The list of novels written by musicians is not long, perhaps because writing one seems like quite hard work. Nick Cave, Louise Wener, Laughing Len on the credit side …and er Morrissey and even Bruce Dickinson on the definitely debit side. Jenny Hval, Norwegian avant-garde popist, has an entry in this short canon as strong as anyone. Paradise Rot was written in 2009 before her music career really got going and has recently been translated into English (Norwegian title Perlebryggeriet which translates literally as Pearl Brewery).
It clocks in at a slim 150 pages in large type and a couple of nights reading will see you through. The story is told by Norwegian student Jo who turns up at a British seaside university town (Aberystwyth? Southend?) to study biology. Struggling to get to grips with ‘Aybourne’ and her fellow students she finds lodgings and human contact in a barely-converted former brewery with flat-mate Carrel. Carrel and Jo become increasingly close in the claustrophobic flat, until the entry of neighbour Pym provokes a crisis. What Hval’s really concerned with is the physicality of desire. This is a book full of rot and decay – apples that decay into compost, walls that fill with mushrooms and grass as the damp sets in, and blood and urine that seep from our bodies. It’s an intense and claustrophobic read that picks up speed really well. Hval’s somewhat generalised grasp of the coastal University scene in the UK gives way to the intensity of the relationship between Jo and Carrel.
Length of Read:Short
Might appeal to people who enjoyed…
Not sure. Novellas.
One thing you’ve learned
There’s no town like Aybourne.