The Black signs by Lars Mørch Finborud


 

 

 

The black signs by  Lars Mørch Finborud

Norwegian fiction

Original title – De svarte skiltene

Translator – Becky l Crook

Source personnel copy

Who’ll build a box for Black Paul?
Ah’m enquirin on behalf of his soul
Ah’d be beholdin to ya all
For a lil information, just a little indication
Just who’ll dig the hole?
When ya done ransackin’ his room
grabbin any damn thing that shines,
throw the scraps down on the street
Like all his books and his notes.
All his books and his notes and
All the junk that he wrote
the whole fucken lot right up in smoke
Ain’t there nuthin sacred anymore
Won’t someone will build a box for Black Paul?

rather large quote but I imagined this woman a bit like the character in this Nick Cave song 

Lars Mørch Finborud is a Norwegian writer born in Oslo , he also runs a record label and writes articles  for various magazines in Norway .This is his first novel , he has previously published books about the history of art about Bauhaus , Christopher Nielsen and performance art .

                          Jan Holmboe (1725 – 1762 )

It was here that Jan Holmboe was run over by a horse drawn carriage with a tipsy coach man on January 7 , 1767.He died four days later at the hospital in Christiania from injuries suffered

One of the black signs the lawyer finds maybe the first death to drink driving ?

Now it is interesting that Lars has written about art for that is one of the main parts of this book , it follows a lawyer as he enters a house of a dead client to catalogue all the items within the house for an auction .The book is in two parts really the first is a collection of letter he finds between the grandson of the houses owner and his friend .The discuss a lot of what is found in the house things like the black signs , these are memorial plaques to events and people , but in lots of ways minor people and events with no real sense behind them .Then there is the second thread in the book the objects this woman  , the grandmother collected and catalogue over a number of years .She kept things from people she met whether a napkin, a glass , letters , signed books .We see her interaction with some of the most famous figures from 20th century culture with each is a label of when where and who she got them from and what happen briefly  and the condition of each item as thou they were in a sale or mounted in a musuem .

HARALD SZEEMANN’S DIRTY NAPKIN(1971)

The napkin used by Harald Szeemann in the restaurant “La Vache ” in Kassel .Used to remove sour cream from his beard just before he scolded Alina Szapoczinhkow for asking if he could provide funding for the production of a large abdominal sculpture for Docenmta V. Szeemann had shout his response “You have to get resources and realize the project yourself and then and only then , will we decide whether it should appear in Documenta or not !” Alina stood up and left in protest , but grandma was able to grab the napkin before following he out of the door

Paper napkin and sour cream

G-(mold on the napkin)

jg24211

Harald Szeemann curated the fifth docuenta in Kassel the four yearly modern art show there , that I went to see a number of years ago there .

 

An interesting made book that builds a picture of a very eccentric woman whom we never really know fully just through these objects and signs .Also through her grandsons unanswered letters to his friend .A woman that touched but never found fame , that knew people but maybe was never fully known by all .A truly wonderful examination of what make people , the stuff we are , why do we keep certain things and if we went to this extreme where we kept everything that had been touch or given by the famous and talented .what are we when we die , will she end up with her sign or will her memories just be in the objects the lawyer is shifting through in this book ? A book that as one reviewer in Norway says gives you no answers maybe just makes you question who this woman and her grandson was and even more who is the mysterious friend that he has been written to but never seemed to have replied to all these letter ?

Do you like books that maybe make you paint the picture or fill the dots in for the story ?

Boyhood Island by Karl Ove Knausgaard

Boyhood island Karl Ove Knausgaard

Boyhood Island by Karl Ove Knausgaard

Norwegian fiction

Original title – Min Kamp Tredje Bok

Translator – Don Bartlett

Source – Library

 

“If growing up means it would be beneath my dignity to climb a tree, I’ll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up! Not me!

J M Barrie the writer of Peter Pan

 

Well book two is on the IFFP shortlist of Karl Ove Knausgaard six book collection My struggle and in the time it was longlist and shortlist Book three of the collection has come out in hardback .I have already read books one and two  and have loved a both of them so was excited to get to the halfway point (well not really in terms of pages as the next few books are longer ) .

