Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Deja vu? Deja ecrit?

Anne Korkeakivi has written An Unexpected Guest, and it is hard to put down. Not excellent, but a good read.

I was bothered by something in it, an echo of something else, which resonated while I was reading about the asparagus...The heroine of the story lives in Paris, the wife of a British diplomat. She is preparing a formal dinner which could be a crucial event in her husband's career. Her ally is the cook, who is rather a scary person, given to moods and sensitivities. She might sabotage the whole thing. At least the heroine thinks so.

And then I remembered: this whole scenario is Proust. In A la Recherche, he writes sensually about the long purple-tinted asparagus stalks. There too a gifted cook is at work behind the scenes. She is nasty to those below her in the pecking order, as Mathilde is here.

I am left wondering - I don't have Proust to hand. I don't really mind, am just glad that I found out where the niggle came from.

Another review mentions a similarity to Mrs Dalloway:  that did not ring any bells, except for the fact that it all takes place in one day - no harm in that, a pleasing device.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

An unkind moment

Read The Forrests by Emily Perkins (Bloomsbury Circus, 2012). Beautifully written, artful, creative.

Children who believe they are neglected. The effect of poverty.

For me, not enough.
I couldn't really care for the characters. Nothing develops very much, except that people grow wiser as they age. Their names are undifferentiated, bland.

There is one aha moment. One.
Maybe I missed something, because some are suggesting it might be a Booker Prize winner.
The style is good enough, for sure.

Maybe I'm just unkind.

Forms of evil

I have read two contrasting books: one was by Jenny Erpenbeck, The Old Child and The Book of Words (two novellas in one book) and the other J.M. Coetzee's Waiting for the Barbarians.

I started Coetzee's book last night and read until my eyes closed, woke up early, and plunged straight back into it, with a feeling of relief and pleasure, because I loved the central character so much.

He's the Magistrate (no name) and runs a small outpost, a little town, on the frontier of an Empire. A Secret Service man arrives in the first paragraph and from there it is downhill all the way. What can be done about  paranoia and abuse of power?

Not a depressing book, on the contrary. I loved it.

Jenny Erpenbeck writes very very well, but her book was troublesome.  Finishing the first novella - The Old Child - I felt the need for a shower, to wash off something evil ...The world described reminded me of Elfriede Jelinek's descriptions of Austria - which I could not read for long either. A world lacking kindness, lacking soul. The Child does her best to cope. It is unrelenting.

Both Jelinek and Erpenbeck are Austrian. The friend who lent me this book said that Erpenbeck's second novella, the Book of Words, was troublesome for her...I didn't dare read it.