Part Four of my real-time review of
THE COLLECTED FICTION OF LEENA KROHN
CHEEKY FRAWG 2015
Foreword by Jeff VanderMeer
Part Three (Gold of Ophir) of my review of this book HERE.
When I review Pereat Mundus: A Novel of Sorts, my comments will be found in the thought stream below or by clicking on this post’s title above.
As with the previous works the effulgence behind these earthen book-lice is translated with no doubt equal effulgence by Hildi Hawkins.
Translated like the two Håkons in the first part of this ‘sort of novel’…
“How consciousness can arise from something that is not itself conscious…”
In this work published in 1998, we have a fascinating Cartesian (and more) view of the modern AI, with Håkan and Håkan conversing about the nature of mind, body, soul, spirit and whether duplication can make life persist beyond the existence of the original.
(As if this giant turquoise book in which Håkan lives, if bought and read and handled differently by two different readers, would result in two different books, both physically and in contents. Dreamcatching that actually CHANGES the dream itself?)
“The world is not made of atoms, but stories.”
Indeed. The essence of what I am about here.
Meanwhile, this story of someone, remarkably in 1998, who removes the whole of his doctor’s surgery to the internet.
There is the concept of ‘total behaviour’, which is also something else I am about in gestalt Dreamcatching…
Whether quack or genuine healer, there is much to show he is the former. And much blame for humanity’s ills lent to the sex urge.
“Of terrorists, he said: ‘That’s what they call men with bombs but not bombers.'”
THE SON OF THE CHIMERA
“Your father liked Schubert’s Lieder so much that sometimes he used to sink into a kind of semi-consciousness, which worried me a little.”
A highly poignant and haunting portrait of my (Håkan’s) father of the same name, portrayed via my own narration of my mother’s words about him, his multichimera nature in particular, and mine.
“I cannot find anyone like me.”
THE VERY THOUGHT!
“Håkan answered: ‘Do you suppose that because the end of the world has not yet come, it is unlikely that it will ever come?'”
An epistolary dialogue between Dr Fakelove and his new patient about endoftheworldphobia. My own suffering from this complaint is obviated by continuously conducting these real-time reviews. The very thought keeps such a thought behind or, rather, ever bouncing in front of me.
(Håkon and Håkan are Nordic names, but Hakan is also a Turkish one meaning emperor.)
I read this in a book I am real-time reviewing concurrently HERE:
“Norway, claiming spiritual rights, first names the territory Haakon after the king, or Ultima Thule, according to ancient Nordic tradition.”
HÅKAN AND THE X-CREATURES
Endearing conversation about imaginary creatures between two boys, Håkan, my older brother, and the myself that I am today. Except H claims they are not imaginary. The last line of this section is a deadpan masterstroke.
INDIVIDUALLY WRAPPED CHEESE SLICES
“Why should species that are able to travel throughout the universe and make contact with much more intelligent species be interested in our company? For we cannot even leave our own solar system.”
Because they want to meet people who can write books like this one?
Håkan, meanwhile, continues to be built up as a character-gestalt by many leitmotifs external and internal.
I do question however his Operation Squirrel, where digital uses of the Internet seem (based on my memory) to be far more recent than this sort of novel’s publication date in 1998. Seriously.
Unless this is a particularly perceptive SF prophecy?
THE VERY THOUGHT!
Read on to see how Dr Fakelove answers this and how he argues against Håkan’s “eschatophobia”….
This real-time review will resume in May after my current month’s sabbatical from all such reviews.
The above story was entitled THINK AGAIN!
Not THE VERY THOUGHT! Sorry.
THE SOCIETY FOR VOLUNTARY EXTINCTION
Appropriately, the novel seems to start here with a novelistic linear account of Håkan joining the above Society, but also having a romantic attachment …. and this is a telling examination of Ligottian Anti-Natalism as ‘popularised’ recently by ‘True Detective’ – and echoing Birkin’s thoughts in ‘Women in Love’?
The telling Wordsworthian (The Child is Father of the Man) loop that he needs to break as a result of the romantic attachment is heartfelt….
