Answering Kirsty's Book Challenge 
Tuesday, 24 .October, 2006, 16:56 - English Entries, Literature, Online/Blogs
Kirsty, now in Amsterdam, has challenged me. Thanks a lot for that and don't believe what she writes about me. It took me too long (as always), but here is my answer:

1. The book that changed my life

Kassandra (Cassandra) by Christa Wolf.

Cassandra is the daughter of king Priamos of Troy and she has the ability to see the future, but she has also the problem that nobody ever believes what she foresees. The god Apollo cursed her with that. The story starts at the very end, when she is brought to the home of Agamemnon, the leader of the Greece army during the Trojan war.

It is the story of a woman, who is forced to get rid of all illusions and to look beyond all the lies around and inside her. This sounds great, as I wrote it here, but it is painful and that pain is expressed on every page.

At least in German the language of the book is simply amazing. Wolf writes cold but never boring. She writes the words of a person, that has left her whole life behind her, who saw the destruction of her home, but had to destroy everything inside her before.

2. The book that I have read more than once

The long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler.

A story about friendship and love.

Ever from reading "The Big Sleep" I was a fan of Philip Marlowe, the great detective, whose ability in solving cases is surpassed only by his bad luck with women (they are either the victim or the perp - sometimes both), his loneliness and his cynical humor about himself and the world. Chandlers language is very poetic without being at any point pretentious or pathetic.

This is the best Marlowe story that exists. It is beautiful and grabbed me from the first sentence to the very last. It is a true work of art, not just a simple detective novel. I think I read it three times and I will for sure read it several times again.

3. The book I would take on a desert island

Also sprach Golem by Stanislaw Lem (original Title: Golem XIV)

A machine that develops higher intelligence than humans and then starts giving lectures to humans. This is not funny, this is amazing - it deconstructs mankind to a mental level that is close to subatomic.

But as this wonderful work is not available in English, I dare to chose another one:

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles – by Haruki Murakami

I will never understand this book. I cannot say anything about it, as I, as said, did not understand it. It is a perfect story, one can follow it from A to Z, but everything in it makes no sense at all and you need to re-invent logic to come to some clues. A fantastic book in the true sense of the meaning - but be careful, it is very dark and depressive. So don't read that during Northern Winters.

4. The book that made me silly

The Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea.

If you have never taken drugs and you read that book, you will know how it is on LSD. It is such a big lie, with too much truth in it to not completly confuse you. Since this book I love it when a story plays tricks on me. Oh, it is good to be silly!

5. The book that made me cry

Betty Blue by Philippe Djian

Djian is one of the greatest writers that live on this planet. He makes no fuss, his books are driving you forward without a paragraph of hesitation - there is always something happening, most of the time it is about women and sex, but there are also the normal cruelties of life. It is highly unfortunate that his books are not all translated into English language - in fact Betty Blue, which is without doubt his best novel, is the only one.

In a way, this book tells the perfect late 20th century love story. It is charming, gentle and seductive. And then again it is wild, furious and brutal. And if the reader’s heart does not stop during reading, she or he will cry at one point - that is for sure.

6. The book I would like to see written

...challenges reality.

7. The book I hoped would never have been written

The Fifth Mountain [no link provided for this] by this Pauolo Cohello or however you write this overblown adjective-thrower. This is the book I regret every single movement of my hand, while reading the first third of it - after that I gave up. Every author should be forced to read his or her work at least once again after five years. I hope P.C. does this and suffers like I did.

If somebody gives this to you as a present, treat the person as your enemy.

8. The book I am currently reading

The Book of Illusions by Paul Auster

I read this again, it is great, completely self-contained. From a certain perspective I regard this as the perfect story. I can only recommend to read this, it is good entertainment at first sight, but the longer you think about it, the deeper you will get confused and will be left with nothing.

9. The book I’ve been meaning to read

The Feynman Lectures on Physics by Richard P. Fenyman

Jukka took the Bible (without stating the author of that book), I take the other side of the medal, that explains the Universe. I cannot count how often I tried to read and understand this, it all sounds easy, but it is not possible to follow Richard. When I am old, I will be wise enough to just not care and will read it for fun. For sure I will! And until then, I will try to read it again and again.

