Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Barnvakten av Sofie Trinh Johansson (4/5)

Publiceringsdatum: 2015
Antal sidor: 20
Baksidan säger:
Sextonåriga Sandra är gravid och har bestämt sig för att föda sitt barn och ta hand om det på egen hand. Men pengar är ett problem. Ett erbjudande om att sitta barnvakt mot generös ersättning kommer som en skänk från ovan. Pojken hon ska sköta om heter Benjamin och sägs vara lite annorlunda, lite blyg. Och det stämmer. Benjamin är inte som andra barn.

Jag säger: Oj, det vore fel att påstå att berättelsen var oväntad, för jag visste ju att det skulle hända något ”utöver det vanliga” innan jag ens börja läsa. Det som jag blev så glad över var att det ”oväntade” blev prick så: oväntat.

Och rysligt.

Vi lullas in i en berättelse om Sandra som är barnvakt åt Benjamin som till en början är blyg, men sen gör lite underliga saker, så vi vet att snart kommer det något stort. Vanligtvis brukar jag kunna förutspå vad som ska hända, och även fast jag kände på mig ungefär vad som kunde tänkas hända här med, blev jag helt paff när klimaxen kom.
Fy.

För en så kort berättelse hinner Trinh packa in väldigt mycket detaljer och spänning. Jag vill, och kommer, läsa mer av hennes verk. 

Monday, 14 December 2015

Hangover Square by Patrick Hamilton (5/5)


First published: 1941
Page count: 288
The back says: London, 1939, and in the grimy publands of Earls Court, George Harvey Bone is pursuing a helpless infatuation. Netta is cool, contemptuous and hopelessly desirable to George. George is adrift in a drunken hell, except in his 'dead' moments, when something goes click in his head and he realizes, without doubt, that he must kill her...

I say: This is another classic that I probably never would have read had it not been for my 100 Classics Challenge.

I think...?

I tend to refrain from reading the synopsis, so I had no idea what this would be about other than suspecting some form of drinking.

Yay!

Unexpectedly, this broke my heart. 

Over and over again. 

Mercilessly.

And I loved it.

I adored it and I cannot wait to re-read this.

The novel starts with George entering into one of his ‘dead’ moods, in which he remembers that he has to kill Netta. It takes a while for him to remember who she is, but once he does, he does on to plan tow it is to be done. When he snaps out of his ‘dead’ moods, he cannot remember what happened during them so he continues life as usual. Life being following Netta and her gang around Earls Court o their daily and nightly drinking sprees. None of them work and through Netta take advantage of George who has a little bit of money saved up.

He is in love obsession with Netta and it’s all very sad and would be pathetic if not for his gentle and kind nature. Instead of thinking George a fool for lending giving Netta money that he’ll never see again, I thought her the ultimate bitch for continuing to take advantage of him.

However, that only lasted until he had one of his ‘dead’ moods when he realized that he must kill her.

5/5 because I felt every emotion I ever want to feel while reading this, and even though the end was not what I had hoped for, it was what I had expected. 

Friday, 11 December 2015

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (4.5/5)

First published: 1966
Page count: 343
The back says: On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were savagely murdered by blasts from a shotgun held a few inches from their faces. There was no apparent motive for the crime, and there were almost no clues. 

As Truman Capote reconstructs the murder and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers, he generates both mesmerizing suspense and astonishing empathy. In Cold Blood is a work that transcends its moment, yielding poignant insights into the nature of American violence.

I say: I bought this years ago as a part of my 100 Classics Challenge, but put it aside as I don’t really enjoy reading about real crime (at least I don’t think I do and therefore always avoid the genre). Picture me surprised when I actually enjoyed this so much I had to stop myself from reading all night when I had to go to work the following morning.

I should have called in sick.

I am not sure how to review this without discussing the murders, which I don’t want to do. They were horrible and I didn’t enjoy reading the detailed description of how they had been committed, but it had to be told.

Ugh.