THE DUTY OFFICER
Ironically, in view of the previous section, we learn that H is Duty Officer at the Cryo Foundation. A Cryo system also ironically to prevent crying over the destiny of death… H has to deal with all manner of customers and various eventualities, like comets and the world not being a fit place when they wake up. I myself intend not to live longer than it takes to read and review the whole Krohn book, if not just this novel within it. I do not intend to sit around creating nothing in the autumn of my life like Sibelius did. The Silence of Järvenpää.
Our hero H is 17 but aging into an old man? This is ironic in view of what I said about the Cryo Foundation and Sibelius. Was the latter’s condition a false alarm?
The act of aging early is exponentially described here. “A weak old man” – or a week old man?
SMALL FUSION BOMBS
H writes endlessly to Fakelove, much to F’s then consternation, about dark events in the world that in fact prophecy accurately major things happening to us since 1998 when this was first written. Hence fiction matures into truth through time, while, even if it was not known then, there is an intrinsic truth to all fiction however seemingly far-fetched or near-brought. Fiction bombs, as well as Fusion ones.
A currently ungoogleable word (till my writing it here?) is used in this paper-printed text before me: “apoterrorism.”
SOON IT WILL BE TIME FOR OVERCOATS
A disturbing portrayal, agonisingly recognisable as today’s truth, of the behaviour of children in a school classroom. Entertaining in itself, but as I say, disturbing, too.
H is the teacher, as the text also dwells on a strange perverse form of eugenics, as well as political correctness. The gestalt of this non-linear episodic novel begins to hit home. But what exactly is hitting home?
THE GODMOTHER AND 32768
This is an absolutely fascinating, ground-breaking exercise in H debating with his Godmother the nature of gods and gods’ goals – and history as a tontine!!!!!
Amazing. Why isn’t this ‘novel of sorts’ in all the schools being learnt not only by the children but by the teachers, too?
BEFORE THE SINGULARITY
H’s wife takes him to her study group with Artilects – a form of Artificial Intelligence, and the loops and paradoxes of humanity in interface with AI is demonstrated strikingly by H’s cynical approach to them. A form of inverse tontine. Or a form of envisaged post-Singularity symbolised by Sibelius’ Silence of Järvenpää.
H’s wife Irene rings up Fakelove about H having been duplicated and the one she has got at home currently reading is one of these changelings.
F is unsympathetic and questions I’s own mental health.
Might again explain S’s Silence of Järvenpää?
A HEART CLOTHED IN BLACK
“Today, authors wrote in an impoverished way, as if all their readers were idiots: truisms, platitudes, sensationalist confessions which nevertheless embroidered the narrator’s motives, short sentences in which one could wade as if in a stubble field without finding the first seed of thought.”
H is now depicted as a publisher’s reader, a filter for the slush pile of stories, novels, poems etc. He is naive enough to append his name to his reports to the publisher about each work, until one of the authors accosts H and berates him about his green scarf. Inter alia.
I am wondering, as an aside, whether H in fact is not a series of identical changelings of the same person but a series of completely different people in different walks of life all of whom think they are H in a novel that is the slush pile itself, a pile full of mixed gems and duds as separate works and, often, gems and duds within a single separate work, too. It is the gestalt that counts.
LIGHT AS A STONE
“Sometimes he stared at a particular object – a spoon or a comb or a pattern in the carpet – for minutes on end, as if they had some message for him.”
H now as special needs child of 12 years old, a would-be gold-washer, I guess, with his carer (?) Hanna who wheels him to where he looks into puddles and as if summons for them a boulder from a seaside haunt of their’s into that puddle and into the sky. Mutual hypnotism or a genuine event? The same question could be asked of this novel of sorts.
Perhaps Sibelius stared at something trivial for the 32 years length of his Silence of Järvenpää?
I had reason to cross-reference this section just now here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2016/04/24/creeping-waves-matthew-m-bartlett/#comment-7007
“They had never even heard of Mondrian.”
A beautiful portrait of H as an Aesthete, but as a borderline OCD case, too, I suggest. It is harrowing stuff in many ways, with the synaesthesia of Poe’s Usher. Till a toothache takes over and he feels he becomes the tooth and later he realises that ugliness and entropy will always win, and eventually becomes the exact opposite of what he was.
