Sunday, March 14, 2010

Benny & Shrimp

Benny and Shrimp live in Sweden, where they meet in a cemetery. Benny is a bachelor dairy farmer who eagerly covers his mother's fresh gravesite with garden plants and Shrimp is a young librarian whose husband's death leaves her immobile to do anything at all but sit on the cemetery bench next to his gravesite.

This is translated from Swedish, and I have to think that we're missing a fair amount of cultural references. Some of the descriptive phrasing is beautiful and unique, but some things just didn't fit right, or I was left guessing why a character would feel this way or that. This detachment from the characters kept me from fully engaging in the pain they feel throughout the story, and the everyday tragedy of the end of their relationship.

Maybe I need to reread this one at a later date.


Titianlibrarian said...

p. 23: "The biographies and the fantasy worlds asked me: Why are you alive, and what are you making of this life, so fragile, so unwieldy and short?
At night I dreamed a variety of answers. In one of the dreams I was a goddess, moving through a latticework of shadows and light, and my fingertips sprouted life in different forms: luxuriant, fleshy creepers and plump children's bodies."

Titianlibrarian said...

p. 107-108: "Of course, she tended to talk a lot. And I wasn't one to object--considering the silence I'd been living in. I found most of what she said interesting, or fun, or sweet, or something. But I did sometimes wonder if it was possible for her to experience anything without talking about it simultaneously. It seemed to be her way of absorbing what she saw, as if she had to grind it up small to be able to swallow it, like pensioners with bad teeth.
There are people who use cameras like that, you know. Once when I was little we went on vacation to Gothenburg for three days, with Mum's cousin Birgitta. And Birgitta spent all her time taking pictures: the botanical gardens, the harbor, the funfair at Liseberg, the tour boats, and the trams. Somehow she didn't enjoy anything unless she could take a picture of it. And then that winter, when she'd come to visit and we all sat talking about the trip and looking at her album, she turned out not to remember a single thing she hadn't got a shot of, not even that daft waiter in the hotel restaurant who could waggle his ears. It must be hell for Birgitta if one of her films doesn't come out--like losing a few months of her life. She didn't even take particularly good pictures."

Titianlibrarian said...

p. 185: "So then you might have expected we'd get started on all that adapting and deepening. But quite the opposite. We buried ourselves back in our lives and neither of us gave an inch of ground. [...] Because we'd reached a point where we couldn't just be together and have a nice time; we each had to be working in our barricades all the time. It actually ended where it all started: in the cemetery. We went there together one day and tended our graves, side by side.
Suddenly Benny said: 'Do you think you and I will ever end up under the same headstone?' He gave a thoughtful look.
I glanced at his stone and a shiver ran through me. 'But which stone? Surely that's the question,' I said.
'Because I don't think we ever will!' Benny went on.
It took a moment to sink in. He didn't believe in us any more.
Not now and not ever.
Something inside me started hurting like mad."