Tag Archive: English Fiction

Dear readers,
My published article on the young Somalian- British poet Warsan Shire is out in the latest printing of the magazine “Hjärnstorm” (A Swedish magazine that focuses on art and literature). You can read more about it here.


I have now written twice about Ms. Shire’s poetry, and have gotten very acquainted with her work. My latest article chronicles her career as a poet and her collaboration with the pop star Beyoncé for the 2016 visual album “Lemonade”. Ms. Shire’s poetry collection, “Teaching my mother how to give birth”, is brilliant. Check it out if you haven’t.

During my research for the article, I was fascinated by the poem “Dear moon”. I live next to a nature reservation, where they have a lot of live stock, including goats, ducks and cows. These things combined lead to me creating a retelling of the poem; one which is affectionate and more humorous. As follows:

“Dear Cow”

Dear Cow,
We blame you for tummy aches.
For the lactose that hurts.
We blame you for the pancakes
that make us fat.
We blame you for pollution.
We blame you for flies
that appear near you.
and yet we say we tamed you
You furry, unimaginable thing


That’s all for today. Take care/ Maaretta

Fall Time Reading Tag!

Dear readers, Missmagic girl tagged me, so here it comes: my fall reading revelations. Many love fall time for the metamorphoses in nature, cooler environment and for Halloween. I on the other hand am suffering from post-summer blues; no more warm days that require little clothing to keep warm, and days of swimming in open rivers. Alas, times are changing, but luckily books will always be here for comfort. On to the questions!

1. Are there any particular books you plan to read this fall?

Well, for University I hope to read Marja Ågren’s ”Är du finsk eller?…” (”Are you Finish or…?”) which is a sociological study of Swedish people of Finnish descent (i.e. Sweden Finns). I also hope that I´ll be able to read Kari Tarkiainen’s and Jarmo Lainio´s ”Finnarnas historia i sverige del 2&3” (”The History of the Finns in Sweden parts 2&3”), which details the complex history of Finnish culture and language that has existed inside of Swedish borders; these two books cover from about the 18th century up to modern times. These books are bond to be very informal and interesting!


2. September is associated with the beginning of a school term. What books did you most enjoy reading in school? And what were / are your favorite subjects?

My favorite subjects were history (which I always got the highest marks in), social studies and English. It was so fascinating to learn about the past and about today’s politics. English was also fun for reading and writing. When I was studying in high school I loved Psychology and Finnish. In the Finnish language class we learned all about Finland’s history, which the main Swedish classes left out, and also the history of our literature.

When it comes to books that were read aloud to us I was always fond of the “Vikinga” trilogy by Maj Bylock, which I have blogged about before. “Coraline” by Neil Gaiman was a favorite too, and “George´s marvelous medicine” and “The Witches” by Roald Dahl. I enjoyed “The Witches” so much I actually asked for the book as a Christmas gift and begged my mother to re-read the book to me, which she ended up hating because she fond it’s too dark and depressing. The enjoyment of a book truly is in the ears of the beholder.


3. Halloween takes place in October. Do you like scary/spooky books and movies, and if so, which ones?

I don’t read that many scary books, but I guess my two favorites would be “The Bloody Chamber and other stories” by Angela Carter and “Arkham Asylum: A serious house on serious earth” by Grant Morrison. “The Bloody Chamber” is a collection of fairy tale re- tellings with a mix of erotic horror. The two scariest stories in this collection are definitely “The werewolf”, which is a red riding hood retelling with a terrifying twist and “The bloody chamber”, which is about a woman who gets married to a blue beard type of man and about her race against the clock to escape him. Those stories are clever, feminist and spooky while leaving a big impact.


Grant Morrison’s comic “Arkham Asylum” is mostly spooky due to it´s fantastic art style; Arkham Asylum and the super-villains that live there look like a haunted house filled with terrifying monsters, that strengthens the comic´s paranoid atmosphere. The story on the other hand resembles more a psychological thriller, and features one of the best depictions of Two Face.


I would like to blog about my favorite scary movies later, but for a scary television show you should check out “Gotham”. It has a gloomy atmosphere with many scary criminal and serial killer bad guys, that are terrifying, especially in season two.

