Thursday, 22 October 2009

Two of the best

September saw the publication of two long-awaited novels - both by Finland-Swedish authors and both parts of longer narrative cycles - which are probably among the most significant Nordic literary events of 2009. Monika Fagerhom's Glitterscenen (The Glitter Stage) and Kjell Westö's Gå inte ensam ut i natten (Don't Go Alone Out Into The Night), both published simultaneously by Söderström in Finland and Bonnier in Sweden, have been widely reviewed and praised by critics in both countries. Finland's Swedish-language Hufvudstadsbladet, usually a fairly good marker of critical consensus, gave the thumbs-up to the long-delayed Fagerholm book, and also praised the Westö, though with a few reservations. Pia Ingström wrote that "for me, with all its darkness, its adventures in language, its unanswered moral questions, The Glitter Stage worked in a way that fundamentally lifted my mood. It coloured the days when I read it, it kindled my imagination, it challenged my mind. All that it asked of me it gave back many times in tawdry splendour." While Anna-Lina Brunell's view of Kjell Westö's novel (the final movement of a quartet which began over a decade ago) was that while it suffers from occasional sentimentality and a tendency to melodramatic twists of plot, it nonetheless achieves its aim of invoking a farewell to a generation, and a farewell to a Helsinki of the past that has now almost vanished.

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