The dwarf by Pär Lagerkvist

Image result for the dwarf par lagerkvist

The Dwarf by Pär Lagerkvist

Swedish fiction

original title – Dvärgen

Translator – Alexandra Dick

Source – personal copy

When Simon and Kaggy announced the 1944 club, I searched the list of books published that year and this was one that jumped out at me especially when I saw the cover. Par Lagerkvist was a Nobel winner. He grew up in a house where the books he had to read were the Bible and the book of common prayer. But in later life he didn’t turn against religion he was a socialist but had a deep interest in what man his symbols and God. What man’s position is in that world. This book is a perfect example of what he did in a lot of his writing question what is good and Evil.

What abput the Prince ? Does he suspecgt nothing? or maybe everything?

It looks as thpugh the matter of her secret life did not exist for him. But cannot tell, with him one can never be quite sure of anything. He consorts with her in the daytime, and it seems as though he himself were daytime in person , for he is so utterly irrahited with the light of day. It is odd that such a person should be  beyond my comprehension – just he! but perhaps that is because I am his dwarfm and again – he does not understand me either !

This passage does make you wonder is Piccoline is just another side of the Prince .

The book is narrated from the point of view of the dwarf of the title he is the court Jester  Piccoline. He is in the court of an Italian Principality. He has the ear of the prince. He is also told secrets by other members of the court such as their lovers and who is doing what which gives him a greater insight into the inner workings of the town. But this little guy has a real twist of evil in him he is a true Machiavellian figure. The town they live in is in many a feud with the local towns. This is et in the 15th century Italy around the same time as some of the other villages built great big towers here they have hired Bernardo to do some painting (This character could be a version  Leonardo Da Vinci) The town could be Milan but the time and place isn’t ever really mentioned so for me it is just a mixture of tale of the time when Italy was made of small towns and states that were at constant battle what is the problem here is the dwarf they all see as just a jester in a way is twisting them and helps the prince when he has to poison someone for the Prince he does this as he hates the person but he hates everyone around him he isn’t the jovial figure they think he is as we see how he sees the downfall of his town and the violence he has in part he has unleashed.

I am no blasphemer. It was they who blasphemed, not I , but the prince had me clapped in irons for several days. The little jest had been intended to amuse, but I had to spoiled it all and the guests had been very upset, almost scared. There were no chains small enough so they had to be specially mad, and the smith thought it was a great deal of trouble for such a short sentence. But the prince said that it might be as well  tohave them another time. he let me go sooner than he had planned

Again is the dwarf real  and does the prince really see the dark side of him and what he has inside him .

I was drawn in by Piccoline narration of his life he is truly a dark figure. He is maybe more of a dwarf on the inside and that is the question is he a real figure or maybe just the dark side of the Prince of the town. His dark inner child in a way the acts and thoughts of Piccoline has that childlike way of seeing good and evil as he views the world as very black from his mere 26 inches. This is the reason I love events like 1944 club is they make you look out older books. I have always tried Nobel winners when I have seen their books around second hand so I would have got to Lagerkvist at some point but this coming out in 1944 meant I got to it sooner. Lagerkvist does seem to question through Piccoline what our actions are when we are faced with violence and conflict around us. A lost gem of world literature as this seems to be out of print at the moment!!

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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.

The White city by Karolina Ramqvist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The White city by Karolina Ramqvist

Swedish fiction

Original title – Den Vita Staden

Translator – Saskia Vogel

Source – review copy

I end this woman in translation month with another great  Nordic novel from a female writer this time the Swedish writer Karolina Ramqvist. Most of the best female writer I have enjoyed the last few years have been Nordic Lena Anderson and Therese Bohman both Swedish writers as well spring to mind. This book won the Per Olov Enquist lit prize in Sweden. Karolina Ramqvist has written novels short stories and essays. She has also been the editor in Chief of Dagens Nyheter. Her books have translated into many languages this is her debut in English.

He’d been the one who’d wanted to have kids. He had whispered his wishes in her ear. Suggesting a new direction for them, an opportunity. Word after Word, long decriptions of how he loved her and what it would be like to have another her, wh was also one of him .

For him, the idea of a child was a window opening; for her it was one closing. She thought of all the women she’d seen stand before their men, holding out their children and pleading for them to change rheir ways.

Dream was more his idea than her Idea.

