Exile, the first novel in Jakob Ejersbo’s Africa Trilogy was published last month in English and has been hailed by Kate Saunders in The Times as:
“[A] fine epic of loneliness and alienation in a beautiful land that seems to be sinking shows that he was a writer of huge talent.”
Readers of this blog may know that Jakob Ejersbo died very young, at forty, without living to see the cultural phenomenon that his last works would become. His legacy was a trilogy of startling energy, fury and simple beauty that was enjoyed and debated by Danes in their hundreds of thousands.
Johannes Riis, Editorial Director at Gydendal, is one of Europe’s most distinguished editors. He worked with Ejersbo for many years and was instrumental in the editing of the trilogy in the months leading up to and after his death. In September I met him in the grounds of the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art near Copenhagen to talk about Ejersbo’s life and work.
A woman arrives in a Normandy seaside village to catalogue migratory birds, but she is, in fact, dealing with a huge personal trauma. A man arrives to investigate the death, years earlier, of his brother. Gallay’s assured mood piece intrigues and seduces while offering a vivid gallery of small-town characters, each nursing grievances.
Finn, who lives with his mother in 1960s Oslo, is about to lose his bedroom to a lodger. Not quite Huck, but the narrator of this witty and poignant coming-of-age novel, in which the narrator has to deal not only with his absent father but also with the sister who results from Dad’s short-lived affair, is well nigh perfect and utterly believable.
Monsieur Linh and his Child by Philippe Claudel
Claudel’s film I’ve Loved You So Long is astonishingly sensitive, as is Broderick’s Report (2009). This exquisite novel again considers the theme of displacement; an old man flees his homeland, carrying only his sorrow, his memories and an ability to love.
The Foxes Come at Night by Cees Nooteboom was chosen by Julian Barnes in the Times Literary Supplement: “I much admired Cees Nooteboom’s sharp melancholy stories.”
It was also picked out by the Financial Times: “Few writers exude worldliness like this Dutch stylist” said the FT’s reviewer about novelist and travel writer Cees Nooteboom. His latest book, an atmospheric and meditative collection of eight stories, dwells on death and reality’s unwillingness to conform to the patterns of art and literature.”
Paul Binding chose Otto de Kat’s Julia as one of his picks: “Otto de Kat’s Julia interweaves the account of a young Dutchman in Lubeck in 1939 . . . emotionally shattering, it is also distinguished by logical intricacy of art and precision of detail.”
Tariq Ali in the Guardian called Elias Khoury’s As Though She Were Sleeping “An Arab Spring of a different kind”.
Also in the Guardian, Helen Simpson on The Road: “And from half a century ago comes Vasily Grossman’sThe Road (MacLehose), whose title story can be read as a 4,000-word distillation of his epic novel Life and Fate(Vintage), written the year following the confiscation of that novel’s typescript by the Soviet authorities.
Treblinka by Chil Rajchman was one of Robert Collins’s autobiography picks in the Times: “Chil Rajchman employs a steady, methodical tone to describe the indescribable in Treblinka, his devastating account of surviving the notorious Nazi death camp . . . An essential, unforgettable addition to the literature of Holocaust testimony.”
And finally, The Sickness was chosen by John Self on his outstanding Asylum blog: “If there’s a stereotype for the sort of book that appeals to me instinctively, it would be a slim, unflinching novel in translation about an ostensibly gloomy subject matter. How kind, then, of Alberto Barrera Tyszka to write me one.”
Well the film release of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is almost upon us and up until the big day we shall be hosting a number of related competitions and articles. I’m pleased to announce that the incredible Mute Records soundtrack, composed by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, is now available on iTunes.
The indispensible literature blog milorambles has posted a spectacular review of Otto De Kat’s Julia:
Beautifully translated by Ina Rilke – a prize winning translator of books including Cees Nooteboom and Margriet de Moor – Julia is a veritable work of art. Weighing in at a little under 200 pages my only negative comment would be with its size, I simply fell in love with the book and like all good relationships I wanted more. It was over far too soon.
The prose is an example of one of the most beautiful and heart felt books I’ve had the pleasure of reading this year. There’s something magical about it that simply draws you in, the combination of storytelling, a love lost and a country at the most uncertain of times effortlessly holding your attention throughout. . .
It’s very rare for me to give marks out of five or ten for any review but this book – for me – is faultless. With that in mind there’s only one score I could award this wonderfully evocative tale of lost love – 5 out of 5. I can’t say much more than that. If you’re looking for a little escapism on a dreary winter’s night then look no further than Julia by Otto de Kat, beautifully written, you won’t be sorry.