We’ll call you by Jacob Sundberg

We’ll call you by Jacob Sundberg

Swedish fiction

Original title – Vi hör av oss

Translator – Duncan J lewis

Source – review copy

I recently did a collection of books from Norway for the Publisher of this book Nordisk books here is my list I will at a later date be doing another list for them. Anyway, enough advertising myself lol. Jacob grew up in a working-class area he says on his website and he saw the towns fall down as industries shut and the folk remain stoic. So he decided to come to London is search of a tweed jacket and pipes a vision of a user that he found had gone well I have a Twitter friend that was a tweed fan but pipe smoking isn’t the thing although I had a pipe in my twenties and own a tweed jacket. Oh well, he left and returned to Sweden and he lives near Småland. It is worth looking at his website the intro about himself even translated into English via Google is very funny. Yes, this is a comic book in fact it is a book about modern life and the humor they’re within.

But the main reason for Hansson wanting to look relaxed and untterly untroubled when the man walked in , as that he to all appearances was a foreigner. He had an exotic name: Said Ansari. If there was anything Hansson wished for it was that these poor refugees would feel welcome, treated the same was as everyone else. To be unruffled in this situation was , in other words , absolutely necessary

Said could of course be a good kid in spite of his orgins, thought Hansson He was after all very careful to treat everyone equallym even foreigners, yes especially foreigners, something he often pointed out, I barely see that they’re different from us, that they’re dark and swarthy, he used to say, He didn’t think such thungs, for he saw the person inside, he was a really good man, that’s what everyone thought.

This just shows what will happen to Hansson that feeling he is maybe not as PC as he things is just under the surface here!!

As I said this is a collection of stories around modern life jobs the interviews we all have to do these days. There are nine stories in the collection I’m going to mention two that I liked. The first is the first story in the collection An exotic touch see Alfred  Hansson is interviewing people for a new job in his business when he has the next candidate Said Ansari is where it all starts to fall apart for Hansson as he gets himself into a sort of Political correctness maze in trying to be PC but wanting to discover more about this man and his exotic name he just ends up in a real twist. Hansson is one of those people that in trying to be correct just keeps putting his foot in his mouth. will Said take the job will Hansson give him the right impression of the company? The second story is another interview here for an office supply company in the story That’s just so me. We see Carina going for an interview at the company One Eniar Bark had built from scratch an office supply company that had seen of competitors in the area he trades in over the years. So when carina is interviewed Einar starts talking about himself his business holidays with the wife, like a time he had a splendid pizza in Italy. He occasionally lets carina talk at one point she says she has a passion for painting and this leads him to reveal a longing to be a poet and for him to show her a poem. Which she says is great. But when later he says he looks for honesty in his staff what is she to do about his dreadful poem be honest or not! how will he react? Elsewhere there is a cu that offends, a singer winning a pop idol contest, and a man trying to escape going to his school reunion.

A stone, A black stone

Big as a mountain

It blocked the way

Everyone was astonished

who can dislodge the stone?

A character approached

His face like flint

Followed by cinders

He. He can dislodge the stone

Everyone was astonished

The stone turned to sand

Carin wait, thought there would be more. When he looked up she said “Great”

“Not exactly oine of my best ones, I wrote it whe I was building the warehouse There was lots of hurdles, They didn;t want a warehouse here

EInar shows Carina his awful poem she initally says Greay but what will she say later on when he asks again!

This is a witty collection of reflections on modern life and how we can all get in twists. The two examples I choose both have a point where things start to go wrong. The man Hansson is just one of those people that is trying to be too PC but gets in such a twist by not saying what he should instead off that he goes around the bush and ending up sound worse than he wanted to and the second story we see what happens when an Ego is interview Einar has a huge Ego and Carina maybe can’t see this as she just sees a windbag. But when she has a chance what is she to do !! These are funny stories that even though set in Sweden still ring true to the \Engoish reader I could see characters I have met and worked within most of the characters in this book. From someone that wants the truth but really doesn’t to the person that will let one thing out of place upset them as we see when a Mug is in the wrong place. A great collection for a dark winter night a laugh or two and a book that can be read in an evening. Have you a favorite comic story?

