Microviews Vol. 38: Hearts Of Darkness

on Saturday, September 7, 2013
Before I Burn by Gaute Heivoll
So it turns out that, contrary to all the hooplah of the past few years, Norway isn't just good at crime fiction. They also do serious literature which, I guess, is a relief for those of us who don't give two dragons about a girl's shitty tattoo. Turning the metafiction meter up to 11, Gaute Heivoll (or a fictional simulacrum thereof) returns to his hometown to investigate a series of arson attacks that took place in the year he was born. It might sound a bit crimey (got to suck those Nesboites in somehow), but there is no who, how or whydunnit to be found here. Instead we get a deep meditation on alienation, obsession and fatherhood in rural Norway that courses along with the tension of a thriller, yet possesses the smarts of pocket protector. It's a wonderfully complex novel that just might be the bridge between Stieg Larsson and Karl Ove Knausgaard. (Spoiler Alert: It has nothing to do with Larsson. I just want people who like that crap to read decent literature)
4 Out Of 5 Tindersticks

The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan
A narrative jigsaw of sorts, The Spinning Heart forces the reader to piece together its tale of murder, kidnapping and economic collapse through the various (and varied) voices of the folk who inhabit a small Irish town. Thankfully the book is short; Ryan clearly knows he is asking his readers to wade through literary quicksand. That is to say, it's hard going, but it certainly sucks you in!
3.5 Out of 5 Potato Chips

Indian Nocturne by Antonio Tabucchi
The ghost of Joseph Conrad haunts this creepy little novel in which a man searches for his lost friend in the dark slums of India. Propelled forward by a series of unsettling encounters he is, it seems, always one step behind the elusive Xavier. As he ventues from a run down brothel, to a medical clinic to a truly screwed up cult headquarters the clues trickle in and you begin to doubt the very essence of the quest. This is Tabucchi at his most esoteric, unexpected best.
4 Out Of 5 Corpulent Kurtzes

The Plains by Gerald Murnane
Smart money has long held Murnane to be Australia's best chance for a Nobel and yet I've never had any inclination to read him. Call it cultural cringe or general disinterest but it took the insistent - and I'm talking years - hucking from a friend to get me to begrudgeingy pick this up and give him a go. Well... egg (and bacon) on my face! The Plains is unlike any Australian book I've read. A man ventures into the wide expanse of nothingness to research a film that he hopes to one day make. He collects the stories of those who live on the land, gradually being drawn in until he is a slave to some overbearing collective consciousness. The obvious parallel is Kafka's castle; the film is something that will probably never be finished. But the filmmaker's complete assimilation into his hostile environs is a fascinating thing to behold.
4 Out Of 5 Cattle Stations

Psalm 44 by Danilo Kis
A short harrowing novel set in the women's barracks at Auschwitz in the final days of the war. Several women plot their escape in the hope of saving the baby that was born against all odds in the camp. Kis's brilliance lies in his choice to steer clear of the atrocities we usually associate with Holocaust novels. But for one absolutely horrific passage towards the end it is a riveting jailbreak narrative, punctuated with a mixture of hope, despair and love as the new mother pines after the child's father, a young doctor who saved her life from the clutches of Dr. Nietzsche (a thinly veiled Mengele). Hard to believe this was Kis's first book, written when he was only twenty five.
4.5 Out Of 5 Steve McQueens


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