A Month in the Country – J. L. Carr

A Month in the Country had been getting so many rave reviews over the years, that I can’t believe it took me so long to get to it. It is as fabulous as everyone said it was.

A Month in the Country is a gorgeous novella of sheer perfection portraying themes of the transient nature of time, the fleeting moments of happiness, and the process of healing through the restorative power of art.

Our narrator is Tom Birkin, who is now in his 70s, telling us the story of that particular period in his youth, a time that holds a special place in his heart. 

Rewind to the summer of 1920 and Birkin who had been a soldier in the First World War, arrives in the idyllic village of Oxgodby in Yorkshire on a mission. Birkin is a shattered man, having suffered from shell shock, which physically manifests in the form of a twitch when he is stressed. With a past he would like to forget, and a future that is uncertain, Birkin is looking for some solace in the present by plunging headlong into a project requiring a skill he possesses.

The village church has been left a legacy on the condition that a suspected medieval wall painting above the chancel arch should be expertly restored. Birkin has been commissioned to complete this task – to clean away the elements that have obliterated the painting over the ages.  The mural is around 500 years old and appears to depict a typical scene of Judgement where the virtuous enter the gates of heaven and the sinners are condemned to the fires of hell.

Birkin is happy to stay in the church belfry since he has no money to pay for formal lodgings. As Birkin begins to settle down in his new, bucolic surroundings, he and the reader are introduced to a slew of characters. The vicar, a taciturn man named Keach, is against the idea of restoring the painting, but really has no say in the matter, since the terms and conditions have already been set in stone by the benefactress, the late Mrs Hebron. Birkin, meanwhile, strikes a friendship with the archeologist Charles Moon, also a fellow soldier. Having suffered similar hellish experiences of war and tragedy in love, Birkin and Moon are in a way cut from the same cloth and understand each other. Moon has been commissioned to locate the burial site of Mrs Hebron’s ancient ancestor.

We are introduced to the Ellerbacks – the stationmaster and his family including his young, teenaged daughter Kathy – at whose residence, Birkin is regularly invited for Sunday dinners. And last but not the least, is Alice Keach, the vicar’s wife and a stunningly beautiful woman. Birkin finds himself attracted to her and often contemplates on her marriage with Keach, of what could possibly have brought about a union between the two.

To reveal anything more would be to spoil the plot, so I will touch upon some essential themes that give the novella such a rich flavor.

At its core, A Month in the Country is about finding peace, contentment and a sense of purpose through the healing power of art. The restoration of the wall painting can be interpreted as a metaphor for Birkin looking to restore his sense of self.

You know how it is when a tricky job is going well because you’re doing things the way they should be done, when you’re working in rhythm and feel a reassuring confidence that everything’s unraveling naturally and all will be right in the end. That’s about it: I knew what I was doing – it’s really what being professional means.

The novella also explores the notion of what constitutes hell. There is the depiction of biblical hell in the mural, but what about hell on earth? After all, Birkin, traumatized, has experienced his own version of hell on the battlefields. Birkin, meanwhile, displays a flair for his craft, as he assiduously works on the mural, slowly but surely revealing its true splendor. It dawns on him that what he has uncovered is a masterpiece by a painter unknown to the world.

Who was he! I couldn’t even name him. People don’t seem to understand those far-off folk. They simply weren’t us. Our idea of personal fame was alien to them. This man of mine, for instance, knew nothing of earlier artists, so why should he suppose anyone would want to know anything of him? So it wouldn’t occur to him to sign his work.

Awash with the blazing heat of summer, Oxgodby also represents a microcosm of the idyllic village life, a place where time stands still, where the pace is slow, and life is simple. All of this provides a therapeutic tonic to Birkin, a soothing balm for his bruised soul, as he begins to cherish the place and make new friends.

Day after day that August, the weather stayed hot and dry. These days we call it real holiday weather but, then, only the well-to-do in those parts went far afield and even a week at Scarborough was remarkable. Folk stayed at home and took their pleasure from an agricultural show, a travelling fair, a Sunday-school outing or, if they had social pretensions, a tennis party with cucumber sandwiches…

…And this steady rhythm of living and working got into me, so that I felt part of it and had my place, a foot in both present and past; I was utterly content.