Capote writes as if he was there and it reads more like a story being told than a report; the narrator being friendly and familiar with the surroundings and people.

The only reason this doesn’t get the full 5/5 is because I felt that Capote added a lot of unnecessary information, such as letting us know, in depth, what the people in the town were up to after the murders. Yes, I understand that they are a part of the story, I just had no interest in them.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Vi hade hemorrojder allihop av Zhao Zhiming (4/5)

Publiceringsdatum: 2015
Antal sidor: 42

Baksidan säger: På ett nästan komiskt sätt skildrar Zhao Zhiming det blodiga allvaret på landsbygden för längesedan. Dåtidens vardagssaker som i sig är tragiska blir absurda när de betraktas med dagens moderna ögon. Med ett vardagsspråk och en allvarlig, nästintill kall attityd, som om man talar om något vetenskapligt, beskrivs det vulgära. Novellen berättar om människors relationer och växlingen mellan det kalla och varma i dessa. Det är en realistisk text men har inslag av övernaturliga ting som blir till en sorts logik utan vetenskapligt stöd och som bidrar till en onormal atmosfär där ödet spelar en viktig roll. 

Zhao Zhiming skriver om sådant som många funderar över: familjen, relationer, öde, moderskärlek. Men han sätter in dessa klassiska teman i nya, extrema situationer vilket ger dem ett nytt liv.


Jag säger: Beskrivningen ovan säger nästan allt utan att egentligen säga någonting alls. Det tog ett tag att komma in i berättelsen pga. Zhimings detaljerade språk. Det kändes som att läsa en rapport om livet på landsbygden, men när jag väl vant mig kunde jag förstå varför Zhiming valt att skriva så;

ja, jag kunde tro mig förstå.

På något sätt blir det absurda i berättelsen mer så när det återberättas som fakta och profetian ses som en sån självklarhet att karaktärerna självmant ser till att de händer. Det var många tragedier som framfördes på ett komiskt sätt som fick mig att stanna upp i skrattet och tänka efter.

4/5 och jag läser gärna mer av Zniming i framtiden. 

Monday, 7 December 2015

The Drowning of Arthur Braxton by Caroline Smailes (4.5/5)

First published: 2013
Page count: 385
The back says: An urban fairy tale from the acclaimed author of 99 Reasons Why.

Arthur Braxton runs away from school.

He hides out in an abandoned building, an old Edwardian bathhouse.

He discovers a naked woman swimming in the pool.

From this point on, nothing will ever be the same.
The Drowning of Arthur Braxton is an unflinching account of the pain and trauma of adolescence and of how first love can transform the most unhappy of lives into something miraculous. It is a dark and brooding modern fairy tale from one of our most gifted writers.

I say: I cannot believe I waited this long to read this, especially since I love Smailes.

But there you go...

I’m not even sure what to say about this novel because it blends together so many different genres in such a perfect way it confuses me. It’s like taking the best elements of different types of candy you somewhat like and mixing them together into a delicious cake.

Yes, pretty much like that.

If it weren’t for that dreadful thing called work I would have finished this in one sitting, but alas, we must make money to pay for the books we love. There was a sense of foreboding from the moment Arthur entered The Oracle – the bathhouse - but not in the usual overbearing way, but languorous enough to give me time to ponder different explanations as to how Delphina, the naked girl, came to be there, and how the story would end. Arthur himself didn’t really interest me that much, and that is probably because he was a rather self-centred teenage boy, but I was still engrossed in his journey. Yes, he disappointed me – as teenagers always tend to do – but the attempt at redemption lessened my annoyance. 

However, a few years before we even get to Arthur and Delphina, we meet Laurel, a teenaged girl who gets a job working as a receptionist in The Oracle for three water healers. Hers is a sad story reminiscent of the protagonists in Smailes’ previous novels Black Boxes and In Search of Adam, and because I love tragic characters I found myself in love with her most of all.

Sigh.

