The Mantle of Invisibility

May 28, 2013 § 1 Comment

IMG_1086 When I was a child I often dreamed of being invisible. I fantasized with the thousand possibilities of this existential condition and finally decided that apart from spying on other people´s lives there was probably not much more to it. Yet, spying is an exciting activity for a curious child.

After moving to Norway I came across a short children´s story titled The Invisible Child by Tove Jansson. In Scandinavia, as maybe in other parts of the world as well, Tove Jansson doesn´t need any introduction, however coming from Venezuela I had never heard of her books or the Moomin characters. This is regrettable because the Moomin series is just the kind of books that are truly fantastic for children and adults alike. I´m not going to enter here into the details of Tove Jansson´s literary cosmos (which you can find in the net everywhere like here or here), neither will I discuss the enormous merchandise machinery surrounding all of the Moomin characters (even though I love the mugs and have some at home), as I indicated at the beginning of this post this a story about an invisible child.

This child is called Ninni and contrary to my childhood fantasies does not become invisible of her own accord to have fun spying on others. Ninni becomes invisible as a reaction to her aunt … My book version is in Norwegian, yet below you´ll find my English version of the explanation that one of the characters of the story (Tootiki) provides as to why and how Ninni becomes invisible:

       People can easily become invisible if you scare them often enough (…) Ninni was deeply frightened by an aunt that had taken care of her even though she did not love her. I met this aunt and she was spooky. She was not an angry woman, you can understand anger, she was just ice cold and ironic.

       What does ironic mean? – asked Moomintroll

       Well, if you stumble into a slimy mushroom and end up falling in the middle of a mound of recently cleaned mushrooms- said Tootiki – the natural thing would be that you mother becomes angry, right? No, she does not. Instead she (the aunt) says coldly and shatteringly: “I know that this is your understanding of dancing, but I would appreciate if you refrain from doing this …”

The aunt´s coldness and ironic comments had completely destroyed the self-confidence of the child to the point that she had become invisible to the world. Ninni does not want to be seen because she does not want to be the target of sarcasm. It´s all too painful. When Ninni arrives to the Moomin family she´s not only invisible, but in addition she doesn´t know how to laugh or how to get angry. Through the patience and understanding of a more compassionate environment and by re-learning how to get back in touch with her emotions, which had been crushed, Ninni slowly starts to release them and thus becomes  “visible” to the world again.

In a nutshell this is the story of the invisible child, yet you have to read it yourself to appreciate the full spectrum of the Moomin´s universe. These are deeply entertaining books, full of messages and hidden warnings for us to head and enjoy.

p.s. The image above is taken from the story “The Invisible Child” by Tove Jansson

Of Dictators

May 22, 2013 § 1 Comment

We all know of dictators: who they are and what they do.  We know how these tyrants impose their will on everybody  and how the people must obey their orders or otherwise … well, you know.We all fear them. Diktatoren in the Norwegian language means “The Dictator”. This is also the title of a children´s book by renowned Swedish writer, Ulf Stark (more about him here and here). Although the book was published in Norwegian in 2012 (originally published in Swedish in 2010), it has just come to my attention now  as I´m always in the lookout for interesting children´s books for my daughter. It is a really interesting book and not only for children.

 

It is a book about dictators, the small ones that can control a whole household with the threat of an imminent temper tantrum. It is also a book about adults and how we have surrendered our duties as parents in order to either please a three year old, to avoid yet another difficult meal or simply to collapse in front of a television (Ipad, computer, and so on) because we are plainly exhausted. Yet nobody is served by surrendering to the will of the dictators, least of all them, and this becomes painfully obvious in their encounters with the world outside their sphere of influence.

 

The book is still not translated into English, yet it has been translated into Russian, Turkish, Italian, Latvian, Finnish, Norwegian and Belarusian (in case you speak any of these languages). Here you can find an interview in English with the author. The book has beautiful illustrations and if you are like me and don´t care if I can´t read the language as long as the book feels like candy for my eyes, then I highly recommend it to give it a try. Below you find two pictures from the book I took with my phone, please meet The Dictator!

   

 

On Sandor Marai

May 13, 2013 § Leave a comment

I like very much the books of Hungarian writer Sandor Marai. I encountered him relatively late, I believe some 3 years ago, but after been highly recommended by a friend i decided to explore his books. First I bought  “Portraits of a Marriage“, which in my Spanish version is titled, interestingly enough, “The Fair Woman(La Mujer Justa). I loved the book, the way the story is told and above all, I was fascinated by Marai´s uncanny ability to recreate the most intimate corners of people´s minds.

After this successful reading I decided to buy a second book, the one that in Spanish is titled “The Last Encounter”(El Ultimo Encuentro) and which i believe has not been edited in English. Again I was not disappointed, another superbly told story of a very special friendship. And then,  spurred by my enthusiasm, I decided to buy yet another book. However, this time i decided, for a change, to buy a book in English since i was curious about how his stories were translated. I bought “Esther´s Inheritance” and i was perplexed. Certainly this could not be the same Sandor Marai i was so ravenous about. The characters were constructed  so flatly, the story seemed almost predictable (not that this is an adjective that can describe his other books at all), i did not finish the book. What had happened? I could say that this book perhaps was not his best?? or that the translation was not so successful?? or that maybe the Hungarian language translates better in Spanish than in English?? I can´t say, I would have to read the Spanish version and then compare. Maybe I´ll do that, but then again I did not like the book …

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