book — Denmark — 2003

I sometimes wonder - on what basis is it usually chosen what foreign books deserve to be translated and published in Latvian. Everything is perfectly clear with books which come from publishing houses known to present literature for the masses, they choose by looking at bestselling lists and considering whether the book in question is common and simple enough for the average reader to enjoy it. That is the way the books of Dan Brown, Sidney Sheldon and Danielle Steele (I`m pretty sure I`ve misspelled her name, but I don`t care about it anyhow) reach the Latvian reader. Of course, I understand that usually such books get published because there`s much demand for literature of this category, but that doesn`t necessarily mean that I should accept this fact without expressing any rude words about it. For I believe that the more trash you publish, the more you lower the common denominator, the more people will be interested in reading that sort of trash and there`s very little possibility to regain regular readers of cheap Russian detective stories for some more intellectually more valuable literature. Personally I don`t think that a person that reads worthless literature is any more intellectual that a person that doesn`t read anything.
Then there`s another kind of books that find their way to the Latvian readers - books by truly popular and masterful foreign writers that you just CAN`T restrain from publishing - that would include works of Haruki Murakami, Kurt Vonnegut etc. I don`t know how well they sell but that`s the kind of literature that you simply MUST publish in order to be considered a cultural nation.
And then there are lots of books by authors who aren`t especially known outside their home countries that for some reason get published in Latvia. Sometimes they are good, sometimes they are not. Most likely those are the favourite books of some Latvian translators or of people working in foreign embassies in Latvia (as embassies usually support translation and publishing of books). Anyhow for unexplained reasons you occasionally find a book like this novel by Kirsten Thorup which as far as I can understand doesn`t have translations in many languages and has been a hit only in its native Denmark.
The novel evolves around a 94 year old man by the name of Carl Sorensen who is placed in a retirement house and who only wants to do one thing before he dies - to visit the grave of his deceased wife Martha. But he isn`t allowed to do so, so he starts killing himself internally. There`s also his daughter Ellen who wants to help her estranged father but who hasn`t got enough will to do anything worthy. Basically it`s one of those sad northern books about the sadness of old age, about the vanity of life. It`s not a book that will entertain you, it`s not a book that will fill you with warm feelings of love and devotion, it`s not a book that will keep you thrilled to the very last page. Never mind how nice and kind Carl may have been in the days of his youth, as a reader I just kept wishing that he would die sooner and the book would be over, as it offered very little enjoyment to me (and even very little sounds a bit too much in this case). I don`t know whether I would have enjoyed it more if I were older but I know that there are books (and films and even music records) about old age that can make me cry and there are others that can`t. This is one of the latter.
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