Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Ögon av Han Song (5/5)

Publiceringsdatum: 2015
Originalspråk: Kinesiska
Översatt till Svenska av: Adam Sarac
Antal sidor: 20

Baksidan säger:
Paret har länge längtat efter ett barn och nu är det här, om än efter en svår förlossning. Men det är något som inte stämmer, han tycks se mer än vad andra barn gör…

Jag säger: Oj, vilken rysare.

Två gymnasielärare föder ett barn som har 4 par extra ögon i pannan och genast börjar media och andra runt om i landet spekulera om anledningen. Efter ett halvår får de äntligen åka hem med sonen och då börjar ännu mer mystiska människor dyka upp.

Det går inte att skriva mer utan att ge bort hela slutet, som var totalt oväntat och alldeles perfekt. Song lyckas få till en kuslig stämning från första början, och jag läste med ett stort frågetecken bakom alla handlingar. I tron om att det värsta skulle hända försökte jag tänka ett par steg framåt i historien, men blev hela tiden avbruten mitt i; på så få sidor lyckas Song leka ordentligt med mina tankar.

5/5 då jag är totalt kär i Han Song efter bara en novell och hoppas att mer av hans verk finns översatta till svenska eller engelska.

Friday, 25 September 2015

Mr Fox by Helen Oyeyemi (3/5)

First published: 2011
Page count: 278

The back says: It’s an ordinary afternoon in 1938 for the celebrated American novelist St John Fox, hard at work in the study of his suburban home – until his long-absent muse wanders in. Mary Foxe (beautiful, British and 100% imaginary) is in a playfully combative mood. “You’re a villain,” she tells him. “A serial killer... can you grasp that?”
Mr Fox has a predilection for murdering his heroines. Mary is determined to change his ways. And so he challenges him to join her in stories of their own devising, and the result is an exploration of love like no other.
It isn’t long before Mrs Daphne Fox becomes suspicious, and St John is offered a choice: a life with the girl of his dreams, or a life with an all-too-real woman who delights him more than he cares to admit. Can there be a happy ending this time?

I say:  This could have been so much better than it was, and I have to admit I was rather disappointed in the turn the story took. It starts off with Mary Foxe sending St John Fox a letter saying that she enjoyed one of his short stories. Mr Fox replies and after a few exchanges agrees to meet Mary and read her works. 

So far, so good...

I enjoyed the banter of the letters and I enjoyed Mr Fox’s short stories. However, as the novel progresses Mary and Mr Fox have gotten to know each other and their exchanges come across as laboured and almost painful to read. She wants him to stop murdering the women in his stories and he sees no reason why. 

Then his wife becomes suspicious that he’s cheating...

I must admit that what happens after Mrs Fox become suspicious was unexpected and I wish Oyeyemi would have done more with. The reason the novel gets a 3/5 has more to do with my expectations than the novel itself; 

I just wanted something different. 

The prose was light-hearted and it was a quick read with some humour and I do look forward to reading more of Oyeyemi’s work. To be noted is that there is a short fable at the end of the novel that was quite beautiful.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Nästan Gratis av Ulf Lundkvist (5/5)

Publiceringsdatum: 2009
Antal sidor: 144

Baksidan säger:
Ulf Lundkvist nya bok är 144 sidor stillsam skrattfest.
Ulf Lundkvists teckningar roar och retar utan att peka ut någon. Utom möjligen oss själva.
Det är vardagshändelser som kanske inte riktigt såg ut just så, men ändå...

Boken är en storpocket på 144 sidor varav 16 sidor i färg.

Jag säger:
Jag har omedvetet varit ett fan av Ulf i flera år så det känns ganska trevligt att äntligen sätta namn på konsten jag beundrat. I tidningar och på anslagstavlor har jag skrattat och nickat instämmande åt hans träffsäkra satir så detta var verkligen underhållande läsning. Ulf tar isär politik, samhälle, relationer och allt annat i vardagen vi tar förgivet – eller inte skänker en närmare tanke - och sätter det samman i konstellationer som är så absurda att man inte kan annat än att skratta.

Eller gråta.

5/5 och jag ser framemot att läsa mer av hans verk.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Your Sugar Sits Untouched by Emilie Autumn (2/5)

First published: 2005
Page count: 105
The back says: Written between the ages of 13 and 18, Emilie Autumn's debut poetry book quickly sold out amongst her fans back in 2000.

