by Cora SandelCora Sandel was the penname of Sara Fabricius, a painter who lived most of her life outside her native Norway. As a young woman she went to live in Paris, but the fact is that she achieved only moderate success as a painter, and, at the age of 46 she turned to writing. Nowadays she is remembered primarily for her “Alberta Trilogy”, but I have chosen to review this lesser known book of short stories for two reasons. First, the stories were selected and translated by Barbara Wilson, and they represent the best translations into English of Cora Sandel’s work. Second, the stories themselves reveal that Cora Sandel was a major innovator in the realm of the short story.
Most of the stories in this collection are written in the present tense, which gives them a powerful immediacy. Writing in the present tense is not all that popular in the English language, but it works well in Norwegian; and the translator has demonstrated in an excellent fashion how striking Cora Sandel’s style can be. Another noteworthy characteristic of these stories is that, on the whole, Sandel does not work with plot. Like a painter who permits us to watch her as she applies oils to canvas, scenes unfold in no particular order. Even so, we are left with a remarkable sense of story. Sandel’s writing style is economical and at times elliptic, but always strikingly visual and physical.
When I first came across these stories I was impressed by Cora Sandel’s evident compassion for those persons who were at the margins of society: the oppressed, the dispossessed and the lonely. Some of the characters I encountered on first reading this book have continued to haunt me: the repulsive Severine, a vulgar old woman with no teeth and no obvious charms, but who somehow commands a string of lovers; the wretched Shit-Katrine, the scapegoat of a small town in Finnmark; the devious Lola, who poses in the nude for a group of young apprentice painters, and who cons them with a string of anecdotes about her origins; the wily Hval, a pawnbroker who appears to perform miracles with trinkets of gold; and the mysterious Mrs Arnold, who pulls off a most remarkable revenge on those who despised her.
If you have ever been angry at the hypocrisy and injustice that surrounds our daily lives, or if you have ever cared for those persons who live at the periphery of our society, then you will enjoy these timeless stories, written in a brilliant, tender and inimitable style by a woman who experienced loneliness, social misunderstanding and the unequal power relations between men and women.
|eBook format||Paperback, (torrent)|
|Publisher||Seal Press (CA)|
|File size||1 Mb|
|Book rating||4.1 (10 votes)