sábado, outubro 22, 2016

Cancer-Treblinka-Love-Fuck-Death: “The Summer of Kim Novak” by Håkan Nesser

"After my father had suggested that we might spend the summer together, I realized I didn't actually know anything about him. I knew what everyone knew: his father read girlie mags, and he was born with six toes on each foot.”

In “The Summer of Kim Novak” by Håkan Nesser

The first time I discovered Scandinavian Crime Fiction was when I bought 3 books in German (that’s why I always associate Scandinavian fiction with German) at an airport book-stand. What did I buy? 3 novels by Mankell, Nesser and Indridason (see pictures above and below regarding my German library; mind you, it's just a taste...). Those were my first loves. Before that I’d only read Hamsun in English (“Hunger”). I still remember a very heated discussion at the British Council with a fellow student concerning Hamsun and his Nazi sympathies. I read Hunger when I was very young and going through my existentialist phase in life. I thought at the time it was quite a brilliant book, the translation was masterful and I thoroughly enjoyed it at the time. It still is. 

In my book, the integrity, identity and attitude of a writer has exactly no bearing on the work whatsoever. It isn't ambiguous, it’s black and white. The fact that Hamsun was a Nazi sympathiser is completely pointless. “Hunger” is a masterpiece. If you were to decide what to look at, listen to, or read based upon whether you happen to agree with the actions or opinions of the writer behind them I’d probably have to cut myself off from most works of any significance. If I were to go down that road, I’d have to wipe from the literature landscape writers such as Wagner (a disturbing, at least for me, massive anti-semite, T. S. Eliot (an anti-Semite as well), Ezra Pound (fascist), Jimi Hendrix  (beat the shit out of his girlfriends), Charles Dickens (called for the wipeout of what he called “inferior races”), Sartre (a Communist who knew what was happening in the Soviet Union under Stalin), Roman Polanski (a rapist), Oscar Wilde (a pederast), Caravaggio (a murderer), not to mention pretty much every Greek and Roman figure of note  (slave owners). 

I’m not able (even if I wanted to) to cast aside every figure or work of art from our cultural history that didn't fit in with my notions of modern liberalism. A la Hamsun, and having read Scandinavian (crime) fiction for many years, the overall defining theme is the inclusion of social and political comment, well beyond the requirements of plot and character. It's as if in some ways there's a tradition of obliquely addressing issues within stories of detection that would otherwise be too awkward to write about, or read about. It reminds me of how Science Fiction in the US in the 50's and 60's was cover for a great deal of very radical social comment - aimed at institutions and attitudes in the US that couldn't be commented upon or criticised in those days, except by the sleight of hand of removing them to other planets and recasting the religious, racial and political problems of American society as issues between right thinking protagonists and a host of bug-eyed monsters.

“The Summer of Kim Novak” is a very sad, sad, and gloomy book, the way only the Scandinavians are able to write. I’m not one for humour in the stuff I like to read. “Funny” and “humour” are good if I want people to join my team. By this I don’t want to imply that it is necessarily easy to write funny books. But do we really only want the kind of literature that appeals to fluffy emotions? It's like your Autocorrect insisting you make a happy face instead every time you want to put in a closed parenthesis. But using brackets or parenthesis might give you the nuances or different shades you want in a text, just as you need those nuances to understand things in life that do not make sense.

“The Summer of Kim Novak” is a book with a ton of different shades, but they’re all shades just the same. No sunlight ever gets through…

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