Fish have no feet by Jon Kalman Stefansson

Image result

Fish have no feet by Jon Kalman Stefansson

Icelandic Fiction

Original title – Fiskarnir hafa enga fætur

Translator – Philip Roughton

Source – Review copy

So I reach the final post of this years Man Booker journey , with one of my favourite writers and a writer that has been on the longlist for the old iffp . Jon Kalman Stefansson is another of those talent Icelandic writers. This is also the first time he has tackled a more modern-day Iceland than before in his books the earlier two I reviewed were from his trilogy Heaven and Hell and The sorrow of angels . Like his earlier book it also involves family and  but in a more personnel way than before.

I mean no disrespect , but ari is the only person who could have dragged me back here , across  the expanse of black lava that ground to a painful halt hundreds of years ago, naked in places, but elsewhere moss has softened and soothed it, clothed it in silence and serenity; you drive out of Reykjavik past the long aluminium smelter and into the lava, which at first is an old scream , and then moss-covered silence .

Ari returns to a changed place with his friend !!

This is a journey into the heart of what is modern Iceland told through two generations of the same icelandic family . The first is Ari in the present but also his childhood years  on the seventies and eighties . He has arrived home from Copenhagen and  is remembering his childhood in the town of Keflavik , a town that is home to the huge Us airbase NASKEF that was in use til 2005 , this also had like many airbases there is a ripple effect this is seen through Ari memories of his childhood of trying to grow up in the Iceland of the day which wasn’t the one we know but on the way and being tinged by America .Then Nordfjordur is the setting for the second tale a small fishing village cling to the land and the story of Ari grandparents is a tragic love story . This is juxtaposed by the modern marriage of their grandson. This is a story of nation that has changed so much in two generations .

We walk past the january 1976 bar , from which two middle-aged woman emerge , lighting cigarettes before the door shuts behind them, shuts on Rod Stewart singing “Maggie May” inside, It’s evening and we’re tipsy from the red wine and whisky we drank at the hotel and we walk down Hafnargata street, which is far tidier now than in the past, when we first walked down it with Asmundur ; Mayor Sigurjon has done a good job cleaning things up.

I liked this passage as it was as thou past, present we’re one leading me to think the narrator wasn’t in the present just the past !

Now it is hard not to see Ari in some part as being a veiled version of the writer himself , there is points when he talks about the eighties and growing up the music he listen to you feel him looking at his own collection of music and life , Like Ari Jon Kalman spent time in Denmark and also grew up in Keflavik. He has managed to writer a semi biographical novel using Ari but not as ari but more as a friend of him that is the narrator of the story, I was reminded of tv shows of recent years that use a detached voice as the narrator for the series , especially the recent netflix series thirteen reason why  which like this recounts past events in the present. Also Desperate housewives   where the whole series was told by a woman who was dead at the beginning of the book.Is this unnamed narrator an actual person or a lost friend of Ari that is long gone. In some ways this is maybe his answer to the likes of Knausgaard writing less of rooting in ones own past and pouring it on the page for every one to read no this is a carefully picked version of his history and how it feels to return home and remember what you like because the black side is there but isn’t what we remember this is the sense of drawing what was best in someway in your childhood.This is more personnel than his  earlier books which means it is maybe a harder read but more accessable

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 .

Echoland by Per petterson

Echoland by Per Petterson

Norwegian Fiction

Original title – Ekkoland

Translator – Don Bartlett

I was in the library the other day looking for some new books to read that may be on the Man booker international longlist when it comes out next month. Per Petterson won the old IFFP prize in 2006. This is his debut novel which has been translated into english for the first time it is nice to see that  it has been but a shame that it has taken over ten years since the success of Our stealing horse and twenty years since this book itself came out. But that said time hasn’t effect this book no it has a timeless nature to it .