4. What books are suitable for cozy reads during the dark autumn evenings?

Definitely most of the Moomin novels by Tove Jansson, or either one from the Lewis Carroll´s “Alice”-duology, “Alice in Wonderland” or “Alice through the looking glass”. Both series are fairly humorous and written in a simple, clear tone that´s oddly comforting and relaxing. Reading these novels is like visiting old, beloved friends. ­


Original illustration from “Through the looking glass”

5. Once you have crawled up on the couch with a cozy book, which hot drink do you choose to go with it?

I don´t really like all that many hot drinks. Except for Hot chocolate, but those I exclusively by time to time in Coffee shops, sorry to say.

6. Do you have any plans this fall you look forward to?

I´m going for a short, four day trip to Finland and to a week long trip to New York, both in October. So lots to look forward to there. I also hope to get to work on re-awaking this blog after a long hiatus. And of course, voting overseas in the 2016 presidential election 🙂


Take care!/ Maaretta

This post is an outcome from getting inspiration from a post by Missmagic girl, who listed her favorite couples from literature. It was a fun blog post, so thought that I could write my own version for this blog. Unfortunately I couldn´t quite make a top ten list from literature alone (I very rarely enjoy the romantic plotlines in novels), so had to resort to films for help. But without further ado, let´s get started.

1. Peeta Mellark and Katniss Everdeen from “The Hunger Games”-trilogy by Suzanne Collins: This relationship works partly for two reasons. One is that it is slowly built up during the course of all three novels. The second is that while Peeta is profoundly kind and nice, the two younglings still are portrayed in a realistic fashion of occasional resentment and confusion, balancing these emotions with altruism and understanding. Both characters are also quite likeable, and the love story is also enjoyable for deconstructing our society’s ideas on masculinity. It´s just pleasant to have a relationship built on mutual trust and honesty, and Peeta´s overall kindness was just a refreshing form of romantic lead when I read it nearly four years ago. (I had gone through high school being frustrated at the so-called broody bad boys that was offered in young adult media back then, so the contrast for me personally was wonderful).

2. Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger from the “Harry Potter”-series by J. K. Rowling: Total honesty, during the whole course of my adolescence I was rooting for these two to get together. It was a big celebration when, in 2008, I finally finished “The Deathly Hollows” where they were shown getting together. Their bickering is fun, as well as their tender moments being very believable. Most fictional relationships are often quite filled with angst, or are sappy and are unrealistically tension free; Ron and Hermione, like Peeta and Katniss, however are able to both argue with each other, while simultaneously having enormous trust and faith towards each other. Finally, as a plotline, it was quite clever of Rowling to have Hermione to end up with Ron, a deuteragonist, since the cliché is often that the most prominent female character would end up with the stories hero. The relationship is subversive in structure and honest in depiction, and as a bonus quite cute.

3. Ronja and Birk from “Ronja the Robbers Daughter” by Astrid Lingren: While technically only remaining very close friends in the novel, the romantic subtext is quite heavy. The narration implies that due to both Birk and Ronja being roughly 12 year old, they naturally don´t quite understand romantic love yet, but as they get older they might end up getting a relationship upgrade. Yet even if the romance is just subtext, Ronja and Birk have a quite dramatic and powerful relationship. First they resent each other due to their parent’s disagreements, then they become such close friends that they find the courage to stand up for each other even if it results in their parents disowning them. While being forced to live alone together in the dangerous wild, it is proved that the duo make quite the team. Ronja´s and Birk´s friendship, and possible future romance, is embodied in fierce loyalty, and regardless of how the reader sees the implications of the relationship, is hugely touching.

4. Petite/Åsa and Torfinn from the “Vikinga”-trilogy by Maj Bylock: In these historical children´s books, we follow a young French girl who is abducted by Vikings and made a slave in Viking era Sweden. She escapes, is adopted by a kind couple, and grows up to become willingly engaged to a young man who himself wants to become a Viking. As a child I found myself surprisingly invested in this romance, since it raised questions of how one views themselves if they marry a person of questionable ambition, and how much one should change for their significant other. There will be no spoilers in case anyone wants to read these books (it is recommended), but let´s just say that the conclusion that the couple comes to at the end is quite heartwarming, making a sacrifice on both ends. Compromise is something that relationships truly need, but few fictional couples portray that, which I guess is why this couple actually did capture my interest as a kid.


