Tag: Lola Rogers

Purge by Sofi Oksanen

Posted September 26, 2018 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literary Fiction, Thriller / 2 Comments

Purge by Sofi OksanenTitle: Purge (Goodreads)
Author: Sofi Oksanen
Translator: Lola Rogers
Published: Grove Press, 2008
Pages: 390
Genres: Literary Fiction, Thriller
My Copy: Audiobook

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindleWordery (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

I love a good literary thriller but I rarely find one that really impresses me. There is something about taking genre fiction and using it to explore social issues. If done right it provides us with a fast paced narrative full of thrills but will also leave the reader with plenty to think about. A recent example that comes to my mind is The 7th Function of Language by Laurent Binet. Then there is Purge. The 7th Function of Language was able to blend literary theory in a fast paced plot, while Purge takes more an approach to explore the complex social and political issues facing Estonia after the Soviet collapse.

Aliide Truu is an elderly woman living in the Estonian countryside which keeps her isolated from the outside world and all the tragic events happening around her. One day she discovers another woman looking into her kitchen window, who turns out to be Zara, the granddaughter of her sister Ingel. Zara is on the run from the Russian mafia, after they forced her into the sex trade. Purge is an unflinching novel that explores the obstacles women face in this rapidly changing society.

“Those who poke around in the past will get a stick in the eye.”

Both women have their past and secrets which they rather not discuss. For Aliide, an escape from the current political issues felt like only answer. A feeling that feels all too familiar with the current state of the world. However what we truly know about Aliide is still surrounded in mystery. It is rather Zara’s life that is the major focus, exploring the corruption and the sickening world of human trafficking. All of which feels like a direct result of that power vacuum in the country.

“She found it hard to believe that there would be any bold moves, because too many people had dirty flour in their bags, and people with filthy fingers are hardly enthusiastic about digging up the past.”

Setting the novel in 1992 allows the reader to explore an Estonia that was going through many recent political changes. In the late 1980s Estonia saw many political arrests for crimes against humanity. This brought great resistance against the Russification of Estonia, especially with the collapsing Soviet Union, which lead to their eventual independence in 1991. The country’s social and political values were changing, for better or for worse, this lead to the emerging Russian mafia.

The bleak exploration into Estonian life from the perspective of two women with different pasts tends to remind me of the Soviet novels I have read in the past. Novels that look at both political and social issues that a country faces. For Sofi Oksanen, it allowed her to focus on the hardships facing women of the country as well.  The style and fast paced narrative of Purge reminds me specifically of the ‎Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn novel In the First Circle. Both exploring the effects of the Soviet era on the people within the narratives. In the First Circle focuses on life during the Soviet era while Purge is looking more at the after effects.

I have read Sofi Oksanen before and found her to be very bleak. The novel When the Doves Disappeared just felt dense and I found myself struggling to get through it. It is a novel I would love to dip into again at some point, but I think Purge offered me much more. With Purge, I have a new found appreciation for Sofi Oksanen and the novel motivates me to read more from her. Purge is a novel I highly recommend, but be warned, Baltic literature tends to be very bleak.


Distracted by Other Books

Posted September 11, 2018 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 14 Comments

My Thoughts and Reading in August 2018

August is Women in Translations month, which means there is a big influx of people reading translations, even the publishers and big bookish media seem to promote the event. This feels like a double edge sword for me, while I love that more people are reading from my corner of the bookish world, there are plenty of cringe worthy moments to be had as well. There are people who like to make themselves the authority of the topic despite showing no interest previously in the male/female balance in the world of translations. Admittedly this reaction I have is just my grumpiness coming to play and in reality I should be thankful to see so many people participate in a month dedicated to reading women in translations. For those that did not want to dedicate a whole month, some BookTubers even put together a Women in Translations readathon, but I will not be discussing my problem with readathons here.

I had planned my reading month, thinking that while vacationing around Tasmania I would have more reading time than expected. I packed four books to read during the trip, plus a kindle but I only managed to complete one novel during that entire trip, and it was not even a book I was enjoying. Prior to my vacation, I had read Convenience Store Woman, a book that I still think about to this day. The hype surrounding this book is justified. I also read The Door with my wife, which was discussed on the latest episode of Lost in Translations. Before my trip, I scheduled six reviews for my blog, all being women in translations. I am pleased to say, that I am pretty much up to date with reviewing, as I have made the choice not to review every book I read. I want to spend more time writing essays and improving my writing abilities so while reviews seem to be an important aspect of my blog, I hope this means that I will write more.

Tasmania was an amazing experience, I have not been there before and I really enjoyed the cold weather. I got to experience snow falling for the first time, most non-Australians might think this is not as special as I make it out to be. The book I read while away was Oneiron; it was not for me, and I really struggled to get through it. I understand what Laura Lindstedt was trying to do by putting these women in this situation and have them reflect on their lives but I was disappointed. I did however start Aracoeli and I am having a much better experience. Elsa Morante is a wonderful writer and for those who do not know her, she is one of the authors that influenced the writing of Elene Ferrante.

During my trip I visited bookstores every chance I got, which did leave me with a much heavier bag by the end of the trip. I wanted to limit my purchasing by focusing on expanding my women in translation collection but I failed at that. So many stores seemed to have a very limited selection for translations, which is fast becoming the biggest downside of my reading niche. The feeling of leaving a bookstore empty handed is heart breaking for a book lover. However, if I started to complain about the amount of books I did end up purchasing, I would be lying to myself. I have so many amazing books to read, I just need to find the time.

