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Regnspiran by Sara Lidman
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Regnspiran

by Sara Lidman

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382463,595 (4.25)10
En ung synsk pige bliver misforstået og frygtet af sine omgivelser for sin magt over dem. Som voksen bliver hun et viljeløst offer for sin hengivenhed over for en homoseksuel mand.

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"Regnspiran" is a bird whose song, according to local superstition, predicts death and misery. Everybody knows this, but noone dares to mention it. Instead the official version is it predicts rain. This theme of what everybody knows but won’t say carries this dense novel about the girl Linda, who grows up wild, destructive and difficult in a Västerbottnian village in the early 1900eds. It’s a landscape Lidman has often returned to, and where she’s written much of her finest work.

Linda is caught between her self-punishing, closed father, and her too lenient mother, having a childhood difficult to navigate through. More or less by accident she predicts her father’s death , giving her a reputation as a fortune teller already at age eight. In her young naivety she uses this reputation to gain respect and fear from the villagers – and as she grows up it’s as someone you need to keep on the good side of, but whom nobody really knows, or likes. It doesn’t help her that she gets pregnant without being even engaged either, especially since the whole village already has taken her side on a rape charge once, years before. The only friend she has is the neighbor girl Ulrika, who fails to see what the rest of the village has already worked out: the child of Linda’s unborn child can’t possibly be anyone other than Ulrika’s fiancée, Karl, who suddenly eloped to America after the last ever village dance.

Sara Lidman is one of my favorite writers. As always, she is a joy to read. Her style, sparse and understated, with razor sharp insight into human behavior, fear and convention, is a delight. I know of almost no other writer that can make the rural, mundane everyday of a small village become a grand human drama. Here a stolen scarf or a wrong word in passing becomes nail biting tension. And her characters are rounded, complex and original down to the smallest parts. However, in this particular book I’m not sure I like what she’s saying. Lidman can often be harsh, but her insight into what makes a character tick is usually creating a sort of rugged tenderness. In this book there’s something unforgiving and hard in the way she looks at Linda and silly Ulrika, and the ending, inevitable as it may be, feels almost cruel. A strong and rewarding read, but far from my favorite book by this unique voice. ( )
2 vote GingerbreadMan | Nov 24, 2012 |
A good old-fashioned rural tragedy, the sort of thing that was seriously out of fashion in the English-speaking world in the late 50s. Obviously, the publishers must have thought the author's Swedish reputation made it worth taking a punt on a translation, despite the Cold Comfort Farm factor.

As the story is set in a remote village in the early years of the 20th century, we know that the characters must be speaking in dialect. This is something it's very difficult for a translation to deal with, unless the translator arbitrarily picks some other dialect to translate into, producing something that is either distractingly specific or Mummersettishly generic. The translator in this case sticks to very plain, simple words, relieved only by an occasional biblical flourish, which isn't too distracting and avoids most of these hazards, but obviously this must also lose a lot of the quality of the original.

Nonetheless, I think the book does work well in English: the characters are very strong individuals, and don't fall into the easy stereotypes that are such a hazard for this kind of story. ( )
  thorold | Jan 14, 2010 |
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