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 ?

 

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I curse the river of time by Per Petterson

Source – library

Translator -Charlotte Barslund with Per Petterson .

Per Petterson is a Norwegian writer ,his 2006 book out stealing Horse won the 2006 IFFP prize and was a surprise run away bestseller ,he is a trained librarian and say carver and Hamsun have influenced his books .This is on this years Independent foreign fiction prize longlist .

The book is the story Avrid a middle aged man and his relationship with his mother, but also a look back on his younger days and broken dreams and hopes .He was a strong believer in communism and as the book is set in 1989 as the iron curtain begins to tumble ,he looks back on the hopes pf youth when the soviets seemed godlike .Tied in with this is a taut relationship with his mother ,as he choose the ideology in his youth a job in a factory instead of an academic path .His mother wanted him to take .so with his mother ill and returning to her home town in Denmark we find Arvid who isn’t in the best health himself and in the middle of a messy divorce himself ,on his way to see her ,she left her home and husband behind in Oslo ,Arvid has a real love for his mother and other the course of the book you see how there lives unfolded and how decisions can affect your future so much .and your relationship with others .Avrid,s childhood was one of distance from his mother almost clinical it read at times ,with his mother so distant at times and him wanting love from her .

“I m leaving today”,my mother said .

“Where to ?” my father said.

“Home”

“Home “, he said “Today? shouldn’t we talk about this first ? Don’t I get chance to think about it ?”

“There is nothing to discuss” my mother said .”I ve booked my ticket .I ve a letter from Aker hospital I’ve got cancer .”

“You have cancer ?”

The minute Arvid’s mother drop the bombshell to his father .

His mother is a strong character in this book on might even say a stereotype for a certain time of Scandinavian women strong ,cool and hard to connect with at times.The other character in the book apart from Arvid and his mother is the scenery the sea boats rugged country and places ,Per breaths life into his homeland in his words .I ve rarely read such beautiful prose as Petterson .He is the voice of the everyday world of Norway and master of being in a family in this book .Also broken dream and the fall of communism that is a hell of a lot in 230 pages ,I think !

HAVE YOU READ HIS BOOKS ?

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