22 July, 2011

The Ice Palace by Tarjei Vesaas (1963)

This story of a friendship between two girls on the brink of adolescence – and the subsequent disappearance of one of them - is a Norwegian classic. Maybe it is the translation, but the writing (the dialogue in particular) has a sort of stilted and awkward feel to it. Still, I expect that from most things Scandinavian. Elements of the story are deliberately ambiguous, such as the sapphic air that exists between the two girls, but Vesaas does evoke the ponderous northern winter wonderfully well and his rendering of the ice castle is simply a great piece of writing.

05 July, 2011

Heartland by Wilson Harris (1964)

Perhaps the only thing more impenetrable than the Guyanese jungle of which Harris writes is his prose. His writing has been described as enigmatic and visionary, but I found it dense, long-winded and frankly, pretentious. I actually think he was trying to write a South American Heart of Darkness (no, really). If so, it’s not altogether unsuccessful, but the pages are just so laboured with the most extraordinary sentences that serve to obfuscate more than illuminate (a bit like this one). I probably ought to read Heartland again, but no - life’s too short. Some books are neglected for a reason.