Summer Night , and Then comes the Night by Jon Kalman Stefansson

Summer Night, and Then Comes the Night by Jon Kalman Stefansson

Icelandic fiction

Original title – Sumarljós og svo kemur nóttin

Translator – Philip Roughton

Source – review copy

I am now back on to the last few titles to squeeze in before the booker international longlist comes out at the end of the month. Here we go back to a writer that I have featured on the blog three times before he was a winner of our shadow prize a while ago. He taught at the high school level for a time and also wrote for a newspaper. He spent time in the 80s living in western Iceland doing odd jobs. This is  where the book is set, though the book is set in the 90s there. The book come to us in English now, but it was published a number of years ago in Iceland. Before the Heaven and Hell trilogy of books that came out here. This is a collection of interconnecting stories around the village of 400 souls as the days are full of light before that dark or winter arrives.

Back in the day, the post office was one of the hubs of the village, through which letters and parcels streamed, where there were two telephone booths for those who needed to make calls outside the country, and at which queues would often form on tuesdays- the deadlune for ordering alchol from the south that was supposed to be drunk over the weekend. But now those phone booths have been taken away; are goneare the days when agusta could listen in. Now the village even has its own off-licence open from 1pm to 2 30 pm. Tuesdays and Thursdays; thus does everything change.

The village is full of life but in ways dying off with things disappearing over time.

When the stories open with the line that the houses are younger than the ninety-year-olds that live there but no one of any note has really come from there and there is no church or graveyard there we get the sense this is a strange place and here we see the inner lives of some of those that live in the village. The action opens up with a girl in a black velvet dress and an astronomer a girl that got a job as the director at the knitting factory a few years ago. She is the dream of many a man in the village. Then we see a summer affair and a wife’s revenge on the couple leaves Kjartan on the end of revenge from his wife. Characters like the nosey postman who has read everyone’s mail and knows what is going on in the village. A lawyer who has some strange beliefs about how the world is !! A man loses his virginity, a doctor keels over when a dog barks.

Destiny takes strange paths – that is, of er acept that it exosts that our exostence isn’t dependent on the terrible power of coincidence. Hannes breaks beneath the wieght of the darknessthe shadows catch him, he hangs himself, leaves a letter for his son and another for Gudmundor and Solrun, in which he asks his friends to see to it that jionas had be given a full-time postition as a police office: “I belive this to bethe only way to make him a man. It will be difficult schooling, but that’s life, he has the bones to bear it: underneatrh his meekness is an unexpected and mysteryous strength” Hannes was probably alone in his view, which, at best, seemed merely preposterious, wishful thinking.

Detstiny has run all over the village over time.

This a glimpse of a strange world cut off from the rest of Iceland the ordinary lives of the locals. Now one review I read of the book mentioned a comparison to Undermilk wood I can see that there is the same sense of every day and the bizarre of every day that was Llareggub Dylan Thomas distant Welsh village. But for me, there is a little more of Iceland lit in there. One of the Laxness work I reviewed a while ago under the Glacier which is another work set in a remote Icelandic village like the village in this story had a church but hasn’t anymore but the vicar has never been to our village wherein Laxness work the vicar went rogue. The locals now a sense of the otherworldly just a distance away from the rest of the world. I was also reminded of another book from Iceland And the wind sees them all especially the story of Elisabeth and her velvet dress which folks dreamed of her was similar in feel to Kata in her polka dot dress cycling through the village. This is a great collection of interlinking stories of a small insular community that has drifted away from the world. the stories re glimpse into ordinary folks at those times when the world is a bit mad and it is all Brilliantly brought alive from Stefansson. Have you a favorite book from Iceland?

Winstons score – A-

 

Wretchedness by Andrzej Tichý

Wretchedness by Andrzej Tichý

Swedish fiction

Original title – Eländet

Translator – Nichola Smalley

Source – sent from the translator

I swapped a couple of books from and other stories for a copy of the TLS  I had that included a review of this book in I have met Nochola the translator of this book via her work at And other stories a couple of times, so it is a shame it has taken me a while to get to a review of books she has translated. looking up about the writer I came across this quote which seemed to sum him up as a writer. “Andrzej Tichý is a writer who, time and time again, with a language that sings, says something important about the Swedish contemporary. Read him”. He has lived in Sweden since 1981 born in Prague to a Polish mother and Czech father there is a sense of the great Mittel European writers in his work. 

