Welcome back to the Monthly Reviews series, where I chronologically list last months reads, along with a short reflexion and opinion regarding each book.
March was somewhat of a disappointment, and you will find out why momentarily.
These are the books I read last month:
Elfriede Jelinek: The Piano Teacher
(Die Klavierspielerin, 1983)
Michael Hanekes 2001 movie version of this novel is hailed as a “psychosexual masterpiece” (1). The movie changes and arguably simplifies quite many aspects of Erika Kohuts understanding of shame, punishment and captivity. In any case, neither the movie nor the book are for the light-hearted, since this is a study of human perversion and the obsession with submission.
I found it to be intellectually intriguing and bravely obscene.
Sexual deviation themed novels were overpopulating the German literary landscape at a certain point, but the fact that Jelinek takes inspiration from her own life gives this wholly grotesque depiction of lost humanity a deeper meaning and even more of a disturbing aura.
For those who dare go into the deepest nooks of the human mind this book should be a delight.
Juli Zeh: Eagles and Angels (Adler und Engel, 2001)
Zeh is known and aknowledged in Germany, by the public and the critics. Her first novel is supposedly a suspenseful and complex thriller about criminal machinations on the Balkan and the conscequences to a german bound organisation.
However, this novel falls flat in every possible regard: the plot jumps uneasily from spot to spot and from a point in time to another; the characters are neither properly introduced nor worked out as people with personalities and motives; the dialogues are dry and without purpose, and the writing is emotionless and blank.
It is perfectly understandable for the protagonist to be grieving, depressed, hopeless, since the great loss of the plot is supposed to uncover is his great love – however since he seems to be quite the psychopath murderer, the overdramatisation of the loss seems pointless. The big criminal plot on the other hand is revealed clumsily and none of the main players have a plausible background or an interesting trait on them.
This book was a complete waste of reading time.
Toomas Mikkor: Keldritäis sajarublalisi (2018)
Mikkors memoir-style novel about building a financial foundation while living in communism is entertaining and interesting, but it is also a piece of work. Not in the sense of being complex, unfathomable or frustrating – it is just. very. long. The novel should really be a collection of stories, because if one were to ignore chronological order, the first hundred pages and the next could be easily switched and it would make no difference for the protagonist, because, in essence, what happens is exactly the same.
The novel takes place in Soviet Estonia during the final years of the Soviet Union. Mikkors stories on speculating with different merchandise and earning money while flipping off the government are fun and actually quite fast-paced, since locations and occupations change rapidly and repeatedly. That’s where the novel steps on its own toes, though: repetition becomes evident and suspense disappears.
In Estonian literature, a light-hearted memoir like this one was amiss until now, so this novel certainly occupies a position in the historical canon. It also contains a lot of interesting details about daily life in those times. It is also sympathetic since the protagonist has a human dream of making a boatload of money and honestly, actively and transparently pursues his goals. In that manner it is also a coming of age story.
However, Mikkors novel is not exceptional in any deeper way and did not leave a lasting impression.
Harold Pinter: The Caretaker (1960)
Pinters play about identity, security, trust and guilt (2) is a rather intense short text. The play can most certainly be described as pinteresque, meaning a sense of subtle menace. The tone of the play is always uneasy, since the three characters are struggling with their individual dreams and sense of identity, the uncertainty of their futures, and from that comes a distrust against each other.
From the homeless to the house owner, each of these men has deep-rooted psychological issues, and even though we learn quite a lot about one and practically nothing about the other, the implications, the implied uneasyness and hostility, the possible violence and escalation are ever so present, which brings the suspense level to a constant high.
Pinter has an exceptionally curious way of seeing the world and writing it down in short, poignant paragraphs – his dialogues are concise and say so much more than the amount of characters used. (Pinters Twitter account would have been so very interesting.)
There is so much symbolism even in the room the play takes place – Pinter has used every available element to make a strong statement, while challenging our own imagination and intellect to look for the crumbs of knowledge in his realm.
This play was most certainly my literary high point of the month.
What was your favourite read in March?