New Year’s day
I didn’t eat pizza on January 1st like other normal Swedes, but on the other hand I didn’t have a hangover either, like too many Swedes are supposed to have on this day. But I followed the Swedish tradition to watch “Ivanhoe” on TV this day, but this only after becoming annoyed reading in Swedish web magazines Sam Neill’s yearly send mocking greeting to the Swedes people. So far I am a nationalist. Swedes like to downplay themselves, but we get really upset when people abroad do it. Personally, I don’t think laughing at others is a characteristic of having humor, rather a symptom of insensitivity and lack of intelligence.
I ended last year rereading Patricia Highsmith’s novel “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” to then continue reading a novel by Michael Ondaatje. I haven’t finished the latter yet, but the reading of both novels has aroused my displeasure. Why, I will tell.
“Let there be light”, not!
So it’s Ondaatje’s novel “Warlight” translated to Swedish I’m reading at the moment. The novel is given the title “Lyktsken” in the translation – which in English would be “lantern light”, while “war light” refer partly to the factual dim-out during World War II, in Sweden as well as in UK. Now the Swedish word for “dim-light” is a synonym for twilight or dusk and this word in turn, is associated with romance, poems and poetic moods. I can understand that the Swedish publisher relinquished that title. More adequately would have been to give the novel the title “Mörkläggning”, which gives correct references, both to the wartime enlightened restrictions and to the secrets that the novel tells about and the main character Nathaniel tries to reveal.
I was happy at first as the reading was so easily floating in a skillfully writing style. But soon enough coming a bit into the reading I felt this was another novel at the same riverbed as “The English patient”. But the second part of the book was thrilling. Now, as reading the ending part I have some doubtful feelings in my reading. Yet, as whole it’s a very good novel, even if not my favourite one. But I would surely reread it again with pleasure. I might do.
Movies based on novels
I watched the movie “The English patient” before I read the novel the film is based on. I loved the movie so much I just “had to” read the book. And as it often is, it was a mistake and a disappointment. I know Ondaatje has won prizes and fame for the book. But I didn’t think it was good writing (with the reservation I read the novel translated to Swedish). But what was shocking was that the seducing romantic glow in the film is not to be found in the book.
The main couple, so very nice and handsome people in the film, are in the book a dramatic couple where the female character compulsively and repeatedly physically hurt her lover and his love on the other hand is more of a sexual obsession of a similar dramatic nature – maybe in line with what she is or what she lacked in her marriage.
Well, that’s as far as I can remember, it’s been a long time since I watched the movie and read the book. But I remember reading the book wondering about the author’s view of sexuality and what a couple’s normal behavior is liked to be. This love story is what in my culture is seen as an abusive and harmful relationship, far from tender romance.
It’s a lovely film no doubt worth its fame, but only if you not read the book after watching it: as it’s a mendacious production like an embellished and simplified Disney tale based of a brutal story by Brothers Grimm.
I have understood it’s quite common reactions not only for me: you watch a movie and then reading the novel it’s based on and gets disappointed and vice versa, you watch a movie based on a novel you read before and don’t like what’s been done with the book.
Though there are expectations that sometimes will be met, like with the movie “Revolutionary Road” and the novel with the same name. I have watched that movie 5 or 6 times and read the novel twice, plus after that I read some other novels by Richard Yates.
I have become quite a fan to this writer. Therefore I looked for reviews of his books and articles about him. It didn’t make me happy. Richard Yates was – and is – subjected to the same type of derogatory character descriptions by literary writers in the cultural pages of magazines as also Patricia Highsmith. As both writers nowadays are my favorite writers, it certainly annoys me immensely to read such articles. I want to know more and that’s why googles for literature articles and I find me clearing berries from grass straw and leaves and slimy snails.
Yes, I read about Highsmith’s interest for snails, but it doesn’t change my impression she is misunderstood and slandered by literature people just repeating what they read from others, never knew her or respects her time-bound life struggles, nor understand her gallows humor. Americans don’t get it, irony!
In the movie Tom Ripley is a shy young man who provides for himself with small jobs such as toilet attendant, doorman etc. giving service for the rich people and just sees this “nice privileged world” peeking behind a drapery. He meets a man who offers him money to travel to Europe to persuade his son Dickie to return to the US. They meet when Tom plays the piano for an opera singer at a soiree. For the event Tom had to borrow a jacket from a friend and by luck one with a jacket emblem from the same university there the elderly man’s son earlier was graduated, that’s how the elderly man mistakenly approach Tom Ripley and the whole deadly tragedy begins.
In “reality” ie. in the novel, Tom Ripley is already an established conman who one day terrified discover he is being pursued on the street by an elderly man, whom he fears in the worst case to be a police officer or for the better a homosexual who wants to pick him up, the latter easy to dismiss with a big smile and an “excuse me” to run off, he’s thinking. The elderly man makes a contact at a bar, tells he recognizing him from a party once. Tom doesn’t know the elderly man’s son but he has surely heard about him and his rich family. And he sees his chances to earn money and to leave his miserable life in New York and get a new start in Europe. As an impostor of course, but more successful.
