Month: September 2021

Carl de Souza: Jours de Kaya (Kaya Days)

The latest addition to my website is Carl de Souza‘s Jours de Kaya (Kaya Days). The book is about the 1999 Mauritian riots following the death in custody of Kaya, a popular Mauritian seggae musician, who had organised a concert calling for the decriminalisation of marijuana. We follow Santee, a teenage girl who has gone to pick up her brother from school but, when she finds he has already left, goes looking for him and gets caught up in the riots. However, this is not a straightforward, realistic account but something of a mythical, quasi-Dantean journey through a sort of hell, with Santee becoming Shakuntala, a mythical woman from the Mahabharata as she gradually takes on the mantle of Shakuntala. Helped by a man she calls Milanac and, eventually, her brother, Santee/Shakuntala loots, dances and continues her journey. It is only a short book, but de Souza packs a lot in.

Jon Fosse: Eit nytt namn – Septologien VI-VII (A New Name : Septology VI-VII)

The latest addition to my website is Jon Fosse‘s Eit nytt namn – Septologien VI-VII (A New Name : Septology VI-VII). This is the conclusion of his brilliant trilogy about three days in the life of an artist/two artists, Alse. I say two artists as there are two Alses but they seem likely to be doppelgängers of one another. In this novel Alse 1 (as I call him but Fosse does not) essentially abandons painting and moves towards the final phase of his life. What has always mattered to him more than anything is Ales, his long since dead wife, and he will see her on a symbolic boat journey, as he moves towards a state of grace. His doppelgänger, however, will spend the entire book in a coma, almost certainly caused by excessive drinking. We do jump back – Alse 1’s meeting with Ales and his artistic career and Alse 2’s marital problems – but the focus of the book is the move towards the end. This trilogy has been haled as one of the great works of the twenty-first century and I can only concur.

Lo Yi-Chin: 遠方 (Faraway)

The latest addition to my website is Lo Yi-Chin‘s 遠方 (Faraway). Our hero, also called Lo Yi-Chin, is a Taiwanese novelist. His father left China in 1949, abandoning his family, and fled to Taiwan where he started a new family. He has since been back and has now gone on a tour when he has a stroke. Lo Yi-Chin and his mother fly to Jiujiang (a fuckhole of a town, our author describes it), in what he considers very much a third world country. Much of the book is devoted to his dealing with the Chinese system (bribes obligatory) and trying to fly his father back to Taipei, where he can be treated properly, though he ruminates on many topics including novels and novel-writing, the other patients and, of course, father-son relationships. It could have been boring but Lo Yi-Chin writes so well that we never lose interest.

Kōbō Abe: 他人の顔 (The Face of Another)

The latest addition to my website is Kōbō Abe‘s 他人の顔 (The Face of Another). Our hero, a plastics engineer, is badly injured in an industrial accident, leaving his face badly scarred. People – even his wife – are repelled by him. He decides to develop a plastic mask and considers wearing the mask while accosting or even assaulting his wife. What makes the novel are his complex studies on the topic – people’s reaction to him without and with the mask, what masks mean in our society, does the mask have a personality of its own and how it has changed him. Another superb novel from Abe.

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