Thursday, 30 January 2014

Lazy Days (Loe) / Exile (Ejersbo) - mini reviews (translated fiction)

Reviewing has kind of spiralled away from me in the last few months, but there are a few books I have read during this time that I wanted to highlight as being particularly stand-out and worth mentioning:

Erlend Loe - Lazy Days (Goodreads)

My love for Erlend Loe's books - and my general impatience at waiting for English translations (*has not yet learnt Norwegian*) - is no secret here, and Lazy Days does nothing to dampen either love or impatience. This is a short book, and the language is often sparse, with one-page chapters in places. It is also characteristically funny, often in rather bleak, blackly comedic ways, and strangely optimistic, despite the fact that the book focuses on one man's faltering marriage, his strained relationship with his family, his hatred of holidaying in Germany (where the book takes place) and his obsession with Nigella Lawson. (Odd, to read this book at a time when Nigella and her ex-husband were all over the news, as protagonist Telemann muses on their marriage at length.) The Nigella obsession is where a lot of the humour comes from (although for me, the funniest part involves his wife's toothbrush and Telemann's seeming determination to be ever-so-slightly annoying at every turn). It is difficult to explain to appeal of Loe's books, but for me this was as joyful to read as his other novels, and it's good to see his books popping up in bookshops more and more in their great Head of Zeus covers.

Jakob Ejersbo - Exile (Goodreads)

Another translated piece of fiction, this time the Danish novel Eksil (Exile), by the late author Jakob Ejersbo, who died before he saw the publication of the Africa trilogy, of which Exile is the first installment. It follows the lives of European ex-pats and wealthy Africans living in Tanzania, privilege rubbing up against poverty, in a society where corruption and apathy are rife. The main focus is on schoolgirl Samantha, who is dealing with a father eyeballs-deep in shady business deals, a sister who wants to get married so she can escape their family, and a mother who has moved back to England. Stuck at boarding school, Samantha is bored, rebellious, and without responsibility, spending her time drinking, doing drugs, experimenting sexually, and trying to inject some excitement into her life. The sense of disaffection is reflected in the writing style, and the ending is both shocking, and delivered in a deliberately flat way, that sums up the overall feel of the book - a kind of bleak inevitability hanging over the events, which are often related in quite a detached way. The book deals with belonging, and not belonging, and the fear of falling between the two places - a place that Samantha is in danger of landing.

3 comments:

  1. I haven't heard of these but the first one sounds good, and I like the cover!

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  2. pretty nice blog, following :)

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  3. Its as if you read my mind! You seem to know a great deal about this, just like you wrote the novel in it or something. I think that one could do by incorporating pics they are driving the message home somewhat, but instead of the, this is great blog. A fantastic read. Ill definitely be back....Cccam Server

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