Needs to be read. A morality tale of some strength and significance.
I am wondering whether we are intended to create a gestalt of H from all these differentiating essays or whether these are a series of different Hs, a novel literally of ‘sorts’.
“People were awake in order to sleep, in contrast to what had previously been thought.”
Absolutely wonderful, this treatise on a society where the need for sleep, or the desire for sleep, is increasing towards 16 hours a day, sleep for its own sake, the many images and ideas in H’s own interface with this phenomenon flow in a perfect audit trail with which I can empathise at my own increasingly advanced age. The yearning for sleep experienced as nowhere else in literature, I am guessing. And it goes a long way to explaining the 32 years of the Silence of Järvenpää experienced by Sibelius, the most famous Finnish composer.
I have had reason just now to cross-reference this here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2016/05/05/fates-of-the-animals-padrika-tarrant/#comment-7028
Another glimpse of Fakelove whose own latter lack of success in sexual relations with his partner puts in doubt his ability to advise others on such matters.
There is a clue in his name, I suppose.
WITH COLOURFUL LAMPS
“Sometimes Håkan felt his face. He imagined that beneath his skin there were still soft eyeballs that wanted to see.”
This is a devastatingly effective vision of not seeing, except in extrapolation or H’s dream. An inverse tontine of all the human senses evaporating one by one. Except machines can still see…
Meanwhile, I wonder where music fits in? It is dependent on the sense of hearing, true, but what else? Music seems to have various feelers of sense all of its own. What was S ‘seeing’ during his Silence of Järvenpää?
A SCROLL WHEN IT IS ROLLED TOGETHER
…as a description of a book not as dreamcaught as this Krohn one is.
Meanwhile, this is H discussing with a teacher who once taught him, discussing a contemporary pupil now preaching in earshot to an increasing crowd about the Coming of Judgement Day and the Power of the Lord. The teacher is cynical, H fascinated but cynical, too; the ending implies that the dreamtaught lead others into dreams – or nightmares.
FOR THE LOVE OF GOD
“And then the telephone. It began to ring in the middle of the night, and when Håkan lifted the receiver, violently roused from deep sleep, he found himself in the middle of an impassioned flood of words which appeared to have begun a long time since.”
There are some stories like that where certain things are assumed as known and other things happen offprint … music, too, and paintings that seem eager to spread beyond the frame. And some theatre where actors step offstage into the audience.
Meanwhile, H writes to his brother repeatedly for help, H being simultaneously both a Gebri and Espite in a world of warring Gebris and Espites.
And learns of the unrequited beauty of ugly women.
H also belongs to the Breathers, who try to survive on breathing alone, as well as casting good things around them. A sort of positive anti-natalism.
From ‘Gold of Ophir’ earlier:
“THE BREATH IN OUR NOSTRILS
Now he followed, enviously, their even breathing, in which the inward breath began exactly where the outward breath ended, at the place where death resided.”
THE MAN WITH TWENTY-ONE FACES
“‘How typical of our times,’ Chain-Smoker wrote, ‘that even in our city there are already oxygen bars…”
From breathing to predictive vaping?
Fakelove continues to be hounded by H, pretending to be various people wanting to be F’s patient. Hounding him and sabotaging his chocolate, and I thought H was this novel’s hero!
Perhaps, H is also F himself??
THE RESTAURANT IS CLOSED
“It was an uneven face, as if made of many parts that did not belong together. When one looked at them from a new angle, they quickly rebuilt themselves.”
…like the meal H has in this very strange restaurant. Or like this ‘novel of sorts’ itself?
This section as discrete work is comparatively substantive and if one wants a taster of Krohn, this would be ideal to read on its own,
IN HENBANE CITY
“The correctness they had been taught came wrongness.”
I wonder if that should be BEcame?
I often forget there is a translator as party to this book, a true triangulation of author, translator and reader. This fable is where correctness is represented by do-gooders or gold-washers chopping down flowers because they are not utility plants but just ornaments. And the true correctness becomes henbane, within the circle of H’s personal preferences of ramicorn poplars etc. … right coming full circle to become wrong, or wrong becoming right depending which way round the circle he goes.