The siege of Troy by Theodor Kallifatides

The siege of Troy by Theodor Kallifatides

Swedish fiction

Original title – Slaget om Troja

Translator – Marlaine Delargy

Source – review copy

Here is a work by the Greek Immigrant Swedish writer Theodor Kalifatides after doing his military service in Greece he emigrated in his early twenties to Sweden. First, as a teacher of philosophy as a school at the university, he was then editor of one of the best know Swedish literary magazines. He has written over forty novels he was one of the first writers to touch on immigration in Swedish fiction. He was chairman of Swedish pen in the nineties here he has taken a classic greek work and reworked it around the world war two.

So I thought I would do that too. I will tell you the story of the Iliad from memory for as long we’re sitting here.”It’s not as if we have anything else to do””

That was true. WE didn’t have anything else to do in the cave, apart from trying to protect ourselves from the assorted bugs.

“So when was thios war ?” Dimitra asked.

“”It was very long time ago- more than three thousand years,” Miss replied.

Dimittra sighed. “Can’t wait”.

Miss took no notice. I didn’t think it sounded very excing either, but as I said we didn’t have much else to do, so Miss began her story

She told of her hearing Homer from professional actor when she was a young girl. The boys aren’t to keen at first but they get gripped by it.

This is told from the perspective of a pupil at a small Greek village we never know his name his friend is called Dimitra. As it is nearing the end of the second world war and the Germans are still in Greece but there is a sense of the end. But they are being bombed when they end up in a cave and the young female teacher that they adore even when later she has found herself a boyfriend our narrator forgives her. She decides the best way to take the boy’s and girls’ minds of the bombing and what has been happening she decides to recount the Iliad from memory. As a child, she had seen it told to her by an old man a performer that went from town to town doing Homer works. Initially they arent keen but she grabs them with this 3000-year-old tale!So as the days go by we are given small chunks of the Trojan war this is interspersed with the events around the village as the children rush to her there teacher telling the next part of the story like Helen and her two loves that eventually they face each other in battle. These battles are mirrored in the real world.

The two armies rushed at each other like waves rushing towards the rocks, Honors were even to begin with, and both sides lost many men and horses it wasn’t until the afternoon that Acheans gained the upper hand, not least to agamemnon their supreme commander, who strode along mowing down his opponents like a farmer scything his wheat. He showed no mercy, not even when two inexperienced young men fell to their knees and begged for their lives. It is the first time we kill that is difficult after that, it quickly becomes habit.

The great Greek leader Agamemnon in the war is fearless and ruuthless as he kills at will maybe an echo to the present !!

This is a clever way to make the work of Homer available to new readers, I am not well-read in the classics .but this is a clever way to open the door to classics. He has made it readable by trim parts of the original but making you want to read the original. There is also a clever mirroring of the events that are read and the events in the present for Miss and her pupils. The Iliad showed the horrors of the Trojan war but we maybe could have done with a more violent present would have been interesting but the main character is just 15 and not yet a man he knows what is happening but isn’t involved so we just see the glimpse a 15 year would see of the war of the Nazi’s parading around. He had reworked The Iliad into a more mortal version of the work playing down the god’s role which given the setting of Miss telling the story to her adoring pupils is apt.

 

Welcome to America by Linda Boström Knausgård

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome to America by Linda Boström Knausgård

Swedish fiction

Original title – Välkommen til Amerika

Translator – Martin Aitken

Source – review copy

I featured this on my woman in translation month covers post it is the second novel by the Swedish novelist Linda Bostrom Knaugard is the ex-wife of the Norwegian writer Karl Ove and her mother was a well known Swedish actress. She has written three novels her first glimpse of fame was a dark collection of short stories called Grand Mal.  She has bipolar which was part of a Swedish documentary about her life living with it. She has also written a daily column for a regional Swedish newspaper.

He was dead. All at once, great spaces opened inside me. Spaces the silence filed, An immense calm came over me in the beginning, and the sense that this what had always been missing.

I never let on to anyone about me, god, and my dad. That knowledge was something I had to bear myself

What else did my thought say? They lurked and pounced on me. The were noisy, and I batted the air with my hab=nds, the way you do to swat a fly

This shows how she reacted to her fathers death and the thoughts about him.

