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To Mervas by Elisabeth Rynell

To Mervas (edition 2010)

by Elisabeth Rynell, Victoria Haggblom (Translator)

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806150,606 (3.88)36
Title:To Mervas
Authors:Elisabeth Rynell
Other authors:Victoria Haggblom (Translator)
Info:Archipelago Books (2010), Edition: Tra, Paperback, 192 pages
Collections:Removed from Library, Read but unowned, Rest of World Literature
Tags:read in 2010, fiction, swapped, swedish authors, woman authors

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To Mervas by Elisabeth Rynell



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Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
Talk about beautiful writing, this book was breathtakingly so! Rynell is a Swedish poet and novelist. To Mervas is her first novel to be translated into English, and the translation is exceptional. It’s about middle-aged Marta who suddenly receives a letter out of the blue from her first and only love, Kosti, more than twenty years after she last heard from him. It’s just a few lines saying that he’s in Mervas, and it’s signed “Your Kosti”.

The letter understandably sets off a train of emotions and memories, as Marta thinks back on her life and everything that has led her to where she is currently. It is a gut-wrenching tale, but one that needs to be savored for the refreshing lyrical prose. I loved it. ( )
2 vote akeela | Jan 4, 2011 |
Marta has lived a life of hardship, abuse, and self-imposed solitude. One day, seemingly out of nowhere, she receives a letter from Kosti, her one and only love. She has neither seen nor heard from him in over twenty years, and his short letter tells very little except that he is now living in Mervas, in a remote part of Sweden. This awakens long-suppressed feelings:
I knew that the letter I'd received wasn't much of a letter, but still, the few words he'd written were alive inside me ... They'd reminded me of my life and the fact that I was still living it, that I was supposed to live it. I'd forgotten that. (p. 6)

Marta quickly decides to go off in search of Kosti, but is almost immediately gripped by fear. She is forced to examine and piece together events from her past, which include witnessing her father's repeated abuse of her mother, and giving birth to a severely disabled child who later died. She tries to come to terms with how these experiences sent her into a life of isolation:
And my thoughts have not been fluffy memories or daydreams of the boy. ... It has even struck me that there are similarities between the writing I've begun and an archaeological excavation. The carefulness. You have to be so incredibly careful with the things you find down there. They may for example be positioned in a specific order in relation to one another that mustn't be changed. Or they may be fragile and crumble at the slightest touch. (p. 44)

When summer arrives, Marta is finally ready to make the journey to Mervas. Her journey is slow and careful, and as she approaches her destination she is both attracted to and repelled by Mervas. And as she makes her journey, the reader is slowly made aware of the full weight of Marta's life experiences. Elisabeth Rynell's prose is spare and yet poetic, and the emotional reveal is a bit intense. This is a very short book, but not an easy one to read. The enjoyment comes not from the characters or plot, but from Rynell's ability to convey a sense of loneliness and desperation and the promise of something better for Marta. ( )
4 vote lauralkeet | Nov 26, 2010 |
Translated from the Swedish by Victoria Hagglbom

“There is a quality of precision in life, an incorruptible order that cannot be made relative. Life is relentless the same way death is. Everyone has a place in their own story with a myriad of threads running forward and backward, upward and downward, like a web. If you want to cut yourself loose, you have to cut yourself off from who you are. You can’t just switch your life for another. The details of your existence may be unbearable, but they are nevertheless wrapped up neatly and connected to each other like the threads of the web.”

Marta has been living in such a web for years, since childhood. She grew up in an unimaginably difficult home, with a father that not only abused their mother (leading to her death) but also put Marta in the unenviable position of being his “helper”. His abuse was particularly horrific: he didn’t beat Marta, as long as she didn’t interfere and try and aid her mother. What child can evaluate such a position and decide what is best? Her only tactic, to cope with the fear and her sense of disloyalty was to withdraw within herself. She became the type of woman who is completely alone, even when surrounded by others.

Her upbringing made her unable to form a normal relationship with her boyfriend , Kosti, leading him to leave her, as her neediness pushed him away. The novel begins with her alone, in the years after her only child has died. The child, whom she named Sebastian but referred to usually as ‘the boy’, had severe birth defects and she had nurtured him, alone, for years. The narrative begins with her getting a letter from Kosti, telling her that he is now in a small town in northern Sweden called “Mervas”. Her isolation has put her in a place with very little human contact, and the letter impels her to finally seek the outside world. She contemplates the idea of going to see him at Mervas.

The rest of the book is her journey: both the physical journey of locating and travelling to Mervas as well as the emotional journey of making a new life. She’s constantly second guessing herself, and reliving horrific memories of her mother’s abuse. She’s not even sure she wants to see Kosti again…so much of her life has been restricted that she has atrophied, both physically and emotionally. Throughout her journey, details of her son’s tragic death emerge, and we see how it’s nearly unimaginable that she can move on into any “normal” life.

