Raymond Chandler: The big sleep

Den lange søvn // The big sleep by Raymond Chandler
Published by People’s Press in 2013 // Originally in 1939

Nonchalante butlers, hysteriske pigebørn, hårdkogte gangstertyper – die ganze Schweinerei.

Den lange søvn var Raymond Chandlers debut og første roman i krimiserien om den hardboiled, insisterende privatdetektiv, Philip Marlowe. Jeg ved, at Jacob Hinchely er inkarneret Marlowe-fan, og det var faktisk hans (næsten barnlige) entusiasme, som æggede mig til endelig at gribe bøgerne. Dét og det faktum, at jeg fandt dem til 30 bobs hos min lokale bogpusher.

Som sagt: Klassisk detektivroman. Og selvom jeg nød fløjlsbløde formuleringer som disse, forstyrrede mange elementer min oplevelse: 1) Akavet oversættelse 2) horribel korrektur 3) seriøs homofobi 4) skide forvirrende plot.

Om punkt et og to siger jeg blot: Get your shit together, People’s Press. Og mens homofobien først gik mig voldsomt på, indså jeg efterhånden, at man må læse romanen som et udtryk for sin tid og fejre, hvor langt vi er kommet siden.

Plottet er forbandet udfordrende at følge. Men selve opklaringsarbejdet fremstår faktisk sekundært i forhold til Marlowe-karakteren og hans metoder. Han er romanens egentlige stjerne. Som læsende menneske i en procedure-fokuseret, plot twist-forherligende, gådeløsnings-higende krimiverden, kan dén fordeling potentielt vække ambivalente følelser. Jeg var fan. Særligt efter Murakami-efterordet, som legitimerede min vildrede.

Andre der har meninger om Chandler, Marlowe eller krimigenren generelt?

Nonchalant butlers, hysterical girls, hardboiled gangsters – die ganze Schweinerei.

The big sleep was Raymond Chandler’s debut and the first novel in the crime series of the hardboiled, insisting private detective, Philip Marlowe. I know for a fact Jacob Hinchely is a confirmed Marlowe fan, and it was actually his (almost childlike) enthusiasm that urged me to finally seize the books. That and the fact that I got them for 30 bucks at my local book pusher.

As I said: Classic detective novel. And although I enjoyed Chandler’s often velvety wordings, many elements interrupted my experience: 1) Awkward translation 2) horrible proofing 3) serious homophobia 4) damn confusing plot.

On point one and two, I’ll simply say: Get your shit together, People’s Press. And while the homophobia bothered me tremendously at first, I eventually realized that you must read the novel as an expression of its time and celebrate how far we have come since.

The plot is freaking impossible to follow. But, actually, the investigative work seems secondary compared to the Marlowe character and his methods. He is the true star of the novel. As a reader in a procedure-focused, plot twist-glorifying, puzzle-craving crime world, this sort of focus could potentially arouse ambivalent feelings. I was a fan. Especially after the Murakami postscript had legitimized my bewilderment by revealing that not even Chandler himself knew who killed the chauffeur – and he didn’t really seem to care either.

Anyone else with opinions on Chandler, Marlowe or the crime genre in general?

Christensen & Laub: Gennemblødt

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Gennemblødt // Soaked through (my translation) by Maja Nyvang Christensen & Sine Cecilie Laub
Published by People’s Press in 2016

Med lovning på en indføring i menstruationens historiske og kulturelle bagage, havde jeg edderlåsme set frem til denne bog! Men jeg skriver, som bekendt, i mine bøger, og Gennemblødts marginer er smurt ind i bitter brok.

Bogen er skrevet af to retorik-uddannede damer, som jeg mistænker for at have givet mere opmærksomhed til friske formuleringer end indholdet – måske for at lette stemningen omkring slim, blod og livmodere. Men når sproget sluger fokus på bekostning af indholdet, bliver jeg pissetræt.

Allermest ærgres jeg over måden, forfatterne uspecifikt svæver hen over emner. De første tre kapitler føles som én lang indledning, for der gås aldrig i dybden. Hvor er kilderne? Historierne? Analyserne?

