Nathanimal's Reviews > Siamese

Siamese by Stig Sæterbakken
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Jun 07, 11

really liked it
bookshelves: dalkey-archive, scandinavian
Read from June 05 to 07, 2011

In love with the idea of this novel. So in love with the idea, in fact, that the novel as it was actually executed often was at war with the novel I was writing in my head as I read. Do you ever do this?

This novel hits a sweet spot for me. Edwin's self-denial reminds me somewhat of Kafka's "The Hunger Artist." I started thinking of Edwin as the "solipsism artist" and initially read the novel through a very metaphysical lens. I was reminded of the invalid Malone from Beckett's Malone Dies who is so decrepit he's almost nothing but a voice. And Siamese participates in the long and noble tradition of the rant: from Dostoyevsky to Bernhard. Saeterbakken's got it going on, in myriad ways.

Bernhard, however, has more control. Bernhard can be hyperbolic without being over the top. Saeterbakken sometimes loses the reins on his characters. Erna says things that don't sound like an old lady, that sound more like an intruding Saeterbakken. Edwin, though most of his monologue is fabulous and compulsive to read, lapses into cliché. But none of this stopped me from really enjoying this novel, and I wonder how much it bugged other readers.

I'm intrigued by the strange symbiotic Edwin/Erna organism. The organism has reached a kind of stasis — a feverish, soul-sucking stasis — otherwise known as marriage. There were some deeply affecting moments. I saw far too much of myself in Edwin. Because of the stasis the novel doesn't feel like it's moving at all, and that's good. That's marriage. Time moves slow, but passes quickly, and before you know it it's all over. I'll definitely read this again.

(My marriage is great by the way. Just playing along.)

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