29 May 08 | E.J. Van Lanen | Comments

Good news on two fronts from Lillehammer: the internet is free, and they have free coffee in the lobby of the hotel via a Nespresso machine—I’ll have to get one for myself soon.

The festival started off for us yesterday with a lecture by Kjell Ivar Skjerdingstad at the Lillehammer Kunstmuseum. The overall theme of the talk, “Viscosity, or just hanging around: The meaning of presence in contemporary literature”, was a little bit lost on me—I think you needed to be pretty familiar with all of the authors Kjell talked about to see the connections he was drawing—but it was a good overview of contemporary Norwegian literature nonetheless, touching on Graywolf’s Per Petterson and Dag Solstad, our Jan Kjaerstad (whose last name I spent a long time trying to learn how to pronounce over drinks, I think I almost have it), Erlend Loe, Inger Bråtveit (more on her later), and Hanne Ørstavik (who the people from Forlaget Oktober all really love).

After a nice reception/dinner buffet in the museum, the crowd moved on to Bingo’n, a club that is hosting a bunch of events at the festival. Last night’s event featured Inger Bråtveit and Jenny Hval of Rockettothesky. They alternated reading (Inger read from her forthcoming, unfinished novel) and singing—when Jenny Hval first started singing I was absolutely blown away; the songs I linked to on her myspace page don’t do her live performance justice. For the most part it was in Norwegian (some of the songs were in English), so I didn’t understand a word, but the crowd seemed appreciative, although nobody could explain to me exactly what went on when I asked after the performance.

All in all it was a very interesting first day. Today a few Norwegian authors will be presenting their books to us, and then I have a few meetings. I’ll try to post another update tomorrow.

Today’s “Norway-is-expensive” item: 1 bottle of Heineken costs 61 NOK, which is a little more than $12.

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The Cold Song
The Cold Song by Linn Ullmann
Reviewed by David Richardson

Linn Ullmann’s The Cold Song, her fifth novel, is built much like the house about which its story orbits: Mailund, a stately white mansion set in the Norwegian countryside a few hours drive from Oslo. The house, nestled into the. . .

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This Life
This Life by Karel Schoeman
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

Karel Schoeman’s Afrikaans novel, This Life, translated by Else Silke, falls into a genre maybe only noticed by the type of reader who tends toward Wittgenstein-type family resemblances. The essential resemblance is an elderly narrator, usually alone—or with one other. . .

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A Dilemma
A Dilemma by Joris-Karl Hyusmans
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

In Joris-Karl Hyusmans’s most popular novel, À rebours (Against Nature or Against the Grain, depending on the which translated edition you’re reading), there is a famous scene where the protagonist, the decadent Jean des Esseintes, starts setting gemstones on the. . .

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Walker on Water
Walker on Water by Kristiina Ehin
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

There are books that can only wisely be recommended to specific types of readers, where it is easy to know who the respective book won’t appeal to, and Kristiina Ehin’s Walker on Water is one these. What makes this neither. . .

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The Nightwatches of Bonaventura
The Nightwatches of Bonaventura by Bonaventura
Reviewed by J. T. Mahany

Imagine the most baroque excesses of Goethe, Shakespeare, and Poe, blended together and poured into a single book: That is The Nightwatches of Bonaventura. Ophelia and Hamlet fall in love in a madhouse, suicidal young men deliver mournful and heartfelt. . .

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Pavane for a Dead Princess
Pavane for a Dead Princess by Park Min-Gyu
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

In 1899, Maurice Ravel wrote “Pavane pour une infante défunte” (“Pavane for a Dead Princess”) for solo piano (a decade later, he published an orchestral version). The piece wasn’t written for a particular person; Ravel simply wanted to compose a. . .

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Tram 83
Tram 83 by Fiston Mwanza Mujila
Reviewed by Caitlin Thomas

Fiston Mwanza Mujila is an award-winning author, born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who now, at 33, lives in Austria. From what I could find, much of his work is influenced by the Congo’s battle for independence and its. . .

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