man booker 2017.

Nå når kortlista er annonsert, så tenkte jeg at det er på tide å oppsummere det jeg har rukket å lese så langt (og gi livstegn fra meg – hei!). Jeg har så langt lest fem av bøkene + begynt på to, noe som må være rekord. Men det er også veldig typisk at kun den ene av dem jeg har lest (+ 4 3 2 1 som jeg er 200 sider inni) som havna på kortlista. Og enda mer typisk at det er den jeg har likt minst. 

the Ministry of Utmost Happiness av Arundhati Roy (2017)

Denne ble sporenstreks lagt til på ønskelista mi når jeg fant ut at Roy kom ut med ny roman (den første siden den fantastiske Guden for små ting) og kjøpte den ved første anledning. Som de fleste andre indiske bøker, så er det omtrent umulig å si hva den egentlig handler om; unntatt at det er om India. Det starter med Aftab som er tvekjønnet og oppfostret som gutt, men som bare vil være jente. Transpersoner blir kalt hijra i India og omtalt som det tredje kjønn og det er ikke uvanlig at de bor sammen i små samfunn, som Aftab, senere Anjum. Selv om historien i hovedsak handler om Anjum, så er det en drøss med andre skjebner, fra maoister til Kashmir-konflikten, til nyrike indere og lutfattige. Jeg syns begynnelsen med Aftab var vel glatt før det glade kaos tok over og jeg ble helfrelst. Det er en bok som lærer deg masse om India, selv om den kan være forvirrende. Ergo så burde denne ha vært på kortlista. Anbefales!

 the Underground Railroad av Colson Whitehead (2016)

 Årets store boksnakkis og vinneren av Pulitzerprisen. Og for mange et sjokk at den ikke kom med på kortlista. Jeg kjøpte allerede boka i august i fjor, men fikk ikke somlet meg til å lese den før et helt år var gått. Den følger slavejenta Coras reise med den underjordiske jernbanen gjennom et fiktivt USA. Jeg slukte historien rått, den var skikkelig fengende og jeg likte tankespinneriet om hvordan de forskjellige amerikanske statene kunne ha utviklet seg. Men i ettertid så er det meste glemt, og jeg tenker også at dette ble kanskje litt vel simpelt og nesten young adult fiction-aktig. Så jeg føler ikke at det er noe tap at den ikke rakk opp til kortlista.

History of Wolves av Emily Fridlund (2017)

Nok ei bok som jeg hadde i hylla før langlista ble annonsert. Og den eneste av dem jeg har lest som havna på kortlista. Linda vokser opp i skogen i Minnesota og er utstøtt siden hun vokste opp i en sekt. Så da et ungt ektepar med et lite barn flytter inn i huset på andre siden av vannet, benytter hun seg av sjansen til å finne tilhørighet, noe som senere får store konsekvenser. Jeg klarer ikke helt å sette fingeren på hvorfor, men denne historien var langt fra en innertier hos meg. Kanskje jeg har lest litt for mange lignende bøker? Den ble dessverre for kjedelig(!) og forutsigbar, men ga meg i det minste lyst til å finne mer ut om Christian Science.

Days Without End av Sebastian Barry (2016)

Denne boka altså! Sebastian Barry ble et nytt bekjentskap som jeg definitivt skal lese mer av. Boka er så langt min favoritt Booker 2017. Thomas er en ung fattig ire som verver seg som amerikansk soldat under indianerkrigene på 1800-tallet. Her møter han John Cole som raskt blir hans beste venn og elsker. Etter tjenesteperioden søker de jobb som drag queens (i mangel på et bedre historisk ord) og tilfeldighetene fører til at de adopterer ei indianerjente før borgerkrigen bryter ut. Med en gang jeg vendte meg til skrivestilen og sluttet å irritere meg over grammatikken og skrivefeilene (noe som er umulig når man er vant til å rette alle feil), så ble jeg betatt. Historien er vill, vakker, morsom og nådeløs. Jeg tror ikke det er mange bøker som klarer å slå denne i år.

Home Fire av Kamila Shamsie (2017)
Tre søsken mister begge foreldrene tidlig, og storesøstera Isma har lenge hatt ansvaret for tvillingene Aneeka og Parvaiz, men hun velger å dra til USA for å studere. Aneeka studerer juss i London, mens Parvaiz forsvinner til Syria for å kjempe for IS. Historien skal være en gjenfortelling av Antigone, noe som sa meg svært lite, og jeg klarte ikke helt å se sammenhengen etter å ha lest meg litt opp på Antigone. Men det betyr ikke at jeg ikke likte det jeg leste. Jeg syns Shamsie forteller en relevant historie og jeg liker det at den er fortalt fra forskjellige vinkler. Men jeg datt litt av til tider, og særlig når det nærmet seg det store klimakset.

