So here we go again, reading books like there is no tomorrow. Well, there usually is so… well, this time I have read some Dutch literature in the form of Harry Mulish’s books, a book about reggae and ofcourse some works of R.A. Salvatore.
Michael De Koningh – Young, Gifted & Black: The Story of Trojan Records
Ska, reggae, rocksteady and more are the typical sounds of Jamaica. The genre came across the sea and captured a generation of young Britons and left a lasting impact on the music we know as pop. If you tell the story of reggae, you need to also tell the story of Trojan Records. A label so intertwined with the rise and growth of the music, that it has almost become synonymous with the genre. This book tells you everything about the growing genre from one perspective, but also what is around in the world where Trojan developed. The labels, the artists and the weird gold rush that the record industry undertook in that time and age.
This book is not about idealistic record producers and a label with a golden heart. Trojan Records never started from any good will, but as a means to make a lot of money of something not many others were jumping onto. The reggae genre was at first considered obscene, shocking and ill fitting to British society. The keen skinhead crowd was not helping that image much either. The book also contains a dense discography and further lists with information concerning the label, it’s productions. A must have for the fan or collector of Trojan releases, but also for those who just love or would like to investigate Jamaican music.
R.A. Salvatore – The Hunter’s Blades Trilogy (The Thousand Orcs, The Lone Drow, The Two Swords)
Well, another trilogy by R.A. Salvatore that I can mark as read. This trilogy is in a way much more grim and definite than others. Where the characters seemed to pretty much walk away from events unscaved, that is about the change when they face a foe that is so much mightier than others. Luck is not on their side and the shifting mechanisms of their world is much bigger and complexer than ever before. Though there is one of those phases, where Drizzt feels he lost everyone only to find them again, things are not whole in the end. The characters are much more introspective, less a coherent unit and that makes for some uncanny story telling.
The orc tribes are uniting under one God-gifted leader, named Obould Many-Arrows. Where the orcs have always been a race of merauding recklessness, Obould is a different cookie altogether. WIth his sight set on a kingdom for his people, a place on this earth to call their own, he sets out on a bloody crusade and the heroes appear to be right in the middle of his path. This leads to the grim story of an all out war. Not a skirmish, a chase or a battle, but entrenched, long lasting war. R.A. Salvatore manages to translate the experience of war to the fantasy realm with a great effect. This is maybe one of his finest hours in writing. The book really takes the reader into a much grimmer direction and the end might not be what you would hope to find, but in a way it’s also unavoidable.
Harry Mulisch – Siegfried
Harry Mulisch is one of the most well known Dutch authors, but I rarely read anything from his works up until now. This book is the story of a writer, much like Mulisch himself, of international fame who goes to visit Vienna for a reading. During an interview he mentions Hitler. Hitler has been the topic of many, many books, but no one ever really managed to get to the core, the essence of the figure. The main character promises he will attempt to capture HItler, to trap him in a frame of fiction. The writer is struggling with many thoughts about this project, of the past and maybe with himself as well. Then the story becomes strange.
An old couple approaches the author at the reading. They’ve heard him speak on television about Hitler and are keen to speak to him. The next day he meets them in their appartment, which is not the standard he lives in, but accomodating. There’s little special or uncommon about the couple, but they apparently have a big secret which he is sworn to protect untill they are both deceased, so their original promise is covered. And thus starts a narrative within a narrative about a son called Siegfried. The most intriguing about the book is the peculiar story in a story, the biographical elements and the irregular composition. It’s a brilliant book. If it is translated, read it for all its magic.
Harry Mulisch – Twee Vrouwen
The second book I read from Mulish is ‘Twee Vrouwen’, which translates as ‘two women’. It’s a book of international fame, which was even made into a film once. At its time it must have struck a nerve with its theme of a same sex relationship, but on it’s republication as a gift for the annual book week it still is a book that matters and adresses the difficulties and strange intolerance that has been part of our culture for that long. Even though things are looking up nowadays, it is good to remember and put it to life in literature how we’ve dealt with homosexuality in the past.
The story is that of two women who run into eachother. Though the main character is older, has been married and not been with a woman before, they click and soon move in together. Their turbulent relationship lasts for a couple of months and part of the book describes that period in all its complexities. Durin a visit to her mother, the main character asks her girlfriend to stay behind to not shake up the old lady who resides in the south of France. From here on all seems to go wrong and the girlfriend leaves at some point with the ex-husband. I wish I could tell you more, but you’lljust have to read it yourself. Spoilers and all, but know that a Mulisch book never goes the way you’d expect. You don’t need to be a confused Lesbian to experience the feelings this book gives you. Sure, it gives the perspective of discrimination, but the characers are sort of sealed of in a bubble experiencing things just like you could. That makes this such a strong work. It’s completely relatable.