This book is a collection of short stories, starting with The Wind-up Bird & Tuesday's Women & finishi THE ELEPHANT VANISHES BY HARUKI MURAKAMI
This book is a collection of short stories, starting with The Wind-up Bird & Tuesday's Women & finishing with the title story, The Elephant Vanishes. On turning the page to the first tale, I had that strange yet familiar feeling that a Murakami character must experience, a sense of the unknown mixed with an undercurrent of deja vu. First there was the title, then reading further, the understanding that I had read this before, that it was the opening to probably his best known work, The Windup Bird Chronicles. His stories deal with dissatisfaction with a heavily mechanised consumer driven society, people are disorientated, out of balance with what they perceive their lives should be, they are haunted by a lack of equilibrium & an aching sense of some loss. There's the sense of something dead in the relationship of the couple in the 1st tale, the overwhelming hunger of the pair in the 2nd, which results in them robbing a McDonalds for burgers. In The Sleep, a housewife hasn’t slept for 17 days & doesn’t tell a soul, she spends this time reading books & at some point sees her mother in law in the sleeping face of her husband, realising how far apart they’ve drifted, & in the title story the narrator has an obsession over an elephant & its subsequent vanishing, to the extent he has a scrapbook on the subject & even where there's a possible love interest he cannot leave the subject alone even when there's no interest from this other party.
Murakami creates these worlds that, just below the surface, just outside the corner of your eye lays another version of reality, not an alternate version, more like boxes within boxes. These are modern fairytales, where instead of being lost in some ancient woodland, where your trail of crumbs home have been eaten, the hero/heroine is lost in Tokyo, with a tenuous (if lucky) connection to the life about them, sometimes devoid of a work relationship, sometimes family/tradition. It’s in this world that green monsters swear undying love, dancing dwarves help you to score with a girl, but there’s always some condition. Its a world
where an aura of surrealism looks over your shoulder, where cause & effect change places. A place where what you imagined happening is just as valid as the memory of what happened, as in my favourite tale - On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl, One Beautiful April Morning. This tiny story of just 6 pages, where the narrator on passing his 100% perfect girl (her walking east to west & him west to east), doesn’t stop & talk to her. Later on, describing this to someone, he wished he could have stopped her. He then tells this tale complete with, Once upon a time, about 2 people perfect for each other meeting, & how it’s a sad tale. This is a beautiful, funny, sad story that I adored (In fact I read it twice over) that perfectly describes the human relationships within this book.
The Vanishing Elephant is a collection of stories & modern fairytales, that are darkly comic. They are full of lonely fragmented people, that live a puzzled dislocated existence. Some are shallow with little interior life; others have a deep yearning for meaning & self fulfilment. It’s in these tales, sometimes snuck between the lines, that the Murakami magic happens, where the humorous & puzzling tales highlight the absurdities in modern life & by the use of satire points to the mundanity of the daily merry-go-round that is our lives.
“You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino’s new novel, If on a Winters night a Traveller. Relax. Concentrate. Dispel every other thought. Let the“You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino’s new novel, If on a Winters night a Traveller. Relax. Concentrate. Dispel every other thought. Let the world around you fade. best to close the door; the TV is always on in the next room. Tell the others right away, “No I don’t want to watch TV!” Raise your voice – they won’t hear you otherwise –“I’m Reading!”
These are the first few lines of the novel, and after settling down, finding your most comfortable position (making sure everything’s perfect), a couple of pages later you then go on to read, what I think is a perfect description of a reader & by reader I mean a Bookfiend, an obsessive devourer of the written word. This description starts with you finding out about this book (you know, the one you’re reading) and then going to a bookshop to purchase it.