The novel is described as modern fairy tale and I didn’t even like fairy tales when I was a kid, which is why it took me so long to read it, but like I said in the beginning; it’s the combination of several different genres that made me like this; a little fairy tale, a bit troubled youth novel, a portion Greek tragedy, and a dash of Tom Stoppard as Samuel Beckett with the two old men talking nonsense.

4.5/5 because although I loved the different styles in which it was written, Arthur was a bit too much for me. 

Monday, 30 November 2015

A Tragedian in Spite of Himself by Anton Chekov (5/5)

First published: 1899
Original title: 
Трагик поневоле
Original language: Russian
Translation to English by: Julius West

Wiki says: In the play, Ivan Ivanovitch Tolkachov asks to borrow a revolver from his friend, Alexey Alexeyevitch Murashkin. Murashkin inquires to the reason, and Tolkachov complains bitterly about the bad events in his life. Murashkin expresses his sympathy, and then asks Tolkachov to take a sewing machine and a caged canary to Olga Pavlovna, a mutual acquaintance. [Spoiler: highlight to read]On hearing Murashkin's request, Tolkachov snaps and begins chasing Murashkin around the room, screaming that he wants blood.


I say: I absolutely loved this short play and found myself laughing out loud at the end.

My goodness, how accurate.

The synopsis says it all, really, but Chekhov puts it in much more humorous terms. Tolkachov complains about the people his life, only to have the person he was complaining to do the very thing he (Tolkachov) was complaining about.

That made sense in my head.

Most of us have a Murashkin in our lives, and if you cannot recognise him in those around you, chances are you’re him.
5/5 for this absolute perfection.

Friday, 27 November 2015

The Cherry Orchard Anton Chekov (3.5/5)

First published: 1904
Original title: Вишнëвый сад
Original language: Russian
Translation to English by: Julius West

Page count: 96
GoodReads says: The Cherry Orchard" was the last play written by Anton Chekhov and is widely regarded as one of his greatest dramatic accomplishments. It is the story of an aristocratic Russian woman and her family who return to their estate, a cherry orchard, to oversee the auction of the estate in order to pay the mortgage. The rise of the middle class and the decline of the aristocracy that was prevalent at the end of the 20th century in Russia, and ultimately led to the Socialistic Revolution, are excellently portrayed in Chekhov's "The Cherry Orchard".

I say: This is described as a comedy, and indeed Chekhov intended it as such, but I could not find anything comical about it. Elements of irony and folly, yes, but no comedy. On the other hand, I’m not too sure that I would call it much of a tragedy either. Having waited far too long to read this, I am reluctant to say that it was disappointing; it just didn’t live up to my expectations. 

And I didn’t even really have any expectations. 

As a whole, this is the type of play that benefits from discussions about how those who started life at the bottom end up at the top, while those at the top end up at the bottom. I loved the irony of how Lubow has taken her wealth so much for granted she has ended up wasting it on the wrong things. E.g. she is happy to give a beggar a gold coin while her daughter points out that there are servants in the house starving. And even though it is certain that the estate along with the cherry orchard has to be sold one way or another, Lubow, and her brother Gaev, cling so stubbornly to their disbelief that they end up apathetic and powerless to whom and how it is sold. It would all have been terribly depressing had not their impassiveness so provoked me. One minute they’re crying and the next they are spending more money. 

Ugh.

And then you have someone like Lopakhin who, probably because his parents were serfs, has a huge chip on his shoulder causing him to take advantage of the people who have only shown him kindness. Although he may be right in saying that the only alternative is for Lubow to sell the property, his impatience with them, and later on glee, reveals his true intentions. 

It was all a bit much and yet nothing at all...

Having said that, I would love to see this on stage someday.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Two Caravans by Marina Lewycka (3/5)

First published: 2008
Page count: 320
The back says: The follow up to her hugely popular first novel presents a Canterbury Tales inspired picaresque that is also a biting satire of economic exploitation. When a ragtag international crew of migrant workers is forced to flee the strawberry fields they have been working in, they set off across England looking for employment. Displaying the same sense of compassion, social outrage, and gift for hilarity that she showed in A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, Marina Lewycka chronicles their bumpy road trip with a tender affection for her downtrodden characters and their search for a taste of the good life.

