Month: April 2021

Iliazd: Восхищение (Rapture)

The latest addition to my website is Iliazd‘s Восхищение (Rapture). Iliazd was a futurist and surrealist so, though this is seemingly a conventional adventure story, featuring a bandit, it has surrealist touches, as well as influences from Central Asia myth, legend and culture, it also somewhat subverts the conventional adventure story. The hero is Laurence, a man who seeks to avoid being conscripted as he does not want to kill but then becomes bandit … who kills. He is based in a village, living with a family of people who have wens (i.e. cysts or goitres) and they control the area but Laurence gets taken in, first by a man who wants to use him for a big heist and then a party leader who wants him to help overthrow the system. It all goes badly. Meanwhile he has met Ivlita, daughter of a widowed retired forester, and they fall in love but the course of true love does not run smoothly. Iliazd embellishes the book with colourful and often surrealist touches. These touches and the subversion of the adventure genre help make this a fascinating book, first appearing in English eighty-seven years after its initial publication in Russian.

Llorenç Villalonga: Andrea Víctrix (Andrea Víctrix)

The latest addition to my website is Llorenç Villalonga‘s Andrea Víctrix (Andrea Víctrix). This is a dystopian novel set in Palma de Mallorca but now called Turclub. Our unnamed narrator has himself frozen, aged sixty, in 1965 and wakes up in 2050, aged thirty. The first person he meets is the eponymous Andrea Victrix who, like most of the people there is androgynous. not least because, à la Brave New World, there is no more viviparous reproduction. It is all done in a laboratory. The US and Russia have destroyed one another and China is gone so the United States of Europe rules. Big business dominates and buying stuff you do not need is almost compulsory. Our hero and Andrea become close while (s)he tries to convert him to the new ways. However, our narrator and other unfrozen people and a 120 year old psychiatrist try to oppose it. When the economy really starts falling, things get problematical. While this is an excellent novel, Villalonga, through his characters, puts the various arguments for and against the new world (he is against) in a detailed but by no means off-putting manner. Another excellent book from Fum d’Estampa.

Olivier Targowla: Narcisse sur un fil (Narcisse on a Tightrope)

The latest addition to my website is Olivier Targowla‘s Narcisse sur un fil (Narcisse on a Tightrope). This is another fascinating discovery from the recently reborn Dalkey Archive Press. Narcisse has been in an institution for seventeen years. He does not seem to know why nor do we or the doctors. You’ve never had all the symptoms of a particular illness, but instead you have some symptoms of every one of a fairly large number of illnesses. He does not do much but he does have sex with a large number of nurses, not so much out of lust but because they want a child but no permanent man. Eventually, however, the doctors think they have have found out what his illness is and they suggest that he gradually reintegrate into society. The thought terrifies him. When he does go out, he struggles with the crowds, his relatives, whom he has not seen since he was in hospital and the lack of order and structure. Narcisse is Everyman. He wants order and structure and, if he does not have it, he needs help. This is another worthwhile addition to Dalkey’s collection of strange novels.

Ivana Bodrožić: Rupa (We Trade Our Night for Someone Else’s Day)

The latest addition to my website is Ivana Bodrožić‘s Rupa (We Trade Our Night for Someone Else’s Day). It is set in an unnamed city but clearly the Croatian town of Vukovar, Bodrožić’s home town. Nora is a journalist who really wants to investigate the local corruption but that story goes to a man while she has to interview a teacher whose schoolboy lover killed her husband. She is also interested in what happened to her father, apparently murdered in the Balkan War. We follow her as she investigates all three stories, including the corruption in high places, while we also follow a host of crimes – corruption, blackmail, violence and murder. No-one comes out well from this story and quite a few people die violent deaths as Bodrožić shows us that Vukovar has a huge and unpleasant legacy from the Balkan War.

Jon Fosse: Eg er ein annan – Septologien III-V ( I is Another : Septology III-V)

The latest addition to my website is Jon Fosse‘s Eg er ein annan – Septologien III-V ( I is Another : Septology III-V). This is the second in his trilogy, with the first book introducing us to Asle 1 and Asle 2, both Norwegian painters, and ending with Asle 2 seriously ill in hospital after Asle 1 found him collapsed in the snow. This book continues with Asle 1’s musings but is mostly about Asle 2 and his childhood. It soon becomes apparent that the two men are almost certainly the same person, perhaps two alternative versions of their life story. However, both meet in the book and become friends and we see his/their early struggles. We also follow Asle 2 at the present time and his views on painting and religion and how the two converge. Fosse once again gives us a wonderful example of slow prose a deep exploration of the psyche and the soul of a man – two men? – and his art, his religion and his life.

Jon Fosse: Det Andre Namnet – Septologien I-II (The Other Name – Septology I-II)

The latest addition to my website is Jon Fosse‘s Det Andre Namnet – Septologien I-II (The Other Name – Septology I-II). This contains the first two novels in what Fosse calls a septology, though they will be published as a trilogy in English. The novel is narrated by a man I shall call Asle 1. He is a painter, a widower, childless reformed alcoholic, religious and devoted to his work. He is friends with another painter also called Asle, whom I shall call Asle2. Asle 2 is twice divorced with three children he does not see, not religious, a serious alcoholic and a man who struggles with his painting. Asle 1,coming into Bjørgvin, clearly based on Bergen, from the small fishing village where he lives, finds Asle 2 collapsed in the snow and rescues him. What makes this book is Asle 2’s thoughts on his art, his religious views and their influence on both his life and art, his relationship with his rough-and-ready neighbour, Åsleik and his thoughts about his late wife, Ales. There are no fireworks but the book is a wonderful read.

Eva Baltasar: Permagel (Permafrost)

The latest addition to my website is Eva Baltasar‘s Permagel (Permafrost). This novel is based on Baltasar being told by her therapist to write about her life, which she did, while adding quite a bit of colour to her real life. Our narrator is a lesbian, passionate about sex (but less so about life), suicidal, obsessed with reading, though ultimately quite lazy about her non-reading and non-sex life, concerned about her body and bodily functions and a good sister and aunt. We follow her excesses both in her waking and sleeping hours and her struggles to determine who she is and where she is going when she is not reading or having mad passionate sex. There no easy answers and that is what makes this book a fascinating read, as we we follow her struggles with life.

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