Cover of the second book in series

5. Jelkele and Ulangalu from the fairy tale “Ulangalu”: This is a Monglian-Chinese story about a resourceful young mortal man, named Jelkele, who falls in love with a Snake spirit princess, Ulangalu. She´s essentially a snake that quite often takes human form. While the two hit it off instantly, Ulangalu´s father, the snake King, disapproves and decides to keep Ulangalu imprisoned in his home (which is essentially just a fancy cave). Jelkele decides to aid Ulangalu in her escape, and together they kill her abusive parent. While this couple´s story is noticeably more brutal then most couples´, the theme of loyalty is still quite strong in this tale. And while most (western) fairy tales would end up with the guy single handedly saving the princess, this tale ends with them charging the villain-father together. Like Ronja and Birk, they make a great team, and work off each other to make the best of the situation. Ulangalu, when not given the right to choose, gives herself agency. Just an overall nice, if a tag violent, story.


Image from a similar chinese folklore, “Madame Whitesnake”

6. Kien and Phuong from “The Sorrow of War” by Bao Ninh: Just as a heads up, this novel is really intense but really, really heartbreaking. Kien is a former soldier for the North Vietnamese side from the American/Vietnam War who suffers from severe Post-traumatic stress syndrome, while Phuong is his former high school sweetheart. The novel goes back and forth in the narrative, showing the horrific times of the war and the propaganda for the war both before and in its aftermath. The romance is shown in a similar fashion. Kien is idealistic and shy, Phuong is energetic and daring. Later on, Kien is disillusioned with life in the aftermath of the war, while Phuong attempts to help Kien and resolve his emotional and intellectual dilemmas. While Kien´s problems prevent the couple from remaining together, their interactions are quite romantic. Phuong is quite straight forward in her opinions, but Kien doesn´t mind; in fact he always considers what she says. Phuong empathizes with Kien, and is much more sexual than him. But most of all as a reader you really feel that they love each other, but after how things have gone about in the world it is sadly not possible for them to work it out. While many War novels depict these kinds of scenarios, it is few that are this devastating to read about.

7. Toni and Maria from “West Side Story” (1961): A New York, musical version of Romeo and Juliet does not only have great songs, but a surprisingly good chemistry between Natalie Wood (who plays Maria) and Richard Beymer (who plays Toni). Beside the chemistry, the couple, despite suffering from Insta-love, is well written ground for interplay of an amorous pair. They are playful, overly sappy in dialogue, impatient and forgiving. My favorite scene with them is when they imagine getting permission from their parents to get married and make up silly dialogue towards mannequins that represent the parents. It´s silly, but sweet. It is a perfect instant of showing and not telling; the filmmakers show the couple as getting along and enjoying each other’s company, instead of constant flowery speeches of eternal love.

8. Jack Skellington and Sally from “Nightmare before Christmas”: Once more, what makes this couple great are the characters and how they interact. Sally is wise and brave, Jack is passionate, ambitious and energetic. They complement each other nicely. While for the most of the movie Sally believes her feelings for Jack are unrequited, the ending of the film features by far one of the most romantic getting-together scenes ever made, period.

9. Balto and Jenna from “Balto”: One of the reasons this couple is so intriguing is that unlike a lot of children´s films, the protagonist Balto´s love interest Jenna is interested in him and knows he´s a decent guy from almost the beginning of the film. The reason for them getting together later is because of a tuberculoses outbreak, which is endangering the town’s child population including Jenna´s owner. This works in the films advance, since the film is more about Balto, who´s half dog and half wolf, coming to terms with his own identity by using both of his dog and wolf traits to bring the needed medicine into the town (through his sled pulling skills). Balto and Jenna, like a lot of couples on this list, come to each other’s aid when needed and Jenna believes in Balto when none of the other dogs do. The film keeps their story simple, which works perfectly. It´s just a story of two generous, kind dogs who find each other, nothing more grandiose needed.