The way the wax plant flowers moved, those small movements, that trembling, that gentle vibrating, like an echo of the moving trings, combined with the low-frequency tone, the rumble – all that lingered in my consciousness as I saw the newly built tower block and the figures on its roof, with the railway tracks and rail yard in the background, all while I tried to say something to the guitarist and the composer about scelsi and my microtonal worl. We walked toward the central station to take the the train to Copenhagen, to Vor Frue Kirke and the moosmann concert.

Where he meets the Junkie and his past falls back into his world and those year flood back

This book is told in a feverish manner at times what happened when a cellist comes face to face with a spun out Junkie for the second book in a row we have a sort of Proustian moment where this one single event leads the Ccellist into a journey through his past and the sense that he broke free of it a part of growing up in the Housing projects with a group of what in the day would be slackers this is an ode to the early nineties and the urban world he grew up in of skaters, junkies, rappers. Where there are Parties and clubs but he remembers that it was also a road to nowhere, as the memories of his past come tumbling in on him. This is all told in slang as we see his early jobs also the tension of the multi-cultural community he lives in just bubbling below the surface. He is the present is due to give a concert with two other musicians of the work Giacinto Scelsi the Italian modernist composer. This a story of breaking out but also the sense of loss of the comrade brothers he left behind in the melting post he grew up in.

THen a car pulled up. A man got out and other things. Then a car pulled. A man got out and asked if they wanted work. Employment, he said, Earn a little money, he said, they asked what they’d be doing.. Handing out flyers, he said. For his building firm. Go aroundthe wealthy neighbourhoods and stuff a few flyers through letterboxes. They asked how much they’d get five hundred. To share. Course we will, they said. That’s a lot of money, they thought. They got in the car. He drove them to the wealthy neighbourhood. They got a stack each. Took a side each and put them in the letterboxesas he drove behind them, crept along along slowly behind them

A classic ilustration of GEnration X the McJobs cash in hand jobs struggling to get by.

A lot of reviews I have seen of this book have mentioned Bernhard it hard not to avoid that as the book is told in a similar style of breathless prose, as the past comes flooding into his mind but jumbled up like a montage of his life with no real gaps as you get caught up in the cellist’s past and his thoughts of the world he grew up in. This is like a sample of his past mixtape of memories. The clash of high and low culture is shown here from his early love of street beats of the hip hop of the day over the modern music of Scelsi (I will put my hand up again her I know nothing of him just what I have read my modern classical knowledge is little) and the hip hop he likes is different to the bands I knew at the time but it reminds me of going to clubs in UK, Holland, and Germany late nights. Then time spent in cities like Manchester, Newcastle, Nimwegen, Kassel, and Dortmund at the similar time to this so the group he described remind me of my german friends although we didn’t do drugs we like a drink and clubs. This is a song about breaking free of the past. But there will always be that reminder of the past.

Winstons score – A- ( a Bernhard fan got score well with me)

 

 

Storm Birds by Einar Kárason

Storm Birds by Einar Kárason

Icelandic fiction

Original title –  Stormfuglar,

Translator  – Quentin Bates

Source – Personal copy

It been over a year since I have reviewed an Icelandic novel which is a shame as it is one of those countries that most of the books in translation I have read over the time of the blog I have enjoyed. This book when it arrived appealed I am a fan of films that deal with the weather and the sea the likes of Perfect storm or the finest hour to name two. So when I read that this is based on actual events that happened in 1959 and the events that lead to a number of boats getting in trouble. The book is written by Einar Kárason. He has been writing since the late seventies his debut novel from 1981 was also translated into English as Devils island. He has since he has written over fifteen more novels this came out in 2018.

When the young deckhand Larus had said farewell to his parentrs and waved as the willys drove away, he went up Mavur’s gangplank.He went to the heelhouse and reported to the first mate who was there, who told him that he crew beginning to turn up and everything was almost read, sh he should go and find himself a berth in the deck crew’s quarter,  forward under the whaleback; he could then get himself a cup of coffee from the galley Larus carried his kitbag accross gthe deck, opened an iron dorr andf then another one beyond it, and made his way down a couple of steps. There were two cabins, and from both came loud voices, drunken talk and clouds of tobacco smoke, and Larus wondered whether he dar go in there

Larus arrives on the boat and sees the old sea dogs bel;ow deck.

