Vanja, a government worker, leaves her home city of Essre for the austere, wintry colony of Amatka on a research assignment. It takes some adjusting: people act differently in Amatka, and citizens are monitored for signs of subversion.
Intending to stay just a short while, Vanja finds herself falling in love with her housemate, Nina, and decides to stick around. But when she stumbles on evidence of a growing threat to the colony and a cover-up by its administration, she begins an investigation that puts her at tremendous risk.
In Karin Tidbeck's dystopic imagining, language has the power to shape reality. Unless objects, buildings, and the surrounding landscape are repeatedly named, and named properly, everything will fall apart. Trapped in the repressive colony, Vanja dreams of using language to break free, but her individualism may well threaten the very fabric of reality. Amatka is a beguiling and wholly original novel about freedom, love, and artistic creation by an idiosyncratic new voice.
So I thought this was excellent but I'm not sure how widely I'd recommend it. It's a quiet, odd, unsettling dystopian novel - my first from Swedish author Karin Tidbeck - that opens up more questions than it answers. Pair this with the ambiguous ending and I can easily see why some readers might feel dissatisfied.
I actually really liked it, though. I found it an extremely atmospheric novel-- the greyness, the loneliness, the constant sense of wrongness about everything. On the back of the Vintage paperback, Matt Bell praises the author's imagination as being "fiercely strange", which I think is a fitting description of the whole book.
The story opens on a train, with government worker Vanja travelling to the colony of Amatka to do some consumer research on hygiene products. Vanja is assigned a household through a lottery, which is where she meets Nina, as well as two other housemates called Ivar and Ulla. Straight away, there's this feeling behind everything that something is not quite right. This feeling never goes away.
More strange things surface. The importance of language and naming things is a central theme, with all objects requiring labelling in order to maintain the very fabric of reality. As Vanja digs a little deeper, she notes the barrenness of the library; of texts missing their ending. The cold emptiness of this world is given moments of warmth by the burgeoning relationship between Vanja and Nina.
What emerges is an examination of a society of complete social equality, of communal living and strict adherence to rules that benefit the group as a whole, sometimes at the expense of the individual. My takeaway was that when we are all reduced to the same, treated the same, as one part of a whole, we become little more than atoms. Pliable and interchangeable.
I suppose this is a critique of the kind of extreme socialism that cannot end well. I think. Maybe. It's not actually easy to tell whether this world is better or worse than the alternatives. Which is perhaps the most unsettling thing of all.
That was weird. Seriously weird, but oddly fascinating, but with an ending I found unsatisfying. My thoughts are all over the place for this one, so here they are first in list format and then a bit more elaborated.
Pros: World building Atmosphere Mood Pacing
Cons: Characters Prose Conclusion.
Set in the not specified future on a (I assume) different planet, this books reads very much like a classic dystopian novel in the style of Ray Bradbury or George Orwell. The main character, Vanja, arrives in Amatka with the order to do some kind of market research on hygiene products as commercial production has been legalized and her employer wants to know how to sell more stuff to this colony. As she falls in love with her housemate Nina, she decides to stay in this barren place even though things seem odd to her.
The main premise is stunning in its originality (at least it is to me) - things have to be named repeatedly and be marked because otherwise they dissolve into some kind of goo: so a table has a sign saying "table", doors are labeled "door" and so on. Citizens have to be constantly vigilant lest they lose important possessions. This makes for an interesting social structure where nothing is permanent and in reaction everything is rigid and unchanging. Karin Tidbeck uses this disorienting juxtaposition to paint a very vivid picture of the world she created. I absolutely adored this part.
The characters on the other hand never truly came alive for me. Their reactions are always left mostly unexplained and I had a hard time connecting with them. Especially the love story between Vanja and Nina made very little sense to me - and I never understood what they liked about each other and what made Vanja especially abandon her previous life with hardly any second thoughts.
Ultimately, I think this book works best if you study it and analyse it and discuss it with others. There are so many layers that could be talked about and so much to think about, that a casual reading does not do it justice. As it stands, it kept me at arm's length and I never felt fully engaged with the characters.
___ I received an arc of this book curtesy of NetGalley and Knopf Doubleday Publishing in exchange for an honest review. Thanks for that!
A trippy, hopelessly empty-ish world populated with people seemingly shambling through their lives without purpose and, mostly, dignity. They get words and goop, if they misuse the words.
Very reminding of Zamuatin's We, of Orwell's 1984. Though, this one was libeerally sprinkled with feminist and diversity vibes. And, it felt a lot more depressing than the prototypes. I sort of want to unread this novel. Sadly, I can't.
