Month: February 2022 Page 1 of 2

Gerd Brantenberg: Egalias døtre (UK: The Daughters of Egalia ; US: Egalia’s Daughters)

The latest addition to my website is Gerd Brantenberg‘s Egalias døtre (UK: The Daughters of Egalia; US: Egalia’s Daughters). This novel is set in Egalia, a fictitious country which does not seem to resemble (as regards its geography and history) any country I know of. The key issue is that the traditional roles and stereotypes of male and female are completely reversed. Those men lucky enough to get a wife stay at home looking after the children and the house, while all the important work is done by woman, with unmarried men only doing unskilled labouring jobs. Men take their wife’s surname. When not looking after the children, men try to make themselves look beautiful for their wife. They wear blouses, skirts, and dresses, carry fancy handbags and also wear a peho (= penis holder), a fancy codpiece that draws attention to the genitals and is presumably the male equivalent in this book of the bra. In this society women are called wom (plural: wim) and men menwom (plural: menwim). Female is fele, while male is mafele. There are other similar changes.

We follow the story of Ruth Bram, who has an important, well-paid job, her husband (called housebound) Christopher and their children Petronius and Ba. After a third child is born Christopher is castrated. Petronius, aged sixteen, with a few friends and his unmarried male teacher, start a masculist movement , i.e. the equivalent of a feminist movement, for male liberation, to the disgust of his mother.

Whie Brantenberg makes some sensible and serious points about the respective role of the sexes, some of the book is quite amusing from womo sapiens to Ruth giving birth publicly , from Bloody Maurice forBloody Mary to men foolishly spending all their time gossiping, but it all shows how sexist we are.

Berit Ellingsen:The Empty City

The latest addition to my website is Berit Ellingsen‘s The Empty City. Ellingsen is of South Korean origin and writes in English. This novel tells the story of Brandon Minamato, of mixed origin living in a tower block in an unnamed city. He has a boring office job and tries to distract himself, first by extreme activities and then by urban exploration – the depths of the underground railway system, an abandoned psychiatric facility, where is attacked and elsewhere but, gradually, moves to living more and more in an imaginary world, a dream world, where he visits imaginary, fantastic places and has lucid dreams, ones where is able to change the dream even as he is dreaming it. Eventually, he imagines the city is empty and quits his boring office job. Clearly, Ellingsen is telling us, we need to move more and more away from our dull, routine life in the physical world and explore our inner consciousness.

Kjersti Skomsvold: Jo fortere jeg går, jo mindre er jeg (The Faster I Walk, The Smaller I Am)

The latest addition to my website is Kjersti Skomsvold‘s Jo fortere jeg går, jo mindre er jeg (The Faster I Walk, The Smaller I Am). Mathea Martisen, who is elderly but we are not sure how elderly, lives in a flat with her husband Epsilon. He is a professional statistician. She has never worked (except for one day). She is a loner. She has no friends, her relatives are all dead and she is pathologically shy. She spends much of the day watching TV but ruminates on life and on death. I’m just as afraid of living life as I am of dying. she says. She has no children (one false alarm) and her dog died because of her foolishness. When there are events she can attend, she either declines to do so or it does not work out well. Epsilon is something of a loner too though presumably has work colleagues and he does interact with people. Both seem to be obsessed with death – her favourite reading is the obituaries in the newspaper – and she in particular thinks about it often, including imagining that she might die alone in the flat with nobody discovering her body. The one major event in her life was being struck by lightning at school but she recovered. This is when she met Epsilon who asked her about the experience. There are certainly elements of humour in this story but, on the whole, we can only feel sorry for Mathea as she just cannot cope with life.

Per Petterson: Ut og stjæle hester (Out Stealing Horses)

The latest addition to my website is Per Petterson‘s Ut og stjæle hester (Out Stealing Horses).

Trond Sander is sixty-seven. Within the space of a month , his second wife is killed in a car crash, in which he is injured, and his sister dies of cancer. He decides that it is time to retire and buys a rundown house in the north of Norway, not far from the Swedish border. He meets his neighbour, Lars, and both men soon realise they knew each other as children. When Trond was fifteen, in 1948, he and his father would come to a remote cabin and do man things while his mother and sister stayed at home in Oslo. He had a friend Jon, a local boy of his age and one day the two boys go out stealing horses, in fact just riding the horses of the local landowner. Only later does he learn that the day before, his younger brother, Lars, had taken Jon’s loaded rifle and shot and killed Odd, his twin brother. Lars is, of course, the the Lars that the older Trond meets.

We learn more about what happened then but also what happened before. It seems Trond’s unnamed father, was active in the resistance during the war, though his family knew little about it, and became close to the mother of Jon and Lars. Trond gradually learns more from his father’s friend Franz. However that holiday was the last time he saw either Jon or his father, who disappeared, leaving only a few krone for his family. Much of the book is Trond’s relationship with his father that summer and how he struggles to cope in his old age, trying to put his life back together. There are few fireworks but it is a beautifully told tale.

