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Republic of Consciousness Prize > 2020 RoC longlist: Love

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message 1: by Paul (last edited Jan 25, 2020 11:38AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8744 comments Love by Hanne Ørstavik, tr. Martin Aitken (And Other Stories)
https://www.andotherstories.org/love/

From the judges

In a smallish snowbound Norwegian town, a mother and son separately head out for the evening, both magnetised by the nearby fairground and its people. A deftly structured narrative of parallel voices woven closely together, Love becomes a subtly nailbiting exploration of human attractions and the limits of security. It is also a brilliant bit of translation, such as we’ve come to expect from And Other Stories.


message 2: by Paul (last edited Jan 25, 2020 02:36AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8744 comments This was actually the last book I had finished before the longlist came out - and I would be surprised if it doesn't feature on the Booker International as well.

Gumble's Yard has pointed out elsewhere that one of the RoC judges is a translator and this could be the year a translated novel wins - in which case this would be a very strong contender.

It has already, in the US,been a shortlisted Finalist in the National Book Awards for Translated Literature and the translator won the 2019 PEN Translation Prize.

Aitken translates from Norwegian and Danish including (of books I've read) Bjørn Rasmussen's The Skin Is the Elastic Covering That Encases the Entire Body, Kim Leine's Dublin Literary Award shhortlisted Prophets of Eternal Fjord, and most notably half of the final volume of Karl Ove Knausgård monumental My Struggle

Aitken has commented that (my google assisted translation as the interview was in Norwegian) translation is like interpreting a piano piece on violin, requiring a creativity far beyond formal dictation.

The story itself is beautifully created story of a mother and young son relationship where their lives operate in parallel - close but never quite converging.


message 3: by Sam (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sam | 1651 comments I might add Aitken also translated the recent Welcome to America, which has had good reviews ("A" rating from Orthofer) and has made this year's Pen longlist. Because it is novella length, it may not make many prize lists, but it an interesting read if you only familiar with author, Linda Borstöm Knausgård, from The Struggle. I haven't put up my review yet but it is an easy four star read.


Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8744 comments Translating that after the last volume of Karl Ove’s tome must have been an interesting experience.


message 5: by Sam (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sam | 1651 comments Paul wrote: "Translating that after the last volume of Karl Ove’s tome must have been an interesting experience."

I never made it past volume two, but I'm thinking of starting again with the intent to finish.


message 6: by WndyJW (last edited Jan 25, 2020 09:47AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

WndyJW | 4863 comments I think I need to get this one for sure. Just ordered it and shipping cost more than the book. I need to move to the UK just to save on shipping from my favorite publishers. It’s worth the cost to me though. I spend money on nothing else so I’m still a “cheap date.”


Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8744 comments It was published in the US in 2018 by that other indy favourite (and generous supporter of Netgalley) Archipelago

https://archipelagobooks.org/book/love/


Ella (ellamc) | 1018 comments Mod
Oh - I read this! It was on one of the translated lit lists a while back, right? Or am I mixing it up with something. (I didn't mark many books from 2013-18 here on GR.)


Tracy (tstan) | 331 comments I liked this one- I read it in 2018, right after it came out here in the states. It was strange, but in a good way.


WndyJW | 4863 comments I wish I had known archipelago published it before I ordered overseas, I would have saved $8. I need to remember older books might have a US publisher.


message 11: by June (new) - rated it 5 stars

June | 121 comments I remember being disappointed that Love didn’t make the MBI long list last year and kept wondering why no one in this group seemed to have read it! I always assume that we in US lag behind in translated fiction.


message 12: by Paul (new) - rated it 4 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8744 comments Not sure US lags behind - at the more cutting edge end, people like Deep Vellum, Two Lines, Open Letter are publishing more “RoC like” books that UK publishers I think.

It does feel though that US publishers picking up UK published books is more common than the other way round. Often the books by those listed above don’t get a UK publisher.


message 13: by James (new)

James | 81 comments US also has the benefit of having many more university presses which specialise in translation.


message 14: by Paul (new) - rated it 4 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8744 comments Yes. I am struggling to think of a UK one although the new UEA linked Strangers Press has produced some wonderful chapbooks recently from Japanese and Korean.


message 15: by Ella (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ella (ellamc) | 1018 comments Mod
OK, well - if GR is correct, and I realize that's a big if, then -->

PEN Translation Prize for Martin Aitken (2019)
National Book Award Finalist for Translated Literature (2018)

And that NBAT list is why I read it, according to my own dBase.


WndyJW | 4863 comments I have subscriptions to both Two Lines and Open Letter. I need to look into Grove Press and Deep Vellum.