“In the shop window you have promptly identified the cover with the title you were looking for. Following this visual trail, you have forced your way through the shop past the thick barricade of Books You Haven’t Read, which were frowning at you from the tables and shelves, trying to cow. But you know you must never allow yourself to be awed, that among them there extend for acres the Books You Needn’t Read, the Books Made For Purposes Other Than Reading, Books Read Even Before You Open Them Since They Belong To The Category Of Books Read Before Being Written. And thus you pass the outer girdle of the ramparts, but then you are attacked by the infantry of the books That If You Had More Than One Life You Would Certainly Also Read But Unfortunately Your Days Are Numbered. With a rapid maneuver you bypass them and move into the phalanxes of Books You Mean To Read But There Are Others You Must Read First, the Books To Expensive Now And You’ll Wait To They’re Remaindered, the Books You Can Borrow From Somebody, Books That Everybody’s Read So It’s As If You Had Them, Too. Eluding these assaults, you come up beneath the towers of the fortress, where other troops are holding out:
The Books You’ve Been Planning To Read For Ages,
The Books You’ve Been Hunting For Years Without Success,
The Books Dealing With Something You’re Working On At The Moment,
The Books You Want To Own So They’ll Be Handy Just In Case,
The Books You Could Put Aside Maybe To Read This Summer,
The Books You Need To Go With Other Books On Your Shelves,
The Books That Fill You With Sudden, Inexplicable Curiosity, Not Easily Justified.”
At This Point It Would Be Fair To Say I’m Hooked, Gutted, and Served on a Plate, with Only One Desire - To Turn The Next page.
You’ve now bought the book, found your way home, settled down, possibly with a nice drink, perhaps a coffee or maybe something stronger -say, a nice glass of malt whisky. You turn the first page - which starts at some railway station (don’t know where, or when),- the feeling is like it’s some 1940’s film Noir, your reading voice is being acted by William Holden and you realise it’s just a matter of time before some femme fatale crosses your path.
Now you’re relaxed, you’re about 30 pages in, you’ve crossed that invisible border, you understand this book, so you turn the page……and you realise there’s a problem a mistake, you’ve read this before, in fact the whole book is misprinted and contains only more copies of that same chapter.
You return it to the shop, are given a replacement, but this turns out to be a totally different novel altogether. Just as you becomes engrossed in that, it too is broken off: the pages, which were uncut, turn out to have been largely blank. This happens again. This cycle of first chapter, problem, new book - different book etc..
Whilst at the book-shop you meet a girl you fancy, who has the same book as you, playing it cool you arrange to meet her again to discuss any problems with this latest version, this starts another tale - one that alternates with the chapters from the various unfinished novels - in which you chase the novel around the globe, meeting various characters, are arrested & a lot more.
All through this post I’ve referred to the main protagonist as “You” Because This book is about a reader trying to read a book called If on a winter's night a traveller, and that’s you. Italo Calvino, has posited you THE READER in the driving seat, it’s you that finds the faults, you who track down the various books, the publisher, writer, translator etc.
By now there comes the understanding , we are not reading just any ordinary novel. We are instructed to get comfortable, avoid distractions and enjoy the process that is reading. Slowly it dawns that this book puts pre-eminence on the reading experience itself, rather than on the text, this book takes you through a detective tale, a romance, a satire, an erotic story and still isn’t finished with you, this is the sheer genius of this book and Calvino’s writing, he has placed you, the reader as the hero.
Although this book is one of those books labelled postmodernmetafictionSelf-reflexive novel, and reviews about it spout sentences such as - “which explores if absolute objectivity is possible, or even agreeable. Other themes include the subjectivity of meaning (associated with post-structuralism) the relationship between fiction and life, what makes an ideal reader and author, and authorial originality.” - None of that matters, I loved this book, it made me turn the page, it made me laugh out loud sometimes with the sheer cheek/ audacity of the writer, one minute I’m Mickey Spillane, the next Jorge Luis Borges, and sometimes I laughed, just because it was funny....more
This book is immersive, by which I mean, you have to be prepared to totally immerse yourself. Think preparation, not logical, not with professorial in
This book is immersive, by which I mean, you have to be prepared to totally immerse yourself. Think preparation, not logical, not with professorial intent, I mean more than taking a deep breath. Think full underwater apparatus, not snorkel, we're talking old school, a full suit, lead boots, a large helmet bolted down, with an air tube anchoring you to the surface.