Storm birds is told about the crew of the trawler Mávur which in which we are told the event of late February in 1959 as the fishing trawlers head from Iceland to the fishing grounds around the Grand banks just off Newfoundland. This was also the setting for the film and book The Perfect storm. The events of the voyage to fish is told by a young man Larus a young man of just 18 that is sent of by his parents although when his fellow crewmates arrive he gets embarrassed by them as they are a collection of salty seadogs and he is the new boy. The skipper has them knocking the ice of the boat as the weather starts turning to freeze the boats as the weather worsens we see the harshness of the sea that cruel sea of Monserrat as he had described it during the war years. So as they reach the fishing grounds but as it comes clear the boat and others around them are in distress they work  22 hours a day just trying to get through any downtime is spent forgetting the weather as at one point Larus talks about the books they are reading the radio Operator book chest were he finds war stories and biographies. another is reading Laxness. The story is on the edge as we find if they all make it as they try to get out of the weather back to the safety of Harbour. The events show how they dealt with the conditions as they find out what happens to the fellow fishermen on their boats just voice in the distant some too far away to help.

Larus continued to turn the pages of his book of maritime diasters when ever he had time to read, and its accounts became all the more horric because he knew they had been so close to such a tragedy.

The mess was often busy with card games in the evenings, and sometimes they played poker for matches or cigarettes.Some of the crew lounged around reading the various contents of the radio operator’s book chest – biographies, war stories; one of the engineers was reading Laxness, Iceland’s Nobel Prizer Winners, and would occasionally shake with silent laughter

Larus describes what they do in the free time on the boat.

This is almost a thriller as the tension is always there from their setting off but it is soon the men against the weather as the waves rage and the ice forms as the temperature sinks down. That is what is handled so well in the book is the conditions from the struggle keeping the ruining parts of the boat’s free so they can carry on. and struggle this is the classic of man’s battle with the elements that we have seen before from those North Atlantic convoys of “The Cruel Sea ” to the comradeship and battling spirit of the fishermen in The perfect storm as we see how a crew battle with nature itself and we find the true power of nature. This is a short book but full of colour and works in English as the translator brings the colour and conditions of the voyage to life. If you like an adventurous man against nature books then this is one for you. Have you a favorite book in that genre?

 

 

We’ll call you by Jacob Sundberg

We’ll call you by Jacob Sundberg

Swedish fiction

Original title – Vi hör av oss

Translator – Duncan J lewis

Source – review copy

I recently did a collection of books from Norway for the Publisher of this book Nordisk books here is my list I will at a later date be doing another list for them. Anyway, enough advertising myself lol. Jacob grew up in a working-class area he says on his website and he saw the towns fall down as industries shut and the folk remain stoic. So he decided to come to London is search of a tweed jacket and pipes a vision of a user that he found had gone well I have a Twitter friend that was a tweed fan but pipe smoking isn’t the thing although I had a pipe in my twenties and own a tweed jacket. Oh well, he left and returned to Sweden and he lives near Småland. It is worth looking at his website the intro about himself even translated into English via Google is very funny. Yes, this is a comic book in fact it is a book about modern life and the humor they’re within.

But the main reason for Hansson wanting to look relaxed and untterly untroubled when the man walked in , as that he to all appearances was a foreigner. He had an exotic name: Said Ansari. If there was anything Hansson wished for it was that these poor refugees would feel welcome, treated the same was as everyone else. To be unruffled in this situation was , in other words , absolutely necessary

Said could of course be a good kid in spite of his orgins, thought Hansson He was after all very careful to treat everyone equallym even foreigners, yes especially foreigners, something he often pointed out, I barely see that they’re different from us, that they’re dark and swarthy, he used to say, He didn’t think such thungs, for he saw the person inside, he was a really good man, that’s what everyone thought.

This just shows what will happen to Hansson that feeling he is maybe not as PC as he things is just under the surface here!!