Welcome top America has a young narrator called Ellen. Her family is a strange collection her brother is barricaded in his room and is using bottles to urinate in. Her mother is an actress she is also the rock of the family and is acting as thou every in the family is normal. She struggles with her daughters silence and what she says. Ellen is under the belief she has killed her father. The father is mentally ill and he has been institutionalized and has terrorized the family for. years but he has died and the past is shown in Ellen remember how he was with them,. Ellen has stopped talking what we have is her internal monologue on those around her family of light as she says about her family this comes from her mother. Our narrator often wished her father died for the way he had made the family feel so when she prayed for him to die in a fire and that happens it sends her into a mute spiral of guilt.

Before, I would often go with my mum to the theatre. I don’t do that anymore, I hear her go lout and come back The last time I saw her perform she was a fallen statu of liberty wishing the immigrants welcome to America. She was bald, with a shard of mirror stuck on her brow. She’d lost her torch. I loved it. The way they’d made her up. The way she shone and shone on the stage. Welcome to america, Welcom to America

I felt the urge to write those exact words in my notebook. But I stopped myself. You’ve got to be strict. You can’t just follow the impulses that criss-cross the mind in their little tunnels of light.I could see my thoughts.They were everywhere

The lines she quotes are mixed up later with an image of her father saying them as well.

This is a short dark powerful book the paperback is 122 pages but or huge text and well-spaced out so is more of a novella than a novel. It shows the exploding from the child’s view when one has an abusive parent from isolation to silence in the two children and in a way with the in denial it has effect everyone. Ellen is a stark narrator she has captured that child-like view of the world very black and white and how the guilt of prayer for what would be a new life without her father there has cost her the voice and made her withdraw. The mother keeps them together but is also in denial about what happened the title is a reference to the fact she is in a play about the Statue of Liberty and this is maybe a nod to what it says on the statue “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” Tis is just what this family need the light of liberty and the healing of liberty ! A powerful work this is like a mini-series taken down to a great trailer it seems more than it parts.

 

The faculty of Dreams by Sara Stridsberg

The Faculty of Dreams

The Faculty of Dreams by Sara Stridsberg

Swedish fiction

Original title – Drömfakulteten

Translator – Deborah Bragan-Turner

Source – review copy

This is the second of the Man Booker longlist that wasn’t out at the time the Longlist came out. But it was brought forward and came out a few weeks after. Sara Stridsberg was trained as a Lawyer but decide she wants to be a writer. She won acclaim for her first novel Happy Sally wich liked this book focused on a real person in that book it was the first Scandinavian woman to swim the English Channel. She has also worked as a translator. She worked on the Swedish version of The SCUM Manifesto from the main character of this book Valerie Solanas. This book won the Nordic council literature prize the biggest prize in Scandinavian fiction

A hotel room in the tenderloin, San Francisco’s red-light district. It is Alril 1988 and Valerie Solanas is lying on a filfthy mattress and urine-soaked sheets, dying of pneumonia,Outside the window, pink neon lights flash and porn music plays day and night.

On April 30 her body is found by hotel staff. The police report states that she is found kneeling by the side of her bed( has she tried to get up?Has she been srying?) It states that the room is in perfect order, papers neatly piled on the desk, clothes folded on a wooden chair by the window. The police reports also states that her body is covered with maggiots and her death probably occurred around April 25

The opening is the sad end of this poor womans life.

This book is a novel that tries to build a life for the radical feminist Valerie Solanas. She wrote the radical SCUM Manifesto. That put forward the theory that Man had ruined the world and it was up to the woman to mend the world and get rid of all the men. The society of cutting men as it stood for. This follows her life from her tough childhood where she was abused and ended up at a young age on the streets battling to get to college and how to see ended up in the New York her life is a mix of ups and downs and also a lot of mental illness so she never quite seems to have control of her world and even some of her friends like cosmo and silk boy verge on being surreal the action is told in conversations with Valerie both with the likes of Andy Warhol whom she had sent a play to that was too graphic for even him. She even ended up with a part in one of his films. She was on the verges of his factory scene. But that leads to what is maybe what she was most famous for and that was trying to kill him after she had a turn and want the script back she had sent him years earlier and shot him. There is clips of the trail what Stridsberg tries to build is a fuller picture of this deeply troubled woman. Her frequent visit to mental hospitals shows how fragile she was.

