Category: Women Page 2 of 33

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.

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.

Cora Sandel: Alberte og Jakob (Alberta and Jacob)

The latest addition to my website is Cora Sandel‘s Alberte og Jakob (Alberta and Jacob). This is a semi-autobiographical novel, the first in a trilogy, set in a small town, based on Tromsø. Alberta is a young woman who has left school and now has nothing to look forward to but marriage and a family. She clashes with her parents, who have their own problems, has only one friend, an outspoken, carefree young woman, and generally does not fit in or know where she is going. She is only close to her younger brother, Jacob, but he manages to escape, going to sea, and she is left alone. Everything was dead, joyless, sickening, without hope.

Fiona Snyckers: Lacuna

The latest addition to my website is Fiona SnyckersLacuna. J M Coetzee‘s Booker Prize-winning novel Disgrace was controversial, particularly for the scene where Lucy Lurie is raped by three black men. The book was criticised for being racist, showing black men as violent, but also for sexism as Lucy is seen as passive, refusing to divulge the names of her assailants and keeping the resultant child. This book is a feminist response to Coetzee and his novel. It is told by Lucy, who is shown as a real person and a former (very junior) colleague of Coetzee when he was a university professor. It is a complex novel, discussing the issues of victim shaming, the right to appropriate the stories of others, including those still living, the link between literature and real life, the twists and turns of the legal system and how South Africa is and is not adapting to the post-apartheid era. It also tells a very good story and offers an effective challenge to Coetzee’s novel. Snyckers does an excellent job in challenging Coetzee and his point of view.

Karen Duve: Regenroman (Rain)

The latest addition to my website is Karen Duve‘s Regenroman (Rain). Leon Ulbricht is an unsuccessful writer when his friend Harry Klaamt gets him the job of writing a biography of Harry’s boss, Benno Pfitzner, a former boxer and current pimp and thug. With the advance, Leon, with his docile but attractive wife Martina, buys a rundown house by a marsh in a small village in the former East Germany. It rains all the time, the house is in very poor condition and, because of the water, getting worse, there is a plague of slugs and Leon has to spend his time doing repairs, though he injures himself doing so. The neighbouring sisters, one a predatory lesbian, the other a predatory man-chaser, do help a bit. However Benno wants his book and he wants it now and he is not used to not getting what he wants and becomes increasingly menacing. It all ends very badly for all concerned but it is still raining.

Almudena Grandes: El corazón helado (The Frozen Heart)

The latest addition to my website is Almudena GrandesEl corazón helado (The Frozen Heart). This is a long and complicated novel set mainly in the present but very much looking back to the Spanish Civil War. We follow the stories of two related families, one primarily Francoist and one primarily Republican, and their respective fates during and following the Civil War. The Republican one behaved more or less honourably, the Francoist one did not, cheating the other out of its property. We see much of this through the eyes of Álvaro, son of the Francoist Julio, though he himself is left-wing who, after his father’s death meets one of his father’s bankers and starts an adulterous affair with her. At the same time, he gradually uncovers some of his father’s dirty deeds and what happened to his father’s mother who did not die of tuberculosis, as his father had always claimed. What he uncovers and his affair will disrupt the family. Grandes, who sadly died a couple of weeks ago (27 November, 2o21), superbly exposes some of the non-military horrors of the Civil War and its aftermath.

Jana Bodnárová: Náhrdelník/Obojok (Necklace/Choker)

The latest addition to my website is Jana Bodnárová‘s Náhrdelník/Obojok (Necklace/Choker). This novel tells the stories of two Slovak women – Sara and Iboja – who meet in their hometown after Slovak independence in the late twentieth century. Their stories and the stories of their families are the stories of Slovakia as we follow them and their families from the 1930s to the post-independence era. Both came from well-to-do families but suffered from the Holocaust, the war, exile (Sara is in Germany, Iboja’s mother and father went to France while she stayed behind with her grandparents). Both families suffered bitterly under communism with Sara’s father, a painter whose paintings were not approved, going to an early grave and Iboja’s grandfather being arrested for being a bourgeois parasite. Bodnárová shows how much the area has lost, something that can never be regained, while the two women – aged fifty-five and seventy respectively – can only look back with sadness.

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