10. Homer and Marge Simpsons from “The Simpsons” (pre-season 18): Truth be told my original pick was another relationship based on subtext, so I decided to go for a couple that´s explicitly in love but is a relationship which is both complex and enduring. Homer, despite his stupidity, does truly love his wife and kids, and Marge loves Homer irrespective of his many and overt vices. In several episodes Homer works strenuously for his love of the family. And even when Homers flaws overwhelm the family, prompting Marge to get angry and temporarily leave him, he respectfully lets her and considers why she is angry with him. Marge always defends Homer to her sisters, and is shown to be a good listener towards Homer. While Homer drinks too much and does mistakes, they as a couple find ways to make things work. Even if they are perhaps a bit of the typical screw ball family, the Simpsons are a family that sticks with each other, and despite their problems love each other dearly. This bonding and devotion, in its self, makes them deserving of being one of the most iconic couples, as well as family.

Honorable mentions:
R2D2 and C3PO from the “Star Wars” franchise: …What? Don´t look at me like that, they are totally meant to be a couple! On top of that, their bickering is legendary and their bond is unquestionable. One of the best written lines in “A New Hope” is when C3PO says, before R2D2 has to go off on the mission to blow up the Death Star with Luke is: “Promise me you´ll come back, won´t you R2? Because if you don´t my life will be boring. You don’t want my life to be boring, do you?”. That line right there is a better declaration of love than Han´s “I know” and everything that was written between Anakin and Padme, let´s be honest.

Leslie Knope and Ben Wyatt from “Parks and Recreation”: Not much to say here but that Ben is a very sweet person, Leslie is also very kind, together they are just adorable.


Gabriel and Batsheeba from “Far from the Madding Crowd” (2015 film adaption): A slow burn romance, but, therefore, all the better. Both Gabriel and Batsheeba are power focuses of activity, while leaving Batsheeba to her stubbornness, and Gabriel his honest kindness. Just watching them grow closer and remaining friends until the end where they decide to become a couple is a moving journey. Plus, Gabriel is not brooding at all, a huge plus in my opinion.

So those are my picks in this category. I´m going to do another second list along these lines, but with focus on Interspecies couples. So if anyone has some suggestions, feel free to comment, or just comment if you have any other favorite literary or otherwise fictional couples!

As a full time student and constant seeker of summer jobs, I have been neglecting my blog for quite awhile. I will try to change this right now, starting with a short post following a tag which many a book vlogger and blogger are sharing at the moment. It was created by Thebookarcher; you can visit her YouTube page here. Despite blogging about a lot of movies, cartoons and occasional political comment, (and despite that I wasn´t tagged by anyone to do this) but having written many a book review, I was quite eager to consider and reflect on these questions. Hopefully those that started the tag will not find it remiss that I write these questions in this post.
The tag consists of nine questions which I will list one at a time and proceed to answer. Unfortunately I will have to mention a lot of Swedish authors at times, since, due to living in Stockholm, I am exposed to lots of Swedish literature. It is also crucial to remember that these are just my opinions, and everyone is free to enjoy which ever books they enjoy.
1. A popular book or series that you didn´t like:

There´s actually many best sellers I just didn´t like at all, so I will mention just a few that I really, really didn´t like at all: “The brief wondrous life of Oscar Wao” by Junot Diaz was boring, way too long and its main character – Oscar – was much too self-involved and reckless to be likeable. The narrator, and narrative voice, is a single tone of an obnoxious womanizer, and worst of all the political oppression that is present in the book (specifically, the atrocities committed by former Dominican Republic dictator Trujillo) takes a back seat so that men can either brag or complain about their sex lives. “Fight club” by Chuck Palahniuk was well-written, but the plot was ridiculous and the plot twist made no sense. “Allt” by Martina Lowden is an 800-page book where the author whines about bus stops, postmodernism and tends to lists of all the books she reads akin to a casual grocery shop list – really not my thing.

Other books far from my favor: “Svinalängorna” by Susanna Alakoski (a black-and-white portrayal of Sweden Finns, where this group is heavily demonized), “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe (found it impossible to care about the protagonist), “The Great Gatsby”, “Kalla det vad fan ni vill” by Marjane Bakhtiari, “My friend Percy´s magical shoes” by Ulf Stark, “It´s just a little AIDS” by Sara Graner (I didn´t find it funny), “Willful Disregard” by Lena Anderson (a novel about a older man, younger woman cis, straight, white-Swedish, economically stable couple in which the man emotionally abuses the woman. The book, in its unreflective stance to the abuse, misguidingly thinks it´s saying something profound about love. The novel also lacks any character growth) and “The Sorrows of Young Werther” by Goethe (lots of people find this book romantic; I found it creepy).

