Sunday, January 12, 2014

Honourable Mention: Let the Old Dreams Die

Author: John Ajvide Lindqvist

English Translation: Marlaine Delargy

First published (Sweden): 2005 as Paper Walls

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: From the acclaimed author of Let the Right One In comes a collection of mesmerising shorts stories.

A woman finds a dead body and decides to keep it for herself; a customs officer has a mysterious gift that enables her to see what others hide; and a man believes he knows how to deceive death.

These are the products of John Ajvide Lindqvist’s rich imagination. They are about love and death and what we do when the two collide and monsters emerge.

The Mention: This collection of shorts by John Ajvide Lindqvist is a remarkable volume, all the more so because some of them touch onto very Swedish themes and mythology and thus seem fresh to a UK reader. The book contains a coda to Let the Right One In hence being mentioned here but, before I look at that specific story, there are some genre interesting stories also. The story Border contains a species within it that is not named (though elves and trolls are mentioned in passing) but remained me very much of the Scandinavian myth of the Huldra, which we looked at the Norwegian film Thale. The story Village on the Hill has nothing to do with vampires but is set in the same buildings as Let the Right One In.

The coda to the earlier book is the actual story Let the Old Dreams Die (written in 2011 and added to the volume for this publication) and is interesting as it focuses on entirely different characters (one being the ticket collector from the train at the end of the main story) and the impact of Eli and Oskar on their lives. The story is narrated some 28 years later and is a love story but, from a fan of the original story’s point of view, it contains something we didn’t see between Oskar and Eli. In an afterword Lindqvist tells us that when the book was filmed as Let the Right One In he watched it and was surprised by the inference that Oskar was Håkan’s replacement. He understood how the filmmakers had picked up on this inference but it wasn’t his intent. Of course the US/UK remake, Let Me In, this recruitment of a replacement becomes a central element, and Lindqvist notes that this is natural and right for the film. However he wanted to make clear his thoughts on the relationship.

So this is a spoiler but not of the story in the book – as it is about other characters – but about Lindqvist’s thought process. Far from making Oskar the new Håkan we discover that Eli makes him like her – Oskar becomes a vampire. Perhaps that will be the thrust when the book is filmed again, for I am sure it will be.

The entire volume is excellent. It is nowhere near as harrowing as the novel Let the Right one In was but it is a well written and unusual collection of shorts (Lindqvist suggests that most readers weren’t keen on To hold you while the music plays, but I rather enjoyed it in its brevity). Well worth your time.


Unknown said...

Thanks so much for another excellent review! I've been meaning to read this one, and this makes me want to put it at the top of my list again. Looking forward to it!

Taliesin_ttlg said...

No problem Margaret, I am very confident you won't be disapointed by it :)