I’m not knowledgeable enough about the world of translated books to select the best among the many published by these small publishers. I have to rely on recommend from readers here and awards.


message 17: by Ella (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ella (ellamc) | 1018 comments Mod
I went the eclectic route & just picked a bunch of books from announcements this year, paid for them in December. I'm looking forward to a bunch of books showing up through the first part of the year. AND can stick to my "total gain of 12 books" plan (which has loads of loopholes, like if I give away a book, I am allowed to get a new one w/o taking it from my total of 12.)


WndyJW | 4863 comments I was looking at the cost of Love in £, I would have saved about $20 by ordering from US press. Fortunately, I have no rules set for book buying habits.


message 19: by Tommi (new)

Tommi | 490 comments This one was published in Finnish translation 17 years ago (that’s right) so it’s widely available as an ugly mass-market paperback – looking forward to getting a library copy of it soon.


message 20: by Val (new) - rated it 4 stars

Val | 1016 comments Paul wrote: "Aitken has commented that (my google assisted translation as the interview was in Norwegian) translation is like interpreting a piano piece on violin, requiring a creativity far beyond formal dictation."
I like his analogy, although perhaps this particular book is a piano piece interpreted for violin and 'cello.


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 5390 comments Just reading this. Certainly atmospheric but I am disappointed (given the generally very strong comments here) at the number of lengthy dream sequences all remembered in detail (which for me tends to fail Literature 101).


message 22: by Paul (new) - rated it 4 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8744 comments Dreaming - and living in something of a dream world - does seem key to the boy's character


message 23: by Val (new) - rated it 4 stars

Val | 1016 comments Jon may not have been completely asleep while dreaming, they seemed more like a child's imaginings than remembered dreams.


message 24: by Paul (new) - rated it 4 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8744 comments Agreed. I'm not a big fan of when dreams are used to drive a plot but here I thought they were very effective in establishing Jon's character.


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 5390 comments The mum remembers a detailed dream also and I think there is a very clear distinction made between Jon’s fantasies and his dreams.

I liked his fantasies - they seemed to work for a child.

But reached the end of the book now and realised Paul’s bizarre Fatherhood theory is far more applicable here.

His Mum clearly no longer has a a child after page 34 (and fails to notice him leaving home six pages before that); a 15 year old girl falls asleep with “him” in her room; and her parents seem decidedly unworried about an “8 year old” being in their house late at night or him wandering off into the night. The only person that actually acts as he exists is the mad lady from the circus and even there the fact an eight year old can take his first drag on a cigarette and not smoke must be a signal that even this bit is her fantasy.


message 26: by Paul (new) - rated it 4 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8744 comments Yes the character's definitely live in a rather twilight world - which I think adds to the atmosphere and indeed makes one question if some of this really happened or not.

I think it strongly deserves its place on the list and the awards it has garnered (won 1 and shortlisted for 1 of the 3 main US translation prizes - although the one it missed out on completely is the one that most resembles the RoC in its preferred type of book).


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 5390 comments I would be surprised if this doesn’t make the shortlist also.


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 5390 comments Small thing but did anyone else notice the back cover blurb has an error

"Single mother Vibeke and her son Jon have just moved to a small, remote town in the north of Norway"


message 29: by Paul (new) - rated it 4 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8744 comments What's the error? The imaginary son or something else?


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 5390 comments They don’t live in the town (she does not even work there) - the town and village difference is important to the book.


message 31: by Paul (new) - rated it 4 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8744 comments Although the 'village' has a library, a funfair comes there etc - seemed more of a small town than a village, albeit it is distinct to the larger town.


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 5390 comments The terms are carefully delineated in the text which makes the back cover odd


message 33: by Val (new) - rated it 4 stars

Val | 1016 comments It has its own council too, which would probably mean it qualified as a town in the UK, despite the distinction in the text between it and the larger town, which has a bar.


message 34: by Paul (new) - rated it 4 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8744 comments Interview with the translator

https://norwegianarts.org.uk/na-meets...


WndyJW | 4863 comments I just finished it, it was nerve wracking! That poor lonely boy was in one perilous situation after another while his narcissistic mother was trying to get laid. I hate dreams in books, but I thought they were daydreams too, Jon trying to escape his loveless, lonely life. I’m not sure the girl was 15 and allowing a friend to spend the night didn’t strike me as odd as letting him leave the house late, in the dark with no gloves.
I think that so few people reacted to Jon was meant to illustrate how Jon felt-unnoticed, uncared for.
It was a very good book.


LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 563 comments I read 3 pages last night and finished this morning while drinking coffee at Starbucks. I enjoyed it a lot. It's been awhile since a book has had me on the edge of my seat waiting for something to happen. Both the mother and the son put themselves in precarious situations. I was sure that each of them was about to be raped or killed - about every five pages. The author did a marvelous job creating tension. And I do believe I agree with WndyJW that the mother was narcissistic. My review - https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4...


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