Jagannath by Karin Tidbeck
Posted February 25, 2013on:
published in 2012
where I got it: the library
This has been a tough review to write. I finished reading Karin Tidbeck’s Jagannath last week, and instead of jotting down notes for a review, or trying to come up with some witty blurbable phrase, all I’ve done is pick the book up again and again, reread a few of the short stories, and whisper “Wow”, over and over again.
I am floored, I am awed, my faith in anything, in everything, has been restored.
Make sure you read Jagannath.
Jagannath is a skinny unassuming little thing. It’s the wallflower of the new shelf at the library, no fancy cosmetics or political slants or controversial stories. It doesn’t scream “read me” with alluring or sexy cover art. And it doesn’t scream “read me” after you open it, either. Sometimes you don’t want a book to scream at you, because it’s better when the book caresses you instead, rewards you for finding it, for choosing the wallflower. With a quiet, confident voice, the stories in Jagannath whisper your name, drawing you in closer and nearer, because it has a secret to tell you, and only you.
Using simple language, Tidbeck takes you to other worlds, places that are beautiful and frightening and cold. These aren’t horror stories, but they are tilted at just enough of an angle that it’s easy to lose your footing. Reading them felt like a one way mirror – I was on the mirror side, but someone else, someone in the story, was watching me from the other side.
You don’t even need to read the rest of this rambling review, just go get the book. You will be far more satisfied with reading Jagannath than with reading my review of its contents.
On average, the stories are only about 10 pages, so Tidbeck gets to the meat right away – which means you know right away something strange and perfect and possibly very disturbing is going to happen the moment you turn the page. Many of them are told in first person, sometimes with a nameless narrator, and often the stories have a feeling of isolation, of taking place in a vacuum. Not a single story was a disappointment, I simply can not choose a favorite. Although I’ll be happy to read the entire thing again if you think it will help me choose.
About half the stories were previously unpublished in English, and if I’ve read the rules right, that means they are eligible to be nominated for Hugos.
Because I love to hear the sound of my own voice, here’s some words that don’t come close to describing the pure amazing contained in these pages:
Beatrice – Franz Hiller falls in deeply in love with an airship named Beatrice, and Anna Goldberg falls deeply in love with a steam engine named Hercules. For a while, the four of them are a happy and strange family. Anna’s young daughter is able to speak to humans and machines, and Franz learns a horrible truth about his relationship with Beatrice.
Rebecka – Sara’s best friend Rebecka is suicidal, but she never succeeds. Rebeka does awful things, trying to get God’s attention, hoping for answers, punishment, anything. Trying to kill herself doesn’t seem to be working, to Rebeka will have to resort to drastic measures.
Cloudberry Jam – so short, but so effective. A lonely woman gestates a child, of sorts. She raises the sort-of child, teaches i t to talk and read. But mother and child always want different things for and from each other. One wants love, the other wants freedom, one wants security, the other wants be loved no matter what. We can’t live vicariously through our children without hurting them. I may have read things into this story that weren’t actually there.
Augusta Prima – There are many reasons time doesn’t pass in Fairyland. No one gets old, the sun never sets, parties and games are always afoot, and besides, there are no watches or clocks, no concepts of days or minutes, or the stresses that so often go along side. Life is here is different; it is violent and impulsive and disturbingly passionate and terrifyingly addictive. A world without time becomes a world without memory. Augusta finds something she shouldn’t, something that doesn’t belong in her world. If only she could remember what it was, and learn how it works.
Aunts – In the orangery of Augusta Prima’s world, live the Aunts. Corpulent, torpid, and always growing, the unchanging Aunts are constantly fed by their heirs, the nieces. Silent and starving, the nieces bide their time until they receive their inheritance.
If you are a fan of the weird (and you’ll know you are because right now you are saying “wow, this sounds cool!” instead of “ummm, this sounds weird and I don’t think I like it”), Jagannath is for you. Go read it, and when Tidbeck wins all sorts of awards you’ll know who she is.