The Narrators

A. A heart full of black flies. The loneliness of a desert. Landscape of stones. Cowboys. Wild mustangs. An alaphbet of bad experiences.

B. Blue soke on the mountains. I am the only sane one here.There were no real cowboys. There were no real pictures. I vacuumed all the rooms; the dust was still there. I cleaned all the windows; I still could not breathe. It had something to do with the construction. The sun burned through the umbrellas.

C. The american film. The camera’s lie’s. World literature’s. America was a big adventure with its unreal blue mountains, its desert landscape.

The books has couple of alphabets like this one.

I was aware of Valerie mainly as she is part of the song cycle that Lou Reed and John Cale did for the songs of Drella which mentions Valerie and what happened with Andy. Sara has tired here to maybe make her seem a slightly more complete person rather than have that one event be the epitaph of her life. This pieces her life from her abuse and living her family and the times on the streets which meant she sold her body and also it fixed those ideas which she wrote about in her Manifesto as all men as a rapist. Her view was extremes but this shows how they were formed by her own life which was tragic. She also recently featured in an Episode of American horror story the cult series but this is maybe the best version of her life it brings a cinematic view of her life. I was reminded of some French novels of recent years that also take a real person as the central figure and build a novel around it from HHHH to The adversary and build a life narrative like that.

Any means necessary by Jenny Rogneby

 

 

Any Means Necessary

Any means necessary by Jenny Rogneby

Swedish crime fiction

Original title – Alla medel tillåtna

Translator – Agnes Broome

Source – review copy

I don’t often take crime novels but something in Jenny’s bio grabbed me I like a writer that has maybe trodden the same path as there characters so when I saw that was she had studied criminology and worked as an investigator in Stockholm the same as Leona the lead character. Now if that wasn’t enough she was in a Swedish pop group cosmo4 that in there time was an opening act for Michael Jackson. She was also adopted as a baby from Ethiopia. This book is the second in a series but I had no feeling that I had to read the first book in the series to read this it managed to stand alone.

He adjusted the heavy belt strapped around his hips, relieving the pressure from the steel cylinders that made the waistband of her trousers chafe against his skin. The wire connecting them to the detonator shifted outside of his right trouser leg. He grabbed the trigger. Squeezed it hard. His hand was damp. Sweat? He didn’t know,

The only thing was the mission.

His final mission

One push of a button and everything would be over

The opening lines as the bomber does the unthinkable and blows himself up.

The book opens when a man blows himself up outside the parliament building in Stockholm. Now he managed to survive this bombing. Now he is facing Leona as she tries to find out if this man is just a loner or part of a wider plan of terrorism. This is the main story but we also have a side story of Leona own life she is in a piece she has family problems but even more than that she owes a lot of money to a gangsterArmand and he is breathing down her neck to get all his money back as soon as possible. Now Leona is a clever officer and streetwise she start to give training to other criminals to avoid getting caught but this is merely her way of finding a group of criminals to pull a heist she has in mind to finally get the monkey off her back. Meanwhile, she is still under pressure from her new boss at work that is pushing her to find out what the man called Fred in the hospital was doing. She walks a tightrope leading to explosive ends!

It was Monday morning and I had forced myself to go to the hospital. I had to wrap this up, This was going to be my last interview with Fred Sjostrom. After that I wouldn’t have to deal with the sterile walls, the hospital smell, the tubes and the machines.

Fred had claimed he wanted to tell me everything, but I wasn’t about spend hoursdragging information out of him. He had been given plenty of chances already

I had to setr a camera so that I would finally be able to show Alexander , once and for all, that my sitting in his room, listening to the threee words an hour he deigned to squeeze out, was indefensible waste of taxpayers money.

Fred talks but it takes time and also shows how long a case can take to put together.