As I said this is a collection of stories around modern life jobs the interviews we all have to do these days. There are nine stories in the collection I’m going to mention two that I liked. The first is the first story in the collection An exotic touch see Alfred  Hansson is interviewing people for a new job in his business when he has the next candidate Said Ansari is where it all starts to fall apart for Hansson as he gets himself into a sort of Political correctness maze in trying to be PC but wanting to discover more about this man and his exotic name he just ends up in a real twist. Hansson is one of those people that in trying to be correct just keeps putting his foot in his mouth. will Said take the job will Hansson give him the right impression of the company? The second story is another interview here for an office supply company in the story That’s just so me. We see Carina going for an interview at the company One Eniar Bark had built from scratch an office supply company that had seen of competitors in the area he trades in over the years. So when carina is interviewed Einar starts talking about himself his business holidays with the wife, like a time he had a splendid pizza in Italy. He occasionally lets carina talk at one point she says she has a passion for painting and this leads him to reveal a longing to be a poet and for him to show her a poem. Which she says is great. But when later he says he looks for honesty in his staff what is she to do about his dreadful poem be honest or not! how will he react? Elsewhere there is a cu that offends, a singer winning a pop idol contest, and a man trying to escape going to his school reunion.

A stone, A black stone

Big as a mountain

It blocked the way

Everyone was astonished

who can dislodge the stone?

A character approached

His face like flint

Followed by cinders

He. He can dislodge the stone

Everyone was astonished

The stone turned to sand

Carin wait, thought there would be more. When he looked up she said “Great”

“Not exactly oine of my best ones, I wrote it whe I was building the warehouse There was lots of hurdles, They didn;t want a warehouse here

EInar shows Carina his awful poem she initally says Greay but what will she say later on when he asks again!

This is a witty collection of reflections on modern life and how we can all get in twists. The two examples I choose both have a point where things start to go wrong. The man Hansson is just one of those people that is trying to be too PC but gets in such a twist by not saying what he should instead off that he goes around the bush and ending up sound worse than he wanted to and the second story we see what happens when an Ego is interview Einar has a huge Ego and Carina maybe can’t see this as she just sees a windbag. But when she has a chance what is she to do !! These are funny stories that even though set in Sweden still ring true to the \Engoish reader I could see characters I have met and worked within most of the characters in this book. From someone that wants the truth but really doesn’t to the person that will let one thing out of place upset them as we see when a Mug is in the wrong place. A great collection for a dark winter night a laugh or two and a book that can be read in an evening. Have you a favorite comic story?

Ankomst by Gøhril Gabrielsen

Ankomst by Gøhril Gabrielsen

Norwegian Fiction

Original title – Ankomst

Translator by Deborah Dawkin

Source – personal copy

This is the second of this year’s Peirene series books this year a series called closed universe. It is the second book by the Norweigian writer Gøhril Gabrielsen that they had published the first is one of the few books by them I haven’t reviewed I have a copy so will at some pointreview that one. This is another one for women in translation month. It is the fifth novel from the writer it won the 2017 book prize fort the best book from the North of Norway. 

The bay lies wrapped in darkness, but in the light of the waxing moon. I can make out the waves frothy white crests rushing up into the sshallows. they glide between the rocks on the shore and retreat with a pale metallic sheen. I attach the trailer to the scooter and load it with the mast for the automatic weather station, along with my measuring equipment, guy wires and data logger, the bucket for the precipitation gauge, some antifreeze, my snowshoes, a couple of spades and a can of petrol. Before pulling on the protective cover . I check yet again that my equipment is properly secure.

The remoteness is there as she arrives and start to set up for her experiments .

I picked this as I have always had a love of birds and the fact this follows a scientist in the far north of Norway who has gone to spend a seven-week period as the seabirds she wants to see are due to migrate over and be around she is seeing if climate change is affecting the birds she is her to see the Auks Guilmonts and puffins. As she has done this, she has left her young daughter with her Ex called S who she has regular contact with Skype conversations with her daughter as communication is just basic for her as it is so remote so at times she has no outside contact. There is a lover that may be joining her but the loneliness starts to creep in and the is a s=feeling of a woman on the edge trying to escape the messy break up of her relationship and the idea of this time away seems great but the positiveness of the early part of the book gives way to paranoia as she questions her life and the work draws her to the much earlier owner of the hut she is using. This is a bleak place full of sea birds and nature as it is brought to life in the prose her world collapse will her lover arrive who where is he ?

