Month: September 2020

Vigdis Hjorth: Leve posthornet! (Long Live the Post-Horn)

The latest addition to my website is Vigdis Hjorth‘s Leve posthornet! (Long Live the Post-Horn). Ellinor, our narrator, is a thirty-five year old woman, who owns a small PR company with Dag and Rolf. She is already going through a bad patch, when she learns that Dag has suddenly quit, without warning. Soon after, he is found dead, possibly suicide. Her sister’s miscarriage does not help and nor does her mundane relationship with Stein, who also seems to be having his problems. However, she gradually takes over Dag’s project, helping the Post Office trade union oppose an EU directive which would open up the postal service to full private sector competition. She gradually gets more and more involved, seeing both the value of the postal service, particularly in a country with remote parts, and also the feeling that she is fighting for an important cause. Hjorth tells an excellent story of a woman who overcomes what she describes as her Sylvia Plath moment, to be saved by the Post Office.

Tadeusz Dołęga-Mostowicz : Kariera Nikodema Dyzmy (The Career of Nicodemus Dyzma)

The latest addition to my website is Tadeusz Dołęga-Mostowicz‘s Kariera Nikodema Dyzmy (The Career of Nicodemus Dyzma). While very well-known in Poland, if this book is known in the English-speaking world, it is because Jerzy Kosinski borrowed extensively from it for his novel Being There. It tells the story of a poor young man, down on his luck, who manages, by dint of carefully listening to people and parroting what they said, saying very little himself and using the ideas of others, gradually rises to the top, being offered the post of prime minister. It is very cleverly done, as Dyzma keeps falling on his feet, both in terms of career and love life, while essentially being not very bright and being thoroughly amoral. Dołęga-Mostowicz is clearly mocking the corruption of contemporary Poland while giving us an original character whose name is now a byword in Poland for a phony, a fraud, especially one whose trickery depends on others’ assumptions, self-deceptions, and moral shortcoming. It is nice to have the book in English, nearly ninety years after its first publication in Polish, allowing us, if we want, to judge how much Kosinksi borrowed. However, read the book for its own merits and forget Kosinski,

Gamal al-Ghitani: ااب التجليات (The Book of Epiphanies)

The latest addition to my website is Gamal al-Ghitani‘s ااب التجليات (The Book of Epiphanies), another recommendation from
The Untranslated, though I have had a copy of the book for many years. As did the Untranslated, I read the French translation of the book as the English translation is a substantial abridgement. It has not been translated into any other languages. The book is narrated by Gamal, i.e. the author, and recounts his spiritual journeys, guided by various Islamic scholars and mystics, looking back from on high at his family (including the birth of both of his parents), the early history of Islam, Islamic mysticism, particularly Sufism, and the modern history of Egypt, focussing on Gamal Abdel Nasser and his military adventures, particularly the war with Israel, which al-Gitani wholeheartedly supports. It is very long, very complex and very well done but if you can read French, read the whole book in French and not the partial book in English.

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