2666 . by Roberto bolano Translated by Natasha wimmer
To say that 2666 is epic or on a grand scale, would be be an understatement. It wo2666 . by Roberto bolano Translated by Natasha wimmer
To say that 2666 is epic or on a grand scale, would be be an understatement. It would be to misunderstand what’s asked of you. This book doesn’t just want commitment, it wants blood, wants sacrifice & even that’s not enough. It will hold your hand, take you down a blind alleyway then vanish, taking away all that you understood, all that you had grasped, all those images hoarded in the hope of finding a path through it.
How do you write about a book that’s about everything & nothing, that has in it’s shadow is the whole of the 20 century?
This book is in 5 parts, the 1st is titled The part about the critics. This follows four critics from across Europe & their shared interest in Archimboldi a post war German writer, who vanished years ago & who they are searching for, it’s also a love triangle.
Part 2, The part about Amalfitano is about a Chilean philosopher living Santa Teresa (Mexico), with his daughter. The Philosopher between bouts of madness (hearing voices in his head) and worrying about his daughter, conducts an experiment based on some ideas by Marcel Duchamp.
The 3rd part, The part about Fate, concerns an African-American journalist (Oscar Fate), as he travels to Santa Teresa to cover a boxing match & meets Amalfitano’s daughter & learns about the killings that have been going on there for years.
Part 4, The part about the crimes. This book covers the killing of countless women, over decades in Santa Teresa & is based on the actual events in Juarez. It’s written as hardboiled fiction & reportage.
The final part (5) follows the writer Archimboldi from his birth onwards, through the 2nd world war. In fact, through most of the 20 century (1920 – 2000) & along the way answers some of the questions that have been prodding you with a sharp stick.
2666 is an unfulfilled love story, its a world war 2 epic, it’s science fiction, it’s horror, reportage, it’s a thriller, it’s a comedy, it’s a vision of hell. It’s also the vision St Thomas Aquinas had of heaven, where the righteous can enjoy their beatitude & the grace of god more richly by being granted a perfect sight of the damned.
2666 is a nightmare that is beautiful & a dream that haunts the edges of your waking hours, you could take a set square & compass to it & describe it logically, but all you would end up with is a pile of words, scattered across your floor.
2666 is massive, a dark nothing out of which everything explodes – life, death, love & hate. This is the start of the universe & the inertia born of its dying. This is the black heart of the sun.
Writers on Bolano
Argentine novelist, Rodrigo Fresian, wrote “It doesn’t make much sense to read about 2666, one must read 2666”
“He took what was there, as Joyce did with Ireland almost a century earlier – a broken society with a strange literary tradition. And he set about turning it on its head, using chaos, its unformed & unstable nature, its violence & making a myth out of that” –Colm tiobin
“Anyone who has been young & in love & besotted with poetry, can’t help but respond to Bolano. He has a natural storytellers gift – but more important, he has the power to lend an extraordinary glamour to the activities of making love & making poetry” – Edmund White
Bolano on Archimboldi – “The style was strange. The writing was clear & even transparent but the way the stories followed one after another didn’t lead anywhere: all that was left were the children, their parents, some animals, some neighbours & in the end, all that was really left was nature, a nature that dissolved little by little in a boiling cauldron until it vanished completely.”
Once upon a time, three blind schoolchildren went to the zoo, on a project to understand Elephants. The First child went to the back of the elephant, to its hind leg. On feeling the leg he thought it was tall & strong like an Oak tree, in fact it reminded him of the trees that were used to build the ships that had sailed against the Armada (as he had learnt in history).
The second child felt his way to the side of the creature, he realized that an Elephant was tall ,wide & as tough as stone, just like the castle (Camelot) he had read in his favourite book about King Arthur.
