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Élisa Shua Dusapin

Författare till Winter in Sokcho

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Verk av Élisa Shua Dusapin

Winter in Sokcho (2016) 343 exemplar
The Pachinko Parlor (2018) — Författare — 138 exemplar
Vladivostok Circus (2023) 30 exemplar
Le vieil incendie (2023) 12 exemplar
Le colibri (2022) 2 exemplar


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A seaside tourist town in winter where a local receptionist and French cartoonist take an interest in each other.

Quiet and contemplative, it’s melancholic and filled with themes of loneliness and wanting to be seen.
Mostly wintry tones and vibes but it was easy to read and softly pleasant.
spiritedstardust | 13 andra recensioner | Jun 1, 2024 |
Rating: 4* of five

The Publisher Says: Tonight is the opening night. There are birds perched everywhere, on the power lines, the guy ropes, the strings of light that festoon the tent . . . when I think of all those little bodies suspended between earth and sky, it makes me smile to remind myself that for some of them, their first flight begins with a fall.

Nathalie arrives at the circus in Vladivostok, Russia, fresh out of fashion school in Geneva. She is there to design the costumes for a trio of artists who are due to perform one of the most dangerous acts of all: the Russian Bar.

As winter approaches, the season at Vladivostok is winding down, leaving the windy port city empty as the performers rush off to catch trains, boats and buses home; all except the Russian bar trio and their manager. They are scheduled to perform at a festival in Ulan Ude, just before Christmas.

What ensues is an intimate and beguiling account of four people learning to work with and trust one another. This is a book about the delicate balance that must be achieved when flirting with death in such spectacular fashion, set against the backdrop of a cloudy ocean and immersing the reader into Dusapin’s trademark dreamlike prose.


My Review
: In less time than it takes Houellebecq to clear his throat in The Possibility of an Island, a book which goes on a similar trip, Dusapin starts and finishes this story. Nathalie is a woman who leaves, finds, and abandons in a country that, unluckily for the author, is an international pariah at the time her novel appears in English. Even more unluckily, it features a Ukrainian acrobat performing in a Russian circus troupe. So, through no fault of her own, Dusapin has created an artifact of a bygone time in this story.

Swiss-educated Nathalie has a fashion degree, which she is using in Vladivostok, Siberia, to work with a troupe of acrobats as they pursue a very difficult performance piece. So, already the theme of leaving is prominent: She left tidy, bourgeois Switzerland for the extreme edge of the wildest place in a wild country, Siberia, at the edge of Russia. The country is itself at the edge of the Asian continent; something I think a lot of people forget is that Korea, Dusapin's previously centered culture, is very close to Siberia. Nathalie is now, temporarily, in a port city, working with a troupe of performers who tour with a circus, and who are practicing an extremely difficult maneuver called "the Russian Bar," a name that carries a whole different cultural freight of metaphor in 2024 than it did when she wrote the book in 2020.

This is, one would expect, the McGuffin, the thing that motivates the action but, in itself is fungible. I thought it sounded like a great McGuffin for a young woman abandoning the bourgeois life that a Swiss fashion design degree virtually condemns one to, by literally running away from home to join the bloody circus.

Only partially true.

We do indeed have the young woman (instead of Daniel, the narrator of The Possibility of an Island and my idea of "the Houellebecqian man") on a voyage of self-discovery among the acrobats. Their extremes of hard, dangerous work, their deeply set bonds of trust built from many, many painful falls and much incredibly focused work on balance and dexterity, aren't exactly subtle metaphors for the young woman who abandons an entire life in Switzerland to start afresh to encounter. The work that Nathalie does, the external and honestly almost extraneous work of dressing these finely honed athletic bodies pales beside their training. Her choreography likewise is just a way of getting them out of one position in time to enact another athletic feat, while telling a story.

So she is only a part of the externals, the appearances of the actual group...the men and women whose work and commitment to each other, to building their trust in each other, makes the act...verb and noun...possible in the first place. But this semi-outsider is the one needed to refine and design the public face, the pretty dress that they need to sell the act...verb and a group of judges.

Okay? You with me on the meaning, and the stakes?

But the McGuffin is decidedly not just the moitvator here. Author Dusapin, deft of phrase, makes this McGuffin into a deeply explored reality:
Backstage, a pungent animal smell hits me. Straw scattered on the ground. Streaks of dirt on the walls. Like a stable but with velvet lining—hoops instead of horses, waist-high wooden balls, metal poles, tangles of cables, drones in the shape of planes, straw hats hanging on hooks. Leon tugs a cord and the curtains part.
She places a chair on the bar, balances it on two legs. They hold it in place for as long as they can, barely moving a muscle. Sometimes Leon is there with me. He explains to me why exercises of this kind are so important: the flyer has to rely entirely on the bases for balance and not try to stabilise herself at all. Think of Anna as the chair, he says, that’s how passive she has to be. It’s one of the hardest things about the Russian bar discipline.

There's a lot more detail about the specifics of the Russian Bar, and while I applaud Author Dusapin for making the physicality of the act...verb and starkly plain to us, and drawing our attention to the extreme discipline it takes a woman to perform as expected under the constant pressure of a hypercritical, unseen audience, its details are rather more prominent in the story than my interest in them required. It gave me rather less pleasure, then, than Author Dusapin's previous novels did.

But let's be clear about this: I enjoyed this novel a good deal more than most. I enjoyed the lovely translation. I enjoyed the thought-provoking metaphor of acrobatic performance for a young woman's acquired presentation of self; I enjoyed the Asian setting's evocative potentials. This is a compact, intense dose of good storytelling.
… (mer)
richardderus | May 13, 2024 |
Something of a noir-ish read. Our narrator is French-Korean and something of an anomaly in Sokcho, a dreary fishing town in South Korea very near the border with North Korea. Though a graduate, she works as a bit of a dogsbody in a run-down hotel, occasionally helping her mother who cooks, and runs a fish stall. Despite often seeing her mother and her would-be-a-model boyfriend, she seems isolated, disliking herself and her body. Then a French guest comes along, a comic-book illustrator. They step warily round each other, neither liking to admit their interest.

We never get under the skin of any of these characters. But this distance, this cold, this feeling of the characters being trapped in their self-appointed roles, these vivid descriptions of an unwelcoming chilly town, overshadowed by its proximity to North Korea is what gives this book its power. A short, unsettling, provocative read.
… (mer)
Margaret09 | 13 andra recensioner | Apr 15, 2024 |
(Read in French) Moody book that does a great job depicting the desolation of resort towns in the off season. The feeling that nothing is happening where you are and everything is happening somewhere else. Weakened inhibitions that come with depression and fatigue. Thoughts intruding through cracks in the mind. The confusion you feel when you aren’t sure if you are attracted to someone or simply trying to fill a hole inside you. Does the narrator want a lover? A teacher? A father? The ambiguity is its own kind of burden, purgatory.

The English translation of this book won an award - I can imagine the challenge; every page had a word or turn of phrase that sent me searching my French dictionary.
… (mer)
hdeanfreemanjr | 13 andra recensioner | Apr 4, 2024 |



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