Sunday, 30 December 2012

A Norwegian novel & a knighthood

I love the time between Christmas and New Year. It feels like the whole world is resting. A Norwegian friend told me about this novella: The Faster I Walk, the Smaller I Am by Kjersti A. Skomsvold. The writer  has had ME, my understanding is she has more or less recovered, but I do not know the details of her illness, how long she was ill for. It is unusual to recover fully from classic ME, but Norway is ahead of the game, so maybe she rested adequately from the start, giving herself a better chance of recovery. I'm told she was in a nursing home for a year.

It's a quirky wee book, makes you smile out loud, though it does get a bit repetitive, with the confusion of remembered events and imagined events, and past and present blurring. Sometimes, it can feel a bit like a collection of quirky observations and memories without much meat, but it is short, and eminently readable, certainly worth reading for the drollness, and the absurd observations made by the main character, Mathea Martensen, an old woman approaching death.

It received a first novel prize in Norway.

Writers need to be observers and being ill and housebound/bedridden is perfect for observing. I could sense that some of her observations had come from her being ill. You become  a still point while life goes on around you in a blur. Skomsvold has also written a fictionalised memoir (at least I think it is fictionalised) about her illness, Monstermenneske, which translates as Monster Human, she feels she is no longer human but disappearing into something else (so my Norwegian friend tells me, she is reading it just now). I look forward to reading the English translation when it is out. My friend knows the translator a little. This same friend brought over gravadlax last week,  it was divine.

I read a few lovely things about The State of Me on Twitter over Christmas, and I especially liked this blog review: 'One standout books from the first half of the year was 'The State Of Me' by Nasim Marie Jafry'. 

... If you fancy some tales of knights in shining armour, you may like to know that Professor Simon Wessely has just been knighted for 'services to Military Healthcare and to Psychological Medicine'.

The Honours list is of course good old boys patting other good old boys on the back, 'no more than postcard pomp' as Tanya Gold says in the Guardian.

Owen Jones also has wise words on the whole pantomime. Danny Boyle has sensibly refused his, as writers and artists tend to.

I'm not sure what those with Gulf War Syndrome make of this knighthood, though I can hazard a guess, and now that Simon is Sir Simon I'm sure we in the UK can look forward to further conflation of my illness - the neuroimmune illness ME - with the 'medically unexplained fatigue' that responds to Simon's favourite therapies of CBT and GET - therapies rejected by the Norwegian Health Directorate. And to hell with those with severe/ongoing ME whose lives continue to be blighted, to a greater or lesser extent.

We can only look forward to the results of international research - Norway, for example, where clinical trials of Rituximab are going on - and conferences like Invest in ME, which strive tirelessly to educate.

And we have the biobanks in Oslo and London, established this year.

I need something funny and this clip from Family Guy - 'that novel you've been working on' - always makes me smile.

And more lovely book suggestions, from Lesley in France, I always love learning of books I had not heard of, though I have so many on this year's still-to-be-read pile, God knows when I'll ever get round to any of them!


Mim said...

It's a pleasure to read you again.

Warm regards from Mim

nmj said...

Hey Mim, Thanks, and Happy New Year to you!