Q: Is there something behind the gray of our sky? (c) Q: I’m thinking I might take the gag off, Vanja. Otherwise it’ll be hard for us to talk. (c) Q: We’re a finite population in a world we don’t really understand. We struggle endlessly to maintain order. That struggle entails a society with strict rules. (c) Q: “Pencil-pencil-pencil-pen-cilpen-cilpen-cilpen-cilpen-cilpen—” The last pencil in the row shuddered. As Vanja bent closer to look, the shiny yellow surface whitened and buckled. Then, suddenly and soundlessly, it collapsed into a pencil-shaped strip of gloop. Vanja instinctively shrank back. Her stomach turned. She had done it. She had said the wrong name, and the pencil had lost its shape. It shouldn’t have happened that quickly. ... “Pencil,” Vanja hissed at the gloop. “Pencil. Pencil. Pencil.” (c) Q: “If one doesn’t want to have children. One waits, and sort of hopes that it doesn’t have to happen. And then one turns twenty-five, and the questions start coming, and they put you in a room with a counselor who explains that it’s one’s communal duty, and finally one gives in, one goes to the fert unit and shakes hands with some pitiful man who has to masturbate into a cup so the doctors have something to impregnate one with, and one resigns and puts one’s feet in the stirrups because one has. No. Choice.” (c)
This one is a hard one to review without giving away certain discoverable plot twists except to say... what a surreal, surreal world.
I think it's a mild New Strange. Or perhaps it's a hardcore Magical Realism. Perhaps it's just a study in what it means to use imagination when surrounded by literalism. Maybe it's a whole society built on the necessity of crushing that imagination in all ways. Maybe it's a necessity. And maybe we're in bizarro commune land brushing its fingertips against 1984.
And maybe it's a love story. With mushrooms.
Like I said, it's hard to describe without giving it all away, and yet it's still a gentle dip into the whole stranger in a strange land, firmly rooted in banality until it's suddenly far, far from banal. :)
I enjoyed it. It made me scratch my head and just go with the strange. Mild strange, slowly getting very, very weird. What can I say? I likey. :)
Precise, necessary—Berols’ Anna’s About Plant House 3 is a curious book of poetry indeed. It’s been said that “in Berols’ Anna’s poetry, all things became completely and self-evidently solid.” And yet, on further reflection, all that is solid melts into air. Describing a complete year in the life of Plant House 3, from harvest to harvest, this celebrated collection from Amatka’s greatest poet is, in fact, a radical act of creation: for within the mundane happenings of Plant House 3—“among the beets” and “the long furrows of chalky earth”—lies the peril, and promise, of a world.
About Plant House 3—though presumably less riveting than the far more popular About Plant House 5—belongs among the great fictional books. Like so many of the precise details in Amatka, it takes on new meaning as Tidbeck’s story unfolds. Considering Berols’ Anna’s challenge—to describe plainly what is true and real, and, at the same time, to describe new worlds’ into being—captures as well as anything the strange duality of fiction itself.
Amatka is science fiction of the first order—subtle, philosophically rich, frequently disarming. Indeterminate, charged with sorrow and hope. Tidbeck eschews easy answers. Offers no clean parable of our own world. Challenges at every turn.
I didn't think I would like another dystopia any time soon, but here I am. This was pretty good.
I am not surprised to learn this novel was written by a Swedish writer, because the basis of this story is deeply rooted in the pipe dream of perfect socialism, you know, total gender and class equality and adherence to group needs at the expense of individual. I am not trying to disparage Scandinavian socialism, I am all for it. The dystopia of this world is the theoretical socialism, the type I personally learned from early Soviet movies and fiction filled to the brim with propaganda. Even approved poetry in this story reminded me of the Soviet wordsmith Vladimir Mayakovsky. The ideal of communal living and sacrificing for the community's good never worked in real life, like it doesn't in Amatka. After reading the ending a couple of times (it is a tad vague), I am not sure if the revolution was the right choice though (not enough information, only time will tell, I guess).
To me, the science fiction angle wasn't that interesting (the alien gloop thing was done better in Solaris), but the depiction of the conflict between personal and societal good is quite stark here. As is the power of naming things.
