My December read
So up to this last month of 2011 I managed to read quite a lot of books – more than usual I would say. To be quite frank, I upped up my reading because I noticed that my “Goodreads reading challenge 2011” in the latter half of this year was not progressing so well, and I was constantly being reminded I was behind (30 % behind, 5 books behind, come on, you can do it). And since I can’t really count in all the fan fiction I’ve been reading lately (no ISBN or official stamp, so it doesn’t exist), I can’t let it appear as if I’ve been dillydallying since september, can I? Grrrrrr, so being of the ancestry that I am I wasn’t going to lose to a html-code, no sir!!!
So it turns out I managed to squeeze in a couple of non-fan fiction literature in including Danish new releases and some golden oldies.
- ‘MuhameDANEREN’ by Tarek Omar. The collection of stories in the book all revolve around immigrants in Denmark, and I would dare say the idea is to show a wide range of ways newcomers and children of newcomers assimilate, integrate, and disseminate into Danish society + the problems that might arise when children and their parents are caught between two worlds they don’t know how to fuse together. It was an interesting read, but a little too light for my taste. Although, maybe because I found some sections too digestible, a couple of the inner-perspective descriptions actually touched me deeply. For instance, there is a story about a boy who is really bothered or embarrassed by his mother to the point of annoyance when he is out in public with her, because she doesn’t act like the other moms and doesn’t know the specific Danish customs. The relationship between mother and son, the latter almost torturing the former at one point, has a very interesting and captivating narrative. I would like to read more of this story (maybe I’ll write it myself, *wink*wink*)
- ‘Ukulele-Jam’ by Alen Mešković. Mešković’s debut novel about a Bosnian boy (Miki) and his parents who are forced to flee their hometown from the Serbs and setting up in a run-down resort hotel where they live alongside other refugees – both Croatians and Bosnians – and in the midst of the coming-and-goings of tourists. The last Miki has heard of his older brother and hero, Neno, is that he is in a Serbian work camp, but to his and his parents’ distress they don’t know anything for sure. And they wait and wait, for news of Neno’s safety, for the war to end, to be able to go on with life, which, as Mešković does a great job of narrating, is at a stand-still. The general rules don’t apply here and the phrase beggars can’t be choosers is a tragic slap in the face, when Miki can’t get into the education due to administrative and funding issues. So he is forced to seek alternatives, both in order to make something out of himself so he can provide, but also because he is restless, he doesn’t want to follow his dad’s strategy sitting by the radio listening to the course of conflict and not being able to do anything about it. The language imitates the situation; a mix of serious, frustrating, to the point and in your face. It touches upon something you rarely come across when talking about the ‘ordinary’ people caught in conflict: everything that happens after they’ve been ripped away from home, with an onwards-upwards attitude.
- ‘Huden er det elastiske hylster der omgiver hele legemet’ by Bjørn Rasmussen. I can say without hesitation that this is my read of the year, hands down! It’s raw, passionate, gut-wrenching prose, an overdose of language and imagery. I can’t do it justice in this type of list-post, so it might sneak itself in on a singles post later on when I have better time to present it in full. But I saw, and it was good, leave it at that.
- ‘The snows of Kilimanjaro’ by Ernest Hemingway. Regrettably, I did not not do Hemingway justice at first. I had read ‘A Farewell to Arms’ previously and was neither amused or impressed by it. Chalk it up to the cynically low levels of tolerance for human idiocy in war on my part, but it did not catch my imagination and its cliché characters made my skin crawl the way I could imagine the thought of reading ‘Jane Eyre’ would send some anti-19th century gothic horror readers flying right of the hinge. “Rah-rah I’m a man, rah-rah war is hard, you die so what. Rah-rah, come nurse, whom I love because you have taken care of me and because in time’s of war the sexes really connect on other levels, let’s go to a different country and escape this retched century.” Ok, ok, no need to butcher it anymore, suffice to say – not impressed. The writings in ‘… Kilimanjaro’ was better for me and it was more of a ‘Great American land exploration’ novel, and there was more emphasis on descriptive settings and panoramic views set with close dialogue. Small windows into America of the past – of course with the main story being set on a safari trip by the foot of Kilimanjaro.
- ‘Den døde mand’ by Hans Scherfig. This little number was actually quite an amusing read. The Danish satirist Scherfig (1905-1979) is known for many works, one of my favorite being ‘Det forsømte forår’ (Stolen Spring), and Frydenholm and Den forsvundne fuldmægtig (The missing head clerk). ‘The dead man’ is a short story about the flaky, avant-garde and ever-drunk artiste Hakon Brand who all of a sudden does a 180 and becomes an abstainer and town portrait painter shortly after a personally shocking incident involving his former landlady and the fellow renter, and finally ending up dead in Italy on his honeymoon. The story is told by a narrator who moves in the artist circles in Copenhagen and presents himself, in lieu of his claim to tell the real truth of Hakon Brand’s fate in the introductory pages, to be quite the reliable, trustworthy source. He is also the only person Brand trusts with a recount of the events that have shocked him to the core. Hakon Brand on the other hand is quite a mouthful and not a liked mouthful by the circle around him in his drunken haze. But when he goes through a transition and ends up becoming a paid artist for the rich upper class – painting, as the narrator so fittingly judges, the worst he’s ever painted – he gains popularity and a wife. But the events he tries to flee keep on haunting him. The story is packed with a mystery of gothic horror proportions, plenty of satirical wit and all the socio-critical punch that Scherfig is famous for. Fast, but compact, read that leaves a mark on your consciousness if you let it.
- ‘Brahmadellarnir’ by Jóanes Nielsen. Ok, this one ties with the read of the year by B. Rasmussen – I loved it, and it gets a singles post too when I have the time! As witnesses can testify to, I could not put this novel down for the life of me. Once I started to read I was so caught up in the story, the narration, the mood and setting that I simply could not focus on other life sustainable things such as sustenance and a routine toilet check or two. It is a ‘Great Generation-Historical’-novel set on the Faroe Islands beginning with the contemporary grave-pissing character Eigil Tvibur and skipping back to the 18th century to tell the story of the Brahmadells, in particular Tóvó, a young boy who experiences the tragic loss of his father to an epidemic of measles and his mother going insane. Again, I want to delve much further into the story and the language in another post, so I will close this one with a: HELL YEAH!