2. A popular book or series that everyone else seems to hate but you love:

Without a doubt, the novels of Nobel Prize winning Elfriede Jelinek for this one (maybe not popular, but most certainly infamous). She´s often accused of Misandry and writing grotesque pornography, but to be frank those accusations are entirely, and undoubtedly, unfair. Jelinek´s books tend towards the misanthropic if anything, but the misanthropy is not in vain. Jelinek´s prose is elegant, her sentences literary punches and the themes of her books are as relevant as they are universal: totalitarianism, fascism, and violence towards women to name a few. For a more in-depth view into my opinion on her work, go here.

3. A love-triangle where the main character ended up with the person you did NOT want them to end up with OR an OTP that you don´t like:

I will give one example from both of those questions. The love-triangle where the girl ended up with the wrong guy in my opinion is from Guus Kuijer´s children´s book series “Polleke”, about a young Dutch girl and her life. The books tackle and discuss subjects such as arrange marriages, racism, drug addiction, child abduction and First native rights. (Spoiler): the protagonist Polleke ends up with her classmate Mimoun who´s she´s dated since the first book. However Mimoun is not a very supportive or particularly nice boyfriend; he yells at Polleke for kissing him (she´s not allowed to because she´s a girl) and cheats on her with her best friend. To be fair he was a likeable boy in the series first book, but becomes quite unintentionally cruel as the series progress. Polleke flirts with a farm boy who lives near her farming grandparents, but I didn´t really care for him either. Honestly the love triangle should have perhaps ended with Polleke becoming single since both of her love interests were kind of useless characters. An OTP I didn´t like was Harry and Ginny from the “Harry Potter”-books, which was a very rushed romance with clumsy build up and had a lack of chemistry.

The covers for th

The covers for the “Polleke”-series

4. A Popular Genre you hardly reach for:

Fantasy, Detective novels, and Romance. Just don´t read much genre literature at all, really.

Dragons are awesome, however

Dragons are awesome, however

5. A popular or beloved character that you don´t like:

Fred and George from the “Harry Potter”-series. Out of all the colorful, imaginative characters I found these two to be extremely one-note, lazy (they don´t even try to get good grades!), bullish and slimy. They also are basically copies of one another; no distinctive trait that marks them from each other. Another beloved character I don´t care for is Puck from Shakespeare’s “A midsummer night’s dream” – all the messes could be avoided if it weren´t for him!

6. A popular writer that you just can´t get into:

Again, I have quite a few. I can´t really get into the Nobel Prize winning Japanese writer Yasunara Kawabata – he´s a fantastic writer no doubt, but his works don´t really ever seem to coalesce into a plot, making the narrative line meander about for no reason. The characters rarely do anything of importance and once more the reader can find no line of thinking for this emptiness. For some these absences don’t matter, but I am continually frustrated by the question of what do these lacks mean. Another writer I just couldn’t ever get into was Yoshimoto Banana. I read two of her books, “Kitchen” and “Hardboiled & Hard luck” which were dull. Her plots are all over the place. The books also contained a lot of Heteronormativity. For instance in “Kitchen” the romantic leads continually misgenders the hero´s transgender mum. As a final note, her writing might improve if she would use the “Show, don´t tell”-technique more in her books.


Per Nilsson, a Swedish young adult writer, also makes the list of writers I can´t quite stand; he romanticizes things such as stalking in his books, does a hand-wave towards anti-immigration and racism and honestly in my opinion doesn´t write women very well. With Nobel Prize winning writer Mo Yan, I also have issues with for his normalization of violence towards women and demonization of disabled people. In “Big breast and wide hips” the protagonist´s mother is repeatedly raped with it never really affecting her or the plot of the novel at all (in fact rape seems to be used just to victimize the mother). The writer Yiyun Li actually points out many of my issues with Mo Yan; go see a review where she points the problems out here. So yes, unfortunately Mr. Mo´s and Mr. Nilsson´s books are really not for me at all, to be honest I think there both pretty terrible writers.

