Books I read recently by Coetzee, Murakami, Becket and Ikäheimonen on black metal, barbarians, women, and men that are waiting.
J.A. Coetzee – Waiting For The Barbarians
I started this book on a whim and rather soon I was captivated by it. It’s not a pretty book, in fact most of it is rather grim and the main character only really finds any shine at the end or in his suffering. Before that, you merely sympathize with the sad figure he is. What I like most, is that this story to an extent feels relevant to today. Not in the sense that there is still uncharted ground with wild tribes about, but in the need for one people to tell another how to be and how to live. This, unfortunately, has not changed over time I fear. The writing is quick paced and miraculously evokes images more than it describes.
The story takes place in a border town. Regardless of how you read it, it’s an imperialist force at work, trying to subdue the world and telling the ‘savage’ what is right and what is wrong. Sounds familiar? I read this as if it concerns Brittish colonialism, but this goes for most of those forces. The magistrate of the town welcomes a military man, who is investigating the tribes. He then goes and captures a lot of these tribesmen, tortures them and then leaves. The magistrate feels an affinity with one crippled woman left behind and feels all his previous views of the world break down in the sleepy border town. His world changes then. This book is a good read, I recommend it to anyone.
Tero Ikäheimonen – The Devil’s Cradle: The Story of Finnish Black Metal
Finnish black metal is something else. It’s dirty, raw and violent, much more intense in a way, compared to their western neighbors. When the history of metal is written, the country is often overlooked but that is about to change with this fantastic book by Tero Ikäheimonen, who tracks the history of the genre in Finland through a string of bands that made it what it is today. He does this through interviews, which are lengthy and sincere.
From Barathrum, Beherit and Impaled Nazarene to the stranger bands that still are active in the scene, this is a work that may not be complete but gets close to painting a total picture. The author sometimes doesn’t manage to really pierce the surface with bands and get to the bottom of things, but that leaves the band as they chose to be. Personally, I was disappointed to not see the build-up towards the nazi-question concerning Satanic Warmaster remain unanswered. Ah well, can’t win ‘m all. Anyone who is into black metal should have this. Really.
Haruki Murakami – Men Without Women
In this book with short stories, Murakami seems to explore the relationship between men and women and what happens when it’s separated. Not as in lost to one another, but more as if there’s a glass plate separating the two. The Japanese setting often feels slightly alien to me, which makes the stories more significant and poignant, because it’s not really in the book but in the back of my head where this alienation takes place. The loneliness and alienation is embedded in the protagonists that walk the pages of this short story collection, which was published in 2017. Interestingly enough, that is 90 years after Hemingway released a collection of similar stories under the same title.
Like the critics said about Hemingway’s stories, there is a certain vulgarity to the characters in the books. Their humanity shines through in every expression and act. Their banal activities all seem so exhaustingly significantly when Murakami illuminates them with his pen. Where further deduction might lead to finding a common denominator through the stories, I think it’s more the overall feeling that they leave with the reader. It’s a sense of recognition, of looking into a mirror that shows the flawed nature of us men when we are without women. Maybe it shows women the same, like the Platonic split whole human, we are simply not complete when we are on our own (regardless of what sort of partnership, gender or orientation, this works in all cases).
Samuel Becket – Waiting For Godot
I’ve had this book on my reader for a while and finally got around to checking it out. It’s not the longest bit of reading, but as this is a play, the form requires a different form of focus on the words and acts that occur. The story is an absurd tale of two men, who are waiting for Godot. It’s not clear who Godot is and why they are waiting, but they keep asking eachother random questions, trying to figure out the nature of their situation. The story is circular as in that it repeats the same pattern over 2 nights, where they wait and Godot doesn’t show. Another character shows up with his mute servant, who they seem to clash with in a particular manner, but nothing really leads them anywhere.
The peculiar thing about this story, is that it is completely open. Interpret it as you will and experience it whatever way you like. I’m still not entirely certain what meaning I derive from it. For me it conveys a feeling of meaninglessness that the human condition is now in this time. We move towards a horizon that never emerges to find what we never find, because contentment has become a myth. That’s the faith of Vladimir and Estragon it seems…