10. I challenge the following five bloggers

Andreas Winterer -
Lewis -
Anja Millen -
James -
Sreehari - to finally establish a blog (it's about time) and to write about his readings
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Still alive 
Tuesday, 16 .May, 2006, 22:15 - English Entries, Literature

Not long after arriving in Antibes (Southern France), I got fever and stayed in the hotel bed for several days. I missed most of the work meeting and my mailbox was flooded afterwards. On Friday evening I flew to Munich and since then I am in my old home town with my family. It took me the weekend and yesterday to recover to a state in which I can look at the screen for a little bit longer again. Apologies to all those who wrote me mails during this time - it will take a while until I can answer them.

I just saw that Lewis has a similar feeling as I had about Johanna Sinisalos "Not before Sundown".

Currently I am reading Mikael Niemi's book "Popular Music", which I find up till now quite enjoyable - maybe this can be the next common review.

For the moment that's all. There are several other things I would like to write about, but that has time until I have returned to Helsinki. Enjoy the sun!
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Johana Sinisalo - Not Before Sundown 
Wednesday, 03 .May, 2006, 07:10 - English Entries, Finland, Literature

Not Before Sundown Trolls are creatures of the Northern mythology and Scandinavian legends. They are walking upright and therefore look somehow like humans, but their fur-coat and claws remind us of their animal nature. Trolls are said to love the night, to be able to turn to stone and sometimes some of them were seen - if we believe what the murmured stories of older days tell us - as changelings, replacing human children in their cradles.

In her book "Not Before Sundown" Johanna Sinisalo translates the legends of the trolls into a modern novel. After a night of drinking and disappointment, Mikael saves a young Troll from the violence of a gang of youngsters. Mikael reacts without further thinking and takes the wounded troll into his home and life.

Sinisalos story needed the first hundred pages to get up to speed. In the beginning the troll is ill and Mikael, who is homosexual, has problems to hide his new subtenant from his boy friends. But when Pessi, the troll, finally gets well and starts causing further confusion, the book becomes funny and entertaining.

In-between the mostly short chapters Sinisalo informs about the role of the Troll in Finnish literature and history by putting abstracts from all kinds of sources - poems, extractions from novels, scientific and popular scientific articles - into the book. As an uneducated reader I was rather surprised of same of the "facts" that are elaborated in these insertions. The authors’ humor, in some cases, reaches over the borders of the novel and the reader should be careful in choosing what to believe and what not.

Towards the end we are facing more and more the wild and darker nature of the troll. Although the final chapters might seem tragic, the book never leaves is light and humorous style.

There is also the story of a desperate Philippine girl who was married by a Finnish thug out of a catolog. This character is simply not needed for the book and described in a completly cliche way. It seems that Sinisalo wanted to introduce a more serious side-story in the novel, but to my eyes failed completly with it.

In the end the book left me disappointed. The language is too clean (at least in the translation) and offers no inspiration, the characters are predictable and the intended criticism of society is not convincing.

But most of all the fantastic element - the troll - does not develop into a mystic creature and the few secrets around it taste rather constructed. By citing so many other sources Sinisalo makes clear where she got her inspiration from, but she is not able to reproduce them in a way that would deepen the understanding of the legends. She avoids carefully any chance to let the fear and fascination of the old tales shine through her story.

"Not Before Sundown" is an entertaining and humoristic novel which gives an introduction to some parts of Finnish mythology. It does not go further than that and for me did not hold as an example for contemporary Finnish literature.
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Let's Start the Summer Season with some Finnish Literature: Johanna Sinisalo - Not Before Sunset  
Tuesday, 25 .April, 2006, 22:18 - Deutsche Einträge, Finland, Literature

Johanna Sinisalo - Ennen päivänlaskua ei If you looked at the comments of yesterdays post you will find that Lewis and I started a little project for which we hope that many of you will join as well. We chose one of the books from the Guardian list of Finnish literature and said we will both read it and afterwards write down our thoughts about it. And each of you who is interested in it is welcome as well.

The book we decided to start with is from Johanna Sinisalo:

I bought the German edition today at Stockmanns Akateeminen Kirjakauppa and they have it in all three languages on stock. Actually I did not know up till now that they have a whole table with Finish literature translated into English, German, French, Spanish and other languages. It's worth going there and looking through the books.

Whoever wants to join reading just posts a comment under this or under Lewis' entry. Let's start the Summer season with some Finnish Literature!
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