After reading Margaret Atwood’s wonderful retelling of the myth of Penelope and Odysseus, The Penelopiad, I discovered there’s an entire series planned by Canongate, featuring global writers retelling myths.
In pages 1 through 98, 1984 has reared its ugly head in Sweden. The cities are bleak, the administrative bureaucracy is being run by a fearsome organization called The Clan.
The book opens with a description of listening to organ music on the radio. It took a while to understand it’s just the notes. A note could be broadcast for days or weeks with no change. An entire cottage industry has grown around gambling on when the note will change and to what.
Hanck Örn used to work for an insurance company run by The Clan. His job was to investigate claims made to this company, a flimsy cover for The Clan’s protection racket.
In these first pages, the reader learns that Hanck was fired from his job and, returning to the scene of his last investigation, invests his money in typewriters. Setting up a workshop in his apartment, Hanck teaches himself to repair and customize them, having found a market which sells obsolete technology to collectors.
On one of his visits, Hanck meets a young woman who tracks him down in his city apartment and spends the night. Here we learn about the many splintered factions of Christian sects, especially The Sneezers who believe that God can be found in the space of the sneeze where the least amount of control and the largest void intersect.
Months after this encounter, men dressed in lavender arrive to take Hanck to an undisclosed location, which turns out to be a hospital. His son, three-day old Toby, had been dumped with Hanck’s business card pinned to his swaddling clothes. On the back of the card is the note, “Mother dead.” Hanck was taken to the hospital to be informed of his son’s existence, and to decide Toby’s fate.
Perhaps needless to say, Hanck instantly falls in love with Toby and prepares his home for this new entry in his life.
This is a bleak book so far and the writing feels stilted. I’m willing to admit this could be a cultural miscue on my part. The translator for this book, Tiina Nunnally, has won awards for her work, so it probably isn’t. Be that as it may, The Hurricane Party doesn’t read as well as George Orwell.
A little research reveals the myth being retold makes itself obvious later in the book and has to do with Loki as related in the Prose Edda of Norse mythology.