Sunday, 28 February 2010
(Excerpt from a text that runs like a subtext/subtitle, an undercurrent at the foot of each page in the book, all the way from cover to cover).
What will they do when the branches coalesce in a fog? What will they do when the sea simply splits into droplets. Droplets. Droplets? They probably think they must choose between identity and difference. Between wave and particle between motion and solid form. It is an inconsistency in the skin and the hairs rise up. An inconsistency in the skin and the sea. The sea the sea the sea rises up. The storm is in the news how are they to think? When there’s always a rushing in their ears. Should they just take their sleeping pill now? They could. Their sleeping pill. Now? (...) For creatures with their defective emotions celebration and exorcism are not so dissimilar. Means and ends. And wave and particle. Ends and means turn into each other while they burn their sight at both ends. Their defective senses. At both ends they should take their happy pill now. Their live-and-cry-with-happiness pill their let-me-live-and-love pill. Now. The sooner the better? (...) Their bones will soon have forgotten all about them. They will wash up on the beach white and smooth. Without a single memory. They will wash up from the sea is a scene and they are its tiny tiny watercourses while they surrender their rhythms to the dust. Carrying eternity’s DNA. It dreams in them. Their bones dream in them of jumping out while they become more and more. Hill of the elves. Wormholes. One could call it a deadly kinship with eternity. Big and shiny. Shiny and white. They might as well take their sleeping pill. Now. They cling to more and more eternities. They could take their sleeping pill. They could. Their sleeping pill now. Their sleeping pill. Sleeping pill now. Sleeping pill.
Translated from Danish by David McDuff
The evening, to be held on March 18, is called "Crimes of the Millennium - Stieg Larsson and the rise of Swedish Mystery Fiction", with Barry Forshaw, Eva Gedin, Lynda La Plante, Mark Lawson (chair) and Håkan Nesser.
Readers who've followed this blog over the past year will know that I'm not a fan of this form of fiction, and believe that the "Nordic Crime Wave" is likely to have negative consequences for the chances of non-mass-market Nordic literature in translation, which is steadily being crowded out of the picture by the serried ranks of detectives. It seems perverse of the Swedish embassy to be hosting this event - in effect, raising the profile of Mystery Fiction (an elevated name for thrillers) still further when really it needs no more raising. Is it churlish of me to react in this way?
Monday, 22 February 2010
Wednesday, 17 February 2010
Why not send a woman into space? Why not send her on a really long space flight? She would be forced to function. She would be forced to function as a functioning member of the crew. She would not be taken along as a guest. Already here on earth woman has shown that there are tasks for which she is better suited than a man. She can go from one home to the next, cut up meat, bread fish, fry fillets and freeze the dainty bits. At the wheel of the car she is best naked! The woman and the corset are a lethal combination! Unmarried mothers have more difficult childbirths. Unmarried and mother are a lethal combination! But the housewife has a dream. Her dream begins with the perfect contraceptive pill. And her dream ends. Her dream ends with the perfect water-jug. Why not send her into space? Why not send her on a really long space flight?
translated from Finland-Swedish by David McDuff
Monday, 15 February 2010
"Christmas 2009 was the time when e-book sales in America began to have financial significance," writes Clare Alexander in the Bookseller, and as someone who has recently begun to use a Kindle, I think I can see why. The convenience of being able to download books, newspapers and magazines instantly, without having to visit a bookstore, is certainly something new, and the lightness, clear display and portability of the device is also a factor that speaks in its favour. To be able to read not simply one book, but three or four simultaneously, without having to prop them up or otherwise support them (large volumes can be hard on the hands and wrists), is to me a definite step forward. Recently, when reading a biography of T.S. Eliot, I wanted to have several other Eliot-related books available, including the poet's own works, and on the Kindle I was able to do this neatly and without effort, switching between automatically bookmarked pages in different volumes. It's also possible to bring up Wikipedia while reading in order to check references. The whole experience is a bit like having a reference library in the palm of one's hand.
When the royalties question is settled and some kind of standardization takes place in the matter of e-book formats, I can see foresee that e-books could even come to replace the paper versions. Whether this development will be truly international or confined to the English-speaking world, it's hard to know at present. Certainly in Scandinavian publishing circles there still seems to be some resistance to the electronic incursion, but this may change as countries like Finland and Estonia, which have always been at the forefront of developments in information technology, begin to respond. It would obviously help if Amazon were to acquire a presence in the Nordic countries, and one wonders if that will happen any time soon.