I say: It’s been a couple of months since I read this, and although it was never destined to inspire a long review, I feel that the words I now have left about it probably won’t convey my initial reaction. My initial reaction being exasperation. 


Yes, I do realise that this is meant to be a comedy with social commentary. Yes, I do realise that this, at the same time, is fiction and should be taken lightly. But no, I just did not have any patience for the ridiculously improbable escapades Lewycka put her characters through. 

Characters that all were such stereotypical caricatures I felt embarrassed reading them. 

I have previously pointed out the issues I’ve had with Lewycka’s prose, and I fear I encountered the exact same issues here. It took me about 3 weeks to force my way through, and I feel no better having read it than I would had I just abandoned it after they left the strawberry field. 

Ugh. 

The narration rotates between the characters, which I have no issue of, other than the fact that even the dog is represented; which struck me as a failed attempt at being cute silly. Few of the narrators were convincing, in fact, they all struck me as plot points to Lewycka’s agenda – whatever that was – about the consequences of economic migration. 

Meh.

3/5 because of the letters Emmanuel was writing to his sister (however unbelievably naïve he was portrayed).  

Friday, 20 November 2015

The Bear by Anton Chekhov (3/5)

First published: 1888
Original title: Медведь: Шутка в одном действии
Original language: Russian
Translation to English by: Julius West
GoodReads says: Although The Bear is one of Anton Chekhov’s lesser-known plays, this “Farce in One-Act," as it is subtitled, is an excellent representative of its genre. This is one of Chekhov's very short plays, an unquestionable comedy, as opposed to the author's full length dramas which he considered comedies, but which are certainly of a more serious ilk. Written, published, and performed in 1888, Chekhov’s play reflects on and pokes fun of liberal discourses in mid- to late-nineteenth-century Russia, in particular those concerned with "The Woman Question." The Bear is engaged in dialogue with Chekhov's contemporaries and earlier Russian literature on women’s emancipation, such as Ivan Turgenev’s On the Eve (1859) and Nikolai Chernyshevsky’s What Is to Be Done? (1863). The play condenses so much of human nature into this short, comical, bizarre, and ultimately triumphant act. Chekhov demonstrates how close (at times) is the relationship between anger and passion, and how strange and wonderful is the human condition.

I say: I am starting to sense a theme of the absurd in Chekhov’s plays, and I, in some cases, am loving it, while in others it’s leaving me unimpressed. 

The Bear falls somewhere in between. 

We’ve got Popova, a widow who locked herself up in the house after her husband’s passing and refuses to see anyone until Smirnov appears demanding money that the late husband owes him and refuses to leave without it. Popova informs him that she has no money in the house but can produce it in two days, which he will not accept and they start to quarrel about men and women; how they are expected to behave and how they actually do behave. 

It all becomes a bizarre battle of wits and offence.
The part of the play that I loved Smirnov challenging Popova to a duel regardless of her being a woman, and Popova directly going off to get her late husband’s pistols. What happens after that is the main reason why I didn’t really like the play. Yes, I do realise that this is a farce, and knowing Chekhov’s frame of mind when writing it makes me admire him more, but not the play. According to Wikipedia, Chekhov wrote of the play in a letter as such:

Just to while away the time, I wrote a trivial little vaudeville [vodevilchik] in the French manner, called The Bear . . . Alas! when they out on New Times find out that I write vaudevilles they will excommunicate me. What am I to do? I plan something worthwhile — and — it is all tra-la-la! In spite of all my attempts at being serious the result is nothing; with me the serious alternates with the trivial!

Furthermore, about its success he remarked: "I've managed to write a stupid vaudeville which, owing to the fact that it is stupid, is enjoying surprising success."

I mean, how can you not love him for that?

