Thursday, July 29, 2010

Two deeply obscure (to me) and, yet, somehow necessary novels

The hits just keep on coming... As US readers become more aware of the joys of translation (I blame Steig Larsson, myself, but who knows) more publishers seek to find audiences for classics unheard of a short time ago.

Two examples:

In the WSJ, Michael Dirda reviews "Eline Vere", the masterpiece of Louis Couperous 'the greatest Dutch novelist of his time" (late 19th century), under the irresistable headline "Tolstoy and Trollope Fans, Meet Couperous":

With this "novel of The Hague," Couperus produced one of those beautifully composed, old-style realist novels that present an entire society to us while simultaneously questioning its values. If you enjoy Tolstoy or Trollope, you really should try Ina Rilke's new translation of this superb, albeit too little-known book.
And at New York Review Books, they have teed up "The Long Ships", by Frans G, Bengtsson, with an introduction by Michael Chabon (him again). "Long Ships" was written in the 1940s in Sweden and originally published as two novels, described as follows by the publisher:

Frans Gunnar Bengtsson’s The Long Ships resurrects the fantastic world of the tenth century AD when the Vikings roamed and rampaged from the northern fastnesses of Scandinavia down to the Mediterranean. Bengtsson’s hero, Red Orm—canny, courageous, and above all lucky—is only a boy when he is abducted from his Danish home by the Vikings and made to take his place at the oars of their dragon-prowed ships. Orm is then captured by the Moors in Spain, where he is initiated into the pleasures of the senses and fights for the Caliph of Cordova. Escaping from captivity, Orm washes up in Ireland, where he marvels at those epicene creatures, the Christian monks.......
Sounds like Robert E. Howard meets Dorothy Dunnett to me. Cool cover, too:

1 comment:

Steve Axelrod said...

Whoa. Ten minutes on your blog: three new books to read. I hope you can keep to this standard ...