May 2012 – Monthly Wrap Up

Oh, May, May, May. Where did you go? I don’t know what’s happening with my reading lately – I feel like I read a lot, but I’m just not getting anywhere or at least it takes me forever to finish books. And slowly I’m loosing the momentum I had build in the first three months of the year. I really have to do something to get my momentum back if I am to reach my goal this year. Only thing is, I’m not sure why I’m not finishing more books each month.

I read 1613 pages this month which is still a lot less than in the good first three months in the beginning of the year where I read more than 2000 pages as well as e-books and Clarissa. I really don’t know why I’m not keeping up the more than 2000 pages a month routine. I feel that I’m reading as much as ever – but either I have gotten slower or else I’m just not reading as much as I think I do.
  1. China Miéville: The City & The City. A sort of detective novel but nothing like I’ve ever read before. Miéville has the most amazing setting for his story and he uses it so well, never letting it overpower the story but still, making it all so interesting and fascinating. 4 stars.
  2. Diana Gabaldon: Dragonfly in Amber (Outlander #2). Jamie and Claire, two amazing characters, as well as intrigues at the royal French Court, a Scottish rebellion, traitors and heroes (sometimes the same thing). A great historical fiction/romance/sci fi novel… 4 stars.
  3. Peter Høeg: De måske egnede (Title in English: Borderliners). An attack on the Danish school system. Three children try to figure out what’s going on at their school, why certain students are allowed to go there. A slowly paced novel which delivers punches that leaves you staggering with surprise and shock. A great novel by one of the best living Danish authors. 4 stars.
Audiobooks finished:
  1. Lisa Shearin: Magic Lost, Trouble Found (Raine Benares #1). Action from the first page. Easily accessible light fantasy about the seeker Raine Benares and her knack for getting herself into trouble. 4 stars.
  2. Lisa Shearin: Armed & Magical (Raine Benares #2). So this one continues right in the same style as the first one so if you enjoy one, you’ll probably enjoy this one too. Only thing is it does become a bit repetitive. 3 stars.
This was my first month listening to audio books and I really liked it. Still, for me, they don’t count quite as high as books I actually read for several reasons. It’s easier to space out and forget to listen and I feel like I’m missing out on parts of the novel when I don’t read how the author spells names, places, objects. It annoys me when listening, it annoys me when I’m writing about my thoughts afterwards.
Even though I haven’t read all that much this month, I did manage to finish The Chunkster Challenge. That’s right. I’ve read 6 books with a page count of more than 450 pages this year. Actually, I’ve read 10 books that fitted the chunkster status but only 6 of them counted towards the challenge.
I finished my Clarissa reading on time this month! Ahead of time, even. And what’s even better, I actually enjoyed reading it! So hopefully I can keep this positive feeling when I continue with Clarissa for the rest of the year.
I also did very well on the Mount TBR Reading Challenge – all three books I read, was bought before 2012 and now, I’ve read 16 out of 25 for that challenge.
I’ve mentioned before that I have a challenge going with my boyfriend and my best friend. We each choose books for ourselves and then we also choose one book for each of the other two. This year I chose that my boyfriend should read The Hunger Games trilogy and my friend should read Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections. Anyway, I am so far doing okay on this challenge – I’ve read 22 out of 52 books, I’ve read 9 out of the 25 specific books I’ve chosen and my to-read list is lower than it was when the year began. However, my boyfriend doesn’t believe that I will make it. He doesn’t think that I will finish this challenge so we have just made a bet – if I make it, he is to give me any book I choose and if I doesn’t finish, he gets to choose a book. So I need to get this done! Not only is there a book on the line – there’s something much more important: pride! So I think I will focus on this challenge in June too. If you want to follow my progress, check out my challenge page.
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Peter Høeg: De måske egnede (Title in English: Borderliners) (review)

When you have children, you find out that you have so much to learn. Not all of it makes sense at first. One of the things I’ve had to learn, was how to praise my child. That if your child has climbed high up on top of something and she says ‘look at me’, you’re not supposed to say ‘oh how good you are’ but rather, ‘oh look how high you’ve climbed!’ You do this to praise the action, not the child itself, so the child doesn’t think it has to do such things to have value. I think.

In part, this novel is about this. About how we value each others, how we evaluate children and students. It’s about three children, Peter, Katarina and August. Peter was orphaned at a very early age. Katarine has lived through her parents’ suicides. And August has been the offer of so much abuse that he finally snapped and killed his parents. They all attend Biehl’s Academy, an elite private school in Copenhagen, but something’s not quite right. All three have lost their parents and especially August are a troubled child. A troubled child that doesn’t belong in this particular school. So why is he there?

