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KorparnaThere s Father I thought In his eternal cloud Bouncing along in Grandfather s old Ferguson with his body belt drawn tight and his hair growing greyer and later he ll come home smelling on earth because he has no choice Because this spot is ours this plot of soil these acres of farmlandThomas Bannerhed s The Ravens was translated into English by Sarah Death a new translator for me but an experienced one and was longlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and shortlisted by the Shadow jury who tend to show better literary judgement than the official one The Swedish original also won the prestiguous August prize 11 ear old Klas our first person narrator is from a long line of farmers but unlike his father he thinks he does have a choice But the Ravens avoids the clich d story of country boy Daddy Wanted yearns for big city instead what Klas wants is to get closer to nature he hides in the trees observing the hatchling birdsStay here something told me There is nothing here to be afraid of No eyes boring atou trying to get in Just Forbidden Stranger you and what is here the forest murmuring its murmur As it always has Now and foreverAnd to avoid Adam s curse which haunts his father Take time off There s than enough to do here if that s whatou re worried about He nodded out of the window several times and underlined what he had just said In this place we re never finished just so Snowy River Man you re clear on that There s the scrap pile waiting to be sorted if nothing elseou all know that as well as I do Mum moistened her finger and dabbed a few crumbs from the oilcloth Never mind the scrap pile she said uietly In a hundred ears it s all be forgotten To Klas s father nature is a torment the weather which he records obsessively weeds crouch grass pests eg the Colorado beetle the tyranny of the farmer s timetable and most of all the ravens Listen was Father s next word listen to those devils It was his feeble hollow voice Mum frowned What is it Agne What are we meant to be hearing He was breathing heavily through his nose sueezing his ears tightly shut and rocking back and forth with his big hands pressed to his ears The ravens he said with an effort The ravens for God s sake He gave Mum a look of despair His chin was trembling Grandad dropped a lump of sugar into his coffee and stirred as slowly as he could so had something to do with his eyes If only they could leave me in peace Father wimpered I can t bear hearing them any The Ravens is as these uotes suggest a dark book Klas s father s obsessive nature which in the early pages seems merely a character trait rapidly develops into mental illness This too runs in the family line and Klas s greatest fear is that he too succumb indeed he sees his own bedwetting as an early sign reading in a paedetric health book that If the problem has not been overcome by the age of "11 12 Psychiatric Treatment Be SoughtKlas "12 psychiatric treatment should be soughtKlas pleasure in the birds and the most lyrical parts of the novel come from his descriptions of what he seesAnd the larks Fluttering like butterflies wanting only to go up and up It s all they know Now there were three of them hanging over the fields singing for their lives rising with uivering wingbeats as if each was fastened on a piece of string that someone was reeling in or as if their plan was to sing their way up through the sky They rose and rose and warbled and sang not even needing to pause for breath it was as if they couldn t restrain themselves now the spring breezes #would carry them as they indiscriminantly mimicked swallows sparrows and curlews incorporating it #carry them as they indiscriminantly mimicked swallows sparrows and curlews incorporating it into their endless lark s trill Then they suddenly sank gave in to their feather light weight and descending into a series of jerks one at a time then spread their winfs and floated to the ground like living parachutes to drop silently into their grassy grottoes only to start all over againAnother strand of the novel tells of Klas s nascent relationship with a girl who has moved to the area from Stockholm with her parents although the move itself contributes to the break up of her parents marriage Klas assumes that she will share his love of nature but from the reader s perspective it appears Klas may have badly misjudged the situationI don t get how anybody could live here she said Nothing happens not a pissing thing But that s soon going to change The thoughts rushed through my head You can come with me and put up nesting boxes if ou want or clean out the old ones and see if find the sparrowhawk s larderful of field mice We can lay out bait on the ice to attract the ravensOverall The Ravens was a worthwhile read although the different parts Klas s father s mental health issues the lyrical descriptions of nature and the first stirrings of teenage love didn t uite cohere for me and in the middle of the novel the writing gets a little repetitive But this was Bannerhed s debut and he will be a writer to watch in future The world of literature is littered with coming of age stories And to be perfectly honest they re not really something that floats my boat awkward kid coming to terms with independence discovering the attractions of the opposite or same sex feeling isolated from their parents in my mind they re a dime a dozen We ve even had the wonderful Peirene Press dedicate a whole Les brumes d'avalon : roman year to putting out a coming of age series and The Dead Lake from that series also made thisear s Independent Foreign Fiction Prize longlistOnto The Ravens a Swedish coming of age story about Klas a work shy boy who s hardly the gilt on the gingerbread Klas is intrigued and passionate. Småland in den 70er Jahren Vögel sind Klas‘ Leidenschaft er ist ein Vogelbeobachter Ihr Flug ist für ihn wie eine Verheißung von Freiheit tage und nächtelang hält