The unseen by Roy jacobsen

The unseen by Roy Jacobsen

Norweigian fiction

Original title – De Usynlige

Translators – Don Bartlett and Don Shaw

Source – review copy

Well I’m a year late reviewing this one it was one of those that fell through the net of books , I get sent a number have my own and library books sometimes one misses some great books so when it was on the Man booker longlist , I was pleased I had a copy near at hand  and with the shadow shortlist due out tomorrow ,I’m reaching the final few books of this years list. Roy Jacobsen life is interesting he spent time in Prison as a youth as he was involved in gangs he has twice been up for the Nordic book prize , woth his earlier Novel seierherrene is considered a classic of the class journey people can take in Norway culture “the great class Journey ” . This book was a bestseller in Norway which considering Jacobsen is a writer with 13 earlier novels  and a number of short story collections is a writer that os seeming produce great books still.

They walk silently past the store , there will be no shopping today, continue down to the trading post and clamber on board the faering . Hans Barroy observes the wind has turned and picked up , it is now a south-westerly. He hauls up the sail and struggles to make a sharp tack homeward.Then the rain comes down. Harder and Harder the further they get ti the mouth of the Fjord. Barbo and Ingrid shelter under the sheepskin.

He captures the cold and danger of just sailing home .

The Unseen is  for me a perfect set up as a novel , I love villages and this is a village but even better a village on a small island . I love tales of people caught out of time the main family Barroy Ingrid and her father Hans he time is the start of the last century as world war looms .Hans wants to link the island to the mainland and the island can’t be seen from there but the island can see the main land . This is a tough place like many island communities they have to battle to survive scrapping out a living on fishing and farming of sorts , this is a place where people mark the seasons with the return of certain birds a place of isolation an island separate that is being pulled towards the modern world .

The hosed]s on Barroy stand at an oblique angle to each other. From above they look like four dice someone has thrown a random, plus a potato cellar that becomes an igloo in the winter. There are flagstones to walk on between the houses, clothes racks and grass paths radiating in all directions, but actually the building act as awedge against stormy weather so that they can’t be flattened, even if the whole sea were to pour over the island .

This remind me of the old huts and how they were built of Alisha craig

I was reminded of the Scottish islands where life is tough but communities thrive as they survive just because they had to but like Barroy a lot of these faced at the time the book is set the loss people as the distant Mainland via war and communication becoming quick shrank . I was  most remind of Alisha Craig the outcrop os an Island that until 1928 was the source of the granite for Curling stones a small island that like Barroy in the book had grown  into its own little microcosm . This is a beautiful insight into a world that is familiar but strange at the same time a place no gone with the modern age these islands are as connected as anywhere and in a way have lost their identity somewhat that is what Jacobsen gives us an insight into a lost world .

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 ?

A man in Love by Karl Ove Knausgaard

A man in Love

A man in Love by Karl Ove Knausgaard

Norwegian fiction

Translator –  Don Bartlett

Original title – Min Kamp Andre Bok

Source – library

Well its over a year since part one of the six  vol collection was released ,I reviewed it here and now am reviewing part two .I did a lot of bio on the first part of the collection so will get start into part two of My struggle .This book is a huge hit in his homeland they even had to make days to not talk about the book at work it was such a water cooler moment book  in his homeland .

29 July 2008

The summer has been long ,and it still isn’t over .I finished the first part of the novel on 26 June ,and since then ,for more than a month the nursery school had been closed , and we have had Vanja and Heidi at home with all the extra work that involves .I have never understood the point of holidays , never felt the need for them  and have always just wanted to do more work .

The opening lines of a man in love

Well in part two we have seemingly jumped a few years and Karl is settled and is struggling as a writer ,he is married and as the title says a man in love ,the book does start very slowly as we meet Karl at a kids party .The story does tend to drift but it has a sense of times being recalled a natural feel as we all do sort mixing or memories  into a mix tape of our life so we move back and forward but it isn’t jarring .We see a man who like most of us  (I turned forty over a year ago and this book rung true too me ) is struggling to discover who he is man .On the surface this could seem boring it is just an ordinary story of a middle class man in Norway ,living having kids ,looking after kids .But it is the brutal honest nature that Knausgaard has in his prose that lifts this from being a man in mid-life drifting towards crisis .I also love the interludes into books and music splattered through the book .

When I went back up Linda had put some music on , one of the Tom Waits CDS that had come out after I lost interest in him and with which I therefore have no associations other than that they were Tom Waits-like .Once Linda had reworked some Waits text for a performance in Stockholm ,which she said was among the most entertaining and satisfying stuff she had done and she still had an intense ,indeed intimate relationship with his music .

Got say I’m with Linda on this I still get Waits

I loved this although as I said it is a very slow starter one of those books that you have to slowly get into ,but it is his power of describing his world that kept me there ,I feel he above all writers I ve read in the last few years can make the ordinary seem extraordinary .In his hands even child care ,which to me isn’t the most appealing subject to read (sure some people will disagree with me ) appeals as we see Karl grow into a new role of being a father and of course ,trying to avoid what mistakes his own father made when bring him up . It is also feels at time like Karl is looking to admit maybe he struggled (great insight Stu as the book as a whole is called my struggle )  but it is hard to admit where we fail in life and Karl is the master of this  IMHO .I know await part three of this collection .

Have you read these two books

August 2021


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