Your Sugar Sits Untouched is a partial re-release of Emilie Autumn's 2001 poetry book, Across the Sky & Other Poems. In addition, it includes seven new poems.

I say: I am not a huge fan of poetry that rhymes, so this was never going to be hit with me. Having said that, if I had read this in my teens I probably would have liked and related to most of it more than I did reading it last year. Autumn wrote the poems between the ages of 13 and 18 and it shows in a lot of the imagery and wording. Thus not saying that it is in any way juvenile, just there’s a lot of teenage angst.
And I wasn’t in the mood for it.

I may revisit this collection later on, but for now I give it 2/5.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Taking Pictures by Anne Enright (3.5/5)

First published: 2008
Page count: 240
The back says: The stories in Taking Pictures are snapshots of the body in trouble: in denial, in extremis, in love. Mapping the messy connections between people - and their failures to connect - the characters are captured in the grainy texture of real life: freshly palpable, sensuous and deeply flawed.

From Dublin to Venice, from an American college dorm to a holiday caravan in France, these are stories about women stirred, bothered, or fascinated by men they cannot understand, or understand too well. Enright's women are haunted by children, and by the ghosts of the lives they might have led - lit by new flames, old flames, and flames that are guttering out. A woman's one night stand is illuminated by dreams of a young boy on a cliff road, another's is thwarted by a swarm of somnolent bees. A pregnant woman is stuck in a slow lift with a tactile American stranger, a naked mother changes a nappy in a hotel bedroom, and waits for her husband to come back from the bar. These are sharp, vivid stories of loss and yearning, of surrender to responsibilities or to unexpected delight; all share the unsettling, dislocated reality, the subversive wit and awkward tenderness that have marked Anne Enright as one of our most thrillingly gifted writers.

I say: This is a tricky collection to review because I really loved the first few stories, but then felt my interest waning as I inched towards the end. Perhaps it is merely a matter of me being able to better relate to them because I can’t say that the writing changed in any way.

I’m not sure.

Either way, this is an excellent and coherent collection of women’s lives in different situations and emotions; all Irish, and all looking for something. That is probably what I found most fascinating; that none of them seemed to feel complete. I suppose most of us wonder if we ever really are, but it was interesting to see the many ways their thoughts and actions reflected this search.

A very astute collection, and I look forward to reading more by Enright. 

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

MerzMarco av Marcus Ivarsson (2.5/5)

Publiceringsdatum: 2006
Antal sidor: 78

Baksidan säger:
I denna unika e-bok möter serietecknaren Marcus Ivarsson sig själv från sitt förflutna och frågar sig varför han vill göra en serie om dadaistkonstnären Kurt Schwitters.

Följ med på en flykt undan nazismen, en flykt undan sig själv och en jakt efter att befinna sig i ett större sammanhang - att bli ihågkommen för sin konst.

Jag säger:
Jag vet inte riktigt vad jag ska säga om den här serien då jag inte riktigt säker på att jag förstått. Det var intressant att läsa om Schwitters och hans konst – och ja, även hans liv – och trots att jag kunde känna igen mig i Marcus besatthet av dadaismen och hans filosofiska tankar kring vardagen kändes det hela lite “du skulle ha varit där”.
Jag förstod, men ändå inte...

2.5/5 pga detta, då jag kanske försöker den en gång till i framtiden. 

Friday, 11 September 2015

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill (2/5)

First published: 1983
Page count: 200

The back says: Proud and solitary, Eel Marsh House surveys the windswept reaches of the salt marshes beyond Nine Lives Causeway. Arthur Kipps, a junior solicitor, is summoned to attend the funeral Mrs Alice Drablow, the house's sole inhabitant, unaware of the tragic secrets which lie hidden behind the shuttered windows. It is not until he glimpses a wasted young woman, dressed all in black, at the funeral, that a creeping sense of unease begins to take hold, a feeling deepened by the reluctance of the locals to talk of the woman in black – and her terrible purpose.

I say: A few year ago I came to the resounding conclusion that I hate dislike gothic novels and should really stay clear of them. However, all these challenges and this silly desire to read all the classics means that every now and then I have to suffer through them.

And suffer I did...