er nach ihnen Aussch. About the birds on the family farm and the exotic locations they migrate to than becoming the next in line to work the soil He is twelve Malakai (Wicked Games, years of age and it s high time he started working with his father on the landFor my full review go to Swedish author Tomas Bannerhed s debut novel The Ravens is a description heavy book centering around the nature of the Swedish countryside and the plight of a poor mentally ill farmer in the 70s and his struggle to keep his farm afloat and family together The story is told from the perspective of his adolescent son Klas The premise grabbed me but the storyline is drowning beneath the excessive details of this plant that bird that tree etc Bannerhed s prose at times shines but there is just far too much of it The sheer amount of description and a feeling of the story going nowhere under the amount of words it is under makes for a pretty boring book From my blog poor farming family in Sweden tries to cope with the father s rapidly increasing mental illness especially his anxieties about losing their crops and animals Meanwhile hisoung teenage son Klas feels stifled by the expectation that he will take over the farm when he s old enough Klas is very intelligent and would like to do anything other than farming but he is wracked with guilt over his dislike for the family occupation He finds solace in reading about and experiencing the natural world especially in birdwatching But as his father sinks deeper into depression will Klas be able to adeuately cope with the familial pressures and guilt that he encountersThe father in The Ravens has severe mental illness primarily anxiety and depression but with obsessive compulsive behaviors as well He continuously worries about whether the crops will grow if they will be able to harvest everything appropriately if a biblical swarm of locusts will appear and bring the farm to ruin He is unable to relax even turning down the opportunity to go swimming with his family after the work is done He cannot sleep He fights with his wife and ignores his children because his anxieties do not let him focus on anything elseEverything bad that happens no matter how insignificant is seen as a major crisis one that he is just not prepared to deal with When my anxiety was at its worst I felt the same every other day there was a new crisis in my life from getting a cold to having to write a paper to having an argument with Tintin It is not only terrifying but also absolutely exhausting especially when The Carpenters Wife and Heart of Stone you are unable to sleep or relax because of the overriding anxiety that is fillingour brainOne of the most poignant images in this book is the father curling into a fetal position and whimpering completely overwhelmed after his ounger son accidentally hits him in the head with a potato while they were harvesting This happens after he returns from the psychiatric hospital when he is beginning to heal After I began "treatment I often felt the same thing If anything went wrong anything at all I would "I often felt the same thing If anything went wrong anything at all I would up in bed or in Tintin s lap feeling completely unable to deal with life Once Tintin told me to watch where I was walking and I got so upset about the suggestion that I wasn t #WATCHING WHERE I WAS WALKING THAT I WENT HOME #where I was walking that I went home cried The brick pavement where we were walking was falling apart Anxiety takes away our self confidence and leaves The Family Plan you feeling likeou are incapable of handling anything that might happenFather s obsessive compulsive actions are a non productive way to cope with his anxieties In what is surely a symbolic description as well as an example of a real behavior he spends much of his time arranging bits of rusty metal scrap He collects these pieces from the abandoned scrap piles on the farm cuts them into small pieces and arranges them in an order that only makes sense to himself These actions cut him off from his family especially because much of this activity takes place in the middle of the night and are physically self destructive his hands are cut and torn by the rusty pieces of metal but he doesn t seem to notice or careLike most people this family doesn t know how to cope with the father s mental illness The mother tries to coax him into doing things that would lessen his anxiety such as going swimming He refuses to listen anxiety makes A Family Practice you feel unable to do anything except worry When he gets to a bad enough state including having hallucinations of ravens they take him to get professional care Ifou are in a similar situation this is the best thing to do The stress of dealing with A Loved One Who Is loved one who is tormented by such terrible anxiety can lead the caregivers to also develop mental health problems A large part of Klas s anxieties are a result of dealing with his father s illnessLike me Klas is the black sheep of his family and he feels very guilty about it The family s assumption is that Klas will take over the farm for the next generation but he has no interest in doing so He is very intelligent and wants to do something else In fact farm work is somewhat repulsive to him So he avoids helping out and tries to focus on his studies and his interest in wildlife especially birds At the same time he believes that his family is right he should be helping on the farm he should want to take over from his father He feels flawed and helpless because he does not have any interest in doing so And even when he reluctantly helps out he feels inadeuate because he does not do He is also extremely socially isolated The friends that he has are mean to him and don t understand him at all They don t even. Au lauscht ihren Rufen Klas liebt die Vögel weil er so wenigstens für kurze Zeit der schweren Feldarbeit und seinem schwierigen zunehmend irrer werdenden Vater entfliehen kann Klas soll sp?.

