Sunday, 28 July 2019

So Much Longing in so Little Space by Karl Ove Knausgaard

"One of the finest art history biographies on the book shelves"

Knausgaard's latest work explores the art of fellow Norwegian icon Edvard Munch but don't expect this to be straight forward art history, with Knausgaard you get more bang for your buck.

Part celebration of a genius painter, part biography and part analysis of the myth around the man behind paintings such as 'The Scream', Knausgaard's book explores Munch from a social and cultural aspect that goes far beyond the paintings themselves.

The starting point is that every Norwegian is familiar with Munch's work from their childhood such is his position at the heart of Norwegian National identity. Like Hans Christian Andersen to the Danes and Abba to the Swedish, Edvard Munch is popular cultural hero personified. But what does it mean that a man prone to loneliness, melancholy and tragedy has come to represent a Nation?

It is Knausgaard's personal reflections as he prepares to curate his own exhibition for the Munch Museet that delivers the greatest insight. His own Munchian anxiety, self-doubt and rumination comes from the same place as the My Struggle series that made Knausgaard shorthand for an original form of autobiographical fiction.

One of the finest art history biographies on the book shelves and the perfect accompaniment to the Munch Museet's current show Exit. 5⭐️

So Much Longing in so Little Space: The Art of Edvard Munch by Karl Ove Knausgaard and translated by Ingvild Burkey, published by Harvill Secker 256 pages

Friday, 26 July 2019

Macbeth by Jo Nesbo

"All the twists and turns of the Scottish play"

A number of the leading novelists of our time, from Margaret Atwood to Anne Tyler and Howard Jacobson, have reworked Shakespeare's plays as part of Hogarth's recent project. This time its Scandi-Noir big hitter Jo Nesbo who turns his hand to a new version of The Tragedy of Macbeth (1623).

Nesbo's story is set in a location typical of the genre, the Kingdom of Fife, which seems to be somewhere between Scotland and Norway. The weather is brutal, the streets are mean and shady characters deal hard drugs, in this case 'brew', against a backdrop of gang murder.

Lording over the city is swat team head Macbeth who lives with his girl, the aptly named 'Lady', who manages the most prestigious casino in town. In the course of an drug operation Macbeth receives a prophesy from a trio of street girls; the Police Department Chief job will be his so long as he agrees not to interfere with the production and supply of brew in the town.

This effectively bleak backdrop is a convincing adaptation of the Highlands in Shakespeare's play but Nesbo piles on a cinematic flourish to further increase the tension. "I love you above everything else on this earth and in the sky above", Macbeth tells Lady in a line straight from a cinema trailer.  

Even by Jo Nesbo's standards this is a dark story of murder, double crossing, drug addiction and serious crime. At its best it effectively adapts Macbeth for a modern readership desensitised to all but the the most aggressive brutality thanks to the huge canon of Nordic Noir that now exists.

If there is a problem with Jo Nesbo's Macbeth its one of scale; somehow Shakespeare's shortest play has become Nesbo's longest novel.

All the twists and turns of the Scottish Play through a typically blood stained Nesbo lens

Macbeth by Jo Nesbo, translated by Don Bartlet, published by Hogarth 512 pages