Well as I said Jenny had been a police investigator so the inner workings of Leona as she works to find out what happened. Now the other side  Of Leona as the character the mastermind behind getting a group of criminals to do a heist I feel is maybe using character she had met during her years in Stockholm and using them in small parts here. Leona is maybe a classic anti-hero you want to dislike her for what she does but find it hard as in some ways she has her heart in the right place. The book maybe follows on from what happened in Stockholm in 2010 where there was a suicide bomber blew outside the Norwegian broadcast building in Stockholm which was the first Islamic attack in the Nordic countries so we aren’t sure if it is that or a local lone wolf and then we have her other life that shows even police officers have lives outside of their job. Leona has money problems I think this is a carry on from events in the first book but also maybe has the most out of the box idea in her heist idea. A crime tale with two great storylines and an interesting lead character imagine if Morse or Holmes had turned to crime to fund the drink and drug habits they may have been the same in fact I’m sure Holmes mused that he would have been the best criminal had he gone down that path and Leona is the same her savvy and knowledge means she stays steps ahead.

The dwarf by Pär Lagerkvist

Image result for the dwarf par lagerkvist

The Dwarf by Pär Lagerkvist

Swedish fiction

original title – Dvärgen

Translator – Alexandra Dick

Source – personal copy

When Simon and Kaggy announced the 1944 club, I searched the list of books published that year and this was one that jumped out at me especially when I saw the cover. Par Lagerkvist was a Nobel winner. He grew up in a house where the books he had to read were the Bible and the book of common prayer. But in later life he didn’t turn against religion he was a socialist but had a deep interest in what man his symbols and God. What man’s position is in that world. This book is a perfect example of what he did in a lot of his writing question what is good and Evil.

What abput the Prince ? Does he suspecgt nothing? or maybe everything?

It looks as thpugh the matter of her secret life did not exist for him. But cannot tell, with him one can never be quite sure of anything. He consorts with her in the daytime, and it seems as though he himself were daytime in person , for he is so utterly irrahited with the light of day. It is odd that such a person should be  beyond my comprehension – just he! but perhaps that is because I am his dwarfm and again – he does not understand me either !

This passage does make you wonder is Piccoline is just another side of the Prince .

The book is narrated from the point of view of the dwarf of the title he is the court Jester  Piccoline. He is in the court of an Italian Principality. He has the ear of the prince. He is also told secrets by other members of the court such as their lovers and who is doing what which gives him a greater insight into the inner workings of the town. But this little guy has a real twist of evil in him he is a true Machiavellian figure. The town they live in is in many a feud with the local towns. This is et in the 15th century Italy around the same time as some of the other villages built great big towers here they have hired Bernardo to do some painting (This character could be a version  Leonardo Da Vinci) The town could be Milan but the time and place isn’t ever really mentioned so for me it is just a mixture of tale of the time when Italy was made of small towns and states that were at constant battle what is the problem here is the dwarf they all see as just a jester in a way is twisting them and helps the prince when he has to poison someone for the Prince he does this as he hates the person but he hates everyone around him he isn’t the jovial figure they think he is as we see how he sees the downfall of his town and the violence he has in part he has unleashed.

I am no blasphemer. It was they who blasphemed, not I , but the prince had me clapped in irons for several days. The little jest had been intended to amuse, but I had to spoiled it all and the guests had been very upset, almost scared. There were no chains small enough so they had to be specially mad, and the smith thought it was a great deal of trouble for such a short sentence. But the prince said that it might be as well  tohave them another time. he let me go sooner than he had planned

Again is the dwarf real  and does the prince really see the dark side of him and what he has inside him .

I was drawn in by Piccoline narration of his life he is truly a dark figure. He is maybe more of a dwarf on the inside and that is the question is he a real figure or maybe just the dark side of the Prince of the town. His dark inner child in a way the acts and thoughts of Piccoline has that childlike way of seeing good and evil as he views the world as very black from his mere 26 inches. This is the reason I love events like 1944 club is they make you look out older books. I have always tried Nobel winners when I have seen their books around second hand so I would have got to Lagerkvist at some point but this coming out in 1944 meant I got to it sooner. Lagerkvist does seem to question through Piccoline what our actions are when we are faced with violence and conflict around us. A lost gem of world literature as this seems to be out of print at the moment!!

The dog by Kerstin Ekman

 

The dog by Kerstin Ekman

Swedish fiction

Original title – Hunden

Translators – Linda Schenck and Rochelle Wright

Source – personal copy

I move to Sweden tonight and a fable of man and dog. Kerstin Ekman is one of the best known Swedish writers. She was the third female member of the Swedish Academy, but since a controversy over their reaction to Salman Rushdie, she hasn’t been an active member. She has won a number of awards including the Selma Lagerlof prize and the Nordic Council Prize. Her main body of work is crime fiction. So this book is different from her. It was also made into a short film.

