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.

Dinner by César Aira
Reviewed by Lori Feathers

César Aira dishes up an imaginative parable on how identity shapes our sense of belonging with Dinner, his latest release in English. Aira’s narrator (who, appropriately, remains nameless) is a self-pitying, bitter man—in his late fifties, living again with. . .

Read More >

We're Not Here to Disappear
We're Not Here to Disappear by Olivia Rosenthal
Reviewed by Megan C. Ferguson

Originally published in French in 2007, We’re Not Here to Disappear (On n’est pas là pour disparaître) won the Prix Wepler-Fondation La Poste and the Prix Pierre Simon Ethique et Réflexion. The work has been recently translated by Béatrice Mousli. . .

Read More >

The Queen's Caprice
The Queen's Caprice by Jean Echenoz
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

Even though the latest from Jean Echenoz is only a thin volume containing seven of what he calls “little literary objects,” it is packed with surprises. In these pieces, things happen below the surface, sometimes both literally and figuratively. As. . .

Read More >

French Concession
French Concession by Xiao Bai
Reviewed by Emily Goedde

Who is this woman? This is the question that opens Xiao Bai’s French Concession, a novel of colonial-era Shanghai’s spies and revolutionaries, police and smugglers, who scoot between doorways, walk nonchalantly down avenues, smoke cigars in police bureaus, and lounge. . .

Read More >

Anna Karenina
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

For the past 140 years, Anna Karenina has been loved by millions of readers all over the world. It’s easy to see why: the novel’s two main plots revolve around characters who are just trying to find happiness through love.. . .

Read More >

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. . .

Read More >

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. . .

Read More >