Jeg holder også på med 4 3 2 1 av Paul Auster, som er veldig interessant, men det er vanskelig å holde styr på de forskjellige livene. Jeg var skeptisk siden jeg ikke har klart å fullføre the New York trilogy. Den er jo gigantisk (over 800 sider), så det kan ta en stund før jeg blir ferdig. På nattbordet ligger Solar Bones av Mike McCormack. Jeg er fascinert av at boka bare inneholder ei setning, men det må da være verdens lengste setning. Jeg syns det er vanskelig å lese bøker som er delt inn i laaaange kapitler og særlig hvis de er uten ordentlige avsnitt, så dette er jo nesten tortur. Men jeg har funnet en løsning som fungerer. Hovedproblemet er at det er nattbordboka og jeg er som regel for trøtt til å klare og konsentrere meg. Og dette er virkelig ei bok som krever hjernekapasitet, men heldigvis er den bra.

Dette kan faktisk bli året der jeg leser alle de nominerte til Bookerprisen. Mest fordi jeg har kasta alle lesemål og konkluderer at jeg fortsatt har goooood tid til å rekke 250 bøker før jeg blir 40. Men vi får se når året nærmer seg slutten og jeg innser at jeg ikke har lest noe av det jeg burde ha lest i år (inkludert nye norske). Heldigvis er livet mer enn burde-burde, og så lenge jeg liker Bookerbøkene, så kjører jeg på (i spedt litt annet).

in the midnight hour she cried more, more, more.

Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie (1981)
 “Who what am I? My answer: I am everyone everything whose being-in-the-world affected was affected by mine. I am anything that happens after I’ve gone which would not have happened if I had not come. Nor am I particularly exceptional in this matter; each ‘I’, every one of the now-six-hundred-million-plus of us, contains a similar multitude. I repeat for the last time: to understand me, you’ll have to swallow the world.”
Saleem Sinai is born at the strike of midnight when India gained its independence, and then he is switched at birth. He discovers that he has a superpower, telepathy. He can communicate with the other children with superpowers whom are born in the midnight hour of India’s independence. Saleem’s life is influenced by the events that shape India’s history.

The book is high up on the list of the most difficult books I have read. I spent nearly three months on the 650 pages, and many pages had to be read over and over so I could decipher some meaning from it. But it was definitely worth it! There’s a myriad of characters, a large dose of magic realism and you will learn a lot about the history of India.

 It’s one of those books which are impossible to explain what it is about and why it is so mesmerising. I guess you have to read it yourself to discover what’s so great about it. I’m actually proud of myself for finally completing a Rushdie. I tried years ago to read the Satanic Verses, but I was way too young. I still don’t think I’m ready for that one yet, but I also have more to choose from on my shelves (and a new one to be published this year).

This was the November read(!) in Line’s 1001 books reading circle.

 “I am the sum total of everything that went before me, of all I have been seen done, of everything done-to-me. I am everyone everything whose being-in-the-world affected was affected by mine. I am anything that happens after I’m gone which would not have happened if I had not come.”

on not reading nor writing.

the books I haven’t blogged about
I cannot remember the last time I have spent so little time on books. I just don’t seem to have the time nor energy to read. And I read so slow, it took over a month to finish the Lives of Others. And that would have been okay if I had read other books at the same time, but I haven’t.  My main concern is that I won’t be able to complete my main reading goal of reading 50 books this year. Nine books to go and less than two months left of the year. The most frustrating thing is that I don’t seem able to write about the books I have read. I’m not going to care about the rest of my reading goals as long as I complete my main goal. Which means giving up on all the awesome reading circles, although I really want to read those awesome books, and I will try to read them as fast as I can (and link of course).  What went wrong? I have absolutely no idea. Anyway, here’s a short summary of what I have actually read in the last few months:

36. All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy (1996)
Tags: 1001 books, books into films, state of the nation, war and travel, books you should read, family and self, love, sex drugs and rock’n’roll

Two teenagers ride from their homes in Texas into Mexico where they find jobs at a horse ranch. The first book in the Border trilogy and it is as amazing and awful as all of McCarthy’s works. I’ll write more once I have finished the trilogy. Read it!