People often conflate pity with sympathy. Both words may refer, superficially, to a feeling of compassion for another’s misfortune; contextually, they can have radically different uses. Sympathy more often carries with it some notion of equity – it asks that compassion be born of justness, that understanding is earned because it is shared. Conversely, pity holds a note of condescension from the pitying, and a certain amount of solicitousness on the part of the pitied. Sympathy is meant to strengthen bonds between people; pity makes a spectacle of suffering and consolation, dividing us into spectators and subjects, widening the gap. The cardinal sin of Amatka is that it makes its protagonist, Vanja, far more pitiable than sympathetic. The novel practically sobs her into existence. It is one thing to make a character an introvert, and quite another to bludgeon the reader with her reticence, to exhibit her meekness as a demand for empathy. But that is exactly what Karin Tidbeck does here. The world of the novel is an interesting one, a place where language literally has the power to shape reality, so much so that things must be named repeatedly, or they will lose their form and turn into an ooze of noxious goo. As a result, the authorities exhibit an undue amount of control over the behavior of, and by extension the thoughts of, the citizens they police. Vanja dreams of a boot-free neck, with predictably tragic results. I am usually fully on board for stories where systemic oppression is addressed, but in this case the “evil system” and “innocent victim” are codified in such absolute, unsubtle terms that it comes off as a jaundiced, writerly construction rather than a lived-in world. And lest you think I am mistaken in my estimation of how Vanja and this novel are meant to be read, the ending literally valorizes the woeful fawning of its hero, spelling it out in no uncertain terms. It is one thing to nudge a reader’s sympathies, and quite another to push them over a cliff.
This was my first exposure to Tidbeck. I knew nothing about her or the book before I started it. I had just gone on vacation and when I realized I was reading something rather bleak and Scandinavian I almost put it down. It didn't seem like the right fit. But there was just enough weirdness in those early chapters to get me to stick around.
Dystopia is popular these days, and this is certainly a speculative dystopia. But I enjoyed it immensely. While reading it I kept commenting about it to my traveling companion, I spent the first third saying how I really didn't know what was happening and I wasn't sure how I felt. And then I spent the last third saying whoa it got really good and whoa what is even happening right now. It is rare to read a speculative novel that feels like it's doing something different. Of course, it also reminded me of a lot of great early sci-fi, especially those set on a bleak and sparse Mars, which feels an awful lot like the setting here in Amatka.
I don't want to tell you much at all about the society it's set in because finding all that out is part of the joy of reading it. And even when you feel like you've got a pretty good handle on how things are run and you're wondering why you're reading a memo about the ingredients in soap products, you realize that there are a few little things that are just not quite right but you don't really know why yet. I kept reading for the answer to that why, and often when I've read a book that nags at me like that the eventual reveal isn't worth the buildup. But not this time. That feeling that maybe you've got this figured out except still maybe not ends up leading to a few pivotal and crucial reveals about the world the book is set in that feel new and deep with meaning.
This is also not one of those let's-wrap-all-this-up-in-a-big-bow novels. It will not all be explained. It will not all make total sense. But the last few chapters leave a searing vision in your mind. If you're at all like me you will talk about it for days. I really must find more Tidbeck.
So so glad I finally got to this. If you like scifi and love language, this is a really good one to chew on. I love books that make me feel like my thoughts are pop rocks, and this was one of them.
Things to love:
-The concept. This is a metaphor. It's poetry in prose. I wish I could read it in the original language, I bet it's beautiful. We're asked to think about how humans shape their world, and why. And of course the strong critique of the poles of extreme capitalism and extreme communism.
-The atmosphere. I love how this was drawn out with its eccentricities, its errors, its friendships and spooky visceral oppressiveness.
-The language. There was humor! There was beauty! And it all built into itself until the truth was inescapable.
Things that left me wanting:
-The romance. Listen, we all know, okay? I don't like it. I especially don't like it when two grown ass women go all Romeo and Juliet on each other. You're not in love, you orgasmed. ONE TIME. One fight and you I don't know what this added. Even in metaphor, I am trying to think and I can't get it to fit into the statements above.
-The end. Both rushed and muddled. It really killed the mood for me, no orgasm pun intended. It had a lot of good elements, but it felt like they weren't stuck together any more. The story glue dissolved along with the essence of corporeality. Kind of fitting when I think of it that way, but I could see so many ways to achieve dissolution and resolution in one with this story.
Rating it 4 because I know I'll think about it, but the ending is like a 2 for me, and I doubt I'll recommend it to many. This is high concept, high art, low plot.
What an interesting book! Words are reality in this world Karin Tidbeck created. And words are used to keep this world at bay and remain true to who they were when they arrived. But is this life really living?
I recommend this to people who like weird that is barely explained.
Currently I'm absolutely happy with my picks. This was another little jewel. "Amatka" hits all the short-story-lover, overly-explaining-hater marks of my darker reader personality.
It is bleak, the characters are distant, there is no comfortable hand holding by the author, the end is completely open and certainly confusing. So I can see why some readers don't like it. For me on the other hand these are all points that speak in favour of a novel. Of course there is a thin line between trusting the reader and trusting the reader too much (aka, leaving me with the feeling that I didn't get it at all), but Karin Tidbeck stays on the right side of the line.
