Monday, 11 July 2011

Klas Ostergren "The Gentlemen" (book review)

I know this is silly to announce publicly that you've managed to read a book ( even a 500-page one), but for me this is one of major accomplishments of the past months. Being a mother of two successfully prevents me from doing anything intellectually worthwhile, which I'm terribly ashamed of, so reading a book makes me feel proud of myself. Encouraged by this feat I'm going to read at least one more this year!

As to "The Gentlemen", I'm not particularly fond of this book. I'd read an enthusiastic review, describing it as an example of Swedish postmodern writing with all those literary games, reader involvement, puzzles, literary references, illusion breaking, good plot etc. that are the necessary contents of every postmodern bag of tricks. In fact I really did enjoy the novel in some respects. I liked the text within a text structure when the narrator, bearing the name of the author, includes in his memoirs a biography of his friend, Henry Morgan and his brother Leo. I liked it even more when Leo's biography contained quotes and literary analysis of Leo's poetry  (written of course by Ostergren the author for the purpose of the novel, analysed by Ostergren the character). But what I found absolutely repelling was the non-involving plot and horrible style. The novel was supposed to bear some elements of a detective story/ crime story/ political thriller, but failed to raise the slightest interest in me. I guess it's because the author seems to be completely unfamiliar with the rule of tension reaching its climax towards the end of the story. The whole text is flat, this reads as a day-to-day account of events of questionable importance, similar to what makes an event in my boring life (of which I make a note in my blog just to have an impression that something happens). What makes this novel even worse and more similar to my own entries in this blog is the lack of style. The language discourages from the very first page, it's too simplistic, too matter-of-facty, too primitive, it seems to me that the author assumes that his potential reader is an uneducated moron, who needs short, subject-verb-object sentences to understand a written text. I just don't understand why he wants to involve this reader in a discussion on literature, writing, poetry, literary criticism etc. Or maybe it's just me.  

Nonetheless, I didn't get discouraged from reading, I just picked something more reliable (I know it's good cause I've read it a number of times)i.e. Peter Ackroyd's Hawksmoor. But seriously, I'm gonna read it once more cause we want it to serve as our guidebook around east London when we go there in September!

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