38. Encircling 1 by Carl Frode Tiller (2007)
Tags: family and self, sex drugs and rock’n’roll

David has lost his memory, and his friends, ex-lovers and family write him letters to help him get his memory back. This is the first book in the Encircling trilogy and I will write more once I have finished it. It will be published in English next year, and I hope it will be as well received worldwide as it has been in Norway, despite the fact that I’m not entirely convinced this is brilliant. That is probably why I’m still only a few chapters in in book 2 and haven’t picked it up in a month or so.


40. Våke over dem som sover by Sigbjørn Skåden (2014)
Tags: books not yet translated into english, books about the arctic, books you should read, family and self, books that made me cry, from the library, sex drugs and rock’n’roll

Amund is a young Sami artist who travels to Kautokeino to work on his new project and with the kids at the local lower secondary school. When he is there, he learns about the extended abuse of under age girls while he himself forms a relationship with one of the pupils he got to know in the lower secondary school. The ending is disturbing, and the underlying theme of Sami identity in the flashbacks is thought-provoking. This is high on my list of best books read in 2014. Cross your fingers that it will be translated into English or another language you understand!



41. the Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee (2014)
Tags: man book prize, family and self, state of the nation, sex drugs and rock’n’roll

The extended Ghosh family lives in a big house in Calcutta. It is 1967 and India is seeing the start of the Naxalite movement. Supratik Ghosh suddenly disappears from the house to join the movement, and through his letters we learn how they work, while we follow the rest of the family’s everyday drama and also get an insight in the family history. Why do I feel that I have read this before? Could it be because I have read both the Lowland and the God of Small Things this year? My conclusion is that writing about the Naxalite movement will get you nominated for the Booker Prize. My favourite parts of the book are the prologue, the final epilogue and the letters. The family saga was way too confusing and I don’t think I have ever used the family tree as much as in this book (well, perhaps when I read Tolstoy). A lot of it could have been cut as it was just too much and not related to the plot. The book has a lot of strong points, and it was a lot of things; funny, gruesome, compelling, boring and thought-provoking. Mukherjee is on my list of the many authors I want to read more of.  I’m curious about how it will compare to the rest of the Booker shortlist, and the book was October’s read in Clementine’s Booker readalong.

I’m currently reading the Blindness of the Heart and it is really dark and beautiful. What am I going to read next? I have no idea, but I have 980 books to choose from + a library card.

Thirty-one. Not old. Not young. But a viable die-able age.

the God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy (1997)
“As Estha stirred the thick jam he thought Two Thoughts and the Two Thoughts he thought were these:
a) Anything can happen to anyone.
and
b) It is best to be prepared.” 
Rahel and Estha are twins that have returned to their childhood home. Estha hasn’t been there since he was sent to his father after the terrible event of their cousin Sophie Mol’s death, while Rahel stayed with her grandparents as her mother was sent away as well for loving the wrong man.

The story moves between the now at the twins’ return and the then with the death of Sophie Mol as the main event with a couple of twists and turns. But what really makes this book is the beautiful prose. Sometimes a mere sentence could make me laugh out loud or just sigh. It’s definitely a slow-reading book. Although it’s beautifully written and I enjoyed the story, I felt that there was something missing, but I cannot put my finger on exactly what. It is also a hard book to write about. But it is definitely worth a read!

The book won the Man Booker Prize in 1997 and is also August’s read in Line’s 1001 books reading circle.

“And the air was full of Thoughts and Things to Say. But at times like these, only the Small Things are ever said. Big Things lurk unsaid inside.”

twenty-two.

the Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri (2013)
 “But he was no longer in Tollygunge. He had stepped out of it as he had stepped so many mornings out of his dreams, its reality and its particular logic rendered meaningless in the light of day. The difference was so extreme that he could not accommodate the two places together in his mind. In this enormous new country, there seemed to be nowhere for the old to reside. There was nothing to link them; he was the sole link. Here life ceased to obstruct or assault him. Here was a place where humanity was not always pushing, rushing, running as if with a fire at its back.” 
Subhash and Udayan Mitra are brothers, growing up in Calcutta. While Subhash has an academic mind, Udayan is fascinated by the Naxalite movement, which wants Communist rule in India. Subhash moves to Rhode Island to continue his education, Udayan stays behind and gets more active in illegal activities, but also marries a girl without his parents consent.

