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Den röda drömmen Joakim Pirinen, Den röda drömmen (The Red Dream)

Ordfront,  2013.

Reviewed by Dominic Hinde in SBR 2014:1

Review Section: Fiction, Light-Hearted and More Serious

Den röda drömmen is marketed as a gift  for the literary connoisseur, presenting  itself as an exploration of the totality  of contemporary literature.

In some ways an attempt to show  Pirinen’s versatility as writer, each  of the genres receives a novella. The  stories are subtitled with their nominal  style: Pirinen satirises horror, erotica,  the thriller and nature writing, among  others. The thing about each of the  tiny exercises in form, however, is the  twisted nature of what emerges. 

The erotica is horrifying and  disturbing in the extreme. The nature  reading is surreal and dreamlike, and  the fairy story set in a bizarre reality  of people with gigantism leading a  very ordinary existence. Several of  the stories exhibit a macabre sexual  fascination and, in others, the form  itself becomes an all-consuming theme.  Each of them is a window on the  soul, more specifically the unique and  complex soul of Joakim Pirinen.

Pirinen’s work is in some ways  symptomatic of a book market with  nowhere left to go, though wilfully  self-aware at the same time. When  writers kick out the shadows of great  modernist masterpieces and crime  writers unintentionally write pastiches  of the very novels they are trying  to emulate, they do so without the  absurdity Pirinen manages to inject  into his various experiments. One of  the short stories, ‘From 100 to 51’, is  created by ‘literally’ writing by numbers  as Pirinen counts, then recounts  statistics and historical events, but  amounts to more than someone just  taking on a challenge.

Known widely for his work as  an illustrator and graphic novelist,  much of it equally dark, Pirinen takes  Den röda drömmen as an opportunity  to explore a different medium with  slightly different ends. In the surreal  world he creates, the only certainty is  that nothing adds up to the pretence  of a coffee book table for the literati.  There’s an unspoken truth buried in Den röda drömmen: however we try to  write and dress up our work, the same  familiar themes creep in.

If he stuck to crime writing, Pirinen could be the next Stieg Larsson but,  even when expressing himself in words  rather than pictures, he very much  remains Joakim Pirinen.

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