Oddny Eir Posts

Land Of Love And Ruins by Oddny Eir

I reviewed Oddny Eir’s magnificent book Land of Love and Ruins for The Mint. )

Land Of Love And Ruins is the first novel of Icelandic writer Oddný Eir to be translated into English. This book had won the writer and environmental activist the 2014 European Union Prize for Literature and the 2012 Icelandic Women’s Literature Prize. Written in the aftermath of the Icelandic banking crisis, Land Of Love And Ruins takes on the form of a diary, allowing the writer the freedom to flit back and forth on a subject and digress into personal reflections, recalling a conversation of the day or meditating on different philosophical points. It is a wonderful way for the reader to sink into an autobiographical novel that reveals an anxiety about the plundering of nature in the name of development.

In her diary accounts, the nameless woman narrator also reflects upon her complicated relationship with her archaeologist brother and ornithologist boyfriend, whom she refers to by their nicknames, Owlie and Birdie.

Her diary meanders through the few months she spends working while travelling within her country, Iceland, and abroad. While in Iceland, she travels to well-known tourist spots such as the lava park, Reykjavik; Hveragerði or the hot springs park; Holsfjoll, where there have been farms since mid-15th century; Snartarstaðir, famous for the museum of 19th century local objects; Vopnafjörður, known for its salmon and untouched land but also the port from where immigrants left in the 19th century; and the St Nicholas church, associated with an abandoned monastery that once had a printing press in its basement, and is a hub of literary activity.

While abroad, she visits Wordsworth’s Grasmere in the Lake District, Manchester, Paris and Basel. Every place she visits, she connects with places of literary interest and natural importance. Every such experience gives her the opportunity to reflect on the inextricable link between man, nature, creativity, culture and commerce. In an emotional moment when she hears that ancestral land in Holsfjoll had been handed over to a Chinese businessman, she writes, “Private ownership of vast tracts of land appears to be an anachronism. We’ve got to rethink the relationship between private ownership of the land and public ownership of resources.”

There are other interesting themes running through the book, such as brother-sister pairings, much like the relationship between herself and her brother, who cohabit. In the book, she speaks of the incestuous Egyptian gods Osiris and Isis, who were married and had a son; of William and Dorothy Wordsworth, who had a platonic relationship; “(a) certain Guðrún from Jökulsárhlið”, who was banished from society for bearing her brother’s child. She then fled to the mountains, where he joined her and “they lived in peace and harmony for many years, far from human habitations and in defiance of the law”.

Eir’s novel brings up the question of love between brother and sister, referring in one instance to the Egyptian gods Osiris and Isis.

Eir’s novel brings up the question of love between brother and sister, referring in one instance to the Egyptian gods Osiris and Isis.

The diary entries also reveal the writer’s fascination with the coexistence of the Christian liturgical calendar with that of the lunar calendar, reaffirming the steadfast relationship man has maintained with nature over centuries, and which acquires mythical and religious dimensions. Finally Oddný Eir’s love for literature is always lurking, with liberal references to books she is reading, which she links to her own life: “It’s so embarrassing to think that someone is actually interested in what you’re thinking. And in that regard, it’s almost unbelievable that autobiographies are published. Who cares about your story? I bought a little book by Thoreau in a bookshop last night, with this statement on the first page: I will therefore ask those of my readers who feel no particular interest in me to pardon me if I undertake to answer some of these questions in this book.”

Land Of Love And Ruins is reminiscent of the leisurely pace of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Biographia Literaria. Solitude is important to both the writers to contemplate their surroundings. The texts may be nearly two centuries apart, but their core ideas of subjectivity and man’s relationship with nature seem to address universal issues, which even 200 years after the Romantic movement continue to be relevant.

Oddný Eir writes: “Our relationship with nature needs to be renewed, our connection to the future. In this prolonged limbo and uncertainty, we’re lacking a vision of the future.”

Eir is a magical writer with a powerful voice who is not to be missed.

Land Of Love And Ruins: By Oddný Eir, translated from the Icelandic by Philip Roughton, Restless Books, 240 pages, $24.99.

16 December 2016 

 

Jaya’s newsletter 3 – 11 November 2016

( Please feel free to write with suggestions and comments: jayabhattacharjirose1 at gmail dot com )

Hello!

On 8 September 2016, the demonetization of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 was announced by the government of India. Newly designed currency, freshly minted with embedded chips will be brought into circulation. It is a move to counter black money in the country but it would be interesting to know how this impacts many of the publishers and booksellers in India, many of whom deal predominantly in cash. For now it is impossible to tell.

New Arrivals

  • Jorge Carrion Bookshops (MacLehose Press)
  • Cecilia Ahern Lyrebird ( HarperCollins India)
  • Jeff Kinney Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Double Down ( Puffin, PRH India)
  • Twinkle Khanna The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad ( Juggernaut)
  • Bina Shah A Season for Martyrs ( Speaking Tiger)
  • Ritu Menon Loitering with Intent ( Speaking Tiger)
  • T.J.S. George Askew ( Aleph)
  • Anthony Horowitz Magpie Murders ( Hachette)
  • Jeffrey Archer This was a Man ( Pan MacMillan India )

Jaya Recommends:

  • Rajelakshmy, a physicist by training who published these extraordinary “feminist” stories in the weeklyimg_20161111_102225 Mathrubhumi and monthly Mangalodayam. She committed suicide in 1965 but the stories and the incomplete novel have been compiled together for the first time as A Path and Many Shadows& Twelve Stories  (Translated from Malayalam by R.K. Jayasree, Orient Black Swan)
  • oddny-eirOddny Eir’s incredibly stunning Land of Love and Ruins.  It is a semi-autobiographical reflection on nature, literature, philosophy and commerce. Oddny Eir has also written songs for Bjork.  (Translated from the Icelandic by Philip Roughton, Restless Books)
  • Seirai Yuichi’s magnificent Ground Zero, Nagasaki : Short Stories . These22329531 chilling stories set in contemporary Nagasaki are about the  minority community of Japanese practising Catholicism and trying to survive the endless trauma of the atomic bomb. (Translated by Paul Warham. Columbia University Press)
  • Raina Telgemeier’s absorbingly brilliant graphic novel Ghosts. It is about ghostslittle Catrina who has cystic fibrosis and celebration of Dia de los Muertos or the Day of the Dead. It is to be released at the Comic Con, Bangalore. (Scholastic India)

Book Events

11 Nov: Sahitya Akademi symposium on Rajelakshmy at 5:30pm

11-13 Nov: Kathakar, Children’s Literature Festival, IGNCA New Delhi followed by 14 November at the IGNCA Bengaluru and on 17 November at the CSMVS, Mumbai

12-13 Nov: Comic Con, Bangalore

14 Nov: Simon & Schuster India will be celebrating 5 years in India (By invitation only)

15 Nov: Shauna Singh Baldwin will be in conversation with Amrita Bhalla to discuss the diasporic writings about shaunas-conversationSouth Asian life and culture and will also talk about and read from her latest book “Reluctant Rebellions”.

People & Jobs 

Rahul Dixit has been appointed Sales Director, HarperCollins India. He was earlier with PRH India.

gillon-aitken-and-v-s-naipaul

Gillon Aitken with V.S. Naipaul, Amer Fort, Jaipur. (C) Patrick French

A few days ago legendary literary agent, Gillon Aitken, passed away. Patrick French posted a short tribute on his Facebook page along with some marvellous photographs. Republished with permission.

A one-year vacancy of the books editor at The Caravan Magazine has been announced.

Prizes

  • The Order of the Rising Sun – Gold & Silver Ray, the highest civilian award by Imperial manorama-jaffa-2-japan-award manorama-jaffaMajesty of Japan, was conferred on Manorama Jaffa in recognition of her contribution to children’s writing in India. After Prof. Brij Tankha, Mrs. Jaffa is the second Indian to have been honoured.
  • SPARROW Literary Award 2016: The SPARROW panel of judges (N Sukumaran, Kannan Sundaram and Ambai) for SPARROW-R Thyagarajan Literary Award decided to choose the category of translation for award this year. Translations from one Indian language to another and direct translation from a foreign language (other than English) to Tamil were taken for consideration. The SPARROW-R Thyagarajan Literary Award 2016 will go to Kulachal S M Yoosuf for his translations from Malayalam to Tamil, Gowri Kirubanandan, for her translations from Telugu to Tamil and Sridharan Madhusudhanan for his translations from Chinese to Tamil.
  • French-Moroccan writer Leïla Slimani won the Goncourt, France’s top literary prize. The former journalist is only the seventh woman to have won the Goncourt in its 112-year history. The novel has been a best seller — more than 76,000 copies have been purchased so far.
  • Madeleine Thien’s Do Not Say We Have Nothing won the Giller Prize ( $100,000)
  • Lynne Kutsukake’s The Translation of Loves won the 2016 Canada-Japan Literary Award (English category). And Genevieve Blouin’s Hanaken: Le Sang des Samourais won in the French category.
  • orhan-pamukOrhan Pamuk won the 1million rouble (US$15,715) Russian Yasnaya Polyana Literary Prize, based at Leo Tolstoy’s estate. Pamuk’s novel A Strangeness in My Mind  translated into Russian in 2016, won in the “Foreign literature” nomination of the award, which aims to support both the traditions of classical literature and new trends in contemporary writing. ( http://bit.ly/2fnbDxT ) The Russian translator of Pamuk’s novel, Apollinaria Avrutina, receives a prize of 200,000 rubles (US$3,143). The Yasnaya Polyana Literary Prize was founded in 2003 by Samsung Electronics and the museum and estate of Leo Tolstoy in Tula. According to the jury chairman Vladimir Tolstoy, Leo Tolstoy’s great grandson and cultural advisor to the Russian president, the award is meant to help readers find their way in the world of Russia’s literature and international contemporary books—a universal reply to the question “What to read?”

Meanwhile PEN America has released a revised version of its modified contract for literary translations . It is worth looking at.

Miscellaneous

walking-bookfairsBookshops: In Lucknow the iconic Ram Advani’s bookshop closed down on Sunday, 6 November 2016 as there was no one left to run it after his death. But there was good news with the resurrection of Walking Bookfairs, Bhubaneswar, Odisha. After the book shack was demolished the founders Satabdi Mishra and Bahibala Akshaya built a new bookstore saying “Bookstores around the world are closing down. And we are opening a new one. Because we are madly in love with books and bookstores. Long live bookstores!”

reemLondon-based publisher, Reem Makhoul, of Ossass gave a tremendous interview to Marcia Lynx Qualey, ArabLit on children’s literature where Reem says they wanted to give the children what they are familiar with, so began creating beautiful books in colloquial Arabic.  Amazon too seeing the potential of a reading habit has launched an app for children – Amazon Rapids Recently the Financial Times listed a series of smartphone reading apps or a mobile library such as The Pigeonhole, Alexi and Oolipo.

11 Nov 2016