But there is so much more going on. Certainly, the reader can feel a whiff of romance in the air – Will Birkin’s attraction to Alice Keach transform into something more than just a longing? An aura of mystery surrounds the wall painting – a man with a crescent on his forehead is depicted falling into the flames of hell. Who is this man and why was his image obscured immediately after the painting was completed all those years ago?

We are also compelled to ask ourselves – Can we truly preserve the past and what are its repercussions on the future? Moreover, the book frequently alludes to the ephemeral nature of time, how those flashes of joy if not snatched could be lost forever.

If I’d stayed there, would I always have been happy? No, I suppose not. People move away, grow older, die, and the bright belief that there will be another marvelous thing around each corner fades. It is now or never; we must snatch at happiness as it flies.

Seen through sepia-tinted lens, Carr’s prose is sublime whether he is describing the lazy, languid summers, the vibrancy of the painting as it comes alive, the longing for those heady, tranquil days of the past, or while capturing instances of piercing sadness.

We can ask and ask but we can’t have again what once seemed ours for ever – the way things looked, that church alone in the fields, a bed on a belfry floor, a remembered voice, the touch of a hand, a loved face. They’ve gone and you can only wait for the pain to pass.

Teeming with a tinge of nostalgia, an evocative art mystery and a scent of romance, A Month in the Country is a delicious confection meant to be savoured. I adored this novella.

The Other Name (Septology I-II) – Jon Fosse (tr. Damion Searls)

I had not read anything by Jon Fosse before but when The Other Name (Septology I-II) was longlisted for the International Booker Prize this year, I was greatly interested. The book ultimately failed to make it to the shortlist, and after having just finished it, I wish it had. I loved this novel.  

The Other Name is an intense and deeply introspective novel about an ageing painter reminiscing about his life, where elements of the everyday and the existential flow into one another, while touching upon big topics of life and death, love and grief, and the process of art.

Our protagonist, Asle is an ageing painter who lives alone in the small town of Dylgja in southwest Norway. When the novel opens, Asle is standing before his newest painting – a canvas depicting two lines intersecting in the middle – and is contemplating whether it’s a piece of work that satisfies him.

And I see myself standing and looking at the picture with the two lines that cross in the middle, one purple line, one brown line, it’s a painting wider than it is high and I see that I’ve painted the lines slowly, the paint is thick, two long wide lines, and they’ve dripped, where the brown line and the purple line cross the colours blend beautifully and drip and I’m thinking this isn’t a picture but suddenly the picture is the way it’s supposed to be…

Asle is a widower, having lost his wife Ales many years earlier, and leads a solitary existence. He is religious and a teetotaler having given up drinking years ago at the insistence of his wife. His only friends seem to be his neighbour Asleik, a fisherman-farmer, and Beyer, who is the gallery owner in the city of Bjorgvin.

Asle’s shows are held annually in the Beyer Gallery, which is located in Bjorgvin, a few miles away from Dylgja. This entails trips to Bjorgvin on some days to procure art supplies and also to deliver his final paintings. Asle is not comfortable commuting in big cities, and Beyer assigns him a designated parking space, making things easier for Asle.

At the same time, the reader is introduced to the other Asle who stays near Bjorgvin, in Sailor’s Cove. This Asle is also an ageing painter and lives alone in his home. But there the similarities end. Bjorgvin Asle is an atheist and an alcoholic with two failed marriages behind him. He has children from both his marriages, but they don’t keep in touch. The only person who cares enough for him is Dylgja Asle.

Are both Asle and Asle doppelgangers? Or is the second Asle an alternate version of the first Asle – of what the latter’s life would have been had he not stopped drinking?

There is not much in the way of plot in the novel and the drama is mostly internal, as the characters think about the present and hark back to the past. The crux of the plot then is this – While Asle drives back home to Dylgja from his trip to Bjorgvin, he regrets not having stopped at Sailor’s Cove to check on the other Asle. He reaches home, puts all his purchases on the kitchen table, has a long conversation with his neighbour Asleik, and decides to drive back to Bjorgvin the same day to make sure the other Asle is all right (which he is not) even though it is getting dark and there’s a snowstorm on the anvil.