Peter and Katarina quickly discovers that there’s a plan with the school, there’s a plan with the students accepted to the school, with how the school is run. Trouble is, they don’t know what the plan is and they are not really allowed to talk with each other so they can figure it out. It’s pretty clear that it’s some kind of social experiment, some kind of attempt to prevent what you can call social darwinism. The school wants to take all the children, including the troubled ones, and bring them up and into the light, so to speak, by enforcing a very strict discipline. But if you choose a strict principle and stick to it no matter what, the result can be devastating even though your intention was noble in the first place. Especially in the school system if you forget that students are individuals and should be treated as such – and hitting children never do any good.

One of the things Peter and Katarina focuses on, is the question of time. How time changes depending on the situation you’re in. The importance of pauses. What lies between the lines. How there’s never been made a watch that’s precise, and what it does to you to have your entire life completely structured – and to be punished if you’re just a bit late.

This novel is slowly paced but then, all of a sudden, things happen. Crazy, painful, jarring things that makes you stop and go back and read it again to see if you really read what you think you read. And you did and your jaw drops – and then, the novel resumes it’s slow even pace and things proceed nicely and quietly. The chronology is also jumping from various points in the past to the present, making you have to stay focused all the time. I think that’s one of the reasons the slow pace works in this novel. In it’s pacing, I think it shows some of the points the narrator, Peter, makes about time. How suddenly events happen that change the way we live in time, the way we experience time. When these violent events happens in the book, you too are violently dragged into it and have to feel the immediacy of the action. Just for a few sentences. And then things slow down again and you can relax into the text once more. One of the things Peter wants to examine is if time moves faster when you’re not paying attention and I think the way Høeg wrote his book, is an example of this. When the jarring events occur, time stops for a little while – you are forced to focus and pay attention, and then, you read one and time starts flowing by again.

One thing I really love about this novel is the relationship between the grown Peter and his small daughter. How he has a hard time relating to her because of the abuse he has suffered throughout his life, the way the system failed him and he was too old before he had proper role models. But together, they find a common ground and she, perhaps, helps him most of all by just being a child, being pure feeling and reaction. She tries to bring order to her universe by listing all words she knows. She doesn’t get time at first – no children do – so she tries to understand it through other subjects that she does know. I think this relationship between father and daughter are beautifully rendered in it’s fragility.

The narrator in this book is named Peter Høeg, the same as the author. Every school and institution the narrator Peter Høeg talks about in his novel excluding Biehl’s Academy, are real and Peter Høeg has stated that the novel was the most autobiographical of his works (at that point). When it was published, it was taken as an attack on the Danish school system from a man who had experienced the worst of it himself. But later, Peter Høeg reveals that the adoptive parents in the novel are in fact his real parents, that the only autobiographical elements in the book are his first and last name, his year of birth and his parents. Which means that the novel is about him – but at the same time, that it’s not necessarily about him at all. Peter Høeg has never lived anywhere else than with his biological parents. Even though he claimed in interviews that where the institutions were real, the events taking place were also real. But with the case of the fictive Peter Høeg getting punished by having his head stuck down in a toilet, that did happen – just not to him – and so on.

The things that did happen, are instead the things that take place on the fictive school. Biehl’s Academy is called Bordings Friskole in the real world and here the author went to school for nine years – and how the teachers hit the students on a regular basis and that Peter was kicked out of school at age 16, is true – among other things.

This means, that this book is a blur between fiction and reality. There used to be a sort of agreement between readers and authors that either everything in a novel was true or else, it was false, fiction. This agreement is no longer in existence. Now authors take parts of their life or others’ lives, and use it as they see fit. In Denmark, we have seen several examples of this. And it seem to make some people angry – on the point of law suits and of people being persecuted in the medias, loosing their jobs etc. Peter Høeg does it in this novel – other examples are Knud Romer’s novel Den som blinker er bange for døden and Jørgen Leth Det uperfekte menneske (apparently, neither of these has been translated to English).

For me, I love this play on reality. I think that this challenges the novel and explores the possibilities of combining fiction and reality in ways that we have never seen before. It doesn’t diminish the worth of the novel in any way. Rather, it’s the authors’s attempt to express themselves and their creativity and vision in ways they see fit. And Peter Høeg does this so very well in De måske egnede (which by the way is a much more appropriate title than the English Borderliners since the Danish title plays on Darwin’s expression of ‘survival of the fittest’.

  • Title: De måske egnede (Title in English: Borderliners)
  • Author: Peter Høeg
  • Publisher: Gyldendals Bogklubber
  • Year: 1993
  • Pages: 277
  • Source: Own Collection
  • Stars: 4 stars out of 5