From “The Room” Jonas Karlsson to “The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules” by Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg.
This is a monthly link-up hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. Each month a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the one next to it in the chain. The rules are:
- Link the books together in any way you like.
- Provide a link in your post to the meme at Books are My Favourite and Best.
- Share these rules in your post.
- Paste the link to your post in the comments on Kate’s post and/or the Linky Tool on that post.
- Invite your blog readers to join in and paste their links in the comments and/or the Linky Tool.
- Share you post on Twitter using the #6Degrees hash tag.
- Be nice! Visit and comment on other posts and/or retweet other #6Degrees posts.
THANKS FOR PLAYING!
This month is a FREEBIE, so we are starting with the last book from our October chain, or (for first-time participants) the last book we’ve read!
This month (November 7, 2020), the chain is a freebie where we either begin with the last book in our chain from last month, or the last book we’ve read. Last month, my chain ended with “The Room” by Jonas Karlsson. The main protagonist of this novel, Björn, has just been promoted, and the stress he experiences does two things. First, he sets himself apart from his new colleagues, not letting them get close to him, and then he finds what he believes is an empty office room, located between the elevator and the toilets. It is in this room where he finds solace. As I noted in my review, Karlsson seems to be making a statement about conformity vs. individuality. This novel was the first book by Karlsson to be translated into English from the Swedish.
There’s a real Kafkaesque, surreal feeling to Karlsson’s novel, and the whole idea of reality vs. imagination got me to thinking about a novel I’d read that was translated from the French, “The Author and Me” by Eric Chevillard. This very unusual book is a type of monologue where a man talks about how upset he gets when he’s given cauliflower gratin instead of trout almandine. Yeah, I know… it’s like “what?” from start to finish, but the ending… OMG when you find out why he’s been served something he hates so much, you’ll have to laugh, and you’ll realize that this unnamed protagonist/narrator isn’t really as he presents himself. To be frank, in my review I said that I didn’t quite “get” this novel – mostly because the footnotes by the author and their breaking of the fourth wall, which confused and frustrated me – but thinking back now, I’m wondering if my rating of only three stars was a bit harsh.
I think I’m going to continue on with the translations here, because to be frank, many of them are unconventional, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Although this isn’t going to look very attractive in my graphic, the stark cover of the above book made me think of another book translated from the Swedish that has a similarly plain cover, “The White City” by Karolina Ramqvist. This debut novel investigates the themes of isolation and belonging. Ramqvist’s writing is very appealing, with a fluid style that borders on the impersonal, the chill of which perfectly mirrors the wintry setting of the story. I believe this is what they’d call a Scandinavian or Nordic Noir novel, which ended up being a bit too dark for my taste, and left me feeling somewhat uncomfortable. Although books in this genre are usually crime fiction, the only crimes that happen here come before the book, perpetrated by the protagonist’s deadbeat boyfriend who has left her. Not an easy book to read, but I think many would find it worthwhile.
Another book that wasn’t easy to read, is “Sadness is a White Bird” which connects mostly with the word white – but at least it has a slightly more colorful cover! This novel by Moriel Rothman-Zecher is actually the first in the chain that isn’t a translation, even though the author is Israeli, but he’s also American. This book also connects with the previous link as it is also a debut novel. Now, what made this a difficult read for me was how Rothman-Zecher portrays some of the less savory ways that Israeli soldiers have treated Palestinians – both now, and in the past. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying that he got it wrong, but to see that racism described in detail on the page, isn’t fun. Of course, not all Israeli soldiers are like that, and Rothman-Zecher’s protagonist proves this by his own emotions and actions, which unfortunately get him into trouble. With all the news from across the globe about police and soldiers using excessive force, especially in racially charged situations, this book would resonate with many of today’s readers.
Tensions between the citizens of a country and an oppressive police or military presence brought me back to another translated book, “The Fox was Ever the Hunter” by Herta Müller. This book was translated from the Romanian, and depicts the very fretful time in that country just prior to the revolution that took place in 1989, when the people threw off Communism and got rid of their dictator ruler, Nicolae Ceausescu. Under Ceausescu’s rule there was a group of informers known as the Securitate, and no one knew who they were, or when you might be denounced and jailed, for any reason. Müller gives us a very evocative and atmospheric look at life under these uneasy conditions, with this novel. Again, this isn’t an easy read, but it does have a hopeful element, particularly when she gets to the post-revolution part of the book. In fact, in my review, I called this a stunning rendition of the on-the-street feelings prevalent in Romania at the time.
The harsh conditions of living in a Communist country brings me to my next link, which is “Klotsvog” by Margarita Khemlin, which is translated from the Russian and is yet another a debut novel. This is one of those unreliable narrator books, where the protagonist, Maya Abramovna Klotsvog, has a lot going against her. Being Jewish (albeit, without much knowledge or experience of this heritage) in Post WWII Russia can’t have been easy. Mind you, Maya does come up with some very unusual ways of coping with her situation, some of which could actually have been quite humorous, if they weren’t at the same time pretty sad. Interestingly enough, Maya turned out to be the type of character you won’t really like, but you’ll really want to keep reading to find out if she either changes, or gets what she deserves. I see that I only gave this 3.5/5 stars, but in hindsight, I’m wondering once again if it didn’t deserve at least half a star more.
The idea of how you might feel forced to do some less than savory things in order to improve your situation, brought me to another translated book that completes this chain, leaving us on a much lighter note (thank goodness). In “The Little Old Lady Who Broke all the Rules” by Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg we return to Sweden for a humorous novel about a group of elderly people living in a badly run old age home, who decide to carry out a bank heist – not because they want to get rich, but only to get placed in jail. They figure that the treatment they’d get as prisoners would be preferable to how they’re treated in this facility, whose administrators are essentially stealing their pensions and lining their own pockets. If you’re looking for something fun to read, something to take your mind off all the other troubles in the world, you could do worse than read this book. (As an aside, Fredrik Backman’s new novel, “Anxious People,” would also have worked for this link… but I think I’ll save that one for another #6Degrees!)