Walking to the front of the elephant the third blind kid, grasped it by the trunk & was lifted clean off the ground. Once back down he thought how strong & sinuous an elephant was, like some large snake, maybe an Anaconda, just like his teacher had described when she talking about the Amazon.
The next day at school, they described to their tutor what an Elephant was.
One with his tall oak trees & the large warships, another with his castles & the tales of the round table & the third with the Boa- constrictor, all sinuous crushing strength. They talked & argued for most of the day, without reaching a definitive description of an Elephant.
"A minor poet disappears without leaving a trace, hopelessly stranded in some town o Roberto Bolano- Last evenings on earth.
Exile on dead-end street
"A minor poet disappears without leaving a trace, hopelessly stranded in some town on the Mediterranean coast of France. There is no investigation. There is no corpse. By the time B turns to Daumal, night has fallen on the beach; he shuts the book & slowly makes his way back to the hotel."
The last evenings on earth, shouldn't make sense, it's a book about failure, not the usual fireworks & all guns blazing failure I've come to expect from Bolano's work (The savage detectives, 2666). No this is wretched, abject - from the Latin "abjectus" meaning, cast away, this is the flotsam & jetsam of Latin- America, exiled from their own past. Individuals washed up on the shores of Europe, some having escaped torture & violence under General Pinochet's regime, yet having not really escaped, still wearing the chains, still bearing the scars, still living haunted lives of utter anonymity. Bolano also writes about the writers, poets and artists that history forgot, the ones who regardless of talent, pursued a life of dedication to their muse, the ones who sacrificed themselves upon its altar & left not a bloodstain-
Is your faith strong enough to withstand repeated beatings, starvation, torture and all the myriad of methods, one human being can devise to hurt and Is your faith strong enough to withstand repeated beatings, starvation, torture and all the myriad of methods, one human being can devise to hurt and scar another?What if, they came for your family, friends, or even your neighbours? Now what if come this moment, this brutal challenge to your beliefs, you are offered a way out, (no questions asked), just renounce your god, stomp on some old relics of your faith and walk away.
You've survived, your free....But then what? There was your family & friends whose faith remained unquestioned, whose beliefs took the kicking but stood up, again and again, till they could no longer stand... But you've survived, your free. Now what ?, after the initial relief has faded and your heart has returned to its pedestrian beat.
“We come into the world intent on finding narrative in everything, in the landscape, in the skies, in the faces of others, and, of course, in the imag“We come into the world intent on finding narrative in everything, in the landscape, in the skies, in the faces of others, and, of course, in the images and words that our species create”. So writes Alberto Manguel, in this fantastic, thought provoking joy of a book – A Reader on reading. He goes on to say, via the thirty-nine essays collected here, “ when the world becomes incomprensible….. when we feel unguided and bewildered, we seek a place in which comprehension (or faith in comprehension ) has been set down in words” and through the narratives of Jonah, Homer & Dante, and through topics ranging from Pinocchio to comics, from Borges to Che Guevara, and even Lewis Carroll's Alice, we are guided into the writer’s world. http://parrishlantern.blogspot.com/20......more
A Lipogrammatic Synopsis ---- which with artful constraint will focus savor, nay passion and by addition of vigorA Void (La Disparition)–Georges Perec
A Lipogrammatic Synopsis ---- which with artful constraint will focus savor, nay passion and by addition of vigorous acuity and highbrow purport, may transplant mirth as though a frolicking Pan full of ambrosial liquor.
As his country is torn apart by social and political anarchy, Anton Vowl, known capricious kook and insomniac, is missing. Ransacking his Paris accommodation (turning all up and down, all in & out), his top, top pals scour his diary for hints to his location. At first look, nothing is in plain sight, all is myopic, but Vowl's inclination for word play, notably for "lipograms" (compositions in which a particular symbol, pictograph or syllabary is A.W.O.L.) is commonly known. But as his chums start to work out Vowl's word labyrinth’s, tracking through various trails amongst Vowl’s data, his companions start to go missing, 1 by1 by 1, and with mystifying Fortuna. Through this story you and I follow Vowl’s cohorts, trailing (magnifying glass in hand) through a Gordian knot of distractions, convolutions & fog bound motifs, forming a Rubics squarish form of a madcap roaming, with foul play and slayings a constant quandary and a garishly Faustian conclusion. A Void is a philosophical whodunit, a bloodhound, P.I., a shoofly story, chock-full of plots and unfolding's, of trails in pursuit of pathways, it’s as though Dr Watson’s brainy companion was caught running through a phantasmagoric vista, with brushwork by Miró * or his kind .