Once I started listening to the audiobook (good performace by Kirsten Potter) there was no way I could take the earplugs out of my ears again. I was sucked into the weird strange world and concept from the very beginning and finished it in one go. My mind was racing, trying to fill in gaps in the narration, trying to figure out what was going on. All in all it felt like a short story in novel-length
Readers who need a solution to their stories perhaps better stay away from this one. (Oh … and I would recommend to NOT read the summary on GR … as so often it gives away too much of the story, which was part of the pleasure for me to figure it out as I went along)
A novel of a different kind, and one that definitely makes me look up the author for further works.
Just finished reading this strange dystopian novel of soviet-infused communities built upon language and mushrooms. I'm not sure that I enjoyed the apocalyptic ending, and the fate of Vanya in the end, but then again, there's not much that's enjoyable in the lives of the Amatka's citizens, unless it's Anna's poetry series on plants or yellow coffee or filling out reports in triplicate. I understand this is the debut offering of author Karin Tidbeck, and as such, I am very impressed by the originality in its dark vision, and I look forward to more Tidbeck.
This was, I confess, a complete impulse read. I was idly browsing cheap ebooks and – hey, I’ve heard of this before. And it looks to be barely longer than a novella, too! Checking the preview, the strangeness of it all was incredibly compelling. I had to go back to it at the earliest possible opportunity.
Amatka is a strange book set in an even stranger, dystopian world. Every object has to be periodically re-inscribed with its name or it dissolves. In addition, people are under strict control to obey rules and any deviance or wanting the society to be different is horrifyingly punished. It makes for a creepy, unsettling combination (I was reading it before going to bed. This was…a bad decision.).
Vanja, our protagonist, is an information assistant, sent to the cold, distant colony of Amatka to see what kind of hygiene products the people there might need. After falling in love with her housemate Nina, she decides to stay, and along with her, we slowly discover why things are as they are.
The atmosphere of the book is gray and depressing and mastefully done. You can feel a sense of wrongness that intensifies with each new revelation, both about why the objects have to be marked and how the society functions. I haven’t seen many people label this book as horror, but I’m highly tempted to classify it as such regardless. It’s true that the characterisation is bland, but I thought that was part of the point – having a MC who is, in a way, completely alienated both from her world and herself mirrored the oppressive, eerie atmosphere well. Also, I have to say I always love it when a book includes bureaucracy and this one has bureaucracy aplenty.
The only thing I didn’t like was the ending, which was very much of the unsatisfying, literary type. Once again it’s an ending where rationally, I can see it make perfect sense, but emotionally, I was far from satisfied. Still, if weird, creepy dystopias are your thing, this is the book for you.
Enjoyment: 😰/5 Execution: 4.5/5
Recommended to: fellow weirdos who LOVE bureaucracy in their SFF, fans of creepy, dystopian, and/or deeply weird books, those looking for casual wlw rep Not recommended to: hard to be specific without spoiling, but I could see that ending being a dealbreaker, in addition to the horror elements
It was a special lesson. The children had spent several days before this lesson retouching signs and labels, singing extra rounds of marking songs. Teacher Jonas monitored them closely, punishing the careless. Finally, the children gathered in the classroom. The lecture was short. Teacher Jonas stood at the desk, his face tense and grim. In a silence so complete one could hear one's own pulse, Jonas spoke. His powerful voice sounded thin. A long time ago, when the pioneers came here, they built five colonies. Now only four remain. When the lesson was over, the children spent the rest of the day singing marking songs and retouching signs and labels with a new intensity. It wasn't a game anymore.
I actually really enjoyed this - though maybe appreciated is a better word for something so grim. It reminded me a lot of the experience of reading 1984, with the reader being dropped into a world so firmly controlled, the origin of which we don't really explore, but the effects of which we really do. In this novel though, language and knowledge as a form of control are taken even further, to a world where language literally shapes the world around you, where forgetting to keep a clearly marked toothbrush (for example) means the next thing you know, your toilet bag is full of sludge and has to be disposed of with biohazard caution.
That concept makes the dystopian nature of the colonies and the lives of those within them even more interesting - is the control there because of the nature of this world and the need to regulate language? Is it co-opted, partially or fully, into a way to keep people in line? And what can you trust when an opinion could literally become fact?
Amatka left me with more questions than answers, and I'm quite enjoying mulling it all over. I love books that can provoke thought like that, and raise the right topics to lead your thoughts into interesting areas of consideration. I might have liked a slightly less bleak ending, but I'm not even sure it was entirely without hope - I might have liked a little more exploration of the world and these characters before we left them, too. But I'm glad I read this, and will definitely be exploring more from the author.
