The Cold Song by Linn Ullmann (published by otherpress)
Swedish author Linn Ullmann’s The Cold Song will appeal to readers of psychologically complex mysteries as well as literary family novels. The book operates in a framework that seems to show itself in a couple of books a year as of late (Patrick Somerville’s This Bright River comes immediately to mind). Surrounded by the murder of a family’s young nanny, Milla, we are soon entrenched in a strained relationship between husband and wife, parents and children spanning generations, and the secrets people keep from each other. When the young woman’s remains are discovered, everyone’s conscience is tested by the guilt they feel by their proximity to the murder. Regrets of the past surface unexpectedly in each of the characters and human nature manifests in each family member in different ways. In attempts to keep their secrets from one another, suspicions and accusations bubble to the top and even the false ones uncover other buried deceptions. The journey to the brutal truth of the murder — and the strains of the family — is a heightened, but relatable one that proves Ullmann to be a perceptive observer of the human psyche and its willingness to believe the delusions that surround a semblance of a peaceful and normal life.
I’ll be honest, it was the connection to two of my favorite filmmakers that brought me to this book, but one shouldn’t look too deep into this book for the style and substance of Ullmann’s parents. There are elements there, to be sure, but Linn’s voice is all her own. In fact, see below to hear the author talk about the family member that influenced her writing the most… Her grandmother.
THE COLD SONG IS OUT TODAY!
In Wes Anderson’s latest film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, a writer relates the long and twisting life story of a hotel owner. It’s about youthful love and lifelong obsession, and while the story is original, there’s a credit at the end that reads: “Inspired by the Writings of Stefan Zweig.”
Last month, Anderson told Fresh Air's Terry Gross that until a few years ago, he had never heard of Zweig — and he's not alone. Many moviegoers share Anderson's past ignorance of the man who was once one of the world's most famous and most translated authors.
George Prochnik is out to change that. His forthcoming book is called The Impossible Exile: Stefan Zweig at the End of the World. Check out his conversation with NPR’s Robert Siegel here.
"In the space between the words ‘civilian’ and ‘soldier’ rested the sense of distance that prevented me from picturing him doing a road march or maritime training. I imagined his unit must spend so much time in the mountains that, after being discharged from active duty, the mere mention of mountains would make them turn their heads in disgust. To think that was where he was. Dahn the arachnophobe in the special forces having to survive for days on his own in the wild? Even after I had his address, I kept starting letters and abandoning them because I could not begin to imagine what he was going through. Then his letter arrived first."
"This may be as close as Wes Anderson gets to making a political film. And he has found a way to make a political statement in his signature style, a style which for years has appeared immune to political statements of any kind. Anderson’s style, after all, is appealing due to that very immunity, and the success of his films surely is related to a growing sense of political apathy, at least here in the United States. It all seems like a plea for awareness on the part of Anderson. Or if not a plea, an attempt to at least carry a message given to him by the writing of Stefan Zweig to a wider audience. The question now is not whether his loyal supporters will notice, but whether they will care. If they are to copy his set designs for their weddings, they may take his book suggestions as well."
With a h/t to Zweig biographer George Prochnik!
"Like passengers in a lifeboat, all the words in a concise text must pull their own weight."
—Want to make your writing shorter? Revise more. At The New York Times, Danny Heitman discusses the art of brevity. Pair with: Our own Edan Lepucki’s essay on the challenges and benefits of brevity. (via millionsmillions)