Book: The Norwegian Feeling for Real

13/11/2005: Leopard VI: the Norwegian Feeling for Real - reviews in The Independent and The Times

06/12/2005 :: The Independent
By Tom Boncza-Tomaszewski
Published: 13 November 2005

Leopard VI: the Norwegian Feeling for Real
The Leopard series offers occasional anthologies of work by foreign-language authors. Past editions have sampled new Russian fiction (Leopard I: Dissonant Voices) and Hungarian poetry and fiction (Leopard V: An Island of Sound). Leopard VI presents a diverse range of Norwegian stories and the occasional novel extract.

Kjell Askildsen is the most senior writer here. In "The Dogs in Thessaloniki", where a husband and wife continually misunderstand each other, he investigates the impossibility of meaningful communication between people. "She looked towards where I was sitting and called my name. She can't see me, I thought," considers the husband, observing his wife while he hides outside their home. Later, she confronts him: "Why didn't you answer when I called to you? Called to me? I said. I saw you, she said, and you didn't answer. I didn't reply to that. I saw you, she said. Why did you go round the house then? I said. So that you wouldn't realise that I'd seen you, she said." There are strong echoes of Beckett here.

In "The Long Trek", by a younger writer, Beate Grimsrud, a mother takes her children on a difficult journey up a mountain. At the top, although it's completely dark, she tells them to look hard around them. It's impossible for them to know anything about the world below; all they can be sure of is uncertainty.

These stories are often disconcerting and enigmatic, but never smug or self-consciously smart. Perhaps McSweeney's might develop some kind of one-way exchange programme?

© 2005 Independent News and Media Limited

26/11/2005 The Times

by Ed Harald Bache-Wiig, Birgit Bjerck and Jan Kjarstad
Harvill, £16.99
£15.29 (free p&p)
The “Leopard” series are anthologies of the best foreign writing, and this claims to represent the cream of Norwegian literature over the past 40 years. It is published to celebrate the centenary of Norway’s independence. Some of the names are familiar, such as Jostein Gaarder, mega-selling author of Sophie’s World (his story The Catalogue concerns a future in which every human is entered into a huge, universal register), and the book is full of interest and variety. Harvill is our most outward-looking publisher and its championing of the finest world writing makes it a national treasure.

Copyright 2005 Times Newspapers Ltd.

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