On one of these January days, as as I sit and ponder the colours in the sky., I think about preception and the sense of sight. I consider those episodes in which I see Borghild and Olaf. I find myself thinikng if them as electrons in the mysterious world of quantum mechanics. electrons jumping from one orbit to another, releasing, with each leap closer to the nucleus, energy in the form of light. Light of varying wavelengths, each ommiting a distinctive colour.

The worldshrinks ghost of the past mix with the colurs in the sky as she finds her minding wandering and drifts.

This is another Peirene gem it took me two sittings thou it is 187 pages long which is one of the longer books. This is a woman on her own going over her past but you can also feel the world around her crashing her life has a rigid routine as she observes the bird, but also a sense of a past in the place she has chosen to live to watch the birds a sort feeling of woe in this place that has seeped into her. Her wanting to make a difference with her work plowing on whilst she reflects on the personal collapsing of her life whilst the lover that is due to arrive never seems to come as time almost slows even when she arrives and sees the boat lights fade off in the distance the remote and rugged world she has left envelopes her. I was reminded of the great book Tartar steppes which saw a soldier in a remote Desert as he waits for someone to attack him. There is a shared sense of remoteness and drifting towards madness. Have you read this books ?

A House in Norway by Vigdis Hjorth

A House in Norway by Vigdis Hjorth

Norweigan fiction

Original title – Et norsk hus

Translator – Charlotte Barslund

Source – personal copy

I brought will and testaments earlier this year then remembered I had this by the Norweigan writer Vigdis Hjorth. Vigdis grew up in Oslo she studied Philosophy, literature and political science and has been writing both adult and children’s fiction. She writes about the dilemmas of living in Modern society, her character struggles to come to terms with a rapidly changing world and to find a meaningful way to integrate with others and realize their own potential. She has won many prizes and has a number of her books translated into English she said her influences are Dag Solstad, Bretold Brecht and Louis-Ferdinand Celine. This is the first book by her I have read.

A few days later a woman phined and introduced herself as the interperter for “your tennt Slawomira Tzebuchwaskai”. She spoke broken, but clear coherrent Norweigan. It was concerning her tenant’s housing situation. She said and she wanting to meet with Alama. And Alma was delighted and said yes because she wanted nothing more that to resolve the tenant’s housing situation. The interpreter would visit. Alma in a few days, and the pole would be there as well, almaunderstood, so did this mean that she was moving back in ?

After her husband has to return to Poland she is left as a single parent Alam still willing to help ?

The book follows the life of a divorced textile artist. She lives in an old villa that has an apartment that she has rented out once unsuccessfully so when she lets a Polish Family move in she sees them as steady and she starts work on a large commission doing a tapestry to celebrate a centenary of women’s suffrage in Norway. But then as the Famil have kids and things start to happen like the Husband has to return to Poland leaving the wife and the kids alone in the apartment but they start knawing at Alma like the Mouse that her Polish neighbor says she has but won’t take the traps out like this and other little things start making Alma regret her decision. this leads to a series of letters rent rise changes in the size and description of the apartment it size. This carries on will she get her house back will she finish her commission?

Alma wrote the long-planned letter to her tenant in order to make same demands of her as she would have done of a Norwegian by informing her of the Norwegian attitude to electricty consumption. To be more conscious of her usage and turn down the radiators at night, sort her rubbish for recycling and not mixpaper and cardboard with other waste, and she also requested that she parked her car alongside Alma’s and always in the tarmac rather than on the ground between the treesfurther down where Alma wanted the grass to grow in the summer .

The crack in their relationshipo start after her husband isn’t their little things that build up over time.

 

This is done exactly what the description of her writing does in the book we have Alma she is a fair mind woman in her eyes her kids come ever so often. especially Christmas but in your heart you feel she is only renting the apartment for the money and no matter who was there she would eventually pick fault and her we see this she wants to be fair but at the back of her mind is the wanting a quiet life and the things like clearing the snow which when she contact the landlord advice line she does this a number of times not wanting to be seen as a bad landlord. This is all about manners and trying to be polite but there is a simmering undercurrent slowly growing in Alma that silent anger that is hidden just under the surface we see it building I was reminded of the few books I read by Anne Tyler a writer that also is great at capturing a woman at a certain age that simmers so well like Alma does here. Have you read Hjorth?

