Archive for the ‘books’ Category

J.R.R. Tolkien: The Silmarillion

Friday, December 29th, 2017

I read Tolkien’s “canon”, that is, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion, around Christmas every year. So also this year.

One of the most fascinating stories in The Silmarillion is of course the story of Túrin Turambar. He is regarded as one of the major heroes of his age. At the Council of Elrond, Elrond himself lists the great men and elf-friends of old, Hador and Húrin and Túrin and Beren. But while reading through the Silmarillion, there are few among mortal men that have also added so much pain and disaster to the elves. While a great war hero, Húrin was also responsible for the slaying of the greatest hunter of the elves, Beleg Cúthalion, the strong bow. Being the war hero, he turned the people of Nargothrond away from the wisdom of their history, and even their king, and made the hidden kingdom available for the enemy. How many elves were cruelly slain or taken to captivity in Angband because of Turin’s pride? Thousands! Perhaps even tens of thousands? So how come the elves, ages later, still reckoned Túrin son of Húrin as one of the great elf-friends?

In a Nordic saga style stunt, Túrin finally slew his greatest enemy, Glaurung the great fire-breathing dragon. Glaurung had been a continous danger to all peoples of Middle-Earth, and the end of that worm was of course a great relief to all the elves, even Elrond’s ancestors, the kings of Doriath and Gondolin. Also, we must remember that the lives of the elves are different from that of men. When the elves’ bodies die, their spirits go to Mandos, where they sit in the shadow of their thought, and from where they may even return, like Glorfindel of both Gondolin and Rivendell. But when men die, they go to somewhere else, and are not bound to the world. It seems that elves are more willing to forgive and let grief rest for wisdom over time, than are men’s wont. Even the Noldor who survived the passing of the Helcaraxë forgave and united the Noldor of Fëanor’s people that left them at the burning of the ships at Losgar.

Perhaps that is one of the lessons learned from the tragic story of Túrin. From all his unhappy life, good things happened, and afterwards, the elves forgave and even mourned him and his family.

J.R.R. Tolkien: The Lord of the Rings

Monday, December 25th, 2017

I read Tolkien’s “canon”, that is, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion, around Christmas every year. So also this year.

2017 was a great year for Tolkien fans. It was the 125th anniversary of the Professor’s birth, and the 80th anniversary for the Hobbit. We also got the magnificent news that Amazon will produce a TV series based on “previously unexplored stories based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s original writings“. So what storylines would that be? A reboot of the 2001-03 trilogy is out of the question, as Peter Jackson explored and extended more than enough already. So, what do we have left? A lot! Let’s have a look.

The Lord of the Rings and its appendices tells stories in several different timelines. Long before (as in hundreds, and even thousands of years) before the main story, just before the main story (like a few decennials), parallel to the main story, and after.

One storyline could follow the ancient history of Gondor and Arnor. There are lots and lots of substories there. If I should pick one I would like to see, it would be the stories of the kings Arvedui of Arnor and  Eärnil II of Gondor, perhaps started with the Firiel incident. There are lots of exciting points to pick up there. Gondor throne heiritage politics, the war against, and the prediction of the downfall of the Witch King, the flight to Forochel, with the disastrous ship’s wreck in the ice, and the loss of the palantiri.

For the “near history” before The War of the Ring, the obvious choice would be a “The young Aragorn” series, where we could follow Aragorn in his many guises, riding with the Rohirrim, going on raids with Gondor against Harad, in and in constant conflict with Denethor. And his love life, of course, with his meeting and very long-term relationship with Arwen. And speaking of Arwen, her family story is a good storyline, with the love of Celebrían and Elrond, travelling from Lorien to Rivendell, and her abduction, and Elladan and Elrohir’s rescue of her from the orcs. Parallel to that, the story I would most love to see, would be, the story of Denethor. His tragic life is worth a season alone. Another storyline from the years just before The War of the Ring, could be Balin’s attempt to retake Moria, and build  a colony of dwarves. Lots of gore and killing of goblins to depict!