We moved there in the summer of 1970 , when most of the houses on the site were still being built .The shrill warning siren ,which sounded before and explosion was a common feature of my childhood , and that very distinctive feeling of doom you can experience when shock waves from the explosion ripple through the ground causing the house to tremble was common too .

The house the Knaugaard family moved to on the Island .

So Boyhood island like the previous books is a fictionalized account of the life of Karl Ove Knausgaard ,so far we have seen his relationship with his father ,late teen years and the struggling start as a writer and young father .Now on book three we dive back to his earlier childhood a seventies Norway  we see Karl Ove ‘s school years unfold as he lives with his family in a series of places and small islands were his family settled .Karl Ove making friends ,seeing his parents change ,observing there relationship as a child in hindsight watching them argue .This is really a normal childhood made into high art every little piece of his childhood is taken apart what he ate ,what he watch , the early discovery of books , a love of comics etc etc . We do see what made the man but also what it was to be a child in the seventies in Norway .

The disagreements never lasted long, a few hours later I was playing with them again if I wanted , but there was something awry .I was finding myself in situations with my back against the wall more and more often ,the others were moving away more and more often when I approached , even Geir ,in fact ,on occasion I realised they were actually hiding from me .

Trouble at times Karl Ove struggled at times  with his temper .

Now I must say this one of the three actually is the book I have like least ,still with Karl Ove great style of writing but something feels more forced about this one maybe to many facts ,I felt as though he’d maybe tried to hard to remember his childhood and maybe like we all do is remember the parts around our childhood , in my case the spangles , jackanoary , having snails in my pockets ,childhood fights with my younger brother , playing with my younger brother as we made things out of lego .This is what we get here ,underneath is parts we have seen in the other books hints of troubles ahead between Karl Ove and his father .It didn’t quite click the writers voice in this just isn’t child like enough at times ,not that it is bad now there is still those flourishes of description that for me is his real strength to carry the everyday into something more than the everyday to us the reader is a rare talent .Will I be reading on of course so I will count down the days until vol four arrives with us this time next year .

Have you got this far with Karl Ove ?

The sorrow of angels by Jón Kalman Stefánsson

SOrrow of angels

The sorrow of angels by Jón Kalman Stefánsson

Icelandic fiction

Original title – Harmur englanna

Translator – Philip Roughton

Source – review copy

I might have speculated on my chances of going to Heaven; but candidly I did not care. I could not have wept if I had tried. I had no wish to review the evils of my past. But the past did seem to have been a bit wasted. The road to Hell may be paved with good intentions: the road to Heaven is paved with lost opportunities.

Apsley Cherry Garrard from his book the worst journey in the world .via goodreads

Well yesterday I covered part one of this trilogy Heaven and Hell  ,so far Jón Kalman Stefánsson has written nine novels and in 2005 won the Icelandic Literature prize .Like the first in this trilogy I read this on more than one occasion the prose are very rich and need to be savoured on more than one occasion I feel .

It’s snowing .The snowflakes fill the vault of the sky and pile up on the world .The wind is gentle and drifts hold their shape ,The surface of the sea is calm and ceaselessly swallows the snow .

Weather but a little calmer than in other parts of the book .

Well I think that quote sums this book up well ,the book follows a journey taken by the still unnamed boy who was one of the main characters in the first book and Jens a postman as they seek to deliver a package for a doctor in the hinterland of Iceland .Now the boy an orphan whom in the first book lost his good friend seems a much more rounded character in this book one who because of his past has fallen in love with books .The journey sees the two battle each other and the elements around them and maybe grow to know each other from this shared journey .As they move from farm to farm to get the item delivered .

The coffee brews .

Oh, the aroma of this black drink !

Why do we have to remember it so well ;it’s been so very long , since we could drink coffee , many decades ,yet still the tast and pleasure haunts us .Our bodies were devoured to the last morsel long ago .

As a coffee lover Stefanssson often mentions coffee .