I have this on my bookself, but I doubt it will ever be read...

I have this on my bookself, but I doubt it will ever be read…

7. A popular common trope that you´re tired of seeing:

My biggest complaint with books I dislike is often romanticized abuse. It´s exhausting to read books that have men who abuse women and children (and sometimes the protagonists male friends get into the abusive act as well) with the writers of these tales horrifically using the trope to either showcase their male protagonist as “real” tough men, or to position male possessiveness and entitlement as something to admire. Needless to say, I have no patience with such writing.

8. A popular series that you have no interest in reading:

Quite a few actually. The “Divergent” series isn´t appealing to me, mostly because of it seems oddly anti-intellectual. I never had any interest reading the “Twilight Saga” (“Twilight” is one of the few books I never finished). Same goes for the “Fifty Shades”-trilogy. I also have avoided Stieg Larssons “Millennium”-trilogy like the plague since the things it was praised for you can find a ton of in Japanese and Finnish fiction (that were published before Larsson´s books), as well as some blatant male fantasy stuff. I am also avoiding the “My struggle” book series because those books are way too long (I am a university student, and there is homework!) as well as the writer Karl Ove Knausgård coming off as fairly arrogant and obnoxious (this usually wouldn’t matter, but the books are about himself, and his “Fight”…. so). While not a series per se, I am also not interested in Harukumi Murasaki. None of the praise has gotten me curious, unfortunately.

Hoever, the english tranlations do have much more creative titles than the original titles

However, the english tranlations do have much more creative titles than the original titles

9. The saying goes that “The book is always better than the movie”. But which movie adaption did you prefer to the book?

“Carrie” directed by Brian De Palma. While the novel is very good, the movie was able to build up the suspense better.


Short stories, as a literary form, are sadly overlooked and not commonly held as having the same status as novels. It is ordinarily held that for a story to have great character development and a satisfying plot, the story must be told in a proper novel form. This is a grand misconception, for many great stories are in fact short stories.


With this in mind, I will begin a new series on this blog where I review short stories worth reading and contemplating as a satisfying literary form.

Recently Granta, a literary magazine and publishing organization from the United Kingdom, distributed a book that has a large collection of short stories from Britain’s “Best Young Authors”. This is a tradition that Granta started in 1993; a collection of short stories is published (as I have understood) every ten years. Granta’s mission, according to them, is to underline ”the power and urgency of the story, both in fiction and non-fiction, and the story’s supreme ability to describe, illuminate and make real”. According to “Flavorwire”, to be selected as a “Best Young British Author” in this anthology is an honor that, in their words, is “more often than not is a harbinger of success”. A believable claim, since authors Salman Rushdie and Monica Ali became big stars in the literary fields after being featured in Granta’s anthology. This year’s Granta collection, named “Granta 123”, features writers such as Helen Oyeyemi, Kamila Shamsie, and Xiaolu Guo, among many other impressive names. From this anthology I have selected the gripping and concise short story by Xiaolu Guo that will be discussed in this review of the short story format.

A collection of Granta's published magazines

A collection of Granta’s published magazines

Xiaolu Guo was born in 1973 in China, but has lived for quite a while in England. Ms. Guo is both a novelist and filmmaker. She debuted as a novelist in 1999 in China and wrote her first short story collections and novels in Mandarin. Her third novel “A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary For Lovers” (2007) was written in (purposely broken) English and has since then been translated into 26 different languages. In “Granta 123” Guo presents us with a four-page long story titled “Interim Zone”.

Ms. Xiaolu Guo

Ms. Xiaolu Guo

The first thing that must be said about “Interim Zone” is that it is much, much better than “A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary For Lovers” – which is no easy feat. While Guo’s famous novel was funny, inventive in its writing style and harbored a marvelous depiction of culture-shock (and is commonly exposing a sharp social and political tone) “Interim Zone” is that rare story that is able to hit you right in the feelings. It truly does make you stay up at night just thinking about the story and its single character. “Interim Zone” tells the story of Jian, a Chinese refugee waiting to receive asylum from France. He is located at a refugee camp, where he spends his time praying to Pangu (a main figure in Chinese mythology), learning French and watching the other refugees at the Camp. While waiting to get asylum, he starts to remember his childhood in China. In particular, he remembers an incident involving a beating he received by some playmates and his father’s cold and cruel response to this event. Essentially, the father blames Jian for his own misfortune. Jian’s father was mostly an absent parent, which makes this memory even more painful for Jian.