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

14 December av Kristina Sjögren (4/5)

Publiceringsdatum: 2006
Antal sidor: 166

Baksidan säger:
När Ruth kommer tillbaka till skolan i nian efter sommarlovet, blir hon utfryst av sina kompisar. Förtvivlad och besviken undrar hon vad som har hänt. Strax därefter hamnar en av dem på sjukhus, och Ruth bestämmer sig för att trots allt besöka Angela.
Det är upptakten till en ny, djup vänskap samtidigt som Ruth kastas in en virvel av händelser som vänder upp och ner på hela hennes liv och förändrar det för alltid.


Jag säger:
Trots att jag kände på mig att den här boken skulle göra mig ledsen, så trodde jag faktiskt inte att jag skulle bli så pass påverkad som jag blev. Det var manga gamla känslor från högstadiet som kom fram; vissa bra, men de flesta dåliga. Författaren beskrev exakt och verkligt hur Ruth slogs mot ensamheten och ledsamheten efter bästa vännens svek, och ett tag fick jag sluta läsa när orden skar för djupt bland minnena av utfrysning. 

Fy.


Vi får följa Ruth genom hennes dagboksanteckningar, och då datumet är bokens titel räknade jag hela tiden dagarna till det oundvikliga. Det är så mycket som hinner hända på en termin; skola, ridlektioner, kaos i hemmet, och en döende vän, och det var egentligen bara språket som ibland var lite krystat och mindre trovärdigt. 


4/5 pga hög igenkänningsfaktor och ett fint slut; tyvärr så var det lite väl mycket ridning för mitt intresse, och en viss händelse mot slutet kändes inte alls trolig. Synd bara att det var så mycket stav och grammatikfel – detta är ju ändå andra upplagan. 

Friday, 6 November 2015

The Wedding by Anton Chekhov (3/5)

First published: 1889
Original title: Свадьба
Original language: Russian
Translation to English by: Julius West
The back says: No synopsis available.


I say: I’m not sure what to say about this short play. The wedding party is promised that a general will attend the reception, and when he arrives he is drunk and talks nonsense. [Spoiler: highlight to read] After a short while it is revealed that he is not a general at all, and the person who was given 25 roubles for his hire has kept the money himself. 
It was short, not particularly funny or interesting and I feel rather indifferent to it.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Mosaik av Marita Hallenberg Linkruus (3/5)

Publiceringsdatum: 2014
Antal sidor: 18

Baksidan säger:
Hon är lycklig över att tillhöra de utvalda. Men det blir inte alls som hon tänkt sig och hon flyr till en värld som har något hennes värld saknar. Hon inser så småningom att också hon hela livet saknat något; en bit i den mosaik som är hennes liv. Kan hon finna den saknade biten här, i denna smutsiga, stökiga, förbjudna värld?

Jag säger: Efter att ha läst två andra berättelser av Linkruus blev jag sugen på mer, men blev lite osäker när jag insåg att denna
berättelse var en del av Fångad av lust: antologin som beskrivs som "erotik som fängelse. Erotik som befrielse. När vår längtan efter närhet möter dagens oskrivna regelverk och blottställer oss."

Jag var inte på humör för erotik, men som tur är – för mig i alla fall – så var det inte så mycket fokus på erotiken.

Då jag inte heller läst sammanfattningen ovan förstod jag inte att detta var science fiction. Utan att ge bort för mycket så utspelar handlingen sig i en värld där kvinnor lever ensamma i en stad och det är bara de utvalda som ”får” bli gravida. När berättelsen börjar befinner sig protagonisten på en av de mest exklusiva klinikerna för att bli inseminerad.

Det var en intressant värld som presenterades och jag kände, som med Linkruus andra berättelser, att jag ville ha mer; det hela kändes så förhastat och ofärdigt.

Suck. 

