Written by Lars Saabye Christensen
Publisher: Cappelen Damm
Genre: Nonfiction, Norwegian
Original Language: Norwegian
Read from 2020-11-08 to 2020-11-14
Read in Norwegian
Review: I’m a huge fan of Lars Saabye Christensen’s “Byens Spor” books, and they largely inspired me to go on the Norwegian-reading binge I’ve been on lately. Min kinesiske farmor is Christensen’s journey back through the history of his own ancestors, and his ruminations on what the lives of his grandparents might have been like. This book got glowing reviews when it came out. I wish I liked it more, but for me, this ended up being a perfectly OK book.
A bit of the premise of the book, to the extent that it has one, is that Christensen, who tends to write his fiction based on scraps of reality, never wrote what he believes could have been his best story: a story based on the journey his grandmother took from Denmark to Hong Kong. This book is him taking a journey through the information he does have about his grandparents, part reconstructing and part imagining what their lives would have been like. The story is interjected with his own travels to Hong Kong, memories from growing up in Oslo, as well as the dying days of his own father.
For me the stories of growing up in Oslo, as well as Christensen saying goodbye to his father, were the highlights of this book. They packed an emotional punch that I just wasn’t able to get from the more speculative stories about his grandfather and grandmother. I’m glad to have read this book, and it never stopped being interesting, but I think this is a book that some people will appreciate more than others. Unfortunately I’m in the latter group.