 
This is a modern tale in a way, one of greed but what happens when greed leads to Crime. This is the story of one woman after that happen, Karin, She married to John. A man who gave her social status with his money. But it turns out he was on the wrong side of the law and now she is alone in her huge home. That isn’t going to be her home much long as the vultures are circling her life of high spending is over. She has very little time to sort out the future for her, but she also has her baby Dream one they had planned together. But she has now left Holding the baby as John is gone. She is trying to reach out to friends and family to stop losing everything to the government. 
She lay on the sofa with Dream. The sky was heavy and the air was too; it felt as thick as fog. She didn’t know how man days had gone sice she’d last gone outside.
She pushed the blanket and robe to one side and positioned herself so he r nipple nudged dreams round cheek. Eyes closed, she opened wide and turned her head, taking the breast in her mounth and pressing her tiny hand against it so it would empty more quickly.
Dream and her alone in the house for days on end
 
This is the tale of what happens when the good times go and the wife is holding the baby as her world a. she knows is crumbling around her. This like the other Nordic novel I have read by Swedish female writers. It is about strong female voices even thou her world is falling apart and her baby is still being breast fed. she is managing to keep it all together. A tale of what you do when those nearest have betrayed you and left you hanging and you were oblivious to it all going on around you. A woman her baby and the bad weather drawing in and trying to keep her warm and feed. Whilst the cold draws in the large house, even down to stealing the neighbour’s wi-fi. Ramqvist makes the weather feel cold as winter draws in around the former family home that she has little time left in. 

 

The other woman by Therese Bohman

The Other Woman by Therese Bohman

As I said in yesterdays covers post, I have read a couple of great books from Sweden by female writers this year, this being one of them the other being Wilful disregard by Lena Anderson which I reviewed earlier in the year. It was because I enjoyed wilful diregaerd so much I choose to review this from Other press.Also two great books from world editions from sweden as well it has been a great year for Swedish fiction on the blog .

The other woman is a take on being the other woman like it says on the cover. This is story of the affair told from the female perspective , we see this affair start and how it slowly grows through her eyes. The two main characters work in a hospital , she is a general dogsbody in the kitchen and he is a doctor , she finds out his name  Carl Malmberg and also that he is married  . He captures her eye one day and then they begin to spiral near each eventually coming together in a bang. The affair begins as they meet in secret, but is it all she hoped are dreams and reality the same

Occasionally I have wondered what it would be like to have an affair with one of them. particularly the tall handsome consultant who comes in for lunch all too rarely. I have thought about where we would meet, imagined him at home with me, even if the idea of him in my tiny apartment among my things is an unlikely scenario.I picture him sitting on my sofa, we are drinking a glass of wine , chatting. Perhaps we are discussing literature, which turns out to be a shared passion.

She daydreams of meeting Carl after seeing him where she works .

It is easy to see this as a standard love affair, which has been covered many times in fiction from The end of affair one my favourite Greene novels , through books like Lady Chatterley’s lover, which for me is like this book accept the roles are flipped the male is the one in the role of authority and the narrator is the lowest of the low in this world they live in. Also wilful diregard saw a may to december romance which this novel  is as well.What makes this stand up is the narrator’s voice and the overall world we are drawn into where even in a modern setting Class and social standing still there like in Lawrence’s day.

We get out of the car, he locks it, and we dash through the rain to the apartment block and , inside, over to my door. He stands behind me as I open up, I can feel his eyes on my back. I have rarely felt more present in the moment, I register everything – the grain of the wooden door frames, his scent, the key sticking slightly in the lock before it turns – while at the same time I am acting entirely on instinct .

The dream now is real he does come to her apartment .

For me the main character the unnamed narrator of the book is more than we first see , yes she works in the kitchen .But this woman is one that reads important books ,  she talks about the books she readsones like, notes from underground , Death in Venice and even the huge Magic Mountain she describes how on a course she sees everyone around her reading what she call banal books compared to her. She is a woman wanting to be more than a partner in bed, which it turns out is what she has become.We see a ugly duckling  wanting to be a swan in the world can see do it ?

He is a perfectly ordinary lover too. After I have asked him if he wants to come back to my place, and we have stood outside my door drunkenly searching for topics of conversation to fill the time between both of us thinking that we want to kiss each other and actually doing so, and we have kissed our way through the hallway and into bed, he makes love to me in a way that is kind of functional .

No books to discuss and no fireworks with Carl really .

Add to this a confident of the narrator called Alex , whom she starts to tell about the affair but is this Alex all they seem ? Then there is also the senses that Bohman does so well to ignite through her prose which in Marlaine Delargy translation come through so well. Also the sense of a detached style I have found a lot the last few years in Nordic fiction we almost look into this world of class, love, social standings like a voyeur feeling part of it but not able to touch it .Carl maybe see her as an object in a way even in the way he picks something for her to wear at one point. But for the narrator there is a whole other story and this affair is maybe just the start of her real life .This is Therese Bohman second novel to be translated to English I will be seeking out her first Drowned to read.

Have you a favourite female writer from Sweden ?

Swedish fiction

Translator – Marlaine Delargy

Source – review copy .

 

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