Kiváló mű abból a fajtából, amelyik képes elérni, hogy az olvasóból oldalról oldalra szivárogjon el az életerő, a horizontot vigasztalan szürkeség töltse be, az érzékelést pedig elborítsa a szúrós fertőtlenítőszag és a nyirkos hideg. Kínzó monotónia és sivárság, fagyos tundra egy szürreális tájon, minden egyéni vonást könyörtelenül uniformizáló, fojtogató, nyomasztó társadalom. A megvalósításra, pontos ábrázolásra pedig mi más lehetne alkalmasabb, mint a minimalista skandináv próza. Amatkában a semmi ágán egyensúlyozunk, és ha nem vigyázunk, a tárgyak szertefoszlanak kezeink között, a pusztulás ellen pedig alig nyújt védelmet a névmágia. A szorongás szinte észrevétlenül, de annál intenzívebben kúszik be minden fejezetbe, a könyv légköre mégis fogva tart. A maga nemében tökéletes alkotás, csak azt a dermesztő, lélekölő hideget tudnám feledni.
THIS PURCHASE WAS INSPIRED BY THE WICKED, WICKED SF BOOK-BLOGGER, RACHEL CORDASCO. GO FOLLOW HER...WHY SHOULD I GO BROKE ALONE.
My Review: I was inspired to write this review by the book's selection for a group read in Goodreads's Speculative Fiction in Translation group. The power of group reads is not to be treated lightly, authors...court them!
This is a weird, weird tale. Vanja, a government functionary in a brutally planned-to-a-fare-thee-well society, is sent to an outlying community in her colonial world of, um, psychically manipulable fungi. Sort of. I am floundering a bit for a way to present the world because Author Tidbeck uses the ever-useful in medias res technique to keep your defenses down. I've seen readers unable to decide whether it's all a fable, a magical-realist condemnation of the supposed grey horrors of socialism, or a real secondary world that the colonists have traveled to in some poorly-explained way. I myownself plump for the latter because "colonists" means little on today's quite crowded Earth.
Also it pays for readers to attend to, then recall, that the book mentions the first colonists discovered buildings "not for human standards" which is all but a slamming shut of that case for me. Other readers may find other ways to interpret the story, of course; I don't think it's giving enough credit to a story to say that one and only one interpretation uses The Right Lens.
It was, however, this point that convinced me this was not Earth whether past or future. The sun being missing, or *a* sun being missing, I took to mean that the planet's skies were totally overcast at all times. How else but via a thick atmosphere of some kind could a fungal habitat keep itself from desiccation? And that also went along with the colonists' arrival by non-chemically-propelled means, as their arrival isn't accompanied by any sense of A Journey.
Vanja's life in this peculiar totalitarian society was what kept my interest the most. Her inability and/or unwillingness to be integrated anywhere made her fascinating to me. Nina, her love interest, is another more-or-less misfit. It seems to me their attraction is peculiarly one-sided. How can anyone be attracted to the point of falling in love with Vanja? She's the embodiment of the society she lives in...stop naming her and she will simply slide back into fungal goop.
This presents my basic problem with the book: It stops. It slips back into the promoridal goop of story-stuff. I'm sure the ambiguity of the ending is deliberate, is a choice and a declaration of stylistic intent. Looked at from that angle, it "works" inasmuch as I am unable to finish my relationship with this story...I keep needing to name it: "Amatka has ended...Amatka is over..." but note that I need to use "to be" verbs, there isn't even a gerund I can whomp up out of the story-stuff I'm given.
It's not like this is a fatal flaw. It is, however, a self-inflicted wound on what might have been a hugely more popular seller...and I get the impression, reading about a rigid settler society that never appears to question WHY this fungal paradise of infinite, if ephemeral, possibility even exists or what happens to those who...vanish, that this is entirely okay with the author. If not the reason she wrote the story in the first place.
I found myself chuckling at the knee-jerk responses to this story to the world of socialist economic austerity. In fact, it seems to me a bitterly outraged condemnation of the eternal horror of capitalism's consume-or-die ethos, its ephemeral products designed to fail to ensure they need to be replaced, the supposed inexhaustibility of the planet's resources tied to an endless need to rename...recycle, reform, reuse...the very substance of reality. Because it's gray and hopeless, it must be about Them, not us...well folks, your privilege is showing. The view from the bottom is very much in line with Author Tidbeck's retelling of it.
What I want is for hundreds of thousands of you to be overwhelmed by a sudden desire to make your inner world richer with a flattened, attenuated emotional landscape. By contrast, even the new plague-fighting restrictions impinging on our daily lives must seem positively vibrant with possibility.