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Try to understand him When Veronika a new girl comes into town he is excited because she may be interested in birdwatching with him While this is channeled into an infatuation the main thing that attracts him is that she presents an opportunity to not be alone It turns out that she doesn t have any interest in wildlife leaving Klas disappointedSo where does Klas channel his energies When I was in a similar situation in elementary school I buried myself in science fiction and fantasy novels as a coping mechanism Similarly Klas is obsessed with studying and observing birds It seems that he uses this interest to avoid situations that would cause anxiety rather than hanging out with the bullies from school he spends his time in the woods alone If his parents are arguing he can try to focus all of his attention on the book in front of him While this is a productive coping mechanism it serves to isolate him even Klas finds it difficult to deal with his father s mental illness The stigma in the community makes it harder than ever to be social with others and spending time with his family just causes him anxiety In addition Klas feels pressured to take over the workings of the farm at a very A Doctor in Her Stocking (From Here to Maternity young age That prospect has always loomed in the distant future but his father s illness makes it urgent Since this is completely opposite of his personality he feels a terrible amount of stress about the possibility There are indications that his father felt the same way which if true is a possible source of his mental illnessAs the father s condition worsens Klas begins to exhibit some self destructive tendencies as a coping mechanism Once he runs away from home to live in the woods in a tent It is unclear how long he stayed there as he purposely eats a poisonous mushroom to see what would happen and ends up violently ill Self harm like this is an indication that the pressures were causing him to develop greater anxiety issues and at the end of the book he probably needs therapy I liked this book but didn t love it Ultimately I wasn t that invested in the father as a character and given that the majority of the book asksou to be wrenchingly concerned about his fate this became sort of an issue So why didn t I care about him as a character Why do we care about the characters that we do Maybe if I d seen of him in the beginning as a not insane man it would have helped Instead the book immediate demanded that I be invested in him and the uestion of his insanity and that was not an investment I was willing to make right away especially with the kind of intensely lyrical melodramatic language that was going on As far as the aforementioned style goes I got into it as the book went on Once the narrator started hearing about steppenwolf by Hesse that became a big clue to me in regards of how to consider this book and what it was trying to do The scene where he and his little manic dream girl crush encounter a rare bird in the lake is one of #the beautiful passages I ve ever read and easily the pinnacle of the book I m #most beautiful passages I ve ever read and easily the pinnacle of the book I m I finished this and gave it a chance if it weren t part of the iFFP reading list idk if I would have persisted Sweden sure sounds like an interesting place Whilst on the face of it a bleak rural novel in fact there is far to this than dark brooding Scandanavian cliche The protaganist is a 12 ear old boy under weight of expectation from his increasingly mental ill father to take over the farm But this is set
Against The Rich Backdrop Of 
the rich backdrop of Sm land countryside in particular the birdlife and it is the well handled descriptions of this and the compelling writing and translation by Sarah Death which keep the pages rapidly turningIt revolves uite heavily around his father s illness and the knock on effects on the family s health but orbits at the distance of a child s understanding of this whilst staying absorbed in his ornithological interests mild superstitions and growing realtionship with a neighbouring girlThe success of the book is integrating these together whilst saying just enough VERDICT A fabulous evocation of mental illness and loneliness with nature and birding as possible refuges and ways of maintaining sanity Gut wrenching writing that will remain in ou for a long time Best literary fiction of the For Better and Worse yearmy full review is here Beautifully written Agne is a subsistence farmer struggling to provide for his family Klas is his son clever and doing well at school he doesn t want to follow his father into this life of toil and drudgery Perhaps this unspoken conflict is what is sending Agne into a spiral of depression the futility of scraping a living from the land like his father did before him and his father s father before him and so on back into history when he knows that despite his best efforts the cycle going to end with him Klas also suffers from this struggle and the stigma of his father s mental illness and he retreats into nature and to his beloved birds when it all gets too muchThis is an affecting story it s about depression but it s also about working the land and it is at its best when describing the landscape and the wildlife some of the best nature writing in a novel I ve read for a long time This was a marvelous book about growing up on a farm in southern Sweden in the 1970s with a father who finds it increasingly difficult to cope It mixes beauty and happiness with melancholy and sadness I enjoyed not only the descriptions of the landscape but was also able to learn the names of uite a few migratory birds that spend their summers in Sweden. ?ter einmal den Hof übernehmen Aber seine Träume sehen anders aus Er sucht die Einsamkeit der Wälder und begeistert sich für die Eleganz von Raben Spricht das für seinen eigenenen Irrsin.