-för en 'bättre värld'
Referring back to this list. Yesterday I gave you the title of my favourite novel, today it is the opposite – I present to you my least favourite novel, but bear in mind that I am still quite young and before high school I did not really read that much, but of course I have books to present to you…:
The Christmas Oratio (1983, Swedish: Juloratoriet), Göran Tunström
It is one of those domestic classics you just have to read – at least according to my Swedish teachers at the International Baccalaureate, but that you do not get, even after hours and hours of teachers’ rabbling. I do not say that it is a bad novel per se, it is probably very well structured and it has tonnes of symbolism, metaphors and hidden layers to explore, but I really do not like it.
It is a semi-realistic novel, bearing elements of realism in including real persons, for instance the Swedish explorer Sven Hedin and the author Selma Lagerlöf. It is also a homage to music, and especially Johann Sebastian Bach’s the Christmas Oratio (conveying the importance and significance of music in the characters’ lives), and the life-giving force it wields. Hence, a novel that means well, and I have to stress that it is not badly written – just that its downs were so low that they could not balance the very few useful elements (human nature, illness, psychology, music, childhood, growing up, death, etc.)
Why is it my ”least favourite”? Well, I understood most of it, so it is not that. However, I was never even near of being captivated by the story, nor did I sympathise with the characters that Tunström creates. All of them are mentally unstable, which in a Freudian way (or perhaps more open than that) to the death of the mother in the family in the very first chapter of the book – ”there are days that last forever”, the main character Sidner writes, and that line becomes a motto throughout the novel. After the death of their mother, and wife, the family splits apart not just literary but also figuratively – most of them fall mentally ill or die, while the rest gain an unhealthy obsession of music and Bach, misplaced in society due to the horrible events of the past and lack of parental advice.
If you by any chance happened to wonder what the Christmas Oratio music sounds like… well, here you go:
But there is something clearly wrong with this novel. The constantly recurring Bach referrals reminds the reader of his or her own ignorance when it comes to classical music, and the symbolism to the Christmas Oratio is somewhat vague (is it because Christmas=life happiness, and joy, and is it then irony by the author to include it?). It is in my eyes nothing but a pretentious attempt at revolutionising the literary form of, in Swedish, sagorealism (in English perhaps fairytale/semi-/made up realism) where suddenly famous Swedish people enter the novel in one way or another. Perhaps I am spoiled by great foreign writers (with which the UK seems especially blessed), or perhaps it just was not my cup of tea, but I did not like this novel at all. It was boring and dull, pretentious, over-flowing with symbols and metaphors, and was very, very strange.
However, I might have been too young to really understand its charm. Perhaps it is the perfect novel, but reading it in high school for the diploma did not really offer an inspiring environment and atmosphere. But, I doubt that I would have enjoyed it even today, or even in thirty years.
Flowering Nestle (Swedish: Nässlorna Blomma, by Harry Martinsson) – another Swedish classic (you probably understand the quality of Swedish literature…) that we read in high school, a semi-biographical novel of a widely respected author, but too boring and just not the right time to read it, first year of high school.
Hard Times (Charles Dickens) – I am so sorry, Dickens, but this was too heavy to read! Especially for a second-speaker as I am, with the heavy vocabulary and the insanely long sentences for which you are infamous among non-native speaking readers. Of course, also this was was read in high school, in English class – gosh, the hours spent researching words…
The Silmarillion (JRR Tolkien) – as I wrote yesterday, the Hobbit is among my very most beloved novels, and I tried to take on his other works at a very early stage (I was probably in fifth grade, in Sweden that is when you are eleven years young) and the trilogy was all fine – but Silmarillion was way too difficult, to many names, too much background information, and too an intricate story to follow. I never finished it, if I even got through the first chapters. Perhaps did the fact that it was not JRR that published it, but his son, contribute into making this one of my least favourite books.
Worth mentioning all the awful course literature given to us during the school years?