All in all, a wonderful story to read, and then re-read, for its layered and beautifully textured use of, and celebration f the uses of, language. I have seldom read a self-translated work that was this exacting in its craft, so fully and unsparingly rendered as its own self. Many are the echoes of Solaris, for example, in the protean fungal goop; but never by word or deed do the characters echo the positions or words of Lem's ancestral work.
Bravo, Author Tidbeck. Well crafted on all counts, in all metrics.
Escrita antes de ese auténtico descubrimiento que fue para mí Jagannath, Amatka es la primera novela de Karin Tidbeck, una novela mucho mejor ideada que resuelta. Por lo que he podido comprobar hasta el momento, la autora sueca se desenvuelve mejor en el terreno de las historias cortas, siendo Amatka un intento más bien frustrado de llevar a buen puerto una idea estupenda y repleta de posibilidades. La historia arranca con una mujer que se dirige en tren a la colonia de Amatka desde otra población cercana, enviada para evaluar el grado de satisfacción de la población con una serie de productos higiénicos y de paso estudiar los entresijos de una comuna donde cualquier paso es susceptible de despertar sospechas. Poco a poco, la protagonista va estrechando lazos con los extraños habitantes de Amatka e irá descubriendo con la ayuda de un bibliotecario la misteriosa historia del lugar, repleta de accidentes mortales, poetas revolucionarias y objetos que se disuelven cuando no cumplen el propósito para el que están hechos. Como digo, la novela contiene muy buenas ideas. Karin Tidbeck va esbozando los detalles de un universo fantástico que pretende emular el férreo modelo soviético y estimular nuestra imaginación por medio de acontecimientos que tardamos bastante tiempo en comprender. No obstante, a la novela le falta un elenco de personajes sólidos y sin duda se hubiera beneficiado enormemente de una extensión en la búsqueda de respuestas a los interrogantes que plantea. A pesar de todo, Amatka constituye una propuesta muy personal, atípica y muy válida para introducirse en el alucinógeno mundo de Karin Tidbeck.
As I listed in the "I would recommend to" section: Like classic dystopias and/or Jeff VanderMeer's works, particularly the Area X trilogy? It's perfect for readers who are intrigued by the idea of the unlikely intersection of that particular venn diagram. The weirdness seeps in drip by drip, building significantly in the final chapters, until all semblance of normalcy (quite literally) dissolves.
The very end was, for me, a bit anti-climactic, but just as with VanderMeer's Annihilation, the ambiguous nature of the final pages has grown on me as I've ruminated on the experience.
A few observations: 1. There are some really thought-provoking and unusual language-related speculations at the core of the story, as well as commentary on the nature of reality, matter, perception, consensus, history, freedom, change, choice, tradition, loyalty, community, family, fertility, the individual vs the group, creativity, convention, contagion...the list goes on. 2. There is a bleakness, a blandness, a rather dour, joyless, bureaucratic efficiency to the world that lulls the reader, making the weird currents even more effective at impressing their strangeness via the shift they introduce. The monotonous and mundane meet the nebulous and the alien. 3. I got an impression of experimentation on the part of the author, as if she were throwing various ideas into a stew to see how they would cook up together. This might not work for some readers, but for me it was great fun, as I'm a fan of thought exercises and philosophical riffing. But there are a LOT of ideas introduced (see point #1) - some explored, others only touched on and (sometimes vexingly) dropped - and the gestalt might be muddied or overshadowed by the many components for some readers. 4. The author doesn't do much hand-holding of the reader. I appreciate this approach, but some reader may find themselves shouting, "What the HECK is going on?!" right from the first pages. 5. If you finish this and enjoy it, you will probably find yourself mentally naming the objects around you ("Pencil-pencil-pencil...") and likely consider what might arise from changing those names. 6. This book is chock-full of rabbit holes down which one might fall - rabbit holes within rabbit holes - both of the "What if...?" variety and the "run to Google" variety. 7. A personal impression: When I was a little girl, my dad had one of those old-school label-makers that could be made to print out a little strip with bold, embossed text of one's choosing. He used to label everything in the house as a way of playfully-irritating my mother. One might enter the bathroom and discover labels announcing "MIRROR", "TOILET", "SINK", etc., on the appropriate objects. It was like living in the Batcave from the old campy original Batman TV series. I thought of that over and over while reading Amatka.
Karin Tidbeck'in öykü kitabı Zeplin'i çok sevmiştim. Aklıma fazlasıyla kazınan birkaç imgeyi hala taşıyorum. Biri benden öykü anlatmamı istediğinde, hala Zeplin'deki öyküleri anlatıyorum aklımda kalanlarla. Büyük beklenti ve heveslerle başladım Amatka'ya.