Parallel to the War of the Ring, there are a lot of things going on, that are merely mentioned in the book, and completely forgotten in the movies. The fight in Dale. The Ents’ war against the orcs after the capture of Isengard, the loss of Osgiliath and Cair Andros, to name just a few.

And of course, even after the the War of the Ring, and the Return of the King, there are stories to follow up. Aragorn’s “negotiations” for peace with his neighbouring peoples, with armed battle as alternative, supported by Eomer of Rohan. The sweet but bitter death of Aragorn and Arwen. The reign of King Eldarion.

I’m optimistic! This is going to be great!

J.R.R. Tolkien: The Hobbit

Sunday, December 24th, 2017

I read Tolkien’s “Canon”, that is, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion, every year about Christmas. These year, it’s even The Hobbit’s 80th Anniversary, and to celebrate, I have of course read through The Hobbit again.

So many have said so much about this book, so I’d rather show off my newest addition to my Tolkien bookshelf. This is the Swedish 1962 edition of The Hobbit, Bilbo, En Hobbits Äventyr (Bilbo, A Hobbit’s Adventure), and it has quite an interesting history.

In the 50s and 60s, Astrid Lindgren, maybe most famous for her children’s books about Pippi Longstocking, worked as an editor at the department for Children’s literature at Rabén & Sjögren, who published Tolkien’s works in Sweden. Lindgren was very interested in Tolkien’s work, and while she later denied Tolkien as an inspiration for it, she published the quite Lord of the Rings reminiscing Mio my Son in 1954, and later the world beloved classic children’s fantasy novels The Brothers Lionheart and Ronia, the Robber’s daughter.

In the early 60s Lindgren was not content* with the current Swedish translation of The Hobbit, Hompen (translation by Tore Zetterholm, 1947), and wanted to better it. So she opted for a new translation and got hold of Britt G. Hallqvist for the job. For illustrations, she contacted her friend Tove Jansson, now World famous for her Moomin Valley universe. Jansson had already had success with her Moomintrolls, and had previously made illustrations for a Swedish edition of Lewis Carrol’s classic poem Snarkjakten (The Hunting of the Snark, 1959), so a successful publication seemed likely.

Hallqvist translated, Jansson drew, Lindgren published it, and it flopped! Tolkien fans didn’t enjoy Jansson’s drawings much, and the illustrations were not used** again before 1994. By then, the 1962 version was cherished by Tove Jansson fans and Tolkien collectors over the World, and it had become quite hard to find. The 1994 edition was sold out in a jiffy. The illustrations were finally “blessed” by the Tolkien Estate, when they were used for the 2016 Tolkien Calendar.

Jansson’s illustrations were also used in the 2016 Tolkien calendar, which I’m, afraid to say, have not acquired (yet).

I was lucky and found a decent copy of the 1962 edition in a Japanese(!) bookstore on the Net. Now I LOVE this book. Its illustrations are absolutely gorgeous.

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The destruction of Lake Town and the death of Smaug are my personal favourites

The destruction of Lake Town and the death of Smaug is my personal favourite

It makes a great additon to my ever growing list of Hobbits.

This book makes a great additon to my ever growing list of Hobbits.

It would be a pity to let this book stay alone without decent Janssonic company, so I searched a few weeks, was lucky again and found a nice copy of the mentioned Snarkjakten by Lewis Carrol, and an almost mint copy of the absolutely fantastic (in all meanings of that word) Swedish 1966 edition of Alice i underlandet (Alice in Wonderland). If you enjoy Alice, you will love Janssons’ illustrations, even outshining her work on The Hobbit.

Janssons illustrations of <i>Alice</i> were later used in a lot of versions, among them, Finnish, American, British, and Norwegian editions.

Janssons illustrations of Alice were later used in a lot of versions, among them, Finnish, American, British, and Norwegian editions.

