In grief we go to pieces – The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt

The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt

Siri Hustvedt is one of the most intelligent authors I know. Her books are always filled with clever theories and so much stuff we do not know much or nothing about. She is obviously well educated and knows a lot about art and what is behind it. The theory most discussed in this book is about how genders are not treated on an equal basis in the art scene. Men are still more acknowledged and way more famous than women. Harriet Burden, an artist and a feminist, tries an unconventional experiment to prove that fact. She takes three man and uses them as kind of masks. She lets them present her work as if it were their creations. And surprise. Harriet Burden’s work has always been neglected and not well received by the art scene, but now, with male persons standing behind them, her works get the fame and attention she always wanted them to have.

Her style of writing is still the same. Still intellectual, compelling, a characteristic of its own. Due to the special form, a collection of statements by various persons, interviews and diary’s entries, every character has his own style of writing that tells us a lot about the person itself.
The abstracts of Harriet Burdens notebooks differ so much from the personal statements by her lover, the poet Bruno, that you would not even need the captions, which inform the reader whose texts he is about to read. Every character is given an own, defining language whether it is the most highly intelligent but also kind of mad Harriet Burden, the master of beautiful words Bruno or the weird but impressive and touching Ethan Lord, son of Harriet Burden.

Siri Hustvedt is like Bruno, a master of words. She creates pictures in your mind. She is like an artist but with words instead of colors and papers. In her book she creates the most stunning pieces of art, describes them so detailed and subtle that I could swear they exist and I have seen them with my own eyes. But they do not. She is not only describing some pictures she is creating them with nothing but words. That is so incredible. I think that makes her more than author but something like a mix of an author and an artist. After this book I just wish that someone would try to build the pieces she is describing because they sound so impressive that I just want to see them. It is weird how you can be a fan of art that does not exist in real life but only between some sheets of paper and in your mind. ( I feel like I am going mad reading Siri’s books, thanks ;))

Though it focused on Harriet Burden, I grew closer to her companions like Bruno, Q. Eldrige or Maisie. It is like the saying, that something a person says about someone else, says more about the person itself.

What I liked the most was a simple thing. Everybody who has read her most famous book “What I loved” (which I think is her best) knows the artist Wechsler. And for all of those who read, Siri Hustvedt lets him appear in her new book. It is like an old friend stepping by, saying hello – thanks Siri, wonderful idea!!

It does not compel like What I loved, but none of her books come close to this masterpiece. Though it is absolutely not an easy read, especially for someone like me, who has had not the advantage of having English as one’s mother tongue, I enjoyed reading it. There is so much that can be said about this precious novel but I will cut right to the chase: I can recommend to every body who likes smart, compelling books about art and what’s behind. About gender equality not only in the art scene but also in our daily life. And of course to all fans of Hustvedt’s work.

Nonsense can also be real – What I loved

‘What I loved’ by Siri Hustvedt

Amazing book.
Siri Hustvedt’s style of writing is extremely compelling and it is clearly a book that makes good reading. I enjoyed every page, every word that was part of this book.
Hustvedt not only created utterly realistic and imperfect characters but also a whole fictional world of art. Frankly, I was surprised, well rather shocked and maybe a bit disappointed, that one of the main characters, the artist Bill Wechsler, and his gorgeous work do not exist. Her description of his different paintings and installations made me a big fan of his work – funny, given that, I have never seen it but only read about them.
This is just an example of what Siri Hustvedt is capable of.
The Story of “What I Loved” is not something you will expect. The twists are a complete surprise but utterly touching and good and … simply wonderful.
Siri does not only tell an amazing story and describes fictional art work but she also refers a lot to different psychological issues such as hysteria or eating disorders. She gives the reader food for thought all the time, but you do not get bored by it. Quite the opposite, you rather long for it.

This book is about the complexity of art and how art is always seen differently –  always depending on who is looking at.
It is an homage to friendship, a story about the importance of sharing a life as friends and how a person can mean the world to you.
It is about love and how it fades away. Sometimes slowly and hardly even recognis
able. And sometimes something happens and at that very second you are incapable of loving someone you loved before.
It is about madness, hysteria and all the mental craziness of our society.

It is about so much more. I cannot name everything.
In conclusion, the book has everything (and maybe even more) I search for in a book. Certainly one of the best books I have read lately.

Favourite quote:

“I don’t want the words to be naked the way they are in faxes or in the computer. I want them to be covered by an envelope that you have to rip open in order to get at. I want there to be a waiting time -a pause between the writing and the reading. I want us to be careful about what we say to each other. I want the miles between us to be real and long. This will be our law -that we write our dailiness and our suffering very, very carefully.”

He wrote music for the ears that could hear.

1937 in Leningrad with Stalin as the dictator. A man is sitting next to an elevator. He is waiting all night through. Waiting for Power to come and to take him to the Big House. But few, who were taken to the Big House, came back.

Julian Barnes chose a real Person for his new novel “The Noise of Time” Dmitri Dmitriyevich Shostakovich. One of the most famous and greatest soviet composers. Barnes reveals his difficult history in a wonderful way and with incredible, unbelievable talent.

The book is not a chronological report of Shostakovich’s life. Frequently, he interrupts the story with train of thoughts, reflections, flashbacks and memories. No, interrupt is the wrong word. “To enhance the story amazingly” suits better. All the thoughts and interjections are helping to understand Shostakovich’s personality, attitude and intention.

Barnes creates with an intensive, rich in images but nevertheless clear style of writing a formidable realistic and subtle picture of the composer. The author was gifted the talent to not only write feelings, but to let them live.

It feels like you could literally feel the fear, the self-doubts, the desolation and depression of Shostakovich. Barnes creates a small window, through which the reader can catch a glimpse of an artist’s life, oppressed by the Marxist-Leninist Soviet.

I think, the book helped me to understand his music, thanks to the acquired background. Even though Shostakovich “says”: What he hoped was that death would liberate his music: liberate it from his life […] his music would be . . . just music” (page 179). Frankly, before this book, I have simply admired his music, now I am beginning to understand.

Julian Barnes does not only tell the story of Shostakovich. Moreover he gives place to criticism. He levels criticism against other artists, but first and foremost there is critique of the system. A critique which is utterly reasonable and not in the least overblown. Quite the contrary. He opens the reader’s eyes and shows how it really was these days ago. How terrifying. Horrific. Cruel. And consequently the question arises: “How is the situation today? Am I, are we, the same cowardly audience, naïve and gullible, as the people are described in “The Noise of Time”?

Even though you are no aficionado of Shostakovich or his music, even though you could not care less about music, I can only recommend this book. It’s awesome, wonderful written, singularly and unforgettable. One of the best books I have read lately.