Review: Jagannath by Karin Tidbeck

Review: Jagannath by Karin Tidbeck

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Jagannath by Karin Tidbeck
Publisher: Cheeky Frawg Books. September 2012
Pages: 114
Genre: Short Stories, Speculative Fiction
Source: Library
First Line: Franz Hiller, a physician, fell in love with an airship.




Karin Tidbeck's got something crazy going on and I am just so glad that she exists. This book of 13 short stories is a quick, baffling, and exciting read. They were translated from Swedish to English and didn't manage to lose any of their Scandinavian weirdness. They're often dark, often whimsical, and always beautifully written and imagined. I still can't stop thinking about the unique plots and characters that inhabited Tidbeck's worlds, whether I fully understood them or not.

One of my favorites is "Brita's Holiday Village", which you can read here. Another is "Pyret" which is a fascinating story presented like a research essay. It's about a creature that shape shifts to hide among herd animals like cows and eventually, in the case of one village that's mentioned, people. It changes from historical to present-time when she visits the old mostly abandoned village to see if there are any pyrets still there. What she finds is disturbing, it almost feels like horror. The ending is so poignant, it took my breath away. All of her stories had that kind of effect on me.

A story that shows off just how bizarre these stories can get is "Aunts." It's one of, if I remember correctly, two stories that are set in a kind of antiquated, royal, Alice in Wonderland kind of world. There are a set of three women whose sole purpose in life is to eat. A lot. So much so that they can't move. They're brought food in this little dome in an orchard until they actually burst. Once that whole mess is cleaned up, typically a new tiny aunt is clinging to the old one's heart. The story explores what happens when there isn't a tiny aunt waiting inside. Going to be honest, I had no idea what was going on, but it was certainly interesting and disturbing.

This hardly scratches the surface of the stories. There are people who are in love with machines, human bodies run like air ships by tinier people inside (sort of), world changing telemarketing, alternate dimensions, creature creation, fights with god, and more. If you're willing to open your mind for some really fantastical, almost mythical stories, Karen Tidbeck is an incredible writer with amazingly original stories to tell. They're inspired by sci-fi, folklore, and Nordic tradition. I heard that she has a novel out in Swedish, and I'm devastated that it is not translated and in my hands right now. I was really impressed by this collection of stories and can't wait to read more of Tidbeck's.

Some Quotes:

"'I have to know,' said Augusta. 'What is the nature of the world?'
The djinneya smiled with both rows of teeth.
'Which one?'"

"When a creature chooses to die surrounded by keepsakes from a species to which it doesn't belong, leaving an imitation of language behind--has it acted out of instinct or intelligence?"

"The sight brought a painful sensation Cilla could neither name nor explain. It was like a longing, worse than anything she had ever experienced, but for what she had no idea. Something tremendous waited out there. Something wonderful was going to happen, and she was terrified that she would miss it."

Outlandishness Rating: 9/10 

I can't even begin to explain how weird these stories are. Just read them.


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