Termin by Henrik Nor-Hansen

Termin front cover.png

Termin by Henrik Nor-Hansen

Norwegian fiction

Original title – Termin

Translator – Matt Bagguley

Source – Review copy

I said last night when the winner was announced for this year’s Man Booker that small publishers like the winner Sandstone press and the publisher of this title Nordisk small presses are the lifeblood of fiction in Translation. They bring us those gems that the big boy publishers can’t so here is a book that was nominated for the Nordic council literature prize. Henrik Nor-Hansen has written four novels and poetry and short story collections this book was his latest novel. There is an interesting interview with the translator Matt Bagguley He describes the trouble find terms in English and the uniqueness of the voice

Kjetil Tuestad reportedly moved to his own place in late august. It was a basement flat in Bjergsted. It is known that he called his parents and wife. He had apparently said that he needed time alome. They showed understanding. In hindsight, this approach has been questioned. the immediate family were perhaps not good enough at recognising changes in Kjetil’s personality.He remembers very little from this period. In many respectshe still required help .The flat never quite came together.

The first signs he isn’t quite the man he was when he tried to set up hime alone.

The full title of the book is Termin An inquiry into violence on Norway. The book is only 80 pages but what we see is the aftermath of a violent attack on one mans life. Kjetil Tuestad was a normal man working in the Stravanger shipyard as an electrician. He had married his wife Ann and they had decided to settle down in the small village of Hommersak a place that was growing as the oil boom was in full swing at the time. that was all in 1998 and in Midsummer night he was found beaten on the outskirts of the town. The actual injuries are listed three fractures to the jaw his teeth completely bent the wrong way. Blood coming from his ear what follows is an account of his life for the next twenty years from his slow recovery with first his parents than trying to rebuild his relationship with the wife they try and have a normal life and have kids. But he is a changed man and there is a detached nature to the way his life is described and the world around him. But his world is changed and he is on the path to be a loner as he has lost that ability to connect with people. This is one man’s life falling apart after a vicious attack but also a changing world around him and a village that has changed after his attack.

Kjetil Tuestad stresses that he is only occasionally able to picture his wife in the home. He says it is also difficult to visualise the infant as he would have  looked in the summer of 2001. Kjetil reacts to the fact that he did not participate more often in this. Other memories well up quite clearly. During the holidays what would become a string of severe animal welfare cases began. Cats in particular were made to suffer.

His behaviour years later is very different and his brain injury becomes much clearer.

I choose The years as my Man Booker winner. as it broke the boundaries of what fiction is here and for me, this is what Nor-Hansen has done here it is the sort of anti-Knausgaard as whereas Karl Ove tells us everything. this book is a sort of bare minimum of a man’s life over the same period from 3000 pages to 80 pages.  I remember the scene in the film a river runs through it where the writer Norman Maclean is given a task to write by his pastor father but as he says the less we say the more we say. In fact, there is another connection as the book follows the vicious attack and in a river runs through it the end is like the beginning of this book when Normans brother is attacked. So this has a blunt style a detached nature as Kjetil life is told post attack. The only thing I have read that repeats the style of the narrator is the character in curious incident of the night there is a similar way of view the world I found that it is now just black and white but also there is no real emotion in it  that is what he lost more than the outside injuries it is the loss of empathy this maybe is one of the best views of a man with brain injuries trying to live his life as best he can when what is us is gone and maybe the shell is left to carry on and rebuild. In what is a harsh world than it was. This book comes out this week from Nordisk books.

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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 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.

Zero by Gine Cornelia Pedersen

Zero

Zero by Gine Cornelia Pedersen

Norweigan fiction

Original title – Null

Translator –  Rosie Hedger

Source – review copy

Today sees the start of Woman in translation month a month that has taken off over the years I haven’t much planned but will try and fit a few books in among my Spanish and Portuguese lit month books. So to Kick off I have a powerful debut novel from Norway from Gine Cornelia Pedersen is both a writer and Actress this her debut novel won the Tarjei Vesaas award for a first book. She has also starred in the tv series Young and promising also Valkyrien both of  which are  on Walter in the Uk.

I’m 10 years old

I absorb everything unfiltered

I think that gos is listening whien I pray

I’ve seen three dead bodies, two old and one young

I cry at night and feel as if I’m all alone and no one can save me

I feel sorry for mum and dad

I realise that the concept of home has never truly existed.

I think about the fact that when I grow up and I’m allowed to decide things for myself, my joy will be complete.