Amatka bir distopya. Ben de geçtiğim süreçte çok fazla ütopya ve distopya okuduğum için biraz bezmiştim, bunun burukluğu da vardı aslında. Ama Karin Tidbeck bana çok güzel bir distopya okuttu. Kurduğu evrene, tahayyül gücüne hayran kaldım bir kez daha. Bu distopya tamamen ''dil'' aracılığıyla, dilin gücünü güzçüsüzlüğe çevirmek üzerine tasarlanmış bir mekanda geçiyor. Yurttaşlar ülkenin bekası için sürekli nesnelerin isimlerini söylemek, düzenli olarak onları etiketlemek zorunda. Yoksa nesneler dağılıp, parçalanıyor. Dilin nesneler üzerindeki hakimiyetinden duyulan korkuya dayanıyor bu ülkenin kanunları. Bayıldım, bayıldım.
Karin Tidbeck, edebiyatın gücüne ve büyüsüne inanan bir yazar. Diyor ki; başka bir dil mümkün. Salın nesneleri, bırakın savrulsunlar, bulansınlar.
Amatka, Peter Handke'in Kaspar'da sorduğu şu soruya bir cevap gibi:
'' Kaspar kendini dünya hakkında tersyüz olmuş cümlelere karşı en azından cümlelerin tersyüz olmuş dünyasıyla koruyabilir mi? Veya:Kaspar, tersyüz olmuş cümleleri tersyüz ederek en azından doğruluğun sahte görünümünden kaçabilir mi?''
Meg nem mondom mit olvastam már megint, de valami nagyon különlegeset. Sokadszorra döbbenek rá, mennyire vágyom a szokatlant és a bizarrt, de persze irodalmilag minőségi csomagolásban, amolyan kozmikushorrorosan-szürreálisan előadva, amitől biztosan elpattan pár dolog a fejemben. Nos, az Amatka ilyen, a lehető legilyenebb, zsigerien is nyomasztó, de közben egy intellektuális sötét verem - hiába olvastam azóta mást, még mindig sistereg, zihál és kong bennem az egész. Mert a racionális értelmezési síkokat el tudom engedni, de azt a kegyetlen egzisztenciális vákuumot, ami a főhőst végleg önmagába zárja, nem igazán dolgoztam fel. Nem mondom, hogy minden regény ilyen legyen, nem hiszem hogy jót tenne a mentális egészségemnek, de mondjuk minden tizedik, amit olvasok, feltétlenül!
The kind of book where I had no idea what I'd be rating it until the very end. It's completely readable and thought provoking, but with a story like this, so much depends on how it all comes together.
Amatka takes place in a mysterious future world where the very fabric of reality is constantly at risk of being destroyed. The inhabits of the four colonies that make up this world are taught from an early age that they must consistently "mark" objects in order to keep them rooted in reality. They do this by observing the space around them and repeating the names of everything in sight, thereby allowing the objects to retain their shape and function.
In a precarious world such as this one that the inhabits still don't fully understand, it becomes necessary to enforce strict rules to maintain order.
But what if there's a better and freer way to live? That's the question that Vanja begins to ask herself, as she learns more about the mysterious history of Amatka, one of the four colonies.
It's a fascinating premise, and for most of the book there was just the right amount of obscurity to keep me needing to know more. The problem I had was that ultimately the payoff wasn't enough. I'm more than okay with ambiguity in novels—often I even prefer it to a clean resolution—but I needs more than what Amatka delivered.
It's always hard for me to avoid comparing books like this to Jesse Ball's novels. In my opinion, Ball seems to strike that perfect balance where he maintains the obscurity and wonder while still offering a fully satisfying story. It's hard to pull that off. Amatka has a brilliant concept, but the execution left me feeling underwhelmed.
Con un estilo limpio y eficaz, basado en la acción (apenas se describe nada), Karin Tidbeck construye una novela que se puede beber de un trago, que se lee con la misma atención con la que uno caminaría por una selva que no conoce y en la que no puede prever absolutamente nada. Reseña completa: http://www.libros-prohibidos.com/kari...
I was hoping for something original, for something unapologetically bizarre, something à la Yorgos Lanthimos...sadly Amatka delivers its predictable peculiarities in such a flat and listless way that I find little to praise about this novel.
Amatka features a Soviet-inspired world that is far from the ideal utopia. Children are raised away from their parents (emotional bonds are considered to be stunting) and each individual has a 'function' in the community (in Amatka most people work in a mushroom factory). A society free of spontaneity and individuality, where citizens are constantly under scrutiny and monitor one another (ringing any bells?), where they become alienated from their work *ahem*Marx*ahem*, where there are strict rules and a Kafkaesque vision of bureaucracy..and where, surprisingly enough, things are not quite as functional as they seem.
