .I could also associate with his feeling of despair at times as he sees adults struggle as I saw this many times in my own family growing up .Then there is the birds ,Klas is a keen birdwatcher ,this drove me right back to my childhood ,I was a member of the YOC  Young Ornithologists Club a junior club for birdwatchers so loved how Klas connect to the world around him and know why he did it as sometimes opening your eyes to the natural world can make your own world disappear .I hope this is a book that people pick up for in fact I felt as a story of a boy struggling into manhood it bets black swan green hands down ,which is saying something !!!

Have you a favourite book in the Bildungromans style ?

Oh Sweden ! Oh Israel ! by Stephan Mendel-Enk

Oh-Sweden-Oh-Israel

Oh Sweden ! Oh Israel ! by Stephan Mendel-Enk

Swedish fiction

Translator – Michael Lundin

Original title – Tre Apor

Source – review copy

Stephan Mendel-Enk ,is a Swedish Journalist and writer ,he is best known in Sweden for his soccer Journalism ,were he writes for the leading Swedish Soccer magazine Offside .He has also published a non fiction book on Violence  and being male  .He has  also worked in Radio  and the leading Newspaper  ,Oh Sweden ,Oh Israel is his début novel .The original Title is three apes I wonder if this is a reference to the three monkeys hear no evil ,see no evil ,speak no evil and how this relates to Jacob the main character in this book .

Next to the sofa in the living room was a piano .The opposite wall was covered by a brown bookcase .There were hundreds of books on the shelves .Colour photo books from when Israel celebrated its twentieth ,twenty fifth ,thirtieth and thiry-five anniversaries .One self with titles such as The Arab -Israeli Conflict and the Arab Israel wars .

The shelf at his Grans house show how drawn they are to Israel .

Well Oh Sweden ,Oh Israel follows ,Jacob a boy  who is on the cusp of manhood and we follow his life in the run up to his Bar Mitzvah  ,this is a classic coming of age novel .But then throw in Jacob is Jewish and his parents are about to split we have another couple of angles to move this above the mundane everyday Coming of age fiction .So Jacob struggles with who he is like most teenagers ,but with the fact he is part of the small Jewish community in Gothenburg  ,to say the  least of this Community ,is quite traditional the elders in it are mainly people who had escaped the Nazi during world war two they tend traditional views ,so his parents spilt has caused sparks as his mother has started to see a Man who isn’t Jewish  .Then we hear of how they should be New York type Jews and this is all 1987 and the first Intifada is happening in Israel so Jacob is stuck in little old Sweden just wanting to be a normal teen with all this going on in the background this leads to may and laugh and revelation .

She was from the soviet Union.I thought Soviet Jews were exciting .They had to suffer forcible incarcerations in mental hospitals ,work camps and police violence ,For one year in Hebrew school we’d had the Jews of the Soviet Union as our theme .Bewfore we broke up for the summer hoildays we stage our interpretation of the Dymshits-Kuznetovs hijacking affair in the meeting hall .

Jacob like the Girl Zaddinsky ,she came from Russia to Sweden ?

Well this has a huge vein of Jewish humour through it ,I was remind I not got to this last week when I watched the Woody Allen Documentary on TV ,Allen’s great line on growing up was this “what did you want to be when young ? Old !”,that same irony and at time self loathing and worry is rich in Mendel-Enk words  that conjure up the small community with in the large city and also the troubled family  ,tales of a mess up Circumcision ,leads to woe to his forthcoming Bar Mitzvah celebration .The nearest English writer to him is early Jacobson one can see echoes of the Gothenburg of Jacob and the Manchester evoked in some Jacobson novels.What we have is more than a coming of age novel but also a culture clash novel he is caught between being Swedish and being Jewish ,torn between his parents also caught to whom he is as a person   .The book is short only 140 pages  and packs a good punch for such a short book .

Have you a favourite book by a Jewish writer ?

The Emperor of lies by Steve Sem-Sandberg

The Emperor of Lies by Steve Sem-Sandberg

Swedish fiction

Translator Sarah Death

Steve Sem-sandberg is a Swedish writer ,his unusual first name is due to his parents living in the US ,when he was born he initially appeared at age 18 in 1976 with a debut novel a sci-fi and wrote a couple of others til in 1979 he stopped  and then 1987 he reappeared with a different style  existentialists new stuff has received high praise and he has won seven prizes including the august prize in 2009 for this book (this prize is the Swedish version of the booker ) he lived in Vienna during the writing of the book . He also translates into Swedish notably Jon Fosse and John Berger .

So what is Emperor of lies about it’s a thick book 650 pages long .It follows the story of Poland’s second largest Jewish Ghetto during world war two in Lodz . May I say right from the start this is a harrowing piece of Holocaust literature but one maybe people need to read .We meet Chaim Rumkowski or King Chaim as he is known ,we see how this man was maybe the best or worst thing in the ghetto as he tried to run things for the Jewish community inside the ghetto as he placed himself as the leader of the ghetto  ,whilst  also trying to keep the right side of the german tyrants .Chaim wasn’t the nicest of men but he kept the ghetto working hard and thus it was one of the last to have people sent to the concentration camps as it was profitable for the germans to keep it .This book sees how that was possible a warts and all account of the ghetto .

