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Sore throat got worse over the weekend, I'm guessing partly because I went to see Fatima Spar at the Stadtfest on Saturday and stood in the sun quite a bit, so I finally went to the doctor yesterday; was scolded for not coming earlier and self-medicating for two weeks (but seriously, do you go to the doctor when your temperature is never even above 37 and to the best of your knowledge you barely have any symptoms at all?) & left with a prescription for antibiotics (only for three days, though). Also gargling with sage tea.

Still tired.

Beginning of June, and I can count the times I've worn short sleeves on, well maybe not one, but certainly two hands. (Currently: long sleeves, jacket; 13 degrees, rain.)

Read V. Sorokin's 23000 over the weekend, the first work of fiction I've been genuinely interested in some time, and while I liked it a lot, I can't really make sense of the end at all.

Assuming the story about the 2300 is true and they really were/are God - so God accidentally creates life, traps himself in this life, finally, slowly, manages to free himself from it, wants to correct his mistake, and in trying to once again turn the universe into a lifeless waste destroys himself? Because life is stronger? The creation destroys its maker?

But if it's like that, why would Olga and Björn want to talk to God in the end? Which God? Is there some kind of Russian symbolism that I don't understand? Am I stupid? Missing something?

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I've finally finished Vladimir Sorokin's Bro a few days ago, and now I really hope he won't keep us waiting too long for the third volume of the trilogy, because I don't think I've ever been at such a loss about where an author is going with his book(s).

What I already noticed in Der Tag des Opritschniks is that he does really interesting things with POVs in a very understated way. In Ljod - Das Eis at first you're mostly thinking, who are these crazies who are abducting people and hitting them on the chests with hammers of ice for no clear reason, and, generally speaking, what the fuck is happening here. Then you see three of the surviving victims 'wake up' from their lives that are meaningless at best and full of abuse at worst to some kind of deeper emotion or higher level of existence and you're sort of thinking, maybe that's not so bad after all. At this point, mid-book, he switches POV and goes back in time, telling the story of Warwara/Chram, a Russian girl who gets deported to Germany as a slave labourer during WW2, and there is discovered to be one of those 'select' people. And then we, along with Chram, finally get the explanation: those whose heart have been 'awakened' by the ice are parts of some God-like entity, the 23 000 rays of the 'original light' that created the universe, but in creating Earth got trapped by the water surface reflecting their energy and were turned into physical beings. They lost awareness of themselves and lived and were reincarnated, going through the whole of evolution, and only when one of them (Bro) came into contact with the Tunguska meteorite in the early 20th century he realised again who and what he was, and started his mission to find and awaken the other 22 999 brothers and sisters.

Bro's story is told in the more linear and conventionally written second volume, and while it doesn't actually reveal anything new, it really drives home the implication and consequences, because it essentially describes the process of his dehuminisation. The first person POV emphasises the changes Bro goes through from a normal Russian boy from a wealthy family living through WW1 and the revolution, until he joins the expedition to Siberia. Even before he touches the ice of the meteorite he loses interest in his fellow travellers; once his heart is 'awakened' he sees life on Earth, and especially humanity, only as an endless circle of death: mindless sex, procreation and death, violence and killing, over and over again. Death and only death, in endless variety. Once he starts seeing with his heart, the separation from humanity is complete, and even the prose loses every last trace of it, which makes the last 70 or so pages rather hard to read. There are no man or women any more, only 'Fleischmaschinen' ('meat machines'), hiding in their caves of stone and killing each other with bits of hot metal. There is no morality any longer, nothing but finding their brothers and sisters matters. They scour the Nürnberger Parteitag and the death camps alike.

And yet -- that they ally themselves with Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia when it suits their need and helps them in their search, that they torture and kill without conscience, remorse or mercy when they need money or resources, that they're murdering a hundred people to find one of their own... in the end all this is almost negligible in comparison to what they're striving for: To return to their original state of light, and thereby erasing the mistake they made, Earth with its irregularities and instability, and to restore their cosmos to its original state of peace and harmony, undisturbed by birth or death.


And at this point it's terribly pessimistic, because no one has really spoken up for humanity so far. The lives of the people in Ljod are thoroughly depressing, no love, no joy, just bleakness and meaninglessness and violence; the closest we come to a positive representation of human life is Bro's childhood, which is normal and peaceful until it's turned upside down by the revolution. And as a reader you're torn. On the one hand by the end of the second volume you want to defend and justify humanity, chaotic and imperfect as it is, to these uncaring gods, on the other hand, and that's the horrible thing, you look at your own life and the state of the world and you're not sure you can, because you know perfectly well that it's only too easy to see life like that. If you're unable to recognise the beauty in between, the bits that make it worth it, then that's all that's left, the pain, the neverending violence, the endless circle of birth and death, and Dostojewski is really nothing but a heap of meaningless paper.

And because I seem to be incapable of writing an entry these days without mentioning the T.-woodword -- if one could find a way around that fact that in Sorokin's books Earth is the only planet with life in an otherwise lifeless and perfect universe (and I've actually kind of worked that part out in my mind), this could be turned into a fantastic Torchwood crossover fanfic. It has all the right existentialist themes, and team Torchwood would get to save the world without even putting it on the edge of destruction themselves first...

Sometimes I really hate my brain for coming up with ideas it is neither has the talent or determination to realise, and that no one else will write for me, either. Can't I be content with simple porn? ::headdesk::

solitary_summer: (books)
Not a Torchwood post. Shocking, I know. I'm surprised, too.

Books. Which I read. No, seriously. (Jan. & Feb.-ish)

Feridun Zaimoglu, Leyla

Liked it a lot, although I was perhaps more seduced by the prose than by the story itself, and somehow, after more than a month I find that not too much remains that I want to write about...

Perihan Mağden, The Messenger Boy Murders

Strangest book I've read in a long while. Charming, memorable, couldn't make sense of it at all. I'm not sure there is one. A bit surreal, dream-like. But I like her writing and wish more of her work was translated.

Yevgeny Zamyatin, We

fascinating )

Halid Ziya Uşaklıgil, Verbotene Lieben

Turkish novel originally from 1900 which I picked up because of a very favourable SPIEGEL review; Interesting psychology and characters, very fin de siècle. But on the whole too exclusively driven by romantic relationships to really draw me in.

D. H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley's Lover

Started out liking it, ended up disliking it strongly, and shouldn't E.M.Forster get credit for the plot? )

Vladimir Sorokin, Der Tag des Opritschniks

Shocking. Fascinating. By turns horrifying and funny. I'm not that intimately familiar with what is currently happening in Russia, so I there may be more specific jabs and bits of satire that I've missed, but if so it didn't take away anything from the book. I'm not usually a fan of first person narrators, but in this case it's the perfect choice: the book is only 220 pages long and covers not even 24 hours, but by the end of it you're thoroughly immersed, and while the brutality and perversion are still shocking on one level, one has already started to see them through the narrator's eyes and regard them as something almost normal, and it's frightening to experience how fast this happens... Definitely recommended, and I'd be very much tempted to immediately check out more of his work if I hadn't already such a very long backlog reading list...


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March 2013

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