There isn’t really that much to say about this novel other than it literally bored me to sleep, and I had to force myself to keep going over several days. I did not find any of the characters likeable; the plot was tiresome; and the prose grating. The only reason I didn’t give it 1/5 was because of the surprisingly weird end. Just as I was celebrating having reached the end something interestingly random happens.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Öppna Dörren av Na Yu (5/5)

Publiceringsdatum: 2015
Översatt till Svenska av: Adam Sarac
Antal sidor: 16

Baksidan säger:
Shitou kör bil på uppdrag av andra. Ibland levererar han gods åt företag, ibland åt privatpersoner, men ett så välbetalt jobb som att köra för statens räkning är inte lätt att komma över. Så en dag när han får erbjudande om en leverans tackar han ja. "Godset" består av tjugo personer som ska fraktas tjugo mil bort och Shitou får stränga order om att vad som än sker, ska han se till att ta dem till slutdestinationen och får under inga omständigheter öppna den låsta dörren. Men på vägen ser han någon vinka åt honom i backspegeln…

Jag säger: Jag tror inte att jag direkt avslöjar någonting när jag säger att Shitou blir övertygad att öppna dörren eftersom beskrivningen ovan gör det ganska så uppenbart. Att han öppnar dörren är egentligen inte lika viktigt som vad det är han öppnar dörren för.

Eller vem.

Jag är imponerad över hur mycket känslor Yu lyckas få in på så pass få sidor, och hur slutet får mig att längta efter mer. Det är spänning, lite humor, och väldigt mycket ångest och förvirring.

5/5 och jag läser gärna mer av Yu.

Monday, 7 September 2015

Amerika by Franz Kafka (4/5)

First published: 1927 (posthumously – written between 1911 – 1914)
Original title: Der Verschollene
Original language: German
Translation to English by: Michael Hoffman, 1996
Page count:

The back says: Kafka’s first and funniest novel, Amerika tells the story of the young immigrant Karl Rossmann who, after an embarrassing sexual misadventure, finds himself “packed off to America” by his parents. Expected to redeem himself in this magical land of opportunity, young Karl is swept up instead in a whirlwind of dizzying reversals, strange escapades, and picaresque adventures.

Although Kafka never visited America, images of its vast landscape, dangers, and opportunities inspired this saga of the “golden land.” Here is a startlingly modern, fantastic and visionary tale of America “as a place no one has yet seen, in a historical period that can’t be identified,” writes E. L. Doctorow in his new foreword. “Kafka made his novel from his own mind’s mythic elements,” Doctorow explains, “and the research data that caught his eye were bent like rays in a field of gravity.” 

I say: Kafka before he became Kafkaesque and I loved most of it, and definitely wanted more of it. 

Well, at least an ending... 

As with a lot of Kafka’s other works, this was never completed, which left me feeling cheated because I really liked Karl and wanted to know what would happen to him in the future. Unlike Kafka’s other works, this is a rather straightforward tale of Karl’s arrival to, and fist time in America. He encounters certain mishaps on the boat and with a relative in America that lead him to be left to fend for himself in a new country where nothing seems to be as it appears to be. 

The way these stories usually go...

Although this isn’t as confusing as Kafka liked to be in his later work, I could see the beginnings of what would later be his trademark. The humour is definitely there, as well as some absurd situations and moments. I loved the narrator describing the events as they happen without any flourish or embellishments. 

4/5 because it’s unfinished and because it took me a while to properly get into the story.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Absalom’s Hair by Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson (5/5)

First published: -
Original title: -
Original language: Norwegian
Translation to English by: No info provided, but I downloaded this from Project Gutenberg

Page count: 97
GoodReads says: Bjornstjerne Martinus Bjornson (1832 - 1910) is one of "The Great Four" Norwegian poets. He was a 1903 Nobel Prize winner in literature. He wrote the lyrics for the Norwegian national anthem, "Ja vi elsker dette." During his lifetime Bjornson was considered Ibsen's equal, Since then his reputation as an author has diminished but his influence is still strong.

Absalom's Hair is the story of sixty year old Harold Kaas who has given up his bachelor ways to marry Kristen Ravn who is much younger than he. The town gossips that the marriage could not be a happy one since they live in separate wings of the house. The story proceeds from there to a disquieting ending with no easy answers and little hope of redemption for the characters. 

I say: First of all, this is the weirdest book so far because it can be bought and downloaded from several places, and yet, when I look through Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson’s bibliography, it is nowhere to be found.

The actual fuck!?

Ah well, whether he really wrote it or someone else did, I loved it. At the beginning of the novel we meet old Harald Kaas who has a great estate in Hellebergene, but no prestige left. For whatever reasons, the young and promising Kristen marries him, and this mismatched couple becomes the talk of the town. Soon enough a son, Rafael, is born and the relationship deteriorates along with the estate and their fortune. When Harald eventually dies, Kristina and Rafael spend many years abroad before finally returning to their native Norway.