På den ene side virker det som om, forfatterne ikke havde materiale nok og måtte stoppe bogen ud med faktabokse og bullet point-lister. På den anden side tror jeg, at jeg havde siddet med en tre gange længere bog, hvis forfatterne faktisk var dykket ned i deres historier. Dén version ville jeg hellere have læst! Jeg betvivler ikke forfatternes udlægning. Jeg mangler bare udregningen.

På en ganske kort men mere positiv note, står feminismen stærkt i denne bog og taler ind i en vigtig krop- og kønsdebat. Så det er jo altid noget.

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With the promise of an introduction into the historical and cultural baggage of menstruation, gosh darn it had I been looking forward to this book! But, as you know, I write in my books and the margins of Soaked Through are smeared with bitter grumbling.

The book is written by two rhetoric-educated ladies, who I suspect to have given more attention to perky phrasing than to content – perhaps to lighten the mood on all the mucus, blood and uteri. But when the language steals focus at the expense of content, I’m not happy.

What frustrates me the most is the way the authors vaguely hover around the issues. The first three chapters feel like one long preface, since it never goes in depth with anything. Where are the sources? The stories? The analysis?

On the one hand, it seems as if the authors didn’t have enough material and were compelled to fill out the book with fact boxes and bullet point lists. On the other hand, I believe that I’d be sitting with a book three times as long, if the authors has actually delved into their stories. And I’d much prefer to read that version! I don’t question the authors’ claims. I’m just missing the calculations.

On a brief but more positive note, feminism stands strong in this book, which speaks into a major body and gender debate. So it’s got that going for it, which is something.

Suki Kim: Without you, there is no us

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Uden dig er der intet os // Without you, there is no us by Suki Kim
Published by People’s Press in 2015 // first in 2014

Amerikansk-koreanske Suki Kim betragter muligheden for at undervise Nordkoreanske eliteelever i engelsk som chancen for at åbne deres øjne for den virkelige verden. Men sammen med Kim rystes læseren gang på gang over kombinationen af elevernes nysgerrighed og ubetingede loyalitet over for regimet.

Denne dualitet er kompliceret, og selvom Kim i høj grad lykkes i sin formidling, virker det som om, nuancerne er svære at indfange. Pludselig elsker hun sine drenge, pludselig frygter hun dem. Så er de åbne og ærlige, og kort efter lægger de fælder og kalkulerer.

Fortællingens løse struktur og tendens til gentagelse af de samme pointer, kan virke trættende. Men det giver også en fornemmelse af dagenes klaustrofobiske ensformighed og de konstante påmindelser om elevernes skæbne. For Kim er regimets inhumane kontrol midlertidig; for eleverne er den evig. Hun må indse, at hendes ønske om at gøre dem klogere på verden kan få dem slået ihjel.

Hele tiden glemmer man, at dette ikke en Orwellsk dystopi, men beskrivelsen af et virkeligt totalitært styre, som eliteeleverne, komplet uvidende, er fanget i. Glædesløsheden og monotonien er dominerende. Overvågningen og angsten er allestedsnærværende. Og den kærlighed, Kim udvikler til sine elever forstærker bare rådløsheden.

Den skal læses.

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American Korean, Suki Kim, sees the opportunity to teach North Korean elite students in English as a chance to open their eyes to the real world. But, along with Kim, time and again you shudder at the combination of the boys’ curiosity and unconditional loyalty towards the regime.

This duality is complicated, and although Kim is largely successful in articulating this, it seems as if the nuances are difficult to capture. She loves her boys, then she fears them. Soon they’re open and honest, and soon they’re cunning and lay out traps.

The story is loosely structured and tends to repeat the same points, which does become wearisome. But it also provides a sense of the days’ claustrophobic monotony and the constant reminders of the boys’ fate. For Kim, the regime’s inhumane control is temporary; for her students it’s eternal. She realizes that her desire to have them learn about the world can get them killed.

You constantly forget that this is not an Orwellian dystopia, but the description of a truly totalitarian regime which the students are completely unaware that they are trapped in. Bleakness and monotony is dominant. Surveillance and fear is omnipresent. And the love Kim has for her students only amplifies her helplessness.

Read this book.