Guo never mentions basic information about Jian, such as his age or why he has become a refugee. Despite this missing information, Jian becomes a fully fleshed out character through Guo’s narrative structure of mere description of Jian’s thoughts and actions within the event of a single day. Jian is shown to have a strong sense of irony when pondering on people’s habit of creating gods identical to themselves. It turns out that Jian has a talent in figuring other people out by studying them, as reflected in his observations of the other refugees. Yet despite this talent, Jian is a very lonely soul. He has been a very lonely soul for many years, ever since he was neglected by his father.


Guo uses the broken father-son relationship to draw parallels to Jians loneliness at the camp. Jian claims that though he has been recently excluded and exiled from his homeland, he in reality feels that his father had already condemned him to exile years before the advent of the refugee camp. Ms. Guo has used similar parallels in her previous works. For example in “A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary For Lovers” the protagonist Zhuang explains how her physically abusive mother is mirrored in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in that time is suspended and prolonged in their cruelty.


This conundrum of Parental mistreatment as linked and reflected by unjust politics is a common theme running throughout contemporary literature ( For example: The Austrian Nobel laureate Elfriede Jelinek’s work “The Piano Teacher” itself is an entire novel using a metaphor to link these two things together.) and this conjunctive hybrid works perfectly in “Interim Zone”. This is due to the fact that the juxtaposed metaphor becomes a dual exploration of Jians situation in life as both an abuse survivor and refugee. In the midst of this dilemma Guo still holds a narrative which becomes a tantalizing and beautiful statement about the nature and foundation of loneliness itself. “Interim Zone” is a representation of the hidden nature of the sense of isolation, and, as bell hooks has stated: “Oppression begins at home”, where isolation and exile abide.


– I just said to George today that…
– Who’s George?
– He’s the devil. He’s not that bad once you get to know him.
“Bedazzled”, 1967

The Devil is a popular character humans love to analyze and make their own adoptions of. Satan, or Lucifer (whatever we decide to call him) has little to say in the Bible. He is mostly talked about by others. His biggest role in the Bible is tempting Jesus in the desert. Even if Satan has a small part in the Bible, the big book does make one thing perfectly clear to us: this creature is pure evil and must be avoided at all cost. But since Satan has so little lines, humans have naturally grown curious about this fellow. Who is he, really? What are his motivations? What are his feelings?

“Leaves out of the book of Satan” (1921), a movie by Carl Theodor Dreyer, is a movie based on D. W. Griffiths, movie “Intolerance” (1916). Dreyer’s film, as Griffiths, tells different stories from different times. The Devil appears in this movie as a sad person who must tempt people. For it is what is required of him. The Devil succeeds in tempting people, which hurts him and makes him feel bad. He doesn’t really want People to do bad things, but he must tempt them, for there must be a struggle between good and evil. Already in early cinema Satan’s character has been portrayed as sympathetic, humanely. The Devil is not a bad tempter; he’s a guy stuck with a job he hates.

John Milton wrote an epic poem in blank verse named “Paradise lost”. It was published in 1667. It tells the story of Adam and Eve’s fall in the Garden of Eden. It is said to be Milton’s attempt to justify God’s ways to man, but the poem has become mostly famous for its portrayal of Satan. Satan is a complex character in the poem. He is the first major character to be introduced to the reader. At the beginning, Satan is the Angel Lucifer up in Heaven who rebels against God since he doesn’t want to accept the fact that God has power over the angels. He convinces fellow angels that Heaven is an unfair monarchy, and that the angels should have equal rights to God. Satan later shows up convincing Eve to eat the apple, promising her that she will become equal to God. Milton describes Satan as a charismatic and persuasive person who’s also quite in love with himself. But also as someone who is independent enough to question authority. Milton allows Lucifer speak his mind, express what makes him angry. His belief in equal power, i.e democracy, is interesting in the way that it’s considered a common, acceptable belief now a days, which actually make his attempt to overthrow God seem good. Here’s a part from the poem in which Lucifer convinces some angels to follow him:

Who can in reason then or right assume/ Monarchy over such as live by right/ His equals, if in power and splendor less / In freedom equal? or can introduce/ Law and edict on us, who without law/ Err not, much less for this to be our Lord,/ And look for adoration to th’ abuse/ Of those imperial titles which assert/ Our being ordained to govern, not to serve?”