The police are rounding up the members of the Naxalite movement, and one day they are coming to the Mitra household. After capturing Udayan, they murder him in front of his parents and wife. Returned for the funeral, Subhash learns that Udayan’s wife, Gauri, is pregnant. He decides to marry her and bring her back to Rhode Island.

The themes of the book are interesting, and I enjoyed reading it. But towards the end, the book felt too long and especially the last chapters seemed unnecessary. Jhumpa Lahiri has an interesting voice, and I will definitely read more by her.

Having read all the shortlisted works for Man Booker Prize 2013, I have to say that although I enjoyed the winner; the Luminaries by Eleanor Catton, my favourite is Harvest by Jim Crace.

thirty-five.

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry (1995)
 “…there was another, gorier parturition, when two nations incarnated out of one. A foreigner drew a magic line on a map and called it the new border; it became a river of blood upon the earth. And the orchards, fields, factories, businesses, all on the wrong side of that line, vanished with a wave of the pale conjuror’s wand.” 
Dina Dalal’s life hasn’t been easy after her husband died after just three years of marriage. Refusing her brother’s pleas for her to get remarried, she has to support herself. When her eyes are failing her, she hires two tailors to do her job, Ishvar and Omprakash and takes in a boarder, Maneck, as well. And she hopes that the landlord won’t notice the three extra people in her flat.
A mesmerising read from the first page to the last. The story takes you through the history of India from its independence through the eyes of its people. It mainly focuses on the four people in Dina’s flat, but also the people they meet. There are many wonderful stories within the story. There are so many tragic stories, but it is written in a dry witty style. 
The only thing I didn’t like with the story was the ending. Why did it have to end that way? But I guess it’s one of those books that just don’t work with a happy ending.
 
“You see, we cannot draw lines and compartments and refuse to budge beyond them. Sometimes you have to use your failures as stepping-stones to success. You have to maintain a fine balance between hope and despair.’ He paused, considering what he had just said. ‘Yes’, he repeated. ‘In the end, it’s all a question of balance.”

seventy.

the Sly Company of People who Care by Rahul Bhattacharya (2011)
A young Indian journalist decides to live in Guyana for a year. Arriving in Georgetown, the capital of Guyana, he gets to know people with amazing backgrounds and names like Baby, da Jesus, Nasty and Action Jackson. 
From the streets of Georgetown where the rum flows and the parties are wild, he goes into the jungle with his acquaintance, Baby, where they dig for diamonds. But then the book suddenly changes completely in part two where it takes a look on the history and politics (or politricks) of Guyana. It continues with an illegal trip across the border to Brazil and an encounter with a girl that eventually leads the journalist to Venezuela.
Once I got familiar with the Guyanese slang (about 40 pages or so), I truly enjoyed this book. It is a wonderful portrait of a country I knew little about from before. This is also the second book I have recently read about Indian descendants in the West Indies. Although I loved A House for Mr Biswas by V.S Naipaul, I found this book to be a better portrait because it gives a more complex picture. One of the book’s themes is racism, and the divide between the African and Indian descendants is clear and tense. There are some really good parts about it in the book, and I would have quoted them if they hadn’t been so racist. 
The fact that a large part of the book is written in Guyanese slang made it clear to me how used I’m to Standard English and how I need to read/listen to other variations of English. Next year I will read Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh, and I’m looking forward to that with some fear as I gave up Glue years ago because of the strong Scottish language, I didn’t understand much of what I read. 
I love the title and the cover of the book. And what’s in between.

fifty-four.

the Opium Clerk by Kunal Basu (2001)



Hiran is born in 1857, the same year as his father dies, and his mother moves them to Calcutta. There, he spends his early years reading palms and attending a religious school, while learning culture from his anglophile uncle. When he is kicked out of the religious school, he starts learning English at the mission school until his mother can’t afford his eduction. Then, by luck, he gets a job at the Auction House as a clerk. The Auction House deals with opium, and Hiran quickly learns a lot about the trade. His boss, Mr. Crabbe, takes a liking to him, and Hiran will join him in Canton.

I have been enjoying this book, reading a few pages in bed slowly before falling asleep. The language is beautiful. Hiran’s tale is wonderful, but left me somewhat confused at times – when real life and dreams mixed.

My favourite part, however, didn’t involve Hiran at all, but his adopted son, Douglas. At one point he takes over the story and Hiran is left behind. The shift is so abrupt that it could have been a new book, although it still deals with the opium trade.

This is one of those books that I really wish was great, but then lacks something. And I never quite seem to get those books that mix real life and dreams.