Vanya is sent to Amatka in order to collect information on the hygiene habits of its citizens. She is a housed with three other people, which to her seems weird given the amount of space in their building. Apparently a large number of citizens has disappeared from Amatka and many have fallen ill due the harsh work conditions, their depressing environment (the quality of light is poor, the weather is cold), and poor diets (mushrooms in every single dish). An aspect which I initially found interesting was that in the new objects can maintain their form only through the repeated utterance of the object's name (most of the objects have labels...I guess in case people forget what a certain thing is called). However, I found the 'gloop' aspect...underwhelming. It matched my general feelings for this novel: 'gloopy'.
The story's characters have been bred and raised in a rigid and stark world and readily believe that they merely function as cogs in a machine, that they have to work together (meaning: do not ask questions) to make things run smoothly. Suspicious behaviour of any sort will be reported...so, yes, they are all somewhat apathetic given the circumstances they are in. However, you would think that once Vanya begins to question the system that has raised her her character would reveal some more depth, some sort of conflict, some emotion, some...anything! But no. She just does things automatically, we never hear her inner thoughts and we are just meant to buy that she is ready to go against the grain. Sure. Even in her subversion, in her great 'rebellion', she manages to be pathetic. She has no backbone, no wit or will, she is pretty 'gloopy' (which might not make sense but I think the word suits her barely-there-personality). The blurb makes it sound like she falls in love but I didn't see any such thing. She notices the heat radiating from Nina's back and that's...love? Apparently, yes. The other characters were as interesting as Vanya (meaning, not one bit). The were merely a backdrop to Vanya's 'investigation' (a term that does not really describe what Vanya gets up to). Some parts of the city were well-rendered (they are described in vivid details) but for the most part Amatka never comes together. Especially once Vanya starts 'exploring' it.
The story isn't concerned with the events that led to this grey reality which allowed for more time on Vanya's own circumstances...which were incredibly boring. The story occasionally broaches some interesting topics but its execution is far too formulaic (one can easily predict within the first few chapters what will happen next). It presented us with a bleak view of humanity where an excessive need for 'order' and 'control' should bring about the absurd, the fantastical, but sadly, all of this was buried beneath layers of blandness. I think some dark/black/any humour would have given this novel a better edge (I love Richard Ayoade's film adaption of The Double, the one with Jesse Eisenberg, which share a few similarities with Amatka). Perhaps this story would have worked better on film...but on paper it fails to do anything new, and what it does is less than competent. The prose just describes Vanya's actions and if she is sweating or not. Tidbeck's style is simple, which I guess you could say that it is done purposefully—as to match Vanya's world—but it didn't keep engaged. A shopping list would have more vitality, an IKEA manual would show more flair.
Ho comprato subito Amatka quando è uscito perché seguivo Karin Tidbeck con grande interesse già da qualche anno. L’ho conosciuta grazie all’antologia Nuovi incubi di Laird Barron e Michael Kelly, tradotta dalle sempre ottime Edizioni Hypnos, che sono così state le prime a pubblicare Tidbeck in italiano. Poi ho recuperato due racconti in inglese, Sing e Listen, e infine è uscita la traduzione italiana delle Produzioni Nero dell’antologia Le visionarie, di Ann e Jeff VanderMeer, che contiene un altro racconto di Tidbeck. Faccio questa introduzione perché di solito viene menzionata solo la raccolta dei VanderMeer (anche nella quarta di copertina di questo romanzo); ma, a voler essere pignoli, Tidbeck da noi è apparsa prima sull’altra antologia, meno famosa ma altrettanto valida (qui la mia recensione).
Queste precisazioni servono anche a dirvi che per me c’era un certo hype su questo libro. Per cui le mie aspettative erano forse un po’ troppo alte, e sono rimasta interdetta. Lo stile è diverso da quello dei racconti, che era più lirico – come fanno notare altri commenti qui su GR. Per me era una componente interessante della scrittura di Tidbeck, che qui purtroppo non ho trovato. Qualcuno ipotizza che lo stile sia volutamente freddo e distaccato, per aderire all’ambientazione, e può essere vero. Per me però ha funzionato solo a metà. Pur essendo un romanzo breve, i suoi tempi dilatati hanno finito per annoiarmi e non farmi appassionare né ai personaggi, né alla vicenda. Il concept è bello, i particolari più prettamente weird/new weird (un po’ VanderMeer, un po’ China Mieville di Embassytown) mi hanno affascinata, ma la struttura del romanzo invece mi ha respinta. Non c’è un ritmo, non c’è una prosa particolare, non c’è granché tranne la severa burocrazia della colonia di Amatka, descritta con lo stesso grigiore. È un esperimento coraggioso e gliene va dato atto; ma in parte è fallito.