Latest Review: "Selected Stories" by Kjell Askildsen

The latest addition to our Reviews section is a piece by P. T. Smith on Kjell Askildsen’s Selected Stories translated by Seán Kinsella and out from Dalkey Archive Press.

Welcome back from the weekend, everyone! Kjell Askildsen has a neato name. That is all.

Here’s the beginning of Patrick’s review:

To call Kjell Askildsen’s style sparse or terse would be to understate just how far he pushes his prose. Almost nothing is explained, elaborated on. In simple sentences, events occur, words are exchanged, narrators have brief thoughts. As often as translators are praised for their work with complex, tangled sentences, I often wonder if bringing life to minimalist work is as much a challenge, and Seán Kinsella brings that life:

I went down to the living room. Daniel was standing by the veranda door. The storm had put me in a conciliatory fram of mind, and I went over to him and said: Isn’t it spectacular? Spectacular? he said. The apple trees are being stripped of fruit, and look at the sugar snaps. I looked at them; some of the stalks lay on the ground.

In all that is unspoken, by narrators and between characters, in all the we can’t know, tension builds and fear of something sinister, even in the mundane, is birthed. In his sense of uncomfortable danger in human relations, Askildsen calls to mind Michael Haneke. Haneke may be most widely known for the bloodier, more dramatic violence of some of his films, but the smaller acts, the more frightful for their commonplace, can be as much an assault on the viewer. Code Unknown features two of these that stand out in my memory more than any scene from Funny Games: a scuffle in the street, a frightened mother slapping a child who carelessly put itself in danger.

For the rest of the review, go here.


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