Have you ever finished a novel with a sigh of mingled relief and bafflement (“whatever that was about I’m so very glad that it’s over); puzzled over what you had read for the last day or so; bored your companions enormously by recounting various bits and pieces (well, Mr. J was pretty bored but the cats seemed o.k. with the monologue); found yourself laughing at something you passed over at first and, finally, realized that you’d just finished one of the strangest small masterpieces that was ever likely to come your way? And all this in less than forty-eight hours? An odd reaction, to be sure, but then, this is a very odd book, at least for readers like myself who are unfamiliar with Solstad’s work. If you’ve read any of it, please share your own reactions. Don’t be shy! Are you a fan, who’s devoured everything translated into your own language (or — and I’m in awe if this is the case — were you able to read it in the original Norwegian?). Or were you more in the “one and I’m done” category?
Before going further, I need to point out that I owe my discovery of this very interesting writer to my participation in two fun reading events: Annabel’s #NordicFinds Reading Month and the 2022 European Reading Challenge. Although I already had a copy of Novel 11 as part of my subscription to the New Classics series offered by New Directions press, I’m afraid it would have languished in the TBR pile (probably near the bottom) had I not had an incentive to actually read it. Isn’t self-discipline wonderful? I’ve always wished I had some!
The basic idea of the challenge is simply to read books by European writers or set in European countries. Although I was a bit doubtful about participating, which is only sensible given my dismal completion record for challenges, I nevertheless started sorting through the shelves to see if I had any books that would qualify. As it turns out, I had quite a few. I also had so much fun doing the sort I decided that, what the heck, I might as well go ahead and officially participate. After all, unless our reach exceeds our grasp, what’s a heaven for, right? (sorry about that paraphrase, Mr. Browning). Besides, this challenge allows me to decide my own level of participation. I can be anything from a Pensione Weekender (i.e., I read one qualifying book this year) to a Deluxe Entourage (I read five). Surely I can read at least one book set in Europe or written by a European, can’t I? At last, could I have found a Challenge I can meet?
In addition to the Challenge’s official criteria (time frame; definition of European country, etc.) I decided to observe a couple of rather idiosyncratic rules in choosing my own selections. Because I’m beginning to really enjoy translated literature, I decided to limit my selections to works by non-Anglophone writers and, if possible, to pick novels set in their native country. For similar reasons, I decided to avoid fiction by writers from the U.K. or Ireland; at least half of my reading comes from British and Irish writers, and for this Challenge I’d like to expand my horizons a bit.
With very little effort I compiled the most marvelous pile, so to speak:
Regarding my level of participation — why not aim for the stars? In other words, the Deluxe Entourage or bust! (everyone should be optimistic at the start of a trip, don’t you think? I can always adjust my route later to fit my budge, so to speak)! Although I’m presently unsure precisely where my journey will start, my very tentative itinerary is as follows:
2. Sweden (my Scandinavian journey continues)
3. Iceland (my journey zigzags to a more remote corner of Scandinavia):
4. France (time to head south)
5. Greece (my trip takes a Mediterranean twist)
6. Spain (I aim for the sixth star — perhaps out of reach, but then what are lists for?)
Well dear readers, that’s the itinerary so far. Please keep in mind, however, that I tend to be a spontaneous traveler and have frequently altered my destination depending on time, mood and opportunity.