Two Wonderful Novellas in Translation

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Professor Andersen's Night Source: Free review copy received from publisher

Translated from the Norwegian by Agnes Scott Langeland

Professor Andersen’s Night by Dag Solstad

Five words from the blurb: alone, sees, murder, indecision, moralist

Professor Andersen’s Night is a fantastic little book, but I didn’t want to write a full review for fear of giving too much away. The novella begins with Professor Andersen witnessing a murder, but he is unsure about what he really saw and so fails to report the crime. As time passes he feels increasingly guilty and tries to think of the best way to remedy the situation.

He was really unwell, his head ached, he saw spots before his eyes and felt queasy all the time, but didn’t throw up. He put on his pyjamas and went straight to bed. But he couldn’t lie still, so he got up, put on his dressing gown and wandered around his apartment, from room to room. This day, and the next day, and the day after that. While he brooded. He had no idea what to do.

This book was very wordy with no chapter breaks and very few paragraphs, but the internal monologue was intelligent and compelling. It could be described as a cross between Hunger by Knut Hamsun and The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka; and is equally deserving of a place in the literature canon.

Recommended to anyone who enjoys intelligent literature.

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The Hunting Gun (Pushkin Collection) Source: Personal copy

Translated from the Japanese by Michael Emmerich

The Hunting Gun by Yasushi Inoue

Five words from the blurb: letters, women, affair, tragic, truth

The Hunting Gun is small, but perfectly formed. It contains letters from a woman, her daughter, and an abandoned wife – each explaining how an affair impacted on their lives. The writing was simple, but powerful and showed real insight into the way secrets destroy relationships. 

There was nothing between us but the quiet lapping of water, like waves on the seashore. The veil behind which we had hidden our secret for thirteen years had been brutally ripped away, but what I saw underneath it was not the death that had obsessed me so, but something I can hardly think how to describe, something like peace, quietness – yes, a peculiar feeling of release.

The joy of reading books in translation is that you get to see how other cultures react to familiar situations. It was interesting to see how Japanese restraint influenced their actions; whilst their thoughts and emotions were identical to a British person dealing with an affair. 

The Hunting Gun was so short it could be read in a single sitting. I prefer a more complex plot, but was impressed by the power of the emotion in this book and am keen to read more by this author.

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4 Comments

  1. Annabel says:

    I found the Dag Solstad very dry and I never warmed to the Professor.

    1. Jackie says:

      Annabel, I couldn’t say I liked the Professor, but I understood his mounting guilt. I thought it was cleverly written and also loved learning all about how the Norwegians celebrate Christmas! Sorr you didn’t enjoy it as much as I did.

  2. Parrish says:

    Professor Andersen’s Night, was an IFFP contender a few years ago & I remember reading it then & although I thought it was beautifully written I found it a tad dry. Not read the The Hunting Gun by Yasushi Inoue, but I have another of his on my books on my shelf, the Bullfight I think.

    1. Jackie says:

      Parrish, It’s interesting that you both thought it was a bit dry when I didn’t get that from it at all. It was occasionally a bit wordy, but I found it all really vivid – it was packed with emotion. Worryingly I probably connect with that mounting feeling of guilt more than you did!

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