A storm from the west is like a broom, a grey blast sweeping across lake and forest. Afterwards tere’s no trace of ski or snowmoble tracks, of animal or bird, no wads of snuff around the fishing holes, no bait, no blood. Everything is fresh, white and smooth.

Now, the morning after the storm, no one could see the tracks from the man on the snowmobile. The weather had cleared. The sun hadn’t risen and the sky shifted towards green as the day grew light. The silver of moon above the hill faded. Itr looked tenuous and tattered.

The morning when the pup wakes up after he lost his mother.

Now, this is an unusual book as it is told from the point of view of the dog of the title. We join him as a young pup as he follows his mother one winters day into the forest and he ends up losing here as they get caught in a snowstorm and he manages to sleep under a tree overnight and awakens alone and by himself in the world the dark foreboding forest of Sweden he is initially wary of every sound and shadow and movement he sees. We see this world of forest creatures and plants as he starts to find food and discover his way and which animals to follow like the fox for food. the scent of small creatures he can capture as the dog grows. This feral dog starts getting near to the men that live on the edge of the woods in the cabins first wary he smells them sees there dogs. But one starts to leave food and the last third of the book sees this timid feral dog remembering a past and is drawn towards the man will he come home to men or stay feral?

Slushy water and sour lingonberries. Feathers ion the moss, straggly odourless. Nothing but water in his aching stomach, wet paws in the marsh. Push on, push on, slow and soggy chew on feathers, suck on bones. Water dripping on nose, stinging eyes and aching belly. Traipse and trudge. Crouch with belly to the snow. Push on ith nose to the ground.Odourless water, meltwater.Hungerwater.

The moon creeps on the forest. The night is not silent it purls and ripples, it twitters and rustles. Up, keep goiung across pathy ground. Body uneasy, forest uneasy. Patches of moonlight and snow, patches of shadow and dark marshland.

SHe captures the world so well and the dog trying to get through it.

I picked this up as there wasn’t much ij my local Oxfam the day I visited and hadn’t considered reading it till today when I pulled it off the shelf and sat and read it in one sitting, What Kerstin does is draw the reader into the life of the dog the smells sounds and feel of the forest he is in is described in such touching detail as we see the frighten pup grow to a dog ravaged at times but living on his own it is only when he sees the man he starts to become a dog again and the man’s grey dog. This is a fable about nature the savage but beautiful side of nature how hard it is to survive but also in part about how we have to live with nature as we see the forest in the dog’s eyes the sight and sound he sees show him what is happening in the forest. It mixes the classic boy growing up against the odds and coming through. We also see the bond of man and dog. Yes, this is one for dog lovers if you like the incredible journey (the old film, not the j fox vehicle you will see the dog surviving in the wild). It also had some stark illustrations in the book that was linocut in style.

Love/war by Ebba Witt-Brattström

Love/War cover

 

Love/war by  Ebba Witt-Brattström

Swedish Fiction

Original title –  Århundradets kärlekskrig

Translator – Kate Lambert

Source – Review copy

I was lucky to get sent the second book from Nordisk books. After Havoc, I wondered what they would choose for the second book. They have chosen a modern novel that has a lot of style about it. It is written by Ebba  Witt-Brattström a well-known figure in Sweden for her feminist setting up one a feminist party in Sweden, which she has since left she is also a professor of Nordic Literature in Helsinki. This is her first book to be translated into English.

He said:

I duppose this morning

wasn’t worse

than usual.

It wn’t get

any better than this.

It’s far more probable

that from now on

goodwil

on either side

will decrease

by a few percentage points

a week.

I don’t know

what could possibly

turn that process

around.

The opening lines of the book show the husband as cold in his way as he accepts the way things are.