And yet it’s a unique novel with the power to transfix the reader. That’s largely because of the quality of writing that takes it to a whole new level. Fosse has employed what is called ‘slow prose’, a circular narrative technique, which reminded me of Thomas Bernhard’s Old Masters. There are no breaks in the paragraphs except when the characters are conversing, and the sentences are punctuated with commas and no full stops. But while Bernhard’s tone is more of a rant, Fosse’s novel is meditative and personal. Reading this novel feels like being at sea – the endless repetitions and rhythmic quality of the prose is akin to the ebb and flow of waves crashing on a beach. Or, there is a sense that you are listening to the chorus in your favourite song again and again. It has a soothing and calming effect.

There are some beautiful passages in the book which dwell on Asle wanting to perfect and hone his craft. He loves the stream of light in his paintings as do his eventual buyers, but he emphasizes that it’s only when he highlights the shadows and the darkness in this pictures, does the light shine through.

…I’ve sometimes thought that’s why I became a painter, because I have all these pictures inside me, yes, so many pictures that they’re a kind of agony, yes, it hurts me when they keep popping up again and again, like visions almost, and in all kinds of contexts, and I can’t do anything about it, the only thing I can do is paint, yes, try to paint away these pictures that are lodged inside me, there’s nothing to do but paint them away, one by one…

The book is also a meditation on grief and death. It becomes obvious as the novel progresses that Asle deeply grieves for his wife Ales. This is presented to the reader in the form of vivid forays into his past where he relives moments with his wife particularly when they were young and courting.

…and I’ve never missed it, not the beer, not the wine, not the stronger stuff, but that’s because of her too, because of Ales, without her I never would have been able to stop needing to drink, I think, and now Ales is waiting for me, she and our child, and I need to get home to them, to my wife, to our child, but what am I thinking? I live alone there, I’m going home to my old house in Dylgja where I used to live with Ales but she’s gone now, she’s with God now, in a way I can feel so clearly inside me, because she’s there inside me too, she isn’t walking around on earth any more but I can still talk to her whenever I want to, yes, it’s strange, there’s no big difference or distance between life and death…

In this regard, there’s a wonderful set piece in the early part of the novel. Dylgja Asle is driving back home from his trip to Bjorgvin and passes a playground where he sees a young couple on the swings. Are those two people real or is it a figment of his imagination?

…come on, come on, just come over here, she says and then he takes off his brown shoulder-bag and puts it down next to the sandpit and takes off his long black coat and lays it over her and then he covers the both of them with the coat so that only his coat is visible and, no, I have no right to look, to watch this, I think, and is it really happening? or is it all just something I’m dreaming? or is it something that actually happened to me once?

It seems more likely that the couple is a younger version of Asle and Ales in their earlier days. Ales is on the swing, and Asle begins pushing her swing hard. Ales is terrified and implores him to stop, but Asle keeps pushing anyway. Suddenly, Ales begins to enjoy thoroughly and begs Asle to continue. It’s a lovely section in the novel and wonderfully brings to the fore, the charm of adults when they occasionally display the inner child in them.

Death and sickness pervades the life of the other Asle in Bjorgvin. Wrecked by drink and loneliness, Asle is at the end of his tether and contemplates suicide. He is rescued by Dylgja Asle in time and taken to a hospital where the latter spends a sleepless night worrying.

The Other Name is also a book of many contradictions. Asle wants his art to be displayed in the gallery and yet he wants to keep his best paintings himself and not sell them. His wife’s death instills a feeling of loneliness in Asle and yet he does not really crave company except that of his neighbour Asleik. The other Asle drinks heavily to stop his tremors which are the result of his relentless drinking in the first place.

Despite the reflective tone of the novel, it is not without its fair share of tension. There is a particular set piece in the middle of the novel where Dylgja Asle has reached Bjorgvin in the middle of a raging snowstorm. With the snow obliterating the landscape, Asle loses his bearings and spends an interminable amount of time trying to locate the place to where he is heading. With no one on the streets, the whole scene feels surreal, tense and other worldly.

The Other Name is the first book in Fosse’s Septology trilogy comprising sections I and II. Both the sections begin with Asle standing before his painting as he reflects on merging of the two lines and end with him reciting prayers with his rosary beads.

It’s a brilliant book, personal, intimate and hypnotic, and asks some big questions – To what extent can certain decisions alter the course of one’s life, one that is different from someone else’s? What determines our identity – our actions or our circumstances or both?

The second book I Is For Another (Septology III-IV) has also been released by Fitzcarraldo Editions and I plan to dig into it soon.