Johan Harstad: Buzz Aldrin, hvor ble det av deg i alt mylderet? (‘Buzz Aldrin, What Happened to You in All the Confusion?)

The latest addition to my website is Johan Harstad‘s Buzz Aldrin, hvor ble det av deg i alt mylderet? (‘Buzz Aldrin, What Happened to You in All the Confusion?) Our hero Matthias does not want to stand out in the crowd. He wants to be second best, which is why his hero is Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the moon, the one people forget. Matthias manages to get his life going. He works as a gardener for a nursery and has a live-in girlfriend, whom he met at school, though she will not agree to marry him. He is going to the Faroe Islands with his friends Jørn and Roar whose band is playing at a festival, with Matthias as the sound man. And then it suddenly all falls apart. For much of the book he is in a halfway house in a remote part of the Faroe Islands, where people with mental issues live and try to get their life back together. All of them (there are four plus the person in charge who has his own issues) struggle to get their lives back together, not helped when the government closes their facility down. Harstad goes deep into the souls of Matthias and the others and shows how, with a lot of effort, there is perhaps a way.

Laila Stien: Vekselsang (Antiphony)

The latest addition to my website is Laila Stien‘s Vekselsang (Antiphony)/ The novel tells the story of a Norwegian journalist who quits her job when she is accused of lacking initiative and heads off to the North, to write a book about the Sami. There are three chapters and in each chapter she spends time with a woman, each one younger than the previous one. The two older ones bemoan the changes to their culture, the influence of modern, Western culture and how their children, particularly their sons, move down South to find work. The youngest says the Sami, with all their many faults, have been studied to death, while she herself wants to go off to university. While the book is about the huge changes to the Sami culture it is also about fitting in as the narrator, we find, does not fit in with her family, any more than many of the Sami are drifting away from their culture and families.

Cecilie Løveid: Sug (Sea Swell)

The latest addition to my website is Cecilie Løveid‘s Sug (Sea Swell). While this novel has a plot, it is decidedly modernistic, using poetic collages, fragments and images, rather than telling us the story in a conventional way. Our heroine is Kjersti Gilje and we see her imaginary, and semi-erotic relationship with her sea captain father but also her not very successful relationship with Matt, married and father of two, who cannot really tear himself away from his wife and children. She ends up living with Monica, a ceramic artist, and also single, which may the best bet for her but it is the imagery and her mining of her subconscious that makes this book different.

Sigbjørn Hølmebakk: Karjolsteinen (The Carriage Stone)

The latest addition to my website is Sigbjørn Hølmebakk‘s Karjolsteinen (The Carriage Stone). Olav Klungland, an author and Communist, while visiting a comrade in hospital, meets Eilif Grøtteland,a former minister, whose wife has cancer. Eilif will later tell Olav his life story and, in particular how he lost his faith. He had come from a poor family but had been given money to study by a man who may have been his biological grandfather. Eilif’s father had been committed to an asylum for insanity and his brother, Lars, was a bully as a boy and a Nazi as an adult. The actions and words of his brother, while in prison after the war, profoundly affect Eilif’s life and his marriage and both his personal and professional life go very wrong. More particularly, both Olav and Eilif have an obsession with death which colours the whole book, as we explore the dark souls of both men, but especially Eilif.

Ingvar Ambjørnsen: Brødre i blodet (UK: Beyond the Great Indoors; US: Elling)

The latest addition to my website is Ingvar Ambjørnsen‘s Brødre i blodet (UK: Beyond the Great Indoors; US: Elling). The book tells the story of two men- Elling and Kjell Barne – who have been in an institution, Elling, who lived alone with his mother and never went out and was unable to cope after her death and Kjell who hated his parents. They are now out in the world, sharing a flat and struggling to cope with the real world. While Ambjørnsen is certainly both sympathetic to and positive about the pair, he is not averse to gently mocking them, making the book both very funny as well as at times sad though never mawkish. However, unlike a lot of novels about mental health, this one is positive as the two struggle to join the world, with a little bit of help from their friends. This is the sixth novel Ambjørnsen has written about Elling and the only one translated into English and we learn more about his earlier and later life in the other books but this one very much stands on its own.

Knut Faldbakken: Aftenlandet (Twilight Country)

The latest addition to my website is Knut Faldbakken‘s Aftenlandet (Twilight Country). This is a low-key dystopian novel set in Sweetwater (the English name is used in the original Norwegian), in an unnamed industrial country. Things are not going well (but not too badly either). Allan Ung, his young wife Lisa and their four-year old son, Boy, have had enough of their small flat, with no garden in an insalubrious area so, when they get hold of a non-functioning but useable camper van, they move to the Dump, an area which was to be developed for a port but never was and is now an official and unofficial dump. Allan had given up his work as an architect, a job he hated, and works in a petrol station and will continue to work there part-time. There are a few (very few) others doing the same and they work together and survive as we gradually (very gradually) watch society go downhill. There is a bit of violence but very localised and no big bangs but we get climate change and the gradual breakdown of society as Allan, Lisa and Boy struggle to survive.

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