For an intensely interesting read about Jansson’s artistic work on these classics: Read Olga Holownia’s essay at barnboken.net.

That’s it. Merry Christmas and happy Youletide everybody!

*) Neither was Tolkien himself. He specially disliked the translation of Elvish names into Swedish, like Esgaroth -> Snigelby (ie. Snail Town!!!). Also interesting: Svensson, Louise, Lost in Translation? – A Comparative Study of Three Swedish Translations of J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘The Hobbit’, Lund University 2016

**) Actually, there were other versions with Jansson’s illustrations; the Finnish Hobbit Lohikäärme-vouri (The Dragon mountain) from 1973, and the updated Finnish translation in 2003. The illustrations were also used in this year’s Finnish 80th Anniversary edition of The Hobbit.

Frode Granhus: Malstrømmen

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

Niklas Hultin, tidligere etterforsker ved Oslo-politiet, har blitt med kona Karianne tilbake til hennes hjemsted Bergland, og han jobber nå hos politiet i Bodø. Han har noen merkelige voldssaker å etterforske. En porselensdukke blir funnet i fjæra. Noen dager etterpå blir det funnet en skadet kvinne kledd i samme type kjole som dukken. I samme område finner to smågutter en mann mellom svabergene, i live, men lenket med hendene under overflaten av det iskalde vannet. En eldre mann er ute med spaden sin og graver hver eneste dag, for å endevende hele området på jakt etter søsteren som forsvant. Dessuten regner det støtt, og det er kaldt og mørkt. Det er altså et ganske dystert sted Frode Granhus tar oss med til, og langt fra noen nordnorsk turist-idyll

Etterforskeren Rino Carlsen, som stadig vikarierer ved lensmannskontoret på Reine i Lofoten, kommer over en liknende sak som mannen som var lenket fast, og må samarbeide med Niklas. De er like og ulike, og parallelliteten mellom dem, og sakene de etterforsker er interessant, men av og til litt forvirrende. Er det en eller to eller tre saker som etterforskes?

Dette er en skummel thriller, nesten ubehagelig skummel. Leseren håper det går bra, men det gis ingen garantier underveis. Avslutningen og finalen er forrykende, nesten som et filmmanus. Anbefalt mørk nordnorsk krim.

Franz Kafka: Prosessen

Thursday, January 12th, 2017

Josef K. er forvirret. Det er desverre en tilstand han kommer til å bevare mer eller mindre til enden av fortellingen om ham. Han blir arrestert hjemme i sin egen leilighet, men ikke kastet i fengsel. I stedet får han vite at det er startet en prosess mot ham, og at han må forberede seg på dette, og ta konsekvensene av den. Derfra går K. ut i en marerittaktig tilværelse. Han må søke på måfå for å finne domstolen som skal behandle ham. Han oppsøker advokat etter råd fra sin onkel, men siden anklagen er hemmelig, kan han ikke få noe skikkelig forsvar. Han får problemer på jobben, siden det blir kjent at det er startet en prosess mot ham. Slik går det uker og måneder, før fortellingen avsluttes i en temmelig surrealistisk voldshandling.

Dette er visstnok en utrolig viktig bok. Raskt lest er den også. Jeg fant den litt forvirrende og frustrerende. Nettopp dét var sikkerte meningen fra forfatterens side. Fortellingen om Josef K. er selvsagt opphavet til uttrykket Kafka-prosess, en forvirrende tilstand der man er utsatt for eller forfulgt av et ugjennomtrengelig og forvirrende byråkratisk system. Boka i seg selv er ufullendt, med noen notatsider i appendiks bakerst, der episoder som hører til er lagt ved, men ikke fullstendig integrert i handlingen. Kafka selv ønsket hele greia brent sammen med resten av manuskriptene sine, da han døde. Det ble de heldigvis ikke.