After Tasmania we stopped in Melbourne for the weekend and attended the Melbourne Writers Festival. This year had an amazing line up and I think I want to write about what I saw in a different post. The festival has inspired me to be more active in my blogging and to write more pieces, so let’s see if it pays off. The final book I read before going back to work was Sofi Oksanen’s novel Purge. Previously I read When the Doves Disappeared which I liked but did not love, honestly, I think Purge is a far superior novel. Because it was Women in Translations month, I think it is necessary to check my reading stats to see if I have a balanced reading life this year. I am pleased to say that 75% of my reading have been translations, which is indicative of my passion. With 52% being books written by women. I hope to maintain this balance, but I know how easy it is to have the statistics change.

Happy reading everyone.

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Distracted by Other Books

Posted July 4, 2018 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 0 Comments

My Thoughts and Reading in June 2018

Being able to reflect on my reading month is one of the reasons I do these wrap ups. It is surprising how much my perception on my month is different to the reality. Like last month, I thought I had a slow reading month, but completing eight books is amazing. I have been trying to slow down my reading to focus on the reading I am doing and I am sure I am doing just that. However, the fact that I finished so many books makes me thing otherwise. We have been housesitting for the past few months and this affected my reading drastically but in reality, not so much.

I started of this month with August by Romina Paula. I originally wanted to read this book because I have been into Argentinian literature at the moment but since it was also translated by Jennifer Croft, it had to be read. As you know, Jennifer Croft translated Flights from the Polish which went on to win the Man Booker International Prize. August was a vastly different novel and while I enjoyed it, it was not the experience I expected. This combination of grief and nostalgia made for an interesting narrative. One I hope to explore in a review soon. Longlisted for the BTBA award, I was interested in trying something from this prize that is a relatively new discovery for me. Also, there is something about all the books being published by Feminist Press the appeal to me. It seems to be a lot of women writing dark and gritty literature that deal with femininity and the treatment of women in their own countries.

I seem to be dedicating some time to crime novels lately, this month it included In the Darkness by Karin Fossum and The Gunman by Jean-Patrick Manchette. I found In the Darkness pretty generic and I am still struggling to find some Scandinavian crime that I enjoy. I love noir style novels so I thought Nordic noir would be the perfect choice. I am very particular about crime novels and turns out that Jean-Patrick Manchette fits my taste perfectly. While The Gunman was not amazing, I was able to test out his writing style and discovered it was a perfect fit for me. I read The Gunman because it was the only Manchette in my library, now I plan to pick up some of his better known novels. The Gunman has been adapted into a movie starring Sean Penn, but I do not think I will watch it, it feels very B-grade.

I also managed to do some re-reading this month. Picking up both The Possessed by Elif Batuman and The Shadow of the Wind. I was not a fan of The Possessed originally but I could not remember why. It seemed like a book that would suit me perfectly, as it is a book about Russian literature. While I did enjoy it a little more the second time around, it turns out that I felt this way because I never really understood her literary criticism and she never took any time to explain it. For example, I do not know how Batuman connected Anna Karenina to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, it feels like a stretch because it never was explained. I had the opposite reaction to The Shadow of the Wind where I loved it the first time but not so much this re-read. I have grown so much as a reader and have found what I love and hate in literature, so re-reading this novel, I discovered it lacked the depth that I crave. I will re-read the other books in the series and eventually finish off the series but I am in no rush.

I do not want to talk too much about Soviet Milk because I still feel like I am piecing together my thoughts. It was a great read, but work was so busy at the time, I found myself lacking focus. I could only read a few pages at a time before I needed to put it down. I want to re-read the novel because I think there is so much to gain from this book, so maybe I will just reserve my judgement until I have read it again. Also, I am unsure how I feel about The Order of Time, it think a lot of the science was well over my head. Carlo Rovelli has given me a lot to think about and he has challenged the how I think about time, so maybe the book has had its intended effect.

June was the month of first for me, my first time reading Manchette, but also my first time reading the great authors Juan Gabriel Vásquez and Mario Vargas Llosa. The Sound of Things Falling was a great novel and I loved Vásquez’s writing style. This is the type of novels I love to read and it reminded me a little of the style of Bolano. While Llosa had a great writing style with his novel The Neighborhood, I felt conflicted about my feelings. So much so, that I have not been able to finish the book yet. Firstly, the sex scenes in this book are so cringe worthy I struggled to get through them, but also his treatment of LGBTQIA characters felt creepy. The lesbian relationship was such an interesting part of the plot, but it often felt more like the author fantasising about them having sex rather than focusing on the relationship. There is so much political intrigue going on in the background, it was a shame that all this was ruined when it came to the sex, which unfortunately was a huge part of the plot and therefore happening all the time.

I am very pleased with the way this month turned out, as stated in last month months wrap-up, I was housesitting which meant I was not distracted by other books. I only had access to the books I had with me. I will be finishing up The Neighborhood this month as well as Purge by Sofi Oksanen. I have no idea what I will be reading next, probably La Bastarda by Trifonia Melibea Obono, They Know Not What They Do by Jussi Valtonen and The True Deceiver by Tove Jansson but you never know, I could be distracted by the other books on my shelves. Also, I plan in participating in Spanish and Portuguese Literature Month this month and then Women in Translation month in August. I hope this will motivate me to blog more. I have so many books I want to review, and I want to get back into a habit of writing more frequently. So, fingers crossed that July is the month that gets me writing again.

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