A funnier adaption of the Devil is George Spiggott from the movie “Bedazzled” (1967). George Spiggott is a man who offers people seven wishes in exchange for their souls. He offers Stanley, a troubled young man, one of these deals. While granting Stanley his wishes, George also tells Stanley about his relationship with God and Heaven, telling his side of the story. In this version, the Devil has changed his name from Lucifer to George since he thought that Lucifer, which means “bringer of the light”, sounded a bit “Poofy”, as he puts it. George spends his time doing small pranks, since he must bring evil into the world to even out the good others bring in. He also is trying to get back into Heaven by winning in a deal he’s made with God. Spiggott has many wonderful, hilarious comments about himself in this movie, but the funniest one is probably when he explains why he rebelled against God. He simple explains that since he and the other angels were always worshipping God and telling him how great he was, Spiggott became bored and thought that they could exchange places for awhile. “Bedazzleds” portrayal of the Devil is of one who is stuck in a job and home that he doesn’t exactly like. He finds the world tedious and wants to get back to Heaven, his original home. It’s easy to sympathize with Spoggott’s character when you realize that he doesn’t really want to cause any trouble, he just does it since it’s a part of the deal. Satan in this version mostly is a person that has made a silly mistake – in his cause of going against God – lost his home for it, and does what he can to get back what he’s lost. Something we all can relate to.

The Portuguese writer Jose Saramagos adaption of the Devil in his novel “The Gospel according to Jesus Christ” is probably the most sympathetic one to date. The Devil goes by the name “Pastor” in this book which tells the life of Jesus Christ from Jesus’ point of view. Jesus first meets Pastor in his late teens. He and Pastor are shepherds for a flock of sheep while Pastor tries to warn Jesus about worshipping God. Jesus, a highly religious man who doesn’t know he’s the son of God yet, finds Pastor’s ideas frightening. They separate due to Pastor’s frustrations with Jesus. Years later, when Jesus is confronted with God and what Gods plans are for him he realizes that Pastor was only trying to help. God explains that Jesus must die for him so that he can get more people to worship him. Pastor, who shows up during this discussing between God and Christ, gets God to list all the people who like Jesus will have to die in order for God to get more followers. God lists them and how they all died painful, torturous deaths, making Jesus panic. Turning to Pastor, Christ ask for help, but it’s too late. In “The Gospel according to Jesus Christ”, God is portrayed as a power-hungry madman who wants people to suffer and die for him. Pastor is a calmer person; he doesn’t have any need to be worshiped and doesn’t see why anyone should die for God. He tries his best to help Jesus, but knows when it’s too late.

Even if I do love Pastor, I would have to say that my favorite adaption of Lucifer in any form and culture is that of Satan from “South Park”. “South Park’s” Satan is an insecure man often confused and tormented by the difficulties in his love life. His first major role in “South Park” was in the movie “South Park: Bigger, longer and uncut” (1999). There Satan plays the tragic villain. He desperately wants to take over the world since he longs to be where the sun shines, flowers bloom and people are happy. In Hell there’s only misery, which exhausts and irks him. Satan is also having problems with his boyfriend, Saddam Hussein, whom he feels neglects his feelings and who is only interested in sex. In this film Satan sings one of the funniest, but also most sympathetic, songs about being the Devil. (Check it out on the end of this post!) In other episodes Satan is seen as a very easy going fellah. He celebrates Christmas and has to choose between a nice boyfriend and a bad boyfriend. He’s undeniably human in his mixed feelings about the world and humans. His confusions are honest. Satan is so human he becomes hilarious. How can you NOT love this guy?