Restless by Kenneth Moe

Restless by Kenneth Moe

Norweigan fiction

Original title – Rastløs

Translated  by Alison McCullough

Source – review copy

Well,

I have reached it the 100oth review and I had a few books to choose from but I chose this as it best signifies what the blog has tried to do the last few years and that supports smaller presses through my reviews. Writers and writing that test the bounds of what is literature. So I chose Restless.grew up near Larvik, a small town outside Oslo in Norway. He currently lives in Oslo. He has studied creative writing in Bø, Bergen, and Lillehammer, Norway. Moe’s debut novel Restless won the Tarjei Vesaas debut award. This is the latest book from Nordisk books that have specialized in fresh voices and books from Scandinavia. This book is coming out this month.

We talk all the time in the dark. I give good explanations of everything, persuading you day to day. You’re not really here, and so can never really leave me, either. At nights you snuggle up to me in bed: your slim body with its small breasts against mine. I think even your body is humble. It dosen’t make much of itself. You leaf through the pages of the books- tell me I read such stranges ones. you tease me. I read Marcus Aurelius in bed I read La Rochefoucauld. He writes “weak people cannot be sincere”. I read the sentence aloud to you

ONe the opening paragraghs in the book.

As I said this is a challenging read as it has an unnamed narrator. He is trying to write a letter to women who rejected him but as the pages go on it drifts more into a personal insight into the young man’s mindset and insight into his life a lonely one. A drifter living on a student grant for a course he had left months ago. He observes the changing season the longer days of the summer as the dark night’s end he says to give him a sense of hope but that is short-lived. As he sits in his father’s armchair sinking deeper into it every day as he drifts more into a sort of modern lonely life that many people have. As he drifts off the sense he is losing it as he talks about feeling ill with this and that symptom. Just as he talks about his flat falling apart his blinds being broken and old women in the park having her last summer. Then something happens!

Today the sun is shining on my street again, but I have my back to the light and the trees outside the window. I’ve always been the type to shut myself in my room for days, weeks at a time, to work on some project or the otherthat I think will save me, withput any clear ideas as to exactly why this ine should save me when none of my previous projects have. Right now, for example: a book, a letter. I’ve chosen to prefer solitude, and would have preferred to prefer something else. All my longings are equally paradoxical. I constantly doubt whether I should want you and what I’d use you for should I get you, but I know that…

Later on and the sense of his mind drifting and his sense of lonliness.

This price winning debut is made up of short paragraphs and even a single sentence his aphorisms of the world around him. it is a book that has a restless feel a man that has been rejected wrestling with his life rejection the coming summer that changed from the dark nights and the light evening the soul of a man wrestling to write but also with discovering who he is himself like those other men on a quest Pessoa or even Leopardi he wrestles with why we are here as he tries to write this letter this is a shorter work but maybe like those great dishes you see in modern Scandinavian cooking where the portion is small but the enjoyment is in the complex nature of the taste mix the best of what i at hand to the chief at the time and this is a writer doing the same in a way. A modernist gem a man hunting for the what of modern life after a rejection one of those milestones on a young man’s journey. Another unusual gem from Nordisk books I have their last book to review but it is worth looking at all eight of there titles.

The Bell in the Lake by Lars Mytting

The Bell in the Lake by Lars Mytting

Norwegian fiction

Original title –  Søsterklokkene

Translator – Deborah Dawkin

Source – Personal copy

I reviewed his debut novel sixteen trees of the Somme, a couple of years ago. Lars Mytting first caught the English readers with his Non-fiction book about wood Norweigan wood chopping, stacking, and drying. Then his debut np0vel that tracked history via a tree and a coffin and a family history was touching so when I read it. So when this dropped in on winstonsdad’s tower. This is the first of three books and it is based around a wooden Stave church on the side of a lake that is meant to be moved to German to make way for the New.

The sister rarely left the Hekne farmstead, even though they got about better than folk might think. They walked in a waltz- like rhythm, as if carrying a brimful water pail between them. The slopes below the farm were the only think that defeated them. Hekne was situated on a very steep incline, and in the winter the slippery paths were treacherous. But since it was a sunny slope, the spring thaw came early in the year, sometimes by March, ad then the twins would come out with the springtime sun .

Henke was amoung the earliest settlements in the valley and the family had chosen one of the bestg spots for a faermstead. They owned not one , but two seters- summer farms further up the on the mountainside, each boasting a fine milking shed and dairy and a herd of well-fed cows that grazed on the deep green grass all summer.