All of which affords this books author occasion to display his virtuosity as a lingual magician, acrobat, and lugubrious buffoon, a mad calculus doctor piling word upon word in a foolish, rash, cloud-soaring ziggurat, a monstrous burj of Babil.
It is also a flagitious garrulous stunt: a 280 odd folio fiction that on no occasion puts to work a particular symbol that falls twixt D and F. Adair's translation, is also mind-bogglingly astounding and full of dark art, it also constricts it’s wording choosing to follow its original authors lipogrammatic constraint and in doing so fashions a book that has no ilk, no comparisons, that lights its own trail with lamps and flash bangs, prior to skipping, dancing, tripping, prancing, 1 instant a figurant or Prima, anon a hippopotamus, an aardvark. A non-tabloid with an autonym such as “Chrono” broadcast this summary "a daunting triumph of will pushing its way through imposing roadblocks to a magical country, an absurdist nirvana of humour, pathos, and loss.".
Hans is an adventurer and translator of literature, never staying long in one place, he is on his way to Dessau, but tired he chooses to stop off forHans is an adventurer and translator of literature, never staying long in one place, he is on his way to Dessau, but tired he chooses to stop off for the night in the mysterious city of Wandernburg, fully intent on leaving first thing the next day. Waking late the next morning, he steps out into a city full of the days hustle & bustle, he decides to explore and wanders aimlessly around the city, occasionally loosing his bearings. The day passes without him realising it & he misses his coach. Wandernberg is a strange place with mysterious properties, although it is situated between Berlin & Dessau, it’s precise location is open to interpretation, as it has moved several times & even the streets are constantly in a state of flux, appearing to have the ability to change not only their compass position, but also the location of the buildings within them. This all combines to ensnare Hans, who ends up staying a lot longer than he had intended.
He ends up staying the next night & the next, unable to pursue his intended journey, without real intent he ends up prolonging his stay in this city. This leads to him encountering & befriending some of the local residents that cross his path, decreasing his motivation to leave. Through one of his new friends, he meets the the beautiful Sophie Gottlieb, an intelligent, well read, poetry loving, independent young woman, whom Hans falls deeply in love with, a perfect match one would think, except, there is a fly in the ointment, Sophie is betrothed to another.
Although at the heart of this book is this love affair, it is merely the core around which everything revolves, much of this book takes place in Sophie’s Literary salon & through this medium we hear discussions covering everything from individual freedom to national sovereignty, they debate philosophy, music, they talk about books & censorship, argue about women’s rights & the working class. We follow this relationship as they use language to probe & decipher each other, they meet in his inn room under the cover of translating poetry.