I feel certain I’m going to live forever, but I think about death almost every day

The opening lines even at ten there is something in what she says that seem more than a normal ten year old would say.

This is a story told in Burst the narrator is a yoiung woman growing up. We follow her from teenager till she is in her early twenties. We find her life told in single sentences. like tweets where when they first started this is a novel in pieces.  This is a tale of a woman on a downward spiral of her life. We are let into her troubles bit by bit from the early feeling of being trap. Also not wanting to be too visible as her body changes in her puberty. Her wanting to go to Oslo. She has  a spilit with her boyfriend  of two years before she goes to the city. When she finally gets her mother to let her go. Then a spiral of self abuse, drugs and violence she ends upo for the first time in a ward then has a support worker. Then Peru and getting their becomes a dream that she finally does susing her benfit money to get there but then ends up on a holidat from hell with Men and drugs that leads her down a disaterious hole.

People on the stret stare at me

Everywhere I go they stare

I scream at one woman on the tram

Tell her she’s a bad person, that it’s people like her who are destroying the planet

She loooks away

I tell her she can look the other way for what it is worth she can turn away, but that only makes things worse

I ask if there’s something odd about me

She shakes her head

I tell her that she’s one who’s odd, with her ugly clothes and her wrinkles

Money can’t save her, I tell her

She can’t take her fur coat to hell

Later you she her parnoia when she verbally attacks a woman on the tram thinking it is her that is in the wrong for starring at her.

This was described a being like a Punk rock single by a revieew in Norway. The style is like a punk song short repeative sentences thart are like snapshot and captured insights into a life falling apart and how Mental helath can affect someones life so completely. The narrator is always claiming to be better as she hates her meds and said she doesn’t want them on more than one occasion but as the book goes on youn can see how a life can fall apart and that the drastic nature of someone offf their meds for a serious mental health issue can lead her as in the book to a far away country and into the arms of preditary men. Which leads to her downfall as she heads towards Zero. An interesting debut novel about a subject that isn’t touched enough in fiction. That of Mental Health but also what it is like being inside that downward spiral that to the narrator doesn’t seem a downward spiral.  read it in a day the pace is so fast with these choppy sentences you get drawn through the world she lives in as she describes some horrific events in snatches. This is the latest book from Nordisk books there third book 

Scenes from a childhood by Jon Fosse

Scenes from a childhood by Jon Fosse

Norwegian short stories

Original title (part of ) – kortare Prosa

Translator and selector of the collection – Damion Searls

Source – review copy

It is strange I choose this book today. As it was just a couple of days ago we found out that the Nobel prize for this year is due to be announced in a years time alongside the 2019 Nobel. Well, today’s writer Jon Fosse is a writer that has been slowly climbing the ladder of Nobel betting. He has written a number of Novels and plays. He has won various awards Including the Nordic lit prize and the French order of merit. I have featured him in his novel Aliss at the fire . So I was pleased to see a collection of his stories, coming out from Fitzcarraldo.

THE AXE

One day Father yells at him and he goes out to the woodshed, he gets the biggest axe, he carries it into the living room and puts it down next to his father’s chair and asks his father to kill him. As one might expect, this only makes his father angrier

One of the vignettes from the first piece.

 

This is a number of stories collected together the first part of the collection is a collection of Vignettes about a childhood , there is a child like sense to the prose from Father holding an axe, through those points in childhood when things start to be notice like the time someone has a pink handbag, girls, the first smoke, the odd youth Asle we see through the young boys eyes drunk at first on some community steps and then later the older lads father grabs the youth as some pallets come crashin down on the dock near where he just was. Then we have a longer novella which in some ways had a similar theme to the curious incident of the dog in the night as a dog is killed. This death involves a dispute between neighbors. It is told from a young boys perspective so we see his view of the world. Then the last part is an older brother still a young voice talking about his young sister in another collection as his sister is born and the times they have together like falling asleep in the same bed his sister’s hands in his hair.

I think the man by the bend has shot your dog.She says

I hear her say that she thinks the man by the bend has shot my dog. What ? what is she saying? shot the dog? What can she mean someone’s shot my dog.

I saw the go and I heard a bang.

What the fuck is she saying ? shot the dog ? What the fuck does she want ?

Just now, she says

Shot the dog? I say

Yeah. I saw the dog, she says. I saw the dog run up to his house and then I heard a bang, it had to be a gun.