Tell Them of Battles, Kings & Elephants – Mathias Enard (tr. Charlotte Mandell)

A couple of years ago, I read my first Enard – Compass – and was blown away by it. It made by Best of the Year list. I was in the mood, therefore, for another Enard and settled in on Tell Them of Battles, Kings and Elephants. It was not only slim but also a perfect choice for #fitzcarraldofortnight.

At the end of this slim novella, Mathias Enard lists a series of factual events with proof of their existence.

One of them in essence is that the Sultan had invited the celebrated sculptor and artist – Michelangelo – to build a bridge over the Golden Horn in Constantinople.

There is no record that Michelangelo ever took up this offer and travelled to the East. That’s because he never did.

But Mathias Enard cleverly builds his story around this premise – What if Michelangelo had accepted the Sultan’s project?

Tell Them of Battles, Kings and Elephants then is a wonderful slice of alternative history that also allows Enard to revisit his favourite theme – the meeting of the East and the West in the pursuit of art.

Here’s how the novella begins…

Night does not communicate with the day. It burns up in it. Night is carried to the stake at dawn. And its people along with it – the drinkers, the poets, the lovers. We are the people of the banished, of the condemned.

We are in 1506, and Michelangelo has accepted the Sultan’s offer to build the bridge over the Golden Horn. But the Pope Julius II can never know, and so the famous sculptor is travelling to the East in secret helped by the Italian merchant Meringhi. Michelangelo, meanwhile, has been commissioned by the Pope to paint the ceiling of what is now the Sistine Chapel. But the artist frets over the stinginess of the religious leader in matters relating to money and more importantly his pay.

That is why he finds the Sultan’s offer so tempting – it promises of greater riches and glory. What also boosts his ego is that Leonardo da Vinci had worked on the drawings for the same project earlier but the Sultan was not pleased. He believes that Michelangelo has what it takes to accomplish this feat.

‘You will surpass him in glory if you accept, for you will succeed where he has failed, and you will give the world a monument without equal, like your David.’

Armed with the delicious prospect of besting his rival among many other reasons, Michelangelo, therefore, flees Rome to make his way to Constantinople.

Once there, he is shown to his minimalistic quarters and is introduced to his translator Manuel as well as the Court poet Mesihi. Mesihi, in particular, has been appointed by the Sultan’s court to show Michelangelo around the city so that he can begin working on his drawings for the bridge.

It turns out to be an eventful few months for the great artist. He is dazzled by the beauty and splendor of the Ottoman Empire. But he struggles a bit at the beginning assailed by doubts about whether he can deliver and in the first few days does not have much to show for in terms of drawings.

Part of this can be attributed to the poet Mesihi who introduces him to the dives and bars of the city to revel in drinks and pleasure. Michelangelo becomes besotted with an androgynous dancer much to the chagrin of Mesihi who harbours a passion for the artist himself.

Between couplets, as the little orchestra is playing to its heart’s content, she, or he, dances; an elegant dance, very restrained, in which the body spins, moves around a fixed axis, almost without the feet moving at all. A slow undulation of strings released, manipulated by the wind. It it’s a woman’s body, its perfect; if it’s a man’s body, Michelangelo would pay dearly top see the muscles of his thighs and calves stand out, his bone structure moving, his shoulders animating his biceps and pectorals.

Enard presents his story in the form of sketches, impressions, and vignettes. Many of the chapters don’t exceed a page and a half, some are in fact barely half a page. There’s a lot of space, and yet there is so much packed in. To enhance the authenticity of his tale, Enard also weaves in letters written by Michelangelo to his relatives in Florence, and lines composed by the poet Mesihi. Records of these, we are told, exist.

The androgynous dancer sketch is a nice touch and is reminiscent of The Arabian Nights, except that this dancer talks to Michelangelo when he is asleep. The dancer comes from a city that has been destroyed and has stories to tell but these will never be written and recorded because history focuses on the accounts of the victors and not the vanquished.

Meanwhile, Michelangelo may have fretted over the conspiracies and jealousies that he had to grapple with back in Rome and Florence. But if he thinks he can find refuge in Constantinople, he is mistaken. It’s a palace court after all and political intrigues exist there too.

Not surprisingly, many of the passages in the novella are beautiful, which show that Enard really is the master of his craft. There’s a lot going on for a book that is barely 140 pages – rivalry, history, unrequited love, danger with elements of a spy thriller. And once again we are given a glimpse of the similarities that exist between the East and the West when it comes to art, ambition and political motivations.