H’s letters have at last sent F mad. Or is F just a symptom of us as we near the end of everything? At least S was probably sensible enough to sleep during his Silence, I say.
“…he remembered a time when people did not yet exist.”
H visits his favourite bogs and creeks to examine, even resuscitate, frogs and so forth from those earlier times, times towards which his numbed hand is the start of his returning to Humanity’s own Silence?
A LETTER FROM A COLLEAGUE
“Note: The basis of this chapter is the account of Phineas Gage’s accident contained in Antonio R. Damasio’s work “Descartes’ Error” (Avon Books, New York 1995).”
Concerning one’s responsibility (or not) for one’s actions.
A true story in the form of a letter and it remains to be seen how it fits into this on-going ‘novel of sorts’ and whether the Dear Doctor at the head of this letter is Fakelove, or not?
A soulmate book here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2016/05/05/fates-of-the-animals-padrika-tarrant/#comment-7185
MATTER MADE OF TIME
“In the twinkling of an eye he learned what those unfamiliar people had been like as children and what they would be like as old people.”
Unfamiliar people getting off a bus.
H, as he sits by his 90 year old grandmother’s hospital bed, speculates on the nature of time, such as seeming to go faster when you get to my age. A fascinating speculation. Might also explain Sibelius’ Silence?
FIAT ARS, PEREAT MUNDUS
“Håkan was himself a kind of artist, although he had not achieved any fame to speak of.”
I am pleased that H, the multi-faced, now shows my own face. A brilliant sketch of avant garde art in an art museum, and its arguable pretentiousness. The artist’s own finger or an axe in a violin case. And a video of someone sneezing lasting for three hours. I wonder if some of Andy Warhol’s art films were part and parcel of Sibelius’ 32 year silence? H, now a man after my own heart and the proof is here: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2013/02/20/the-avant-garde-and-me/
I wonder if “no one had never seen an artist” in this section of Krohn’s ‘novel of sorts’ is an avant garde moment or a translator’s typo?
THE ICE-CREAM SELLER
“Are they going to close the beach?”
A telling dialogue during a heat-wave between H, now as a besuited deputy ice-cream seller, and a mother and her daughter. He seems to panic them about the danger to life of the heat-wave – and at the end a white bubble sits on the sea like a woman’s breast.
Somehow, I am reminded of some of the lyrics of Philip Glass’s Einstein on the Beach?
“The woman did not resemble his mother in any way. But she had returned from the dead just for him, just to express her regret.”
I found this very moving, worrying, too, in present circumstances.
H meets this woman without a mouth (but still able to say the word “sorry” again and again), a woman at the bus stop on his way to a job interview for a job that needs many of those new-fangled pretentious talents impossible for people like H to muster.
“Fakelove remembered Edgar Allan Poe’s poem: They are neither man nor woman — they are neither brute nor human — they are ghouls.”
F, with encouragement from his daughter Lisa, attends this party in a slaughterhouse (pwhere animal blood had once flowed and now where all the guests are wearing gas masks. An astonishing scene, with music like “industrial thunder”. He meets H and H’s wife Irene, but he is told everyone at the party is H, all duplicated but none the real H, even the man with twenty one faces. I wonder if the real H is at home, having been silent there for 32 years, while the duplicates live a full life in his behalf?
“…the earth’s innermost furnace, where stone boiled…”
Cf “The End of the World: A User’s Guide” that I reviewed earlier this year: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2016/01/12/the-end-of-the-world-a-users-guide/
“The world did not have a language; it was based on numbers, sequences, codes, patterns.”
A perfect ending of this novel of sorts and sort codes. Håkan with its ‘a’ degree centred upon it. A world of coincidences and choices. His family calling to him. I can hear the calls from here. The ultimate silence of Sibelius within the circle between end and beginning and end again, forever, like a music of mathematics. A flower of words where the words’ vanishing-point is you.
End of Pereat Mundus
BTW, I learnt today there is a piece of music from 2014 entitled HÅKAN, as composed by TURNAGE for trumpet and orchestra.
This review now continues to its Part Five HERE
All parts of this review:
https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2016/03/26/pereat-mundus-a-novel-of-sorts/ (this one)