We have a novel that is in the form of two voices the two voice indicate just as he and she throughout the book. They are a married couple. what we see here is an unleashing of  two minds that in many ways are the same but due to a lifetime spent together there paths have gone in a classic mid 20th century marriage where the man has been allowed to take the lead and the “classic male role” and what we see is the pent-up anger of  the wife, but also a husband that  has allowed his wife not pursue her dreams and has over time underappreciated her role by calling her a pussy a sub. She has grown afraid of him the love that burnt so bright has turned to pure hate. The final nails in the coffin of a marriage seen in the last conversations they take at each other. Like two expert fencers diving in the point of a blade in the form of words trying to draw blood from one another.

She said

speak for yourself.

Ypur idealisation of

the woman’s feelings for the man

doesn’t seem to apply to the man’s

feeling for the woman.

Love is a story of a couple.

not the conditional submission

of one party

to the needs of the other.

BE WHITE MAN’S SLAVE

You are only enthralled

by the woman’s sacrifice.

you call that love.

My arse

She said:

Now I have dreamt two nights in a row

that I was happy and carried a knife in my hand,

a bloody knife, and my heart was as light as a bird

She puts her anger so well her the way she has felt like his slave during the later part of the marriage now she has seen love turn to hate.

I loved the detached nature of the voices. As the book unwinds we are given breadcrumbs of their lives as we gather what lead them to this position. I was reminded of Beckett in the voices .The way the work is just voices brought to mind the classic piece by him Not I, which was a female voice like this one that is full of bile of a lifetime of being put in her place this is the voice of a woman that has had her dreams spurned. This is the story of a marriage splitting, a battle voiced in words that has the feeling of being very real. the fact the writers own marriage broke up around the time this book came out it. The books original title in Swedish is a nod to another classic Nordic work that of the love of the century by Martha Tikkanen the Finnish writer.where a woman tries to voice her anger towards her alcoholic husband.

The White city by Karolina Ramqvist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The White city by Karolina Ramqvist

Swedish fiction

Original title – Den Vita Staden

Translator – Saskia Vogel

Source – review copy

I end this woman in translation month with another great  Nordic novel from a female writer this time the Swedish writer Karolina Ramqvist. Most of the best female writer I have enjoyed the last few years have been Nordic Lena Anderson and Therese Bohman both Swedish writers as well spring to mind. This book won the Per Olov Enquist lit prize in Sweden. Karolina Ramqvist has written novels short stories and essays. She has also been the editor in Chief of Dagens Nyheter. Her books have translated into many languages this is her debut in English.

He’d been the one who’d wanted to have kids. He had whispered his wishes in her ear. Suggesting a new direction for them, an opportunity. Word after Word, long decriptions of how he loved her and what it would be like to have another her, wh was also one of him .

For him, the idea of a child was a window opening; for her it was one closing. She thought of all the women she’d seen stand before their men, holding out their children and pleading for them to change rheir ways.

Dream was more his idea than her Idea.

 
This is a modern tale in a way, one of greed but what happens when greed leads to Crime. This is the story of one woman after that happen, Karin, She married to John. A man who gave her social status with his money. But it turns out he was on the wrong side of the law and now she is alone in her huge home. That isn’t going to be her home much long as the vultures are circling her life of high spending is over. She has very little time to sort out the future for her, but she also has her baby Dream one they had planned together. But she has now left Holding the baby as John is gone. She is trying to reach out to friends and family to stop losing everything to the government. 
She lay on the sofa with Dream. The sky was heavy and the air was too; it felt as thick as fog. She didn’t know how man days had gone sice she’d last gone outside.
She pushed the blanket and robe to one side and positioned herself so he r nipple nudged dreams round cheek. Eyes closed, she opened wide and turned her head, taking the breast in her mounth and pressing her tiny hand against it so it would empty more quickly.
Dream and her alone in the house for days on end
 
This is the tale of what happens when the good times go and the wife is holding the baby as her world a. she knows is crumbling around her. This like the other Nordic novel I have read by Swedish female writers. It is about strong female voices even thou her world is falling apart and her baby is still being breast fed. she is managing to keep it all together. A tale of what you do when those nearest have betrayed you and left you hanging and you were oblivious to it all going on around you. A woman her baby and the bad weather drawing in and trying to keep her warm and feed. Whilst the cold draws in the large house, even down to stealing the neighbour’s wi-fi. Ramqvist makes the weather feel cold as winter draws in around the former family home that she has little time left in. 

 

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 .

 

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