They sailed across the sea to Denmark. Along the Fjord the bonfires lit up the summer evening and Avrid stood by the railing gazing twoards land, pretending they were stars. The lights rose and fell and they shone on the water and he heard laughter and singing from the shore, but the ship was quiet

maybe the last line of the opening paragraph should be a hint of what is in fromt of him

Echoland is the story of Avrid , he is twelve and like many lads of his age is just become an adult. he is on his yearly family holiday to Denmark to the small island that his grandmother lives on . But he has reached an age where this small island is maybe to small . He captures a couple in the dunes in the middle of the act . He also sees the tension between his mother and Grandmother that he has never seen before , the family coping with the loss of a child  and meanwhile we see a young man struggling to cope with his growing up that awkward sense you have as a chap at that age. Then there is the outfall of previous visits and then we also in the ending what his raging Hormones drive him too.

He wasn’t alone. Some distance away a man was jumping up and down in the water. the man was laughing out loud, and the Avrid saw the man wasn’t  on his own either. A knee was stuck up on either side of his chest above the water and when the man turned Avrid saw her face against his neck. Her long dark hair hung straight down, heavy and wet . She was quite still, clinging to the man and Avrid walked off through the water in the opposite direction, back to the rushes .

Avrid sees a couple up to more than he expected in the beach as he wandered .

I loved this the book Avrid has been in another Petterson book I read and I also know is in another i have yet to read  so he is a character that he revisit through his life. This is like the year after stand by me , I remember the lines in Stand by me about being a boy before you see girls well this is the year after that when hormones get you at the worst times . This is a classic growing up story but like many young men we miss sometimes the world around us the deep scars in his parents relationship that he doesn’t really see. I remember my own youth when my own parents split i was ten but for years I never really saw the fall out in their own lives till I had grown up in retrospective. I remember the years I was like Avrid a holiday in Spain about the same age when I had just discovered girls and my hormones where raging so could connect with some of the situations Avirid finds himself .I wouldn’t been shocked to see this on the Man booker .

Have you a favourite Per Petterson ?

Some rain must fall by karl Ove Knausgaard

Some rain must fall by Karl Ove Knausgaard

Norweigian fiction

Original title – Min Kamp Femte Bok

Translator – Don Bartlett

Source – Library book

Well I said in last post I am still reading but with three weeks til we move we are busy buying stuff and packing for the new house move. I really want to read this although I hadn’t reviewed part four of Knausgaard I have decide to just review part five now as I really enjoyed this last but one part of Karl Ove life. As was noted in the LBF talk I saw Karl Ove is maybe in part to thank for the increase in Translated sales that was mentioned in the Man booker post on sale yesterday .

“That book you were reading, could I have a look at it? ” I said to Kjetil.

“Of course”, he said and passed it tome. I skimmed through it.

“Where’s he from?”

“Argentina , I think, but he lived in Paris for a very long time.”

“is it magic realism?” I said

“Yes you might call it that ”

“I really like Marquez.” I said “Have you read him ?”

Kjetil smiled

“Yes but he’s not quite my style. Its a bit too high flown for me.””Mhm” I said, handing the book back and writing Julio Cortazar in my notebook

I love discovering writers and the connections with other writers around the world .

So we meet karl Ove as he is really starting on his journey as a writer , as he becomes a student at a writing course in Bergen where one of his tutors is Jon Fosse, a writer i have to try but one that is often mentioned in the nobel betting the last few years. What we see here is Karl Ove struggling to find himself as a writer as he starts to tackle those writers that matter James Joyce is one he has trouble with but also Claud Simon a writer I reviewed last year I can understand why he struggles to get these writers as they are so far from what Karl Ove is as a writer but I am sure this is part of what made him the writer we know. What we also see is how voliatile his personnel life is but also the first inkling of him as a a writer and also a close friendship with Fellow Norwegian writer Tore renberg whose See you tomorrow I hope to be reviewing soon as they bounce writing ideas of one another and share a taste in music .

“My manuscript has been accepted. It’s coming out this autumn! I’m going to make my debut!”

“Is that rue? But fantastic, Tore” I said

All the energy I had drained away. I walked beside him, black to the core inside. It was so unjust. It was so bloody unjust. Why should de, four years younger than me, have the talent and not me? I had reconciled myself to the fact that Epsen had talent his debut was no surprise, it made sense. But Tore? and so young?

Shit

Tore  was beaming like a sun

His friend and sounding board Tore is first to the post with a book out but in the long run well time will tell !

