Tuesday, August 20, 2019


Jagannath / Karin Tidbeck; trans. from the Swedish by Karin Tidbeck
NY: Vintage, 2018, c2011.
161 p.

I read Tidbeck's speculative novel Amatka last year and have been trying to encourage people to read it ever since. It was so discombobulating, so good! So I was happy to find her story collection Jagannath to read this month.

Besides the beautiful cover, there is a lot that is magical about this collection. The stories range from quirky fables to creepy gothic fantasy to mysterious realism to science fictiony stories of machines and worlds ending. 

It's a wild mix. But they all have the unsettling feel that she does so well. In these thirteen stories she moves from horror to enchantment to dark fantasy and to quirky charm. In the story "Who Is Arvid Pekon?" she channels Kafka and his bureaucratic mixups in the best possible way -- in a call centre where the operators pretend to be the people that callers want to talk to, Arvid gets a strange customer... 

And in the title story, a futuristic world in which a human colony lives inside a giant insect, we learn that the host is dying. It's grossly physical and yet moving and imaginative. 

Then there are gentler stories like "Herr Cederberg" which reminds me of small French animated films -- I could almost see it -- the quiet quirkiness of his experience would work well as a short film.

And stories which depend on myth, legend, and the enchantments of folklore: "Britta's Holiday Village" is one; a writer retreats to her aunt's holiday camp while it's uninhabited, but discovers something unusual about her family.

Another was "Reindeer Mountain", a longer story, and probably my favourite in the book. Two sisters return with their mother to their family home in the mountains, where legends of the Vittra (a fairy like race) abound. The younger sister, a solid, realistic girl, nevertheless dreams of the Vittra, and would gladly go with them into their fairy halls. Her older sister, mentally unstable but tall, thin and beautiful, doesn't care. You can guess how this might end. Was it really fairies? Or is that just the story the family tells themselves afterward? This was so rich with family lore, with magic, with sibling dynamics, with women's lives. I loved this one. 

This book has only increased my appreciation of Karin Tidbeck. Some of the stories were written in English, and some in Swedish which were then translated into English by Tidbeck herself. So I feel this fits wonderfully into my women in translation reading, and I can only hope to find another work by her translated soon. 


  1. You and I are really on the same wavelength lately! I absolutely loved Amatka, too, so am interested to try out this collection as well.

    1. Yes, do try it! And I love your recommendations also, I always enjoy them :)

  2. These all sound so different from each other. I'd really like to read the one about the call center, and "Reindeer Mountain" it sounds like. I wonder if my library has this? I never heard of the author.

    1. I think these stories are dreamy and startling - I hope you can find them.


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