I looked at her and I know that if someone’s killed my dog i’m going ti kill whoever did it

THe novella “And then my dog will come back to me ” about a dog dying and who did it

This has a real sense of a writer at the height of his powers. That as a writer Fosse likes to use the bare minimum view of the world. These stories show what a subtle touch can do, these stories are like the diamond that is seen by the diamond cutter as they see it in the rough diamond each story has been cut and polished til they sparkle. The vignettes are like a captured glimpses of a life almost like the snatches of dreams those glimpse we each remember in the morning maybe not even place or time just what happened. Fosse has been compared to the greats and as this is the second book by him I have read and I am still left wanting to try more. Have you read Fosse?

 

Love by Hanne Ørstavik

Love cover

Love by Hanne Ørstavik

Norwegian fiction

Original title –  Kjærlighet

Translator – Martin Aitken

Source – review copy for Asymptote book club

A fellow blogger Marina of the blog finding time to write is involved with the website Asymptote. Ask me if I want to review this book to highlight there Book club they also have a page on book trail. I was happy to review this as it is the second book by this writer her first was available from Peirene in the Uk the blue room I reviewed it here. This is her latest to be translated to English Hanne Orstavik has lived in Oslo since being 16, her first novel came out in 1994 when she was 25, she has since written twelve novels this was her third novel.

She gets through three books a week, often four or five. She wishes she could read all the timer, sitting in the bed with the duvet pulled up, with coffee, lots of cigarettes, and a warm night dress on. She could habe done without the TV too, I never watch it, she tells herself, but Jon would have minded

The opening I wish I could do four orr five books a week. Most weeks I struggle to hit three books.

Love is maybe a strange title for this book as it is about love but maybe the distance in love. The story is about a mother and son. The two the Mother Vibeke has moved her and her Son Jon too a distant village as she has taken a new job as an Arts officer. A lot of her story is about what she likes books trying to find articles that have been talked about at work. There is a sense as the narrative jumps between the two of them that there is a distance in the relationship it is a matter of months since they moved there. Jon is trying to fit in we see this as he goes around selling raffle tickets for the local sports club he has joined as he tries to fit into his new home. All this is the evening before Jons ninth birthday as we see him going out alone. This is a book that shows the detachment of modern society sometimes they both seem in the own world as the evening unfolds.

Jon goes back over the road, back to the house. Stepping inside he makes sure the door behind him, there’s ice on the sill. He pulls his mittens and drops them in the little white basket in the corner. He goes downstairs to his room with his coat still on, and puts the bag down woith the raffle book and the money in it from the old man. On the his way out the man cut him a little chunk off a ried ham hanging from a hook in the vestibule. He puts it down on his desk

Jon arriving home here grabbed me as so lonely an eight year old just wanders in by himself.

This is a cold book in a way a mother and son that have grown apart. A strange dark feeling as for why she would let her eight years old out to sell the raffle tickets in the evening unsupervised. Maybe this is my oldfashioned views of the world but it just felt as thou the mother was so absorbed in her own world she hadn’t even thought of her poor sons birthday. A simmering undertone of a relationship broken by the move and a young boy drifting towards disaster. I can see why Karl Ove called this her strongest book it is bleak and dark but also a compelling read as over the even the story of the two characters unfolds. As an ever-growing sense of foreboding is given in the book. The Asymptote book club is a great idea to draw reads into world lit and this is a great choice as it leads to the current crop of the great Nordic writer’s around at the moment like Karl Ove or Helle Helle which Martin the Translator of this book has translated.

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.

Secret passages in a Hillside town by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen

Secret Passages in a Hillside Town, Paperback Book

 

 

Secret passages in a Hillside town by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen

Finnish fiction

Original title – Harjukaupungin salakäytävät

Translator – Lola M Rogers

Source – review copy

I read Pasi first book to be translated into English The Rabbit Back Literature Society but never got round to reviewing it so when I got the chance to review his latest book into English, I was excited. Pasi is a Finnish language teacher and has a degree in Philosophy. He has published five books in Finnish and has won numerous prize in Finland for his books. This is his second book to be translated into English.

Greta Kara, The Author, answered his message two days later:

Well, hello yourself, Oll! How delightful that you decided to write to me! And you remembered the pear print dress, too! I’m flattered. I didn’t know if you would remember it, or even me, any more. I’m sure you’ve met thousands of interesting people since you knew me, and it’s been almost thirty year since we last saw each other 

The opening of her reply to his request of friendship on Facebook.