The Hekne have long been there and have one of the best farms that the conjoined twins live in.

we first find out about the sister bell that is in the church. The church was made in the 1200’s and the bells where cast in silver after the story of two conjoined sisters Gunhild and Halfrid Hekne. The sisters learned to weave four-handed. whose story mixes myth and history and the story of the casting of the bells that are still two hundred years later in the church. But the myths have grown as the bells have a truly unique sound. So When the village of Butangen is given a new young priest Kai Schweigaard is trying to bring the parish into the modern world as the village is caught up in myths and folklore of the local area like that of the sisters and their bell. As part of that modernizing of the parish s the removal of the stave church, he has found that some Germans want it they send a young german architect to oversee this job now add to the mix that descendant of the sisters Astrid she is a headstrong twenty-year-old. She isn’t the usual village girl that wants to settle down she is caught between her modern mind and her family history add to that she falls for the German Gerhard and struggles to battle the new priest and his changes as she juggles her history and the wanting to find out more about Gehard why this man is a ray of light to her with his city ways. Then the bells take over!!!

Gerhard Schonauer stared after the girl for a long time, Her features made him want to draw her, there was a unique quality about her. She was quick and less reserved than the other villagers he had met that morning. The description in meyer’s seemed to sum them up precisely. “The Norwegians are a proud and strong race of Germanic descnet, They are more stoic and slower than the Swedes, but not a phlegmatic as Danes. They can seem very closed and sceptical, but once one earned their trust they are loyal and open-hearted, and they are outstanding sefarer, with the world’s best martitime pilots.

The first meeting of Astrid and Gerhard left a huge impression on him as he watched her walk off after first meeting.

This is a wonderful work there is a real feel of a village caught out of time in the way the voices of Astrid and the other locals have been translated with what feels like a country twang to there voices. The book is about change that old clash of an old and new world together and the actual history of a place the village is fictional but the small mountain village he describes and the way of life lived in the village is described as very well crafted in a Norwegian review of the work I looked up to see how much research he had done on the churches places and time. This is a novel that captures you from the first line to the last and brings the reader a real sense of place it is a well craft historical novel that has a love story, family history and folklore.

The other Name by Jon Fosse

The other name septology I-II  by Jon Fosse

Norweigan fiction

Original title – Det Andre Namnet 

Translator – Damion Searls

Source – review copy

I have twice before reviewed books from Jon Fosse I first reviewed him as he was a name that always is high on the list of Nobel Hopefuls. So when he made the Booker longlist I was happy.  He is a writer that is considered one of the best around the world at the moment and this is the first two-part of seven books. He has won the Nordic council prize and in Norway was given a Grotten one highest honors from the Norweigan royal families for his contribution to the arts. The translator learned Norweigan just to be able to translate his books. That is how good he is as a writer that said he isn’t the biggest on plot but there is more questioning within his writing on many levels.

The Art School, I think, and ever since my first show at The Beyer Gallery it was Beyer who’s sold my paintings, I think, and he always manages to sell almost allof them, but sometimes, in the first couple of years. I have to admit, they sold for a terrible price, to tell the truth, but most of the pictures sell for a good price now, and there are always a few that don’t sell for a good price now, and there are always a few that don’t sel, the best pictures too a lot of the time, and beyer doesn’t sell those ones cheap any more, he stopped doing that a loing time ago, He’d rather put them in what he calls the bank, the sideroom of the same gellery. Where he keeps and storees the lictures gthat aren’t in the show

He has brought his painting for years to help him make a living.

Here the question is one of what makes us who we are the two books tell the tales of an Asle and aging painter. They had a happy marriage but is now lonely with only his neighbor Aselik a fisherman and Beyer that runs a gallery that sells his work this is one story. But then in the same town is another painter Asle.  but this is where the paths split as one seeks salvation in people the other takes it in a bottle this leads to the usual questions of life why are we here. This is a slow work nothing really is quick it is a slow descent into the bottle and then the flip side of finding a different path out of grief this is about love but the aftermath of love those space in our world an artist can fill them with art but then as we have seen other time overs break and fall into the bottle. As they asses their lives they see that in the same place and same time things can be different. At times the prose cross and events in one life seem to be happening in the other lives.