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Snöflingor av Marita Hallenberg Linkruus (3.5/5)

Publiceringsdatum: 2015
Antal sidor: 10

Baksidan säger:
"Vi kan inte hjälpa honom på fjället. Du kanske kan övertala honom att flytta ner till byn?" 
Hon hade knackat på dörren till stugan, väntat sig att möta sin far, stor och ståtlig, men framför henne hade stått en alltför gammal gubbe, han såg då bra mycket äldre ut än sextiotre, böjd och rynkig, liten, som om han krympt. Hon hade torkat bort en tår ur ögonvrån; det var väl vinden.

Hon har inte varit hemma på mer än tjugo år. Livet kan vara oförsonligt och hon har insett att hon inte vill vara det.


Jag säger:
En kort berättelse där språket och känslan de förmedlar tar större utrymme än berättelsen i sig, som ju egentligen inte är så värst märkvärdig: dotter åker tillbaka till föräldrahemmet för att se till så att pappan lever och väl där inser att det ibland är bättre att förlåta och bygga en trevligare framtid. 

Jag tycker verkligen om Linkruus och hoppas att hon i framtiden skriver något längre. 

Monday, 26 October 2015

The Proposal by Anton Chekhov (4/5)

First published: 1888-89
Original title: Предложение
Original language: Russian
Translation to English by: Julius West
GoodReads says: The story tells of the efforts of a nervous and excitable man who starts to propose to an attractive young woman, but who gets into a tremendous quarrel over a boundary line.

I say: I didn’t like this as I was reading it, nor directly after. However, a few days later I found myself smiling to myself at the sheer absurdity of the story and have now talked myself into re-reading it to see if it really is great or if my memory is playing tricks on me. 

Lomov goes over to his neighbour’s house to ask for his daughter's hand in marriage, but ends up in an argument over land that leads to hilarious, and very unexpected, consequences. At the time of reading I thought Chekhov was being terribly silly, but this would be amazing on stage.
 


4/5 in hindsight.

Friday, 23 October 2015

On the High Road by Anton Chekhov (3/5)

First published: 1884
Original title: На большой дороге
Original language: Russian
Translation to English by: Julius West
The back says: No synopsis available...

I say: The play takes place in Tihon’s bar where the usual suspects hang out; the ruined landowner turned drunk without any money begging for drinks, some pilgrims who only want to sleep but cannot seem to refrain from commenting on the goings-on around them, the owner whom nobody seems to listen to, and some other random people. There were a lot of different conversations and life stories, but the one that stuck with me was of the ruined landowner, Bortsov, whose wife deceived him and led him to drink. It was a sad story – if not an unusual one – and it did somewhat pain me the way that he was mocked for it. 

I say “somewhat” because I did laugh at some of the insults.
In fact, the best thing about this play were the insults and witticism such as this:

They try to cure every sort of disease, and it never occurs to them that more people die of women than of disease...”


3/5 because although I enjoyed it, the ends was predictable and sort of meh.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Änkekonserveringen av Marita Hallenberg Linkruus (4/5)

Publiceringsdatum: 2015
Antal sidor: 15

Baksidan säger:
Hennes blick var kall, hållningen avvisande, och Mattias som inte hade någon erfarenhet av kvinnor visste inte hur han skulle lägga orden för att hon skulle förstå.
"Vi är nu man och hustru." Det lät anklagande. "Jag menar ..."
"Det må så vara att Gud ger dig rätten att dela säng med mig men jag gör det inte. Du har fått din tjänst, ett hem och ett tjänstehjon. Nöj dig med det." Hon föste ut honom ur rummet och stängde dörren.

Mattias har accepterat en kyrkoherdetjänst med änkekonservering i fattig gränsbygd. Han förstår inte varför hans nyblivna hustru vägrar honom tillträde till den äkta sängen men så småningom går det upp för honom varför prästänkan inte lockat någon annan sökande till tjänsten. Nästa gång han har tjänstgöring i en avlägsen del av församlingen ser han till att komma hem en dag tidigare än väntat...


