Archive for the ‘Unique Narrative’ Category
Nestled in the pristine Finnish woods is a sanatorium for women. Itâ€™s the 1920s and medicine and its accompanying attitudes towards womenâ€™s health is moving from Victorian ideas to more modern methods of treatment, but those shifts have not yet reached the womenâ€™s hospital at Suvanto. This vast multistoried building is still part spa for the wealthy wives of the male employees for the local timber company, and part hospital for the poor. This is a building with sharp physical and mental divisions between staff and patients and also between the patients themselves. The poor patients–those who are considered “really” ill are kept on the bottom floors, while the convalescing wives of the timber employees, called the “up-patients” lodge on the 5th floor.
July 15, 2011
Â· Judi Clark Â· No Comments
Tags: Gothic, Graywolf, Mental Health/Illness, Scandinavian Â· Posted in: Contemporary, Debut Novel, Family Matters, Finland, Mystery/Suspense, Unique Narrative
Itâ€™s often said that a critic has no place christening contemporary works as literature; itâ€™s for future generations to decide which books will live on and which will fall the way of obscurity. According to this line of thinking, 19th- century Russians were just as incapable of heralding their literary giants as the ancient Greeks were of immortalizing Homer or the Elizabethans, Shakespeare. But thereâ€™s something in this argument Iâ€™ve always found hard to believe: great literature lives on not because itâ€™s incidentally suited to future tastes or historically informative; it lives on because it captures some of that elusive essence of what it is to be human, and while that universal quality all literature possesses is hard to pin down, to paraphrase Supreme Court justice, Potter Stewart: I know it when I see it. Tolstoyâ€™s contemporaries knew what they held in their hands with WAR AND PEACE just as I knew what I held in mine the first time I picked up a book by Jose Saramago. So let me be clear: Michel Houellebecq is such a writer and THE POSSIBILITY OF AN ISLAND is a book that will be read for generations to come.
Centuries of June by Keith Donohue is a modern fable revolving around American myths and Hindu concepts of reincarnation. The protagonist is a man who awakens to find himself with a hole in the back of his head and no idea of who he is or who the eight nude women sleeping in his bed might be. An elderly figure who he believes is the ghost of Samuel Beckett helps him into the bathroom and then saves his life from each woman as they attack him in historical order of when they were wronged by him in his past lives.
In 1971, Lobo Antunes, recently qualified as a doctor, was drafted into the Portuguese army and sent for two years to Angola, mired already for a decade in a bloody war of independence. Six years after his return, he used this experience for his second novel; it now appears in a magnificent translation by Margaret Jull Costa, whom readers will know from her work with JosĂ© Saramago.
Husbands and wives who work together either end up with their marriage in trouble or being the best of friends. In German author, Thomas Pletzingerâ€™s novel, FUNERAL FOR A DOG, itâ€™s the first scenario for journalist Daniel Mandelkern. Mandelkern is an ethnologist who is supposed to be writing â€śabout anthropological concepts like matrilineality and male childbed,â€ť but instead heâ€™s been getting a series of shit assignments from his boss/wife Elisabeth. Mandelkern is beginning to wonder if thereâ€™s an underlying message to these assignments and then heâ€™s told to interview the reclusive Dirk Svensson, the author of a wildly successful illustrated childrenâ€™s book â€śThe story of Leo and the Notmuch.â€ť Mandelkern protests against the assignment, and with his marriage in crisis, he storms out of his apartment on the journey to interview Svensson.
Marko’s silence is understandable. His best friend, the unnamed narrator of the novel, is about to embark on a narrative of 309 pages, all in a single paragraph, navigating from trivia to arcana and back again, as he tries to make sense of the apparent senselessness around him. Besides, most of the time they are together they smoke pot, entering a state not known for coherent objectivity, though the protagonist’s pot-smoking declines as the situation around him becomes more fantastic; when life itself supplies enough conspiracies for the most rabid paranoiac, who needs hashish? The run-on writing style is actually appropriate, and once picked up, the book is difficult to put down. The narrator is a professional newspaper columnist with an engaging voice. And the absence of any visual breaks in the text makes any decision to stop reading entirely arbitrary: why stop here when you could go on for another page, for twenty, to the rainbow’s end?