You and this faith iof yours. Asleik says

I don’t always understand you, he says

But no one can think their way to god, I say

Because either they can feel that god is near or they can’t . I say

Because god is both a very faraway absence, yes well, being itself, yea and a very close presence I say

Maybe it’s like that for you. Asleik says

But it doesn.t really make sense, he says

God is there as well well faith and what it means at times .

I read an FT interview with Fosse in looking for info about this book he described his books as slow prose. He taught Knausgaard a long time ago. He is often compared to his pupil but I feel they are different this isn’t about his own life. In a way he is the anti-Knausgaard this is slow-moving works that explore the innermost thoughts and desires that drive us all but also those demons yes Knausgaard talks about demons in his life and his family but this is in a different way Asle’s show the flip side we all have like the dice man is life can sometimes just be broken down to a few decisions or events. so yes even a turn of dice can decide a life as death and loss of a loved one can lead to many different paths. I wonder where he will take us in the next five books this is the quiet man’s Knausgaard this is a work from a quiet man that loves to challenge his readers and himself as a writer. What are your thoughts of his writing I am a fan I like Karl Ove but this guy is next level to me he is one of the most human writers you can read?

The siege of Troy by Theodor Kallifatides

The siege of Troy by Theodor Kallifatides

Swedish fiction

Original title – Slaget om Troja

Translator – Marlaine Delargy

Source – review copy

Here is a work by the Greek Immigrant Swedish writer Theodor Kalifatides after doing his military service in Greece he emigrated in his early twenties to Sweden. First, as a teacher of philosophy as a school at the university, he was then editor of one of the best know Swedish literary magazines. He has written over forty novels he was one of the first writers to touch on immigration in Swedish fiction. He was chairman of Swedish pen in the nineties here he has taken a classic greek work and reworked it around the world war two.

So I thought I would do that too. I will tell you the story of the Iliad from memory for as long we’re sitting here.”It’s not as if we have anything else to do””

That was true. WE didn’t have anything else to do in the cave, apart from trying to protect ourselves from the assorted bugs.

“So when was thios war ?” Dimitra asked.

“”It was very long time ago- more than three thousand years,” Miss replied.

Dimittra sighed. “Can’t wait”.

Miss took no notice. I didn’t think it sounded very excing either, but as I said we didn’t have much else to do, so Miss began her story

She told of her hearing Homer from professional actor when she was a young girl. The boys aren’t to keen at first but they get gripped by it.

This is told from the perspective of a pupil at a small Greek village we never know his name his friend is called Dimitra. As it is nearing the end of the second world war and the Germans are still in Greece but there is a sense of the end. But they are being bombed when they end up in a cave and the young female teacher that they adore even when later she has found herself a boyfriend our narrator forgives her. She decides the best way to take the boy’s and girls’ minds of the bombing and what has been happening she decides to recount the Iliad from memory. As a child, she had seen it told to her by an old man a performer that went from town to town doing Homer works. Initially they arent keen but she grabs them with this 3000-year-old tale!So as the days go by we are given small chunks of the Trojan war this is interspersed with the events around the village as the children rush to her there teacher telling the next part of the story like Helen and her two loves that eventually they face each other in battle. These battles are mirrored in the real world.

The two armies rushed at each other like waves rushing towards the rocks, Honors were even to begin with, and both sides lost many men and horses it wasn’t until the afternoon that Acheans gained the upper hand, not least to agamemnon their supreme commander, who strode along mowing down his opponents like a farmer scything his wheat. He showed no mercy, not even when two inexperienced young men fell to their knees and begged for their lives. It is the first time we kill that is difficult after that, it quickly becomes habit.

The great Greek leader Agamemnon in the war is fearless and ruuthless as he kills at will maybe an echo to the present !!

This is a clever way to make the work of Homer available to new readers, I am not well-read in the classics .but this is a clever way to open the door to classics. He has made it readable by trim parts of the original but making you want to read the original. There is also a clever mirroring of the events that are read and the events in the present for Miss and her pupils. The Iliad showed the horrors of the Trojan war but we maybe could have done with a more violent present would have been interesting but the main character is just 15 and not yet a man he knows what is happening but isn’t involved so we just see the glimpse a 15 year would see of the war of the Nazi’s parading around. He had reworked The Iliad into a more mortal version of the work playing down the god’s role which given the setting of Miss telling the story to her adoring pupils is apt.

 

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