Thursday, September 03, 2009

Unspoken by Mari Jungstedt

Early signs are good for this second of Mari Jungstedt's six novels and the second of three to be translated from Swedish into English.

I like the spare prose and the shifting points of view, with the reader only gradually learning who are minor characters and who major, who are sidekicks and who will have smaller roles. This is bracing, unexpected, and arguably truer to life, where one is never sure who the main characters are until the story is at least into its middle chapters.

Here's a bit of that spare description that I like: "Henry had been given the nickname Flash because he had worked as a photographer for Gotlands Tidningar for many years before alcohol took over his life full-time."

I like, too, that one of the characters, a television news reporter, complains of the haste, sloppiness and decline forced upon his profession by management cutbacks.

(As I write this, ABBA's "Take a Chance on Me" is playing softly in the background. I am unsure that Jungstedt would appreciate the coincidence.)
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(Mari Jungstedt's English translator, Tiina Nunnally, will be a member of my panel on crime fiction and translation at Bouchercon 2009.)

© Peter Rozovsky 2009

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26 Comments:

Blogger seana said...

She sounds very interesting, but I must admit that I have never heard of her. I hope the English translation gets her a wider audience here.

September 03, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Oh, she has some interesting things going on, all right. She is or was a television journalist herself, and the multiple points of view let her, among other things, air her grievances against her own profession without threatening to have those grievances take over the story.

September 04, 2009  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Swedes may be over Abba now, but Australians never will be for reasons I dont understand.

September 04, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Much of the rest of the world has yet to get over ABBA as well. Man, what a creepy experience it is listening their music. It's so clean and cheerful and well scrubbed that one can imagine it as an ironic soundtrack to a movie scene of bloody slaughter.

September 04, 2009  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Yeah, I'm surprised David Lynch hasnt done that. Of course Benny and Bjorn would never give their permission.

Also with Abba, never read the lyrics.

September 04, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian, I remember that post of yours. It's probably the only time that any piece of writing has invoked Victor Hugo and Abba in one concise package. Previously I'd thought that the only link between the two was Broadway.

September 04, 2009  
Blogger seana said...

I like Abba, for absolutely no reason I could defend here. But then, I liked the movie Muriel's Wedding too, which is perhaps why.

v word=basho, which I must take to mean that a Japanese master for reasons known only to himself, is on my side.

September 04, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Of course Benny and Bjorn would never give their permission.

Reminds of what I like to imagine was Garrison Keilor's failure to appear on The Simpsons.

September 04, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Er, his failure to appear was not my imagination. I meant that I like to think he was asked to appear but declined and that this accounts for the harsh Keilor parody ("Stupid TV! Be more funny!").

September 04, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Benny??? Bjorn??? Seana!!!
Don't worry. Smart women like
Haiku masters, too.


I actually found "Waterloo" cheeful, tolerable background music back when it was first on the radio. Listening to ABBA's music today, though, in these time of economic uncertainty and global upheaval, is a bitterly ironic experience at best.

September 04, 2009  
Blogger seana said...

It's not like I was a devotee or anything. But I will hold my ground. Luckily, I often don't listen all that much to lyrics, so inanity is sometimes lost on me.

September 05, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Well, I would never say they're bad. It's just that they're so ... cheerful.

September 05, 2009  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Did you that the blonde one has forgotten how to speak English? That's a David Lynch plotline right there.

September 05, 2009  
Blogger seana said...

Oh, I don't know. I forget how to sometimes myself.

v word=ingin

This is either the W.V. trying to say, 'engine', for reasons best known to itself, or else it is reminding me that this usually only happens when I am in a highly inebriated, indeed, gin-soaked state. I leave it to better minds than my own to decipher this one.

September 05, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Did you that the blonde one has forgotten how to speak English?

Ah, that's too much for my mind to take in.

In re David Lynch, I'm sure I've mentioned that back when Blue Velvet was released, my housemate and I would spontaneously deliver the line "No, I don't want you to open the beer, I WANT YOU TO ---- IT!" at about the same volume Dennis Hopper did in the movie.

September 05, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

v word=ingin

I guess no one says "Honest Injun" anymore these days, do they?

September 05, 2009  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

I left out the word "know" but I think you caught my drift. I find that fascintating - she was completely fluent but now cant remember the language. I took German for 1 year in 1982 and I think I could ask for directions and understand the answers.

Re Lynch, I'm a fan of the classics and I quite liked Mulholland Drive from the later works.

September 05, 2009  
Blogger seana said...

Did she perhaps take a hit of shrapnel to the head in one of those Swedish wars we're always hearing about? And wake up, not knowing exactly where she was? Because that might explain it.

No, I think children often are fluent and then lose it all later if they aren't around it. At least, that's what I understand from friends. It's surprising that it doesn't make it easier for her to pick back up, though.

September 05, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I left out the word "know" but I think you caught my drift. I find that fascintating - she was completely fluent but now cant remember the language. I took German for 1 year in 1982 and I think I could ask for directions and understand the answers.

Re Lynch, I'm a fan of the classics and I quite liked Mulholland Drive from the later works.


Adrian, I figured you were just losing your own grip on your native language. I wonder if the poor Miss A. from ABBA suffered from any odd neurological condition that predisposed her for forgetting her language more quickly, you know "If I should forget thee, O, Jerusalem, may my tongue -- er, you know."

I don't know much Lynch. I ought to look in on Mulholland Drive. I do remember that Twin Peaks was one of the first pop-culture pheomenon to revolt me with the depth of it surrounding hype. Lynch went to art school in Philadelphia and said years ago something about the city being such a sick place that it inspired him in his work. I think the comment was art-student attention-getting, but I liked it nonetheless.

September 05, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, I wonder what a neologist would have to say about this case -- about why one person might be more likely than another to forget his or her native native language.

September 05, 2009  
Blogger seana said...

And I wonder what a neologist is.

September 06, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I don't blame you for wondering, since neologist is a neologism. I can't figure out why I used the word in this case, though. Maybe because your v-word ingin offered so many exciting possibilities.

September 06, 2009  
Blogger seana said...

Yes, I knew what a neologism was, which is why I was puzzled.

September 06, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, if it's any consolation, I was just as puzzled as you are, but I have just solved the mystery. Look at the context: We were discussing language learning and forgetting. I had meant to type neurologist.

September 06, 2009  
Blogger seana said...

Ah--all becomes clear.

By the way, I decided to use this topic of forgetting languages in my own Lapse of Memory blog, as I have been hurting for content there a bit of late.

September 06, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Oh, that's a topic tailor-made for lapses of memory. I shall look in.

September 06, 2009  

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