A person calling himself King Chaim had been holding court here for some days ,an old man of seventy with great ambitions a little crazy .He tells miraculous tales of the Ghetto in Lodz .There is Jewish state of four hundred police officers and three jails .He has own” ministry of foreign affairs ” and various other departments

The Jewish council in Warsaw struggles with Chaim’s claims .

Now this book has been compared to Dickens in a number reviews it is easy to see why but maybe an easier comparison would be Tolstoy’s war and peace as like that books focus on the Napoleonic war ,this focus on the ghetto and this like war and peace includes maybe a hundred characters .There is a handy index in the back to keep up with them ,also a map at the front which includes the polish and german street names this saved me some confusion  ,so Chaim was very organised having been a businessman before the war he spilt the ghetto into four got them their own police force and made sure they produced what the Germans needed maybe a little misguided in the  view .He also had a sister how is a damaged  soul .

Mrs Rumkowska and Princess Helena could not stand each other .Regina called Helena a crazy hysteric ,Helena called Regina a fanatical parvenu who had turned the head of an old man .

Chaim sister and his wife don’t see eye to eye .

Right my thoughts I was a bit weary of this one when it appeared on longlist ,I always worry about holocaust fiction that isn’t written by a survivor or some one of Jewish or other races that were connected to the  horrors of the camps and ghettos .But this is a wonderfully researched and thought out book it brings to life the daily feel of the ghetto and the pressures of the people living in the camps at the time .Sem-Sandberg has brough the dark corners of the ghetto The horrors violence and sheer abuse that faced everyone ,everyday in the ghetto  .We also see the problems faced by the leading figure in the Jewish community in the camp as they try to keep them selves from the gas chambers .Chaim wasn’t the nicest guy he had a thing for little girls and maybe with out the war would be detested by his own community ,but the war focused him as he held in his hand the lives of all the people in Lodz Ghetto . I found this harrowing book I ve read a number of Holocaust books both fiction and Non-fiction this is among the better written ones but I m not sure if the approach is 100% right .But maybe the time is right to look at how some of the Jewish people interacted at the time .As there are good and bad people on both sides of war .

Have you read this book ?

Steig Larsson my friend by Kurdo Baksi

Steig larsson my friend by Kurdo Baksi

Swedish Non fiction

Translated by Laurie Thompson

Steig Larsson is without a doubt the biggest success in translated fiction of recent times ,he also lead to the great number of Nordic crime books we see on our book shop shelves ,unfortunately he died before the huge success of the books he wrote hit home  ,so this book by a colleague and good friend of the man is a great insight into him as a person and writer .Kurdo Baksi a Kurd writer journalist and magazine owner , that has lived in Sweden since the 80’s like Stieg he is a figure in the anti fascist movement in Sweden and runs a magazine about anti fascism .he first meet Stieg in 1992 as their paths crossed with stieg,s non fiction books on the extreme right in Sweden and the shared beliefs in this movement grew into a great friendship .They both ran magazines Stieg Larsson Expo and Kurdo Baksi Svartitt .We let into the world of Swedish journalism where these two writers Stieg in particular walk a line of danger where because they have highlighted the extreme right with exposes of these movements ,they have to watch what they do ,then there is also the hate mail he got from the right-wing nutters .What you get is Stieg dedication to democracy   and freedom of speech this lead to long hours and as Kurdo put it a man fueled by cigarettes and coffee in equal measures .The two men are drawn closer when Stieg magazine runs into trouble so rather than let it go out of print he and Kurdo join together and publish the two magazines as one as Kurdo is a better business man than Stieg  .THE other thread of Stieg life that kurdo lets us  into is the personnel man Stieg lived with his partner Eva whom kurdo knows well and helps at times when she is worried about Stieg  had traveled a lot in his youth as a sort of backpacker spend time in africa this had a lasting effect on him .

On 30 november 1998 ,T.T . issued a newsflash .The anti racist journal Expo had been resurrected ,thanks to a merger with the swedish magazine svartvitt .

I was quoted ;”expo had been outstandingly good at investigating racism .but they never grasped how to make money .That is where I can help them ”

The magazine combine their talents .

So you can say I liked this book in fact I loved it read it in an evening as I want to learn  more a\nd more about Stieg I enjoyed the millenium trilogy when I read it and knew a bits about Stieg’s life, but this book fleshed out the scant facts I had . He comes across as a man who work hard in fact a real workaholic that slept very little  and cared for his fellow-man ,the millenium trilogy is just part of his story his activism was the bigger picture and that in turn is shown in the books of the millenium trilogy which the Kurdo appears in as a character .This bio is a loving tribute from someone who knew Stieg and admired him also due to working everyday with him for later part of Stieg life knew him as he worked on the books that made his name .

Have you read this or Stieg’s trilogy ?

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