Regarding the surprise of his letter, she says “the few words he’d written were alive inside me…they’d reminded me of my life and the fact that I was still living it, that I was supposed to live it. I’d forgotten that. I’d stayed away from that truth. And a person can actually hide inside her own life, hide from life itself within the minutiae and everyday chores, hide from herself inside herself.”

As she travels to Mervas, she’s confronted with the fear of the unknown as well as an honest fear of herself. “My thoughts moved around in the room like anxious shadow animals, sniffing and listening. I almost thought I could see them flickering over the walls. Herds of fear ran down the slopes as if they were being hunted, being egged on by the thoughts and visions spinning in my head. The terror seemed to hatch in new places all the time, one vision after another appearing in long, painful sequences.”

To Mervas is the story of her journey, one that doesn’t arrive at any simple or easy conclusion. Much of the latter half of the book is ambiguous, and the reader can arrive at more than one conclusion about Marta. The value of this story, however, is clear: people are flawed, damaged, and searching. Even without consciousness, they are searching for a way out and redemption. How Marta coped with so many situations that were beyond her control is a fascinating glimpse of the resilience of the human spirit. ( )
2 vote BlackSheepDances | Sep 5, 2010 |
Marta is a 50 year old woman with a dark past and an even darker secret, who has lived friendless and alone for many years in an unnamed town in Sweden. She receives a letter from Rosti, her only lover, who she has not heard from in 20 years. Rosti writes only a few lines, but tells Marta that he is in Mervas, a small northern town. Marta, who has little to live for and even less to hang on to, decides to meet him, although she is unsure why she is going to Mervas or what to expect once she does meet Rosti.

The narrative takes the reader back to Marta's childhood, in which her mother was physically and emotionally abused by her husband, her failed relationship with Rosti, and her only child, who was severely disabled. These accounts are painful to read, yet compelling and convincing. Rynell's description of the emotions and outbursts of a new mother who finds out that her newborn son is seriously ill was spot on, as were the brief portrayals of the dismissive and condescending doctors that treated her son.

I found the first half of To Mervas absolutely fascinating, but I lost a bit of interest in the second half, probably due to the unremitting sorrow of Marta's life. Rynell is a poet as well as a novelist, and, accordingly, she carefully chooses her words throughout the book, making it a pleasurable read despite its depressing topics. To Mervas isn't for the faint of heart, but it is a very good psychological novel about the life of a tortured woman. ( )
6 vote kidzdoc | Jun 28, 2010 |
[To Mervas] by Elizabeth Rynell was an odd book for me. A Swedish book translated into English, I really loved the writing. It was the one thing that kept me from tossing the book aside.

The main character, Marta, is one of the many children in a family where the father is abusive and believes the only purpose of women is to bear children. He holds his family in a firm grip, shouts and lectures at every dinner time, and when his wife suffered complications following yet another birth, not only did he not care that her health was jeopardized, he took pains to humiliate her for her seeming poor health. Her value in his eyes had plummeted and he despised her. She finds an opportunity and escapes the house with the children, with the help of one of her relatives and for a while they are happy but of course her husband finds them, makes Marta open the door to let him in and forces all the children to watch him abuse their mother.

