I lasted literally three days without a blog. I’m not sure if this speaks louder of my love of writing, or my love of attention.
I am well aware that my passion for the written word, both from my own hand and others’, is not unique. The manuscript above was written in 1400 or thereabouts by no other than Geoffrey Chaucer, the father of English literature. The Canterbury Tales, of which this is but a tiny peice, is one of his most famous works of art. It gave birth to such fantastic verses as “They demon gladly to the badder end” (which I take to mean they rejoiced greatly in their mischief even though they knew they would suffer for it), and “Truth is the highest thing that man may keep.”
Of course, I could wax lyrical for many pages on Chaucer, but in fact my author for this first post is a little known Norwegian god called Jan Kjaerstad.
I am halfway through The Seducer, which was translated a couple of years ago from Norwegian into English. What a gift! I never usually pick up something so large, but I can tell you, I am grateful for every one of the six hundred pages. Kjaerstad has received no end of accolades in his own country, but as if often the case, the rest of the world is slow in catching on.
The Seducer follows the life of Jonas Wergeland – famous documentary-maker, adventurer, lifesaver. We begin at a moment in time that alters Jonas’s life forever. This moment is used as the anchor for the rest of the book, which explores the idea that chronology and causality are not the same thing. But don’t be scared by this! I don’t fully understand it myself. It defies reason. Something has to happen before it can cause something else to happen. Right? Not so, Jonas (Kjaerstad?) argues. What if some preconcieved knowledge, some intuition, causes us to know what may happen, and so alter our course? What if we do know the future?
Kjaerstad, to this end, does not follow a chronological order. He uses that moment in Jonas’s life – which is in the present – as the the middle of a wheel. And he slides out along each spoke to tell of a different story in Jonas’s life, before returning to the middle moment. I have never before experienced such an innovative, perfect narrative. Well, maybe I have. Maybe I have read hundreds of novels that bounces around in no timely order and yet still hold our focus and don’t confuse us – but I have never had the narrative self-consciously explained to me as a metaphorical wheel. What an idea!
Mix this with a character who is complex, intelligent, vulnerable, and utterly likable, and you’ve got a winner. Not to mention quotes such as “Realism ought to be defined as the opposite of art. The only thing that could save realism from being something other than an empty word would be if all people had the same idea and were of the same opinion on absolutely everything.” (Eugene Delacroix, 1860)
And I have another three hundred pages of this brilliance!
If you hadn’t caught on already, this blog is about words. Words that other people have written, and the words that I will write about theirs. And the words that I may of course write of my own volition which are hopefully completely unrelated to anything anybody else has ever written.
Don’t expect all words reviewed or written to be examples of literary greatness (both mine and their’s). I shall do my best. My Book Club, of course, will have some say on content, since we choose together some of the tomes than make up my current reading list.
Which is why next you can expect a response to Michael Moore’s Stupid White Men. Such a contrast. I will miss you Kjaerstad!