Saturday, 13 February 2010
Wednesday, 10 February 2010
The term ‘women’s literature’ has been used partly in order to raise the profile of works that have been ignored, and partly in an attempt to provide women with access to a number of institutions. This was needed, but at the same time the term has become an encumbrance, as it points to a deviation from a norm. The concept is clumsy and discriminating. It makes the books that are written by women into a subsection of literature. One would prefer that those books were treated on their own merits and were read and evaluated according to the same criteria that are applied to literature written by men. One might also dream that this problem may soon be a chapter in the past. So that the readers’ concentration can focus on the thing that matters: the work.
translated from Danish by David McDuff
Tuesday, 9 February 2010
“The worst thing about being stigmatized is that I can’t do anything about it,” Westergaard says. “The more I speak out, the worse it becomes.”
His defiance has had a price beyond becoming a social pariah. In 2007, he and his wife, Gitte, lived in hiding for eight months as the police investigated two Tunisians and a Dane over allegations of a plot against his life. On January 14, two Chicago men and two Pakistanis were indicted in the United States for planning an attack on Morgenavisen Jyllands, the paper Westergaard works for.
Gitte worked as a substitute teacher at a local kindergarten in February 2008, he says. She was fired because other staff feared that her presence would endanger children. When this emerged in local newspapers the next day, an alderman forced the kindergarten to reinstate her and the mayor invited her for tea at the city hall.
Online auction house Lauritz.com last month refused to sell one of his paintings of fabled characters as part of a national effort to raise money for earthquake victims in Haiti, fearing for its employees, the company said on its Web site.
Monday, 8 February 2010
This rotating earth.
This olive tree.
in crunching cold.
in screaming black terrordarkness.
To believe in something
is to be one
Pas de deux.
in the moonstripe.
in cornflower field.
Is everything okay.
The uncertainty about
The certainty of
The Danish flag trampled and burned
Almost no verdigris towers.
Wintry figures in snail gallop.
They are cycling home.
at its zenith.
The lines of life.
translated from Danish by David McDuff
Friday, 5 February 2010
to "opt out" of having their books scanned and digitised, rather than opting in, which is the usual assumption for copyright law. (Telegraph)
Nearby stood another statue of the playwright – a giant figure, striding forward with bearded chin held high, heading for the history books. It looked preposterous, particularly as, along with Chekhov, Ibsen invented the theatrical antihero.
Wednesday, 3 February 2010
in the city of the sphinxes, and the mothers,
in the city where death’s sphinx
rests in double majesty, and where the mothers
bear the bread home, out to the infinities of kneeling concrete,
where the children, the children increasingly often refuse to find their way home,
in this city of the mothers, and the sphinxes,
life writes its shadow script, as in fever,
as if an enormous tubercular angel had lain down to die
over the Neva’s delta, over the mirage of stone and the marsh river’s dark reflections,
over golden pinnacles and cupolas, over feverish gold, over façades doomed to beauty,
over palaces and portals where raw cold mist drifted in, over the trampled jewel
and the suburbs that mock, over the weighed-down marshes, and over weighed-down fates,
dizzying fates, and harrowed, that were scattered,
and are still scattered, into nothingness – in the city of the sphinxes, and the mothers.
she is old and bent, she begs, begs her way in
behind your eyes, by one of the passages down to the underworld,
and you implore her, implore her not to look like your mother,
night after night her youth rolls in over you,
night after night you approach requiems she will never write,
night after night she freezes into pictures you have no access to
in a white dress, by the window, in that light cool room,
she stands listening to the lingering echo
from a gate that has slammed shut, watching as through veils
the retinue of phantoms from the Marinsky, sylphides and future doomed
who silently stride across the Neva’s frail dark ice
dawn after dawn death stands
and polishes, caresses, caresses her doorknob,
dusk after dusk she locks you
in her gaze, a gaze that has swept over a whole century
and in a black low-cut dress, in the icy palace,
she dances then, all night long, her bridal waltz
with ghost after ghost, until she dances with the dawn
in whose eyes red spiders gleam, and she hears the iron gates
slam shut about the rooms, the rooms where the taiga and the tundra begin
night after night she freezes into the memories where death constantly divides,
night after night she approaches those she loved, over the Styx,
night after night she rolls a waxworks of torments over you,
she is one of the many, one of the dumb, she is all and each,
who stood and waited, for months and years, who stood and queued
and waited, outside Kresty, the martyrdom, the prison that sanctified the word.
life writes its corrosive shadow script over the most beautiful of cities,
as though an angel, an enormous tubercular angel, were trying to bless all that is doomed,
by letting itself be blessed down in the slowly sinking foundations of beauty,
while death, indifferent, apparently indifferent, watches death, in double majesty,
out of frozen stone, above the river, above the Styx – in the city of the mothers, in Saint Petersburg.
(Ny Tid / Kontur 4/98)
translated from Finland-Swedish by David McDuff
Tuesday, 2 February 2010
Monday, 1 February 2010
Subjects of recent posts include the politics of Swedish snuff, conspiracy theory and the Haiti earthquake, and Russia's recent ratification of an international agreement aimed at speeding up the work of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).