The movie showes the rich youngsters Tom meet in Europe as lazy, spoiled and condescending people. Not in the book, there they are wealthy yes – and that’s what makes them the objects to be scammed, even killed. Actually they’re quite nice and working though not making money, Dickie as a painter and his friend Marge as a writer. Dickie is supported by a pay check of 500 dollars every month from his father. (As the story takes place in the 50s you can multiple that figure of 500 with ten to compare to today monetary value.)
Although he is accepted as a friend, it does not melt Tom’s envy and evil purposes. No, Mr. Ripley suffers from incurable inferiority complexes with sometimes uncontrolled hysterical reactions, as when his strange proposals for activities are rejected by Dickie – which arouse surprise but not suspicion from his friends. They believe other people are good and trusty, as they are.
Tom Ripley is a psychopath and misanthrope. He hates people, he hates the female character in the book because of her femininity – and he hates himself. The only moment he is happy is when he takes over the murdered friend’s identity, his luxurious clothes, accessories and money.
It is said about Patricia Highsmith she was a misanthrope and an unloveable person, but I don’t believe in that. But she was sharp-eyed and not as naive as the young rich characters in the book. Clearly she saw a world there scammers make a living on destroying others life – and get away with it.
Further the film contains sexual relations and complications that the book actually lacks totally. Marge and Dickie are not lovers in the book. Dickie is not an unfaithful womanizer and so on as in the film. And Tom Ripley is simply disgusted by the only thought of any such as sexual adventures and he fears it as much as he constantly fears to be caught by the police. But his only punishment is he has to continue live to be himself “Tom Ripley”. His overwhelming self-contempt will run his paths in his future criminal career, the coming novels about him.
Reading the character in origin made me think of Rakhmat Akilov, the terrorist who killed and damaged innocent people on a street in Stockholm 2017 using a stolen truck as weapon. I think the novel is about that, how three young people becomes the innocent victims of calculating cold-blooded killer and never get justice; the psychopath deceives the entire judicial system. That’s why the description of them in the movie makes me upset, to me it feels like slander of the characters.
The romanticized movie “The English patient” and “The gifted Mr. Ripley” are both movies directed by Anthony Minghella. No doubt it is good movies and I like the film version of “The English patient” better than the novel. But what Minghella did to Patricia Highsmiths’ novel is just a distortion of the novel. The movie is simply another story. It’s a fake. It’s no surprise both movies are distributed by Miramax Films (read Weinstein): Read Walt Disney Company, read Hollywood.
To the end, tie the threads together
To end, tie the threads together, on the afternoon of January 2nd I watched an interview with Lysette Anthony on You Tube.
“Lysette Anthony alleges she was raped on two occasions by the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.” (youtube.com/watch?v=KTIM7xa_V1M)
Lysette Anthony is the one who plays the young blond Lady Rowena in the movie Ivanhoe. She and the Jewish woman Rebecka are the contrapoint in a drama with male jesters calling themselves knights. Ivanhoe is a film including a strong theme of the discrimination and prejudices of Jews.
De Bracy: “Forgive me the intrusion, my lady. I am pleased to announce you are now the guests of my good friend Front De Boeuf”.
Rowena: “I would rather, sir, go with bandits. But indeed – that is what you are.”
I fell on an icy street on one nightly walk between Christmas and New Years and injured my ankle. It does not heal but gets worse and at my latest evening walks I had to have something to lean on, using a crutch.
That’s how it is. What you leaves behind from earlier years will follow you in the coming and insist on to walk with you.
It was far after midnight that night when I fell and no one out around – and I could not get up on my feet, really a desperate and helpless situation. Finally, I saw another lonely wanderer at a distance on the other side of the street and I shouted at him for help. The man hesitated at first but walk over and lifted me up on feet again.
My knight showed to be a young black man. A migrant from Africa, perhaps – I didn’t ask. But there are many of them living here, at other side of the street.
On Friday morning, January 3rd
The first I read on Friday was the news about US attack in Iran. Peace in mind already over this year. Then I read Greta Thunberg turned 17 years this day and she was on place again outside the house of the parliament in Stockholm. Asked she said “I’m not one to celebrate birthdays very much”.
Saturday, January 4th
I took my daily short evening stroll around the block, still with the crutch, cruising pass the icy spots on the pavement. I also used crutches at home all day and now finally the ankle is a little better and doesn’t hurt so much. But my thoughts rubs my awareness that I will not get any younger. And now night to Sunday in bed, the last pages of “Warlight” to be read.
The End (music please!)
Middle age themes and knight game festivals are popular summer events in many cities around in Sweden.
Jag åt inte pizza den första januari som andra normala svenskar, men å andra sidan var jag inte bakfull heller. Men jag följde den svenska traditionen och tittade jag på “Ivanhoe” på teven. Men detta först efter att i svenska webb-tidningar förargat läst Sam Neills årliga hånfulla hälsning till svenskarna. Så långt är jag nationalist. Svenskar gillar att nedvärdera sig själva, men blir jävligt upprörda när folk utomlands gör det. Personligen tycker jag inte att skratta åt andra är ett kännetecken för att ha humor, snarare ett symtom på okänslighet och bristande intelligens.
Jag avslutade året med att läsa om Patricia Highsmith’s novel “The talented Mr Ripley”, för att sedan fortsätta med en roman av Michael Ondaatje. Jag håller fortfarande att läsa den senare. Läsningen av båda romanerna väckte min irritation. …