Colin Dexter: Den hengte i Jeriko

Tuesday, January 10th, 2017

Morse er i selskap, og kjeder seg, men så kommer han i kontakt med ei sneisen dame, Ann Scott, og det ser lovende ut, helt til Morse får en telefon. Og når inspektør Morse får telefon på kveldstid er det jo som regel viktig. Han får med seg navn og adresse på dama, og må stikke. Så går det et halvt års tid, og Morse får det for seg at han skal oppsøke Ann igjen. Han går innom huset der hun bor, og banker på, men det er ingen som svarer. Så han gir opp, og rusler videre til litteraturklubben der han egentlig var på vei. Like etterpå hører han sirener. Ann Scott blir funnet død. Hun har tilsynelatende hengt seg på kjøkkenet, og det må ha skjedd omtrent samtidig som da Morse nesten var innom. Han bestemmer seg for å etterforske saken selv, og pisker selvsagt Lewis rundt for å skaffe rede på kjensgjerninger.

Morse føler … mye forskjellig. Han kunne nesten mistenke seg selv. Han var på stedet omtrent da ugjerningen ble begått. Han hadde et slags forhold, i alle fall fra sin side, til den drepte. Er han sjalu? På hvem da? Dette er en litt annerledes vri på en ellers ganske ordinært og litt trist kriminalmysterium. Morse er seg selv lik fra første side. Det gjør denne historien, som de fleste fortellingene om ham, leseverdig.

Haruki Murakami: After Dark

Thursday, January 5th, 2017

Sent på kvelden, evt tidlig på natten, på en kafé i Tokyo, sitter Mari og spiser og røyker og leser. Hun kommer i prat med Takahashi, en ung jazztrombonist. Mari prater og tenker. Om livet, om musikk, om søsteren Eri som ligger i koma, og som Takahashi har datet en gang. De to blir enige om å treffes igjen før morgenen. Like i nærheten er et japansk “kjærlighetshotell” som leier ut rom på timebasis. Senere på natta blir en prostituert alvorlig banket der, og innehaveren Kaoru, en avdanket kvinnelig fribryter, tilkaller Mari, som kan kinesisk, for å hjelpe henne som tolk. Gjerningsmannen, en forretningsmann som sitter og tøyer ut etter øvelsene, ligger tynt an, idét Kaoru varsler mafiaen som den prostituerte tilhører. Over det hele ligger et lydspor av Duke Ellington. Parallelt får vi glimt av Eri som ligger i koma. Ved siden av henne står en TV som plutselig skrus på av seg selv. Inne i TV’en er det en mystisk person som ser ut til å prøve å få tak i henne. Skummelt.

After Dark fortelles i sanntid. Foran hvert kapittel får vi en angivelse av hva klokka er, og det passer omtrent med tiden det tar å lese boka. Altså en natt. Murakami bruker et poetisk og vakkert språk. Oversettelsen er mesterlig. Boka blir nærmest et postmoderne dikt om natten og mørket, livet og døden, musikken og kjærligheten. Det er rystende, morsomt, skremmende, og tankevekkende.

Dette er veldig veldig bra. Anbefales for nattmennesker. Murakami-fansen har selvsagt lest den allerede.

J.R.R. Tolkien: The Silmarillion; The bigger they are, the harder they fall

Friday, December 30th, 2016

I read Tolkien’s canon every year around Christmas. So also this year.

One of Tolkien’s themes revisited in several of his works, is the fall from greatness.

In The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf tells us that “Nothing is evil in the beginning. Even Sauron was not so.” The all-evil Sauron, the big foe of the world, started out as a good guy, one of the sevants of Melkor. And in the Silmarillion it is told that his master, Morgoth, the black enemy of all elves and men, was once Melkor, the mightiest of the Mayar, the angelic beings of Eru Illúvatar. Instead of serving and building, Melkor rebelled, and in his pride, wanted to rule the world that the Maiar achieved. So Melkor, He who arises in might became he that fell to darkness.