Jag säger: En kort och intressant berättelse som slutade någorlunda oväntat. Trots längden så lyckas Linkruus dra in läsaren i berättelsen direkt, och trots att jag oftast inte tycker om föraningar i berättelser, så fungerade det bra här då jag inte behövde vänta så länge på upplösningen.
 

Språket var sparsmakat och tidsenligt (antar jag), och jag hade gärna läst en hel roman om Mattias och hans nya liv. 

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Ofantligt mycket tid av A Yi (3/5)

Publiceringsdatum: 2015
Originalspråk: Kinesiska
Översatt till Svenska av: Eva Ekeroth
Antal sidor: 23

Baksidan säger:
En person hittar ett oöppnat brev i en soptunna, ställt till en forskare vid den högaktade akademien för samhällsvetenskap. Han tar det nyfiket med sig och läser det på tunnelbanan på väg hem. Helt tagen av innehållet sätter han sig framför datorn och knattrar in det i tron att han fått en stor och viktig uppgift att uträtta, nämligen att sprida informationen vidare till alla människor i hela världen...

Jag säger: En kort historia där brevskrivaren tror sig ha räknat ut meningen med livet, bokstavligen talat. Tyvärr så försvinner mycket att det filosofiska i redogörelser och rättfärdigande av författaren till brevets liv och handlingar. Stundtals känns det mer som att läsa ett försvarstal är en uppenbarelse.

3/5 då det fanns en del frågor som tål att tänka på. 

Monday, 5 October 2015

A Hero of our Time by Mikhail Lermontov (5/5)


Translation to English by: Paul Foote, 1966
Page count: 168
First published: 1839 (revised in 1841)
Original title: Герой нашего времени, Geroy nashego vremeni
Original language: Russian

The back says:Proud, wilful and intensely charismatic, Pechorin is bored by the stifling world that envelops him. With a predatory energy for any activity that will relieve his ennui, he embarks on a series of adventures, encountering smugglers, brigands, soldiers, lovers and rivals – and leaving a trail of broken hearts behind him. With its cynical, immoral hero, Lermontov’s novel outraged many critics when it was published in 1840. Yet it was also a literary landmark: an acutely observed psychological novel, narrated from a number of different perspectives, through which the true and complex nature of Pechorin slowly emerges.



I say: I have been seeing this as a recommendation on GoodReads for quite some time, and the second I saw it at the library I picked it up. Having gone far too long without reading anything Russian, this was a surprisingly quick and joyful read.

I have a new bibliography to explore.

The novel is composed of 3 parts: the first being the narrator telling of how during his travels somewhere in the Russian landscape met Captain Maxim Maxymich who, while stranded in a blizzard, tells of his life with Pechorin. A while later the narrator chances upon Maxim Maxymich again and together they wait for Pechorin who makes a brief appearance which ends with the narrator being given Pechorin’s diaries. The second part of the novel is composed of those diary entries and the third part a conclusion by the narrator.

Despite it sounding a tad silly when written down, Lermontov connects the parts nicely.

The narrator justifies why he considers Pechorin a hero of our time, whereas I am unprepared to make any such declarations. I haven’t even decided whether or not I like Pechorin and the biggest reason is probably because he reminds me a lot of myself, which makes me question all the qualities he possessed that were deemed bad. He is, in a lot of ways, a very selfish man; but at the same time his selfishness doesn’t really cause anybody any direct harm – unlike his envy. At one point he writes:

I lied, but I wanted to bait him. I was born with a passion for contradiction. My whole life has been nothing but a series of dismal, unsuccessful attempts to go against heart or reason. An enthusiast turns me cold as ice, and I fancy that frequent contact with a languid phlegmatic would turn me into an ardent idealist.
- p. 77

This was my first work by Lermontov, and definitely not the last, and even though I did grow weary of the descriptions of the scenery the story moved along with both swift and detail. I loved Pechorin’s diaries, especially when juxtaposed to how Maxim Maxymich saw him.

5/5 for amazingness that made me think.

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.