This is the story of Olli Suominen, Now middle-aged and settled with a family and son. He is busy trying to light a passion for films by joining a weekly film club and also using Facebook he is trying to reach out.When he gets a film guide written by an old flame.  He then requests a friendship from the woman  Greta an old school friend and flame. This also follows a number of his friends from that time reappearing. They as a group used to spend time exploring the secret passages that are hidden under the town he spent his childhood holidays. They were like a group of Blyton children in the day a sort of Finnish Famous Five discovering these secret places. But also in the present his wife and son are kidnapped, this is connected to the past so as we see him watching weekly films losing his umbrella and an act of the past is affecting his present. What happened why were Greta and he involved and why did they split? The beauty of this book is it has two possible endings written up.

He did have a faint memory of the secret passages games the Tourla five used to play , which must have put the idea of secret passages in Greta’s head. He and Karri and the Blomroose had pretended to find entrances to secret passages fittingly hidden spots around town and then spent days wandering in them. They had encouraged each other to invent everything a child’s imagination could think up and had been so caught up in their games that hey saw and heard non-existent things, The secret passages haf been enchanted and sometimes terrifying places.

The five in their youh looking under ground this also hides something about them all!

I really like this book it has a real quirky feel to it and in the times we are in with things like Brexit, we maybe need to be reminded how our ripple effect from writers in English have affected the world Enid Blyton and her world of kids on holiday having gripping adventures is one part of this book and shows her effect even now 40 days after her death. I loved the use of old films via his weekly film club. Films like in the mood for love wild one and much more make any film fan think of those films and work links to the story. Another gem from Pushkin press, this could be a man booker book but who knows. I like the dual ending how often have you felt well what if that happened !!

 

Companions by Christina Hesselholdt

Companions by Christina Hesselholdt

Danish fiction

Original title – Lykkelige familier, camillia and family and others 

Translator – Paul Russell Garrett

Source – review copy

I know to expect the books from fitzcarraldo to be challenging and also enthralling to me as a read and her with there latest fiction novel we have a book from one of the leading writers in Denmark. Christina Hesselholdt studied for a degree in Literatue. After that, she wrote for the Danish lit journals Banna split and The Blue Port. She is considered one of the leading figures in Danish minimalism writing. This is her first works to be published in English this is a number of her earlier books all about the same set of friends.

 My Husband does not believe I have a flair for words. Nor does he think I know how to move. One night when I couldn’t sleep I went into the kitchen to fetch some water, and when I came back to bed he said: “Your shuffling is keeping me awake”

I shuffle.I stomp. I shuffle and stomp and trudge about.Shuffle-shuffle-stomp-stomp-trudge-trudge.

I can’t sing, hence my husband thinks I am unable to hear music, I didn’t sing. I refused to sing. I trudged around the Christmas tree like a silent vessel

Kristina talking about her husband Alma and how he views her.

 

Camilla and Charles are the main figures during these books (I love the fact these two share the same name as our royal family).Then there is Alma, Edward, Alwilda and Kristian. The first part of the books follows Alma and Kristina mainly on a holiday in the UK. That starts in Wordsworth country as they talk about the poet and also move around many lit sites in the UK the husband is a writer himself. But this is a couple just getting by and lost faith in one another as the wife says my husband believes I have no way with words or to understand music.Then Wedward dealing with losses in his life and writing int in his Mourning diary-like Barthes did.  Then we meet Camilla and Charles as they go for an expensive meal out, in which they envoke the love of all things Slavoj Zizek and how well he has his finger on the pulse of the modern world. Edward had split with his other halfAlwilda before the events in the books. What follows is the year and glimpse of all the pasts of the friends as we follow them telling their tales in small glimpse and Monologues. A rye look at how lives loves and relationships shift over time this is like a map to there worlds but six individual maps to these lives.

I wish I was Zizek. Zizek can get everything to ,make sense, if I had been Zizek now, right now, I would be lying in a punic bordello having a fucking match with houellebecq, the whorse would not be traffiked, just glo-ba-lized – can you hear it being sung by Gregorian monks, or a eunch: glo-ba-lized pro-sti-tutes, ohh the humans, the oh so Zizekiaan eed to make sense of things where none exists.What is it that I cannot make sense of ? My Memory? My Love life ? we will have to take a closer look at that.

 

This book owes much to the Modernists writers. I saw one review mention Waves by Woolf which is told in Six voice like this book. I was also reminded of other writers of that generation Waugh there is a turn of humour like Waugh had at times also Powell as it follows a group of friends as they grow and shift through time. I may also note having read Havoc recently read and also his poetry is mentioned in the book, his minimal style is maybe the best guide to modern Danish minimalism writing.

 

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