Enard is now become an author whose every book I need to read (I have Zone and Street of Thieves to get to). I did prefer Compass to this one. However, that does not mean that Tell Them of Battles is not incredibly well written. It is, and serves as an excellent entry point into Enard’s oeuvre, particularly for those who are not yet ready for the commitment of his bigger books.

Tentacle – Rita Indiana (tr. Achy Obejas)

A quick glance at author Rita Indiana’s profile shows that she is a Dominican music composer, producer and key figure in contemporary Caribbean literature. It also tells us that her novel Tentacle has already won a prestigious prize.

Now translated into English by Achy Obejas and published by the wonderful And Other Stories (through whom I discovered one of my favourite authors Deborah Levy), both the cover and the blurb were enticing enough to catch my eye. Well then, what about the content within the pages?

It was excellent.

Here’s why…

Tentacle

When the book opens we are in the future in 2027 in Santo Domingo the Dominican Republic. Acilde, the central character in the book, is working as a maid in Esther Escudero’s house.

It soon becomes apparent that we are in some kind of post-apocalyptic world with an environmental disaster having occurred much earlier. A virus has plagued the other part of the island, and Esther’s house has a mechanism by which anyone infected by the virus can be detected and shot down.

Recognizing the virus in the black man, the security mechanism in the tower releases a lethal gas and simultaneously informs the neighbors, who will avoid the building’s entrance until the automatic collectors patrolling the streets and avenues pick up the body and disintegrate it.

Acilde, meanwhile, was not always a maid. She was a prostitute at the El Mirador with a body like that of a fifteen year old boy. That’s how she meets Eric – Esther’s right hand man.

Eric convinces Acilde to work in Esther’s house as a maid in return for which she will get the opportunity to attend culinary school.

But Acilde has a greater desire – to transition into a man. At first she discovers a valuable sea anemone in one of Esther’s rooms (valuable because all other marine creatures have been destroyed in an environmental catastrophe). Her initial plan – to steal and sell the anemone, the proceeds of which she would use to buy Rainbow Brite. This is a drug that allows sex change without surgery.

But she changes her mind. Subsequent events compel Acilde to flee Esther’s although Eric later secures the Rainbow Brite and helps Acilde in her transformation into a man.

All of this pretty much takes place in the first chapter.

In the alternating chapter, the first of which is deliciously titled ‘Psychic Goya’, the focus shifts to Argenis, a budding artist, who soon realizes that the classic art school in which he studied has not much use when it comes to contemporary art.

At the School of Fine Arts, a public institution with a budget even smaller than the local barbershop’s, the professors – for whom there was no art after Picasso – were proud of Argenis’ technical expertise and Catholic themes and predicted a successful and prosperous future for him.

But when he finished at the School of Fine Arts and got his father to send him to the School of Design at Altos de Chavon, it was a different story. His fluency with perspective and proportion wasn’t worth a dime. His classmates were rich kids with Macs and digital cameras who talked about Fluxus, video art, video action, and contemporary art.

Down on luck, and fired from his job (communicating tarot readings over the telephone), Argenis is recruited by Giorgio Menicucci and his wife Linda for their Sosua project to raise funds and repopulate the sea with marine life.

Argenis, meanwhile, is the archetypal misogynist with dreams of sleeping with Linda, not to mention harbouring thoughts bordering on racism.

On an expedition, Argenis gets stung by a sea anemone. This leads to a situation where he is leading two lives – one in Giorgio’s house as part of the group of other artists also enlisted for the project, and the other way back in the 1600s as part of a band of buccaneers skinning hides.

The stories of Acilde and Argenis alternate between chapters and then the two very cleverly merge.

Acilde, now a man, is also leading several lives, all part of the grand plan to rebuild marine life and save the environment. But while, Acilde is able to effortlessly move between his various selves, Argenis is driven mad by them.

All these ingredients make Tentacle a very potent read. The book is just 130 pages, but it’s a hybrid of time travel, art, sex and politics all which Rita Indiana seamlessly and with great imagination mixes together to create a heady brew.

The obvious themes are the fluidity of gender, and the impact of environmental disasters. But Indiana also manages to throw in others such as the place of art in the world and the perception of contemporary art.