The greatest of the Noldorin elves was Fëanor, for he was “made the mightiest in all parts of body and mind: in valour, in endurance, in beauty, in understanding, in skill, in strength and subtlety alike: of all the Children of Ilúvatar, and a bright flame was in him.” Fëanor makes great works. Tolkien, with his love for language, shows the greatness of him by telling how Fëanor bettered the runes, and created the letters for writing with pen, that were still used by elves and men in Middle-earth, thousands of years later. Even Gandalf recognices Fëanor’s gift for craft, when he feels the desire of the palantír, which he presumes was made by him: “to look across the wide seas of water and of time to Tirion the Fair, and perceive the unimaginable hand and mind of Fëanor at their work, while both the White Tree and the Golden were in flower!” And he even made the silmarills, greatest and most beautiful of all the gems of the World. But Fëanor turns to madness and evil. By his might in words, he turns the Noldor against the Valar, and sets them marching out of the blessed realm of Valinor. He fights and slays his kin at the Swan Havens of Alqualondë. He leaves his followers to shame or a terrible and dangerous march, when burning the stolen ships after crossing back to Middle-earth. He, the greatest of all the Noldor falls, and his fall is great.

Of the Ístari, the wizards, Saruman the White, is the chief and leader. He is the greatest in skill of mind and of lore, and has the gift of turning all to his will by speech. Gandalf calls him the head of his order. Later Frodo will not have Sharkey killed, for “he was great once, of a noble kind, that we should not dare to raise our hands against.” But as Gandalf says, “he will not serve, only command”, and Saruman falls from his noble quest of helping men and elves against Sauron, to become a war-lord, rivaling Sauron himself.

Tolkien’s themes about the great ones who fall, resembles the story of Ikaros, who achieved the gift of flying by gluing feathers to his body by wax, but in his pride, he flew too close to the sun, so the wax melted, and he fell from the sky.

The ones with the greatest power, are always in the danger of taking too much pride of their work and themselves, and turn from serving others in humility, to seeking power and dominion over others. That is evil in Tolkien’s works.

J.R.R. Tolkien: The Hobbit, illustrated by Jemima Catlin

Monday, December 26th, 2016

I read Tolkien’s “canon”, that is, The Silmarillion, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, every year. So also this year. There are a lot of things to say about the Hobbit, but this year, I’d just like to show off my new copy of the book, beautifully illustrated by the illustrous illustrator Jemima Catlin.

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I picked this up in a used book store, and hey, it was even signed by the illustrator!

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I really like Catlin’s style

 

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Fits nicely in my growing collection of Hobbit versions.

For Angelica’s use: The Matter of the Mirror (J.R.R Tolkien: The Lord of the Rings)

Saturday, December 24th, 2016

I read Tolkien’s “canon”, that is The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion, every year about christmas. So also this year.

In chapter two of The Lord of the Rings, we find a short note on one of Bilbo Baggins’ relations, the young Angelica. Bilbo leaves her a round convex mirror as a farewell gift, and tags it with “For Angelica’s use”, and the author adds that “She was a young Baggins, and too obviously considered her face shapely”.

Now, a couple of questions arise at once: Why in Middle-earth would Bilbo own a non-flat mirror like this? Is it clown-mirror, left-over from some carneval party, or just some other old strange mathom? One might also worry about Angelica’s reaction. As a youngster, isn’t this a bit harsh from old Bilbo to tease her for her caring about her looks?

A convex looking-glass is of course a woman’s make-up mirror, as the curved surface makes it magnifying. And Bilbo being a bachelor, obviously must have inherited this from his mother, Belladonna Took. As Belladonna was of a wealthy family, and as Bilbo had taken care of her mirror for all the years after her death, it must have been quite a heirloom, and just not another mathom. I presume a frame of victorian style silver plated engravings at least.

So giving Angelica his mother’s mirror, with a tongue-in-cheek joke, would be a kind gift from old uncle Bilbo, and it was probably warmly received by her.