The story alternates between present and the past, and slowly we find out the rest of Marta's life journey. She had a disabled child who died. The events leading up to his death was not immediately made clear, and it was horrifying. Throughout, you're invited into Marta's mind, what she thinks, why she feels a certain way, what she fears and you're hypnotized by her depression and mental torture. This is not a happy story, and I didn't like the story itself because it was really depressing, but I couldn't not finish reading it. ( )
3 vote cameling | Jun 9, 2010 |
Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
Rynells ødsle brug af dobbelte adjektiver - »den grå, dystre hyttevæg«, myggenes »fine, hvinende sang« - er usædvanlig, idet netop adjektiver er noget, som mange forfattere for tiden går i en stor bue udenom - idealet er jo det simple, det rensede. Men Rynells poetiske og billedrige sprog får faktisk Marta til at fremstå rent i al sin lidelse, og så tilgiver man gerne den indimellem ganske bastante symbolik - som eksempelvis en forladt mineby og sindets irgange - for det er ikke hver dag, man får lov at svælge i en så hæmningsløst skønhedsdvælende og sorgfuld kærlighedshistorie som Til Mervas.
added by 2810michael | editWeekendavisen, Katinka Brun
Helstøbt svensk roman om et splintret og sorgfuldt kvindeliv ... Hvordan lever man videre med et mord på samvittigheden? Det spørgsmål rejser den svenske forfatter Elisabeth Rynell i romanen "Til Mervas", som er en af de mest dystre bøger i nyere nordisk litteratur.
added by 2810michael | editKristeligt Dagblad, Svend Skriver
Den svenske forfatter Elisabeth Rynell tager os på en rejse til Nordsverige - og til det underbevidste i en symbolladet og intens roman om forspildt liv ... Elisabeth Rynell, der fik meget gode anmeldelser, også her i landet, for romanen 'Hohaj', interesserer sig for psykens dybe lag, og hele romanen kan læses som en dybdepsykologisk og symbolsk rejse ned i det underbevidste. Der er noget 'arketype' over det hele - det gamle par hun møder i den mørke skov og bor hos en tid, den dybe mineskakt, hun ikke tør gå ned i, den ensomme hytte, hun forsigtigt betræder osv. Vi skal helt ud til udkanterne, helt ned i skakterne ... Der er megetforspildt liv, Marta i sin ensomme eksistens tager op til granskning. Romanen er skrevet på en tyrkertro på, at sår heles ved at blive pillet op, og at en historie kan brænde ud ved at blive fortalt. Rynell arbejder med en kendt forestilling om, at man kan blive hel og forsonet med sig selv ved at dykke ned i sit inderste og i sin historie, men samtidig skal man tvinges ud af sig selv. Det sidste sker i mødet med andres historier, i dette tilfælde det gamle pars historie, der fungerer som et spejl for hendes egne tab og handlinger.
added by 2810michael | editPolitiken, May Schack
Jeg tænker på, om Til Mervas handler om tilgivelse eller om kærlighed - vel vidende, at det dybest set er to sider af den samme sag. For hvad kan bære det ubærlige, hvis ikke kærligheden, eller hvem kan tilgive det utilgivelige, hvis ikke den elskende?
I sin nye roman skærer Elisabeth Rynell sig vej gennem en forvitret skæbne, der ville have været sort som jordens undergang, hvis ikke det havde været for en stribe små drys af ufortjent, glitrende kærlighed ... Romanen begynder med et brev fra Kosti, Martas ungdomskærlighed. En særdeles fåmælt besked, som medfører et lavineskred af følelser og sender Marta helt ind til bagvæggen af det forstenede hjerte og ud igen, stærkt forslået, men også hærdet til et opbrud på alle planer. Snart er hun ad erindringens stenede veje tilbage ved den første mørke begyndelse, som samtidig er indgangen til et nyt , lysere - liv.
De konkrete, psykiske, teologiske og eksistentielle aspekter af rejsen er ikke til at skille ad. Marta både er og er ikke den forladte by Mervas fuld af mørke minegange, ligesom morgenbadet i søen både er og ikke er en renselse. Og Kosti er om ikke Gud, så i hvert fald kærligheden i sin mest uspolerede form og dermed det nærmeste, mennesket kommer Gud. Til Mervas er en klangfuld roman om at blive løbet op af kærligheden og befriet fra skylden på målstregen ... Elisabeth Rynell skriver med en fintmasket, poetisk realisme, der griber hårdt om læseren og holder fast. Selv de destruktive træk får et strejf af rå ynde i hendes fuldtonende, lyriske udtryk.
added by 2810michael | editJyllands-Posten, Henriette Bacher Lind
Den svenske forfatter Elisabeth Rynell skriver om livets store spørgsmål. Hun lider hverken af berøringsangst over for det svære, det skæve eller det muterede.
I Rynells bøger bliver følelserne, lidelserne, skønheden og den spinkle livslykke skrevet ud i ren form. Uden mellemlægspapir, og der er hverken brugt humor eller ironi som et godgørende og beskyttende filter. Det er stærke sager!
Rynells roman, Til Mervas, der nu er oversat til et fint dansk, er således et spektakulært bekendtskab. Romanens stil og stemme er på samme tid storslået og pompøs og helt lavmælt og underspillet.
Som i Rynells gennembrudsroman Hohaj, der udkom på dansk sidste vinter, spiller naturen - den øde, vilde natur og de forladte egne og mennesker - en stor rolle for universet i Til Mervas. Den nedlagte mineby Mervas, som titlen hentyder til, er et øde og forladt spor af menneskeliv, der har været, men som naturen nu har indtaget med sin kaotiske vækst og et livskraftigt forfald. Det er her - midt i det forandrede og det forfaldne - at hovedpersonen mødes og forsones med sin fortid.
Med parallel til slutscenen i Tjekhovs skuespil Onkel Vanja taler hovedpersonen Marta om 'et bagefter', den forsonende stilstand efter følelsesudbruddene. Netop forsoningen og den lavmælte tilgivelse spiller en vigtig rolle hos Rynell: Selvom tilværelsen byder én alt det værste, er der i selverkendelsen og i mødet med de rigtige mennesker alligevel et lys for enden af tunnellen. Mest af alt skal man kunne tilgive sig selv og forlige sig med, at livet ikke kan leves om.
Sådan er Rynells roman fuld af livsklogskab og følelse i destilleret form. Til Mervas er rørende i ordets egentlige forstand. Læs den!
added by 2810michael | editInformation, Signe Lindskov Hansen
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A letter came. Just a few lines, jotted down on a piece of copy paper.

Marta, Mart! I'm in Mervas. It's not possible to get

any farther away. And no closer either. Your Kosti.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Archipelago Books

2 editions of this book were published by Archipelago Books.

Editions: 0981987370, 1935744240

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