Despite the strangeness of the overall tale, within its confines, the story has a rationality and lucidity that is unmistakable.  Moreover, Indiana’s prose is vibrant with enough chutzpah to drive the narrative forward.

Overall, this was a wonderful read and one that is a strong contender for my Best of the Year list.

 

Bergeners – Tomas Espedal (tr. James Anderson)

They say you should never judge a book by its cover. But this adage is hardly apt for the Kolkata based Seagull Books, whose book covers are as enticing as the content within the pages.

Seagull Books has been doling out compelling literature in translation and it is good to see that it is being recognized for some major prizes as well.

Tomas Espedal’s Bergeners caught my attention because it was longlisted for the Best Translated Book Award this year.

Bergeners
Seagull Books Edition

Tomas Espedal’s Bergeners opens in New York in the fancy Standard Hotel.

New York City. The Standard Hotel. Room 1103. The loveliest room I’d ever seen. So transparent, so open, so white and severe.

The city was in the room. The room was in the city, like a transparent cube with glass walls.

Tomas is there with his partner Janne but we are immediately told that it is not going to end well as Janne reveals her intention to end their relationship. It’s a break-up that unsettles Tomas greatly and in some way forms the core of his subsequent loneliness.

It’s not just Janne who has left him though. We learn later that his daughter from a previous marriage has moved out of their house (as young adults are bound to do) to shift to Oslo.

You don’t become lonely by being alone. It’s when you’ve got used to living with a lover and children and all the surrounding family and friends, it’s when you suddenly lose all this, all these things you’ve become fond of and reliant on, that you become lonely.

Bergeners is not a straightforward book by all accounts, quite indefinable infact. It has personal, autobiographical shades to it, and yet it is not your standard autobiography fare. The narration is an amalgam of diary entries, poetry, short stories, ruminations on art and reflections on the people of Bergen.   In a way the thin line between fact and fiction is quite blurred as is the narrative voice which shifts between the first person and the third.

There is a restless quality to the book as Tomas travels to places such as Madrid, Italy, Oslo, Nicaragua, Berlin and so on. And yet, paradoxically, he has reached a phase where he does not wish to travel any more…

You’ve done all your travelling, seen what you wanted to see, and what you haven’t seen, you can’t be bothered with.

There are some absorbing pieces on the process of writing as well. In one titled ‘The Writer Who Doesn’t Write’, Tomas travels to an upland village in Italy to meet the writer Harold Costello. The house Costello is living in is perfect, and yet he is staring at a dilemma…

I made a bit of money, travelled around Europe and stumbled on this house which I bought. I thought that this would be the perfect place too, the perfect house, the perfect place to write. I moved here to write. Everything in the house and in the garden and all around me was arranged with just one object, to write. But in all the years I’ve lived here, I’ve never managed to write anything worthwhile.

In a personal narrative of this sort, it’s not surprising to see the presence of other Norwegian authors, and here it includes the likes of Karl Ove Knausgaard and Dag Solstad. As an aside, I have not read Knausgaard but I have read Dag Solstad’s Novel 11, Book 18 and it’s brilliant.

Espedal’s conversation particularly with Dag Solstad is laced with humour.

For some reason, I let it be known that I was reading Thomas Mann’s diaries in German. Yes, Thomas Mann wrote his diary every evening before he went to bed, said Dag Solstad. Every evening without fail that diary had to be written, every evening, every single evening before he went to bed. Why didn’t he just go to bed, roared Dag Solstad suddenly.

I am partial to art and like books that talk about art and there is some of that here as well. Once again, it is Dag Solstad who gives Espedal perspective on how the latter should be seeing Goya’s Black Paintings.

Well, if you want to view Goya’s Black Paintings in the Prado, you’ve got to walk straight through the first rooms without turning your head. You mustn’t stop or look at a single painting. Just go through as fast as you can with blinkers on, all the way to the innermost room of the museum. That’s where Goya’s Black Paintings are on display. After you’ve seen them, you must leave the museum immediately, in just the same manner as you came in, Dag Solstad said.

As I write this piece I realize that my review is possibly quite fragmentary as I can’t quite put a finger on how best to describe this wonderful novel, but perhaps that’s fitting given the nature and tone of the book itself. Essentially, to me this novel was an immersive experience and I will be exploring more Espedal.

Translation credits from the Norwegian go to James Anderson.