In my interview with Andrés Neuman, he said about this book, “the novel tells a love story between two translators, Sophie and Hans, who can’t stop translating everything: words, gestures, intentions, silences. In the beginning, they don’t know that the other is a translator too, but they connect through their obsessively translating approach to reality. They start to get more intimate, until they settle the routine of locking themselves in a bedroom in order to translate poems and fuck, fuck and translate poems (not a bad plan I think!). And they start to realize how similar can love and translation be. Loving someone implies putting the other person’s words into ours; struggling to completely understand them and (unavoidably) misunderstanding them; founding a common, fragile language. Whereas translating a text implies a deep desire towards it; a need of possessing it and cohabiting with it; and both (translator and translated one) end transformed.”, making this book an exploration of the idea of “Love as a metaphor of translation, translation as a metaphor of love”
Guido Gozzano, was born in Turin in 1883, his father was a successful engineer and his mother was the daughter of Massimo Mautino, a Senator, patriotGuido Gozzano, was born in Turin in 1883, his father was a successful engineer and his mother was the daughter of Massimo Mautino, a Senator, patriot and supporter of Giuseppe Mazzini and Massimo D'Azeglio. Guido spent his life in Turin and in Agliè (in the Canavese area), where his family owned several buildings and a large estate: Villa Il Meleto. As a young man he read widely from Emile Zola to St Catherine of Siena, knew St Francis 0f Assisi’s Canticle of the sun by heart and also was well read in the works of Petrarch, Leopardi, da Vinci, Wilde & Goethe. As a young writer of poetry he started out heavily influenced by the writing of Gabriele D'Annunzio, publishing poetry in the Il venerdi della Contessa (The Fridays of the Contessa) in this style. Whilst studying law at Turin university, he became interested in the literature courses run by Arturo Graf, a professor, poet and short story writer. Graf, an exponent of rather dark, fantastic themes in literature (Il Diavolo, Trans: The Story of the Devil) whose writing style was the direct opposite of D’Annunzio’s, where D’Annunzio was full of bombast, Graf’s was simple. Graf would exhibit a major influence on Gozzano, by directing him “back to the sources" and to a thorough study of the poetry of Dante Alighieri and Francesco Petrarca, which helped refine his poetic sensibility, although his work would still to be flavoured by D’Annunzio, creating a strange hybrid of the exotic & mundane. He, together with a group of likeminded students, would form the The Crepuscolari (the poets of the Twilight) * whose work was a reaction against the content-poetry and rhetorical style of (Nobel Prize winning poet) Giosue Carducci and Gabriele D'Annunzio, preferring to write in a more direct unadorned style.
Gozzano swapped law for literature, associating with many writers/intellectuals of his day, reading the symbolist French poetry and studying the writings of Schopenhauer & Nietzsche, in 1907 his poetry collection La via del rifugio (Road to Shelter) was published and sold out in three months. At this time his health took a turn for the worse, a long time sufferer of tuberculosis this now reached a point where he was forced to travel to the mountains and seaside, having to wear an inhaler mask day and night. This, with his mother suffering a stroke, curtailed plans he had to to travel to America, Japan & Tierra del Fuego, although he did travel to India in 1912 with a fellow sufferer in the hope of better health (on return there was no improvement). He died in Turin (1916) at the age of thirty two, having published two of collections of poetry - La via del rifugio and I colloqui ("Conversations") which quickly became renown for their quietly perfect evocations of nature, melancholy, tenderness and nostalgia and on which his reputation in Italy is built.
Although during his lifetime he also wrote articles and short stories for several newspapers, the only book of prose published was Il tre talismani (The three talismans), a volume of children's fables, all his other work remained scattered in various places until they began to be collected and published posthumously. This has led to Guido Gozzano being known more for his poetry than his fiction in his homeland and outside Italy even that isn’t as well known as it should be.
Requiems & Nightmares, is a collection of his short stories that whilst showing the influence of writers such as Poe, Maupassant and Wilde, ably demonstrate why he was considered the finest representative of the Crepuscolari, as both a poet and a now hopefully as a short story writer. Tales such as The soul of the Instrument, a fabulous and haunting fairy tale described by the translators as “a Symbolist fairy tale after the manner of Lorrain and Wilde” or A Romantic Story, this melancholic tale has a charm that will win you over and then break your heart with its tragic beauty. Then there’s A Spiteful Day, which is the tale of an individual whose day is ruined by an insignificant event & now feels the need to spite others, this was a short, sharp and amusing tale of melancholia.