Tony in his much deeper review of this book says we all look for more in Karl Ove than maybe other writers as we are all a similar age to him,  well Tony and I  are to Karl Ove  he is four years older than me and this was one of the first times  in the books  I felt a gap in my taste and that of Karl Ove.  I have never fully got XTC as a band and a few of the other bands he liked I did like in the day in particular the sugar cubes but most of all I connect when he mention Smashing Pumpkins a band I like but never lovered but had seen by chance of being a Catherine wheel fan back in the day on the first uk tour. I  like Karl Ove  have  struggled with writers Like Simon and Joyce , I like Karl Ove read them to discover the world of writers although I’m not told by Jon Fosse to do so lol. I was really touched by his dedication when he said he had read the Danish edition of Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann against the Norwegian as it had been abridged in the Norwegian edition a point which as a fan of translated fiction and not over editing or abridging books in translation. This is the struggle of a young writer in what one may call the Bildungsroman book of Min Kamp.

 

The prophet of Eternal Fjord by Kim Leine

the prophets of Eternal Fjord

The prophet of Eternal Fjord was a book that arrived late last year and grabbed me straight away from the Jacket Copy. Plus my lack of knowledge of Greenland the main setting for the book, I have  wanted to read a book about Greenland after two things Hearing   the pogues song Greenland whalers that evoked the world of the whalers when a place like Greenland was central to the world for it supplies from the whaling industry  and also  learning a bit about it at school in a project about vikings . So this book seemed the perfect chance to learn a little history of Greenland at a pivotal moment in their history .From a prize-winning Danish novel.This is Kim Leine fourth book and this one won the prestigious Nordic council Literature prize.

The widow has come up here of her own accord, no one forced her. She has beaten the lice from her finest clothes and put them on. She has washed her hair in the urine tub of the communal house and tied it up. Silently observed by her heather cohabitants, she scrapped the sooty grease from her cheeks and consumed the good meal that had been put before her. Then she came up here, carried along by a lightness of step. Now she sits on the brink of happiness, expectant and with warmth in her cheeks, at the edge with her legs tucked decorously beneath her in the way all widows, the way she sits at home on the little side bench under the window opening.

The opening lines drag you in with this rich opening passage.

The prophets of Eternal Fjord is set in the late 1780’s. In 1787 Morten Falck a new priest from the hustle and bustle of Copenhagen is given a new job on Greenland, his job to get the Godless Inuit to convert to the Danish church he is consider the man for the job as he is very evangelical . So he sets of on a whaler ship top the far corner of the Danish empire. When he arrives he finds things are far worse than he had been lead to believe before he left, some of the villages have joined together and broken away from the Danish rule wanting their own freedom. Added to this Morten isn’t all he seems whilst studying he discover he had a liking for being close to women.So he arrives in Sukkertoppen with a priest in two minds surround by a harsh world.Ready to try to get the people of the Eternal Fjord on his side (this is the area that has formed their own colony away from Danish rule )

Jesus christ, our Heavenly father!

It gushes from him the moment he pulls up his cassock and sits down on the privy seat, a mud-like mass, almost without smell, an inexhaustible landslide of brown. His intestines writhe in agony, and yet there is a considerable element of joy at being able to release, to discharge this spray of filth and empty the bowels. He groans, bites his hand and chuckles. His sphincter blares and squelches, and then there is silence.

I know this is a rather bad passage but it capture the earthy dark feel of this world broken and with illness.

 

 

The book has a rich style almost like Dickens, I was also reminded of the world painted in Eleanor Cattons book The luminaries. This is also a  world of tough men and brave women similar to Catton’s world. among these brave women would be the widow she is involved with the breakaway from Denmark but has also caught the eye of Morten. I loved the feel of a world at breaking point almost as though the string from Denmark to its distant outpost has been stretched, worn down by the sea and is ready to break. All seen through the eyes of this confused priest a man with his own demons trying to rid the locals of their demons. A classic tale of colony’s and colonism  we could change this for any outpost of the british empire at the time they wanted to break away.Martin Aitken has done a wonderful job in the way he has kept what is a poetic dark world or Greenland.

Danish fiction

Original title Profeterne i Evighedsfjorden

Translator Martin Aitken

Previous Older Entries

June 2017
M T W T F S S
« May    
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
2627282930  
%d bloggers like this: