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The Blue Room

by Hanne Ørstavik

Here we have a coming of age story, narrated by a daughter whose unhealthy relationship with her manipulative mother is mirrored by the claustrophobia of being trapped in her bedroom. The daughter’s internal monologue is full of ambiguity about freedom, guilt feelings and sexual repression, which have their outlet in violent erotic fantasies of subjection. This novella can be read in one sitting, but its emotional impact is long-lasting.

Extract

How do we recognize when something starts. I think of the beginnings of various things in my life: my studies, my desire to be a psychologist, this thing with Ivar, my connection with God. Only in retrospect does a starting point become clear, something I can pin down to a particular book read at a certain moment, the light on those trees on that day, glimpsing a brown dog at a particular spot, the sound of the church bells ringing. But the fact is, there are no true beginnings, everything connects. And this continual interconnectedness constitutes original sin. But what do we do with the guilt? Being ignorant of the moment things begin, we can repeatedly deny guilt, pointing even further back to a previous event at the starting point – it wasn’t me. I prefer to think the opposite. To think of myself as guilty of everything, thus giving me a responsibility and a duty to change. Everything should be as new.
Translated by Deborah Dawkin

Parallels

Beside the Sea by Veronique Olmi
Please Look After Mother by Kyung-sook Shin
 

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