And I think I gave away most of the plot, but not really.

What I really loved about this was the oddly riveting depiction of the strained and dysfunctional relationship between Kristina and Rafael. Although they had mostly relied on each other they still managed to constantly hurt each other through misunderstandings and bad-tempered behaviour. Yes, in many ways they were the same person, and a lot of conflict stemmed in Kristina’s inability – or unwillingness – to let her son live his own life. In most ways the ending was poetic, but also a tad sentimental, but I suppose that’s something I shouldn’t frown upon.

It was all so very sad and frustrating at the same time.

I remember my professor at uni going on and on about Bjørnson and I wish I had paid closer notice to what works to read, because I will definitely read more from him (if this is even his work). The writing was straightforward and without any linguistic acrobatics, but there was also a lot of poetry within its simplicity.

Ah, the bleak Scandinavian outlook on things, how I miss thee.

Another winner of the NobelPrize in Literature read for the challenge.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Manna från Himlen av Su Tong (3/5)

Publiceringsdatum: 2015
Originalspråk: Kinesiska
Översättning: Mikael Salomonsson
Antal sidor: 13

Baksidan säger:
Utanför byn dyker det upp en figur dragandes på en oxkärra med ris samtidigt som han hummar på en märklig melodi. Gåsapojken Quanzi är den första som ser honom och ställer sig undrande till denne främling. Främlingen presenterar sig som en ängel och fortsätter in till centrum där han får möta byborna som ifrågasätter hans identitet. Vem är han? Vill han kräva dem på pengar? Om han är en ängel, varför har han då inga vingar?

Jag säger: En kort och sorgligt söt berättelse vars intentioner kanske var lite större än resultatet. Missförstå mig inte, det var ett fint budskap, men det kändes som att det hela byggde upp mot något episkt som aldrig hände.

Inte för mig i alla fall.

Det var en fin berättelse som lett mig till att leta upp fler av Tongs verk för framtida läsning. 

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Pierre and Jean by Guy de Maupassant (3.5/5)

First published: 1887
Original title: Pierre et Jean
Original language: French
Translation to English by: Clara Bell, 2006

Page count: 114
The back says: A vague jealousy, one of those dormant jealousies which grow up between brothers or sisters and slowly ripen till they burst, on the occasion of a marriage perhaps, or of some good fortune happening to one of them, kept them on the alert in a sort of brotherly and non-aggressive animosity. They were fond of each other, it is true, but they watched each other. Pierre, five years old when Jean was born, had looked with the eyes of a little petted animal at that other little animal which had suddenly come to lie in his father's and mother's arms and to be loved and fondled by them. Jean, from his birth, had always been a pattern of sweetness, gentleness, and good temper, and Pierre had by degrees begun to chafe at ever-lastingly hearing the praises of this great lad, whose sweetness in his eyes was indolence, whose gentleness was stupidity, and whose kindliness was blindness. His parents, whose dream for their sons was some respectable and undistinguished calling, blamed him for so often changing his mind, for his fits of enthusiasm, his abortive beginnings, and all his ineffectual impulses towards generous ideas and the liberal professions. Since he had grown to manhood they no longer said in so many words: "Look at Jean and follow his example," but every time he heard them say "Jean did this - Jean does that," he understood their meaning and the hint the words conveyed.

I say: After having read Bel Ami I somehow pictured de Maupassant as a comedic writer and thus expected this to be a funny read.

It was not.

And even though I was in the mood for humour, this was no disappointment because I love the way he tells the story; the ease with which the narrator moves between the characters in a familiar and nonintrusive way. Even when they, mostly Pierre, are acting and thinking in ways we disapprove of, we never fault the narrator his prose, and his familiarity gives the impression of an old friend telling a story of two brothers.

I really liked that.

In a way, I think anyone who has a sibling can relate to either Pierre or Jean; and when the latter inherits a large sum of money from a deceased friend of the family, most of us can understand and empathise with Pierre going through the motions.

Up to a certain point.

There comes a time when Pierre’s long held jealousy reaches its peak and he acts in ways I may have understood, but did not empathise with. However, it was intriguing to follow him on this path of discovery and interesting to see just how far he was willing to take his animosity and who he was willing to hurt in the process.

Although there was little (if any, I can’t remember) humour in this, I look forward to reading more from de Maupassant.