Imagination needs inspiration to bloom.


War's unwomanly face by Svetlana Alexievich

Svetlana Alexievich has interviewed countless people during many years, to describe the soul of the Soviet Union, in her series "Voices from the Big Utopia". She received the Nobel price in literature in 2015. In this book, two hundred women speaks of the time during the war. How they fought the enemy, how they rescued wounded soldiers, and how they themselves fired sniper’s rifle, bombed and killed. They had learned to hate, but even during the darkest of times, their hearts loved, and they saved not only their own, but German soldiers as well. Svetlana Alexievich collects these stories and makes art.

This book really affected me. It feels like I have been there, at the front, among the soldiers. 
Together, they make a choir of voices, and I wonder whether it’s easier to understand the reality of that time from one single person’s testimony, or through the fabric of many memories. The book is full of strong voices that have been silent for forty years. It was time the emotional shards, the human destinies, were told.

This is not a hero book. This book is not focusing on the winning of the war, but on the reality during and after the war. The women's stories are colorful. They remembered feelings and details, and they never stopped appreciating beauty and art. Some refused to change from their dresses, others slept with their earrings, while yet others slept while sitting up to be able to wear hats as long as possible. Because, in daytime, everything that was considered female was forbidden.

Surprisingly many young women volunteered to fight at the front. At a very young age, they convinced their parents to be allowed to participate, or escaped from their homes to join the army and be sent to the front. The loyalty to their country was immense, and more important than their families. It was not only the young girls dreams. Some of the parents even wanted their young daughters to join the army. It's difficult to understand their enormous devotion. Their team spirit and companionship. It's a big difference between communism and today's individualism, and it's interesting to learn about a totally different perspective of live.

One might think that women’s part of the war indicates some gender equality, but even though women were allowed to join the army, the men treated them far from equal, and used all kinds of excuses to justify their behavior. Their view of these women became very clear after the war, when many of them didn't want to marry a woman soldier, and even despised them. Half a million women sacrificed everything, and when returning from the war, they were forgotten. And while the male soldiers were received as heroes, the female soldiers were viewed as unfeminine and unattractive. I want to remember everyone. It’s difficult to explain, but I feel like I owe them that. They have been alone with their feelings for a very long time, abandoned by the society after the war. The least I can do is to listen to them, and remember them. She who made herself a white dress of a German parachute and married her love before a battle. She who let her daughter carry a bomb. She who drowned her own baby to not be found by the German soldiers. She who kissed her husband for the very last time. She who gave the enemy bread. She who was captured and tortured. She who still can’t handle the color red. She who came home and realized her child didn’t recognize her. She who returned home and found her own grave. And many more.

They all deserve to be remembered. This book makes them as invincible and immortal as they once were.


The Lover by Marguerite Duras

The book takes place in the French Indochina. A young, French girl in the colonial class falls in love with a rich, Chinese man and it is the beginning of a romance, despite her mother’s fear of her destroying her chances to be married.

The story technique differ from many other novels with biographical elements. It is not written in chronological order, but takes leaps in time. The novel is consisting of many short sentences, mixed with longer ones.

It’s a dense book. The prose is spare and often objective, something that is appreciated by some, and not by others. It is difficult to really know the characters when not getting into their heads. The book is beautifully written, but leaves much for the reader to comprehend and read between the lines. Indochina was a part of the French Colonial Empire, and the girl and the man can be interpreted as symbols of power and the occupied. It’s an interesting book that takes time to digest.


Night Film by Marisha Pessl

When Ashley, the daughter of a famous movie director, Stanislas Cordova, is found dead, the journalist Scott McGrath begins to investigate the family. Last time he worked on a case about the family ended in a personal tragedy. This time, something even more important might be on the line.

It took a while to get into the book. Scott McGrath was a clean slate and not very interesting, except his obsession with Cordova. I didn’t think Ashley Cordova was especially fascinating either, despite the author’s attempt. For a long time seemed like a confused emo teenager. The only character that I found interesting right away was Nora.

Just as in Cordova’s movies, there are unexplained elements and soon, Scott’s entire life is almost turning into one of these movies. Is it a dream? Is he going mad? It’s difficult to know where reality ends and illusion begins. Perhaps that is what makes this book special. Magical cracks is cutting through the world and make him question the reality and himself. Cordova’s movies seem to have a story technique that is a mixture of Alfred Hitchcock and Ingmar Bergman, but more frightening and controversial. Such movies are being interpreted and often considered cult. There are more similarities, as well. Just as Cordova, Bergman filmed many movies on his estate on Fårö in Sweden.

The author uses a special grip. She fills the novel with fake photographies and articles to frame the story and put the reader into the world of the book. It’s an interesting concept, and works most of the time, but the those supposed to be photographs of Ashley look staged. She looks more like an angry model than a mysterious, fascinating pianist.

Something happens two thirds into the book. Suddenly, the pace is increasing, and the book becomes intense when the story begins to unfold. It’s a unusual book in many ways, not least when it comes to the gothic feeling that rests over the family Cordova, that soon envelops the main character.


Jag lever, pappa: Utöya, 22 juli 2011 - Dagen som förändrade oss

The book describes the terrorist attack, 2011, in Oslo from two perspectives. Siri, a 20-year old girl, was at a Labour party summer camp on the island Utöya when the massacre occurred that killed 69 people. She called her father, Erik, a former journalist, when running for her life. Erik tries to understand what is happening.

First, the government quarter were bombed, killing several people. Two hours later, people on Utöya began to hear gun shots, ran and tried to hide. When a man, dressed like a police officer, arrived, people were relaxing, never imagining that the man was in fact the terrorist, Anders Behring Breivik. He shot everyone he could find, except small children. Siri found a way down the cliff to the shore, and hid with several others in a small cave that barely covered them. At the same time, her father tried to understand what was going on, and when he realized that someone was killing people, he drove out to the nearest point on mainland, feeling afraid and powerless.

How do you handle life after terror? How do you manage everything? Do you change? If you do, then how? The book gives insight to the massacre and how the people that survived were marked deep for ever, struggled to carry on, mourned the dead and remembered the attack, but refused to let themselves be defined by it. After the terror, Siri was very tense and reacted on every sound around her. She thought it uncomfortable to be around police officers. At the same time, she was strong and very determined to not let the fear win. In this way, the book is offering a deeper insight, a reflexion of what such a experience do to people, and how they are feeling weeks later when everyone else is carrying on.

The book might have been shorter. It is about hundred pages of memorials and other gatherings, and they are all very similar. They are important, of course, but it feels like the book drags on. It is not written in the best of ways, the language is a little uneven and sometimes repetitive. First, we get to read about Siri’s experiences, and then we get to reread the same situation from Erik’s point of view. During the terror, it’s effective because it’s interesting to get to know as much as possible of the time. But after the attack, occasionally, it slows down the pace.

However, it's an important portrayal of the worst attack in Norway in modern time. In all, 77 people were killed in the two attacks. Both Siri and Erik realized the importance of reporting, and through this book, they contribute to the event not ever being forgotten.