Snow ,snow ,snow ,cold ,wind this is maybe the book summed up in five words what we have here like the first book is a book is about man and his surrounds ,how we can conquer most things but the elements still even now (although this book is set a hundred years ago ) we struggle in the worst conditions to get by .Again the book is told in a collective voice ,an echo of a past gone but kept alive in these pages .The journey they are  undertaking is maybe an eternal one that man has been taken since the beginning of time  , the one that isn’t about getting there but about taking the journey .Philip Roughton has caught what I call the cold feel of the book ,I assume there is more in Icelandic about cold and cold weather but he has still managed to make you feel a real chill down your spine ,this would be a great book to read on a hot summers day as it will cool you down .This is another from this years IFFP it is on our shadow shortlist .

Have you read either of the books by this writer ?

 

Heaven and Hell by Jón Kalman Stefánsson

heaven and hell

Heaven and Hell by Jón Kalman Stefánsson

Icelandic fiction

Original title Himnaríki og helvíti

Translator – Philip Roughton

Source review copy

Down dropped the breeze, the sails dropped down,
‘Twas sad as sad could be;
And we did speak only to break
The silence of the sea!

From the rim of the ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge .

Now this is a book I have read three times in the last year and it wasn’t till the last rereading this last weekend I finally got what I felt  Jón Kalman Stefánsson was trying to get across . Jón Kalman Stefánsson is an Icelandic writer ,that studied Literature but then didn’t pass his final exams ,so drifted into teaching ,then became a librarian in Denmark ,before deciding to become a writer which he now does full-time .Heaven and Hell is the first in a trilogy of novels ,tomorrow I’ll be reviewing the second book Sorrow of angels ,but too this book now .

The sea is cold and sometimes dark it is a gigantic creature that never rests , and here no-one can swim except for Jonas who works in the summers at the Norwegian whaling station , the Norwegians taught him how to swim , he is called either the Cod or the Sea-wolf the later more fitting considering his appearance .

I loved the image I got here of Jonas .

Heaven and Hell is the story of a boy ,a boat ,the crew of the boat ,a good man losing his life .But it’s more than that its a feeling a world gone the voices in the book are from the past telling of a world that was a world where Fishermen would read Paradise lost .The crew now have to head out further to get the cod one Crew man Barður whom was the one that was reading Milton ,left some of his gear behind and thus dies of the cold  and wet minus his waterproof gear ,this is a harsh world the rest of the crew seem unbothered by this event apart from one the Boy whom is  the other main character of this book we don’t know his name but he sets of with Barður book across the Island to return this book to its original owner a Blind sea-captain .Along the way he meets a bunch of almost surreal characters .A quest to return the book .

Hell is not knowing whether we are alive of dead

I live ,she lives ,they live ,he dies

This rough conjunction stuck us like a mace on the head ,because the story about the boy ,the snow ,the huts ,almost made us forget our own deaths .

I finally grew to love passages like this .

Now the reason I struggled with this book ,I feel is the style of writing is a style I’m not readily use to a collective voice ,but also I like to get a foothold in a story rather like a climb that little slither of rock I can balance and see what is ahead and in the first two reading I didn’t get that and I feel part of that was wanting to compare this to the few other Icelandic novels I have read ,which it really is very different ,so on this last reading I sat and just like a boat set sail in his prose and Got it and actually went Dam Tony whom I know loves this and the follow-up book was right  .How did I make this break it was using my own life and remember a visit to a fishing museum(s) in Fife ,looking after a lady twenty years ago that followed the Herring fleet up the north coast of England and Scotland during the 20s and 30s ,the small fishing huts I passed once a week in Northumberland all shot into my mind as I turned the pages for a third time and I just went why (but that is the beauty of books and rereading  it took me to try to see the beauty and sometimes we need to break something down and just let it drift over us ) .The world you are drawn into is one of hard men , the cruel sea and a boy looking beyond this world and making more of it .Milton maybe this is the world of Paradise lost in the flesh these fishermen are the cast out souls of Paradise lost .I was remind also in this last reread of Under Milkwood ,how much was I had seen it a week earlier but it evokes the same world feel that dark, tough but very real world that Thomas did in his verse poem .

.Fisherman's_hut_by_the_Ouse_with_view_of_Lindisfarne_Castle._-_geograph.org.uk_-_286907

The hut I remember from Northumberland very like the world in this book picture by Attribution: Jonathan Billinger

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 ?

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