four.

We, the Drowned by Carsten Jensen (2006)
 Marstal, a small town on a Danish island, has always sent its men to the sea. Some came back, some lay on the bottom of the sea. In 1848 when Denmark was on the brink of war with Germany. Many of the men from Marstal entered the war and some didn’t come back again. Laurids became a legend in the town after he was shot in the air when a cannonball hit the ship and he survived and claimed that he went to heaven just to see St. Peter’s behind.  When he came back he wasn’t the same and the next time he sailed out, he never came back again.

Most of the book focuses on Laurids’ son, Albert, who goes searching after his father, a journey that takes him around the Pacific ocean. But the story doesn’t end there, it ends in 1945, two generations later.

This is the best book I have read in a long time, and among one of the best ever! I devoured each syllable of it, and all the amazing stories about the sailors, their wives or widows and children were magnificent. It is funny, sad and shocking at the same time. There are plenty of characters but it is easy to keep score of them.

I want to reread it, but then read it in English because I’m curious how some of the stereotypes translate into another language and culture. I was laughing out loud when reading a joke about some sailor’s clothes looking like a Sami wedding, but I don’t think anyone outside Scandinavia would get that joke. So I’m curious if such minor things are either left out in the translation or turned into something else.

Read it! And do not be frightened by the 688 pages because this is really one hell of a book!

thirty-six.

Out of Africa by Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen) (1937)


“I had a farm in Africa at the foot of the Ngong Hills…”

Karen Blixen lived on a farm in Africa for almost twenty years. She came out to live with her husband, but they divorced in 1925 and Karen was the owner of the farm for the remaining years. She tells about the daily life on the farm and its many squatters and their guests.

Although it is a biography, it is never personal. It rather focuses on the farm, instead of Karen’s personal life, which I think is a pity. I was lucky to find a short biography attached to the copy I bought at a market in Oslo, and she certainly lived a fascinating life, and I would love to read more about it.

I really enjoyed reading about the farm and the joys and hardships of the people who were involved. She writes with great insight and it is a joy to read about the landscape and wild life surrounding the farm. This is the way I wish an other book about an African farm was written (the Conservationist by Nadine Gordimer). But one chapter in the book annoyed me – instead of following the pattern of the other chapters, this one was full of short stories in no chronological order and many seemed written down just to be remembered and had little to do with the rest of the book. I skimmed many of them as I saw no point in them being there in the first place.

I’m looking forward to watching the film version of this once I’m united with my tv again.

twenty-seven

Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow by Peter Høeg (1992)

Miss Smilla is half Danish, half Inuit and a glaciologist. When a Inuit child fell from the roof from the building where she lives, she refuses to believe that it was an accident. Her investigation leads to a dangerous voyage to the Greenlandic ice. What discoveries will she make?

This book is more than just a crime fiction. It is an account on the relation between Copenhagen and Greenland and how Inuits are struggling in the big city. After her mother died, Smilla was sent from her community to live with her estranged Danish father in Copenhagen. It also teaches you a lot about ice and snow. The dead boy’s mother is an alcoholic who often did not feed him. Smilla reminded me a lot of Lisbeth Salander (Stieg Larsson), but she is definitely more kick-ass.

I definitely picked the wrong season for reading this book. It should be read in those dark December and January months when the snow silences everything.