I recently exchanged comments with a fellow blogger concerning Poets who also write fiction, she was of the opinion that poets should stick to their art and not write fiction, Guido Gozzano’s tales are a perfect example of why I don’t personally follow that belief. His direct, deceptively simple prose style perfectly evoke the tragic, the melancholic. They have that absurdist sense of the tragic and encapsulate Baudelaire’s ideal
“Who among us has not dreamt, in moments of ambition, of the miracle of a poetic prose, musical without rhythm and rhyme, supple and staccato enough to adapt to the lyrical stirrings of the soul, the undulations of dreams, and sudden leaps of consciousness.” ...more
This book broke my heart & yet somehow did this whilst placing a smile on my face. It has left me dumbstruck & bewildered, a chaplinesque clowThis book broke my heart & yet somehow did this whilst placing a smile on my face. It has left me dumbstruck & bewildered, a chaplinesque clown trying to strum out a coherent sentence and yet it somehow with its own juxtaposition of words, lines, sentences, its chapters - its magic, has me enamoured, enthralled it does this ............. don't know, although I've finished it, it has not finished with me, it still lays heavy on me, but it is a weight that like Sisyphus I will bear, but unlike him mine is not a burden. At this moment in time I will finish this babble with "Do Not Disturb, Gone Pondering"........................…........................................................................ This is a beautifully written book that had me following the protagonist (Korin) through all his trials, yes I knew he was mad, but mad in that holy saint- like manner, as though touched by some spirit, & not touched by the world. Still not sure if this is merely some labyrinthine phantasm played out in Korin's head, thought I was, until I read the prequel. Thought that this mad Hungarian archivist, would complete his self ordained mission & all would be well, having read Krasznahorkai before I should have known better, but I got sucked into the little Hungarian's world, and had my heart broken & my mind fractured into warring factions each sure they have the solution. Guess my only real response to this book is "Still Pondering", although I'm waiting on the arrival of "Seibo There Below"....more
A woman arrives from the Netherlands and sets up home in a remote farm she rents from a local. She says her name is Emilie and that she is a lecturerA woman arrives from the Netherlands and sets up home in a remote farm she rents from a local. She says her name is Emilie and that she is a lecturer researching the life on Emily Dickinson (1830 – 1886). On arrival she inherits the responsibility for ten geese, but slowly one by one they disappear with the chief suspect being a fox. We learn that the reason she has left her homeland and come to this remote farm is that her life back home had become unbearable after she confessed to an affair with one of her students, which resulted in her loosing her post after it became common knowledge.
Back in the Netherlands her husband, who after a jealous outburst which involved accidently setting fire to her office, has formed a strange partnership with the police officer sent to arrest him and now they are both on her tail. Unaware of any of this Emilie meets a young man who appears to have injured himself whilst out walking his dog, he initially stays the night, but ends up staying a lot longer forming a strange relationship with Emilie.
It is very hard to describe what is happening in this book, for one thing very little does happen, meaning what you do reveal would need to be covered in spoiler alerts. More important is the realisation that what happens, very little of it is on the surface, it is as though you arrived in a mystery with only part of the facts and that for all your attempts to dig deeper – your only reward is hints, innuendo, and sly suggestion. Making this a book full of strange undercurrents of what ifs and whys, that like some dissonant background music constantly raises your awareness to this tales ambiguities, bringing with it a realisation that isn’t a tale or rural Wales with the protagonist living the good life in some primrose embroidered cottage.
Although this may be an escape to the country but from what and why? It also makes you conscious that despite what you are reading, there is so much left unsaid, so much that you are not being told. Making this a book that happens more within your head, than it does on the page, leaving you with nothing but those hints and innuendos as your means to interpret what happens on the page.
This is a strange quirky little book that skirts around issues of isolation and inner turmoil, that demurely screams it’s angst at life's tribulations. This is a quiet tragedy shot through with a dry humour that pierces all the angsts and obfuscation like the sun through the clouds on a welsh hillside.
Since reading this book which was on the International Foreign Fiction Prize longlist, it made the cut and is now shortlisted which is wonderful, as it definitely deserves to be there, not just for the tale but also for David Colmer’s translation which made this book a beautiful and seamless read....more