Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The written woman

This blogpost is about a lot of things, but mainly it's about the two books written by a former student, "som i himmelen, så og på jorden" and "men fri oss fra det vonde." Both titles are taken from the Norwegian version of The Lord's Prayer, which in Norwegian is named for the first two words: "Our Father - Fader vår." They are definitely not religious pamphlets though. I am not naming the author, since she has chosen to be anonymous.

In her books I hear her voice. It flows, wicked and funny, through them both, as she gives us mystery and thrillers from an intelligent woman's perspective. They are early books and flawed, showing the lack of a large publishing firm around them. Still, they are special, not just because this is a person I like, but because they have taken the traditional gender hierarchy in action novels and written the world as it both of ten is, and as it should be. In these books, Norwegian - nah, Scandinavian writers have been given crime novels where women are powerful not because they are sexy, but because they are intelligent, brave and willing to take risks.

The stories are complicated and ambitious. In one, the women set out to save the black rhino, taking on a large group of illegal hunters, poachers, and they use both feminine viles and feminine power to get there. These are not man-hating books though. Making all the heroes female and all the villains male would be too easy. The main actors are female, though. Matriarchs, even, in some cases, wise to the point of cruelty in the decisions they have to make.

Both books are concerned with what is happening to the planet, right now, the loss of species due to human greed and stupidity, and the threath of the climate change. There are conspiracies, spies and murders, silent actors pulling the threads from behind the scene, and more than one point of comic relief. However, there are weaknesses too. Abrupt, sudden leaps in the story, bewildering decisions, jokes that are a little too "in" for me, at least, to get them. I don't see this as a big problem though. It's early works, with a very small publisher. The books are still worth a read.

How come I read them?

I received these books last summer, as I was leaving Volda. It was, perhaps, the best gift anybody could have sent me off with; as the author and former student let me know, quite clearly, how important I had been to her as a teacher. Such things always take me by surprise. I work, work some more, and then I work, I never stop to think if I please, if I change something. I give of what knowledge I have and can gather. And then, sometimes, it is enough.

This student though, she wasn't hard to remember. She was on the front row, she asked questions, made comments, took notes. She was the terror of some of the other teachers, but I liked her sharp, often wicked, wit. Perhaps I saw myself in her?

In her recent mail, she told me I taught her to see and analyse in ways she had never done before. Little did she know that she taught me to be an honest, straightforwards and humble teacher.

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