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Vanja a government worker leaves her home city of Essre for the austere wintry colony of Amatka on a research assignment It takes some adjusting people act differently in Amatka and citizens are monitored for signs of subversionIntending to stay just a short while Vanja finds herself falling in love with her housemate Nina and decides to stick around But when she stumbles on evidence of a growing threat to the colony and a cover up by its administration she begins an investigation that puts her at tremendous riskIn Karin Tidbeck's dystopic imagining language has the power to shape reality Unless objects buildings and the surrounding landscape are repeatedly named and named properly everything will fall apart Trapped in the repressive colony Vanja dreams of using language to break free but her individualism may well threaten the very fabric of reality Amatka is a beguiling and wholly original novel about freedom love and artistic creation by an idiosyncratic new voice

10 thoughts on “Amatka

  1. says:

    So I thought this was excellent but I'm not sure how widely I'd recommend it It's a uiet odd unsettling dystopian novel my first from Swedish author Karin Tidbeck that opens up uestions than it answers Pair this with the ambiguous ending and I can easily see why some readers might feel dissatisfiedI actually really liked it though I found it an extremely atmospheric novel the greyness the loneliness the constant sense of wrongness about everything On the back of the Vintage paperback Matt Bell praises the author's imagination as being fiercely strange which I think is a fitting description of the whole book The story opens on a train with government worker Vanja travelling to the colony of Amatka to do some consumer research on hygiene products Vanja is assigned a household through a lottery which is where she meets Nina as well as two other housemates called Ivar and Ulla Straight away there's this feeling behind everything that something is not uite right This feeling never goes awayMore strange things surface The importance of language and naming things is a central theme with all objects reuiring labelling in order to maintain the very fabric of reality As Vanja digs a little deeper she notes the barrenness of the library; of texts missing their ending The cold emptiness of this world is given moments of warmth by the burgeoning relationship between Vanja and NinaWhat emerges is an examination of a society of complete social euality of communal living and strict adherence to rules that benefit the group as a whole sometimes at the expense of the individual My takeaway was that when we are all reduced to the same treated the same as one part of a whole we become little than atoms Pliable and interchangeable I suppose this is a critiue of the kind of extreme socialism that cannot end well I think Maybe It's not actually easy to tell whether this world is better or worse than the alternatives Which is perhaps the most unsettling thing of allBlog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube

  2. says:

    That was weird Seriously weird but oddly fascinating but with an ending I found unsatisfying My thoughts are all over the place for this one so here they are first in list format and then a bit elaboratedProsWorld buildingAtmosphereMoodPacingConsCharactersProseConclusionSet in the not specified future on a I assume different planet this books reads very much like a classic dystopian novel in the style of Ray Bradbury or George Orwell The main character Vanja arrives in Amatka with the order to do some kind of market research on hygiene products as commercial production has been legalized and her employer wants to know how to sell stuff to this colony As she falls in love with her housemate Nina she decides to stay in this barren place even though things seem odd to her The main premise is stunning in its originality at least it is to me things have to be named repeatedly and be marked because otherwise they dissolve into some kind of goo so a table has a sign saying table doors are labeled door and so on Citizens have to be constantly vigilant lest they lose important possessions This makes for an interesting social structure where nothing is permanent and in reaction everything is rigid and unchanging Karin Tidbeck uses this disorienting juxtaposition to paint a very vivid picture of the world she created I absolutely adored this part The characters on the other hand never truly came alive for me Their reactions are always left mostly unexplained and I had a hard time connecting with them Especially the love story between Vanja and Nina made very little sense to me and I never understood what they liked about each other and what made Vanja especially abandon her previous life with hardly any second thoughtsUltimately I think this book works best if you study it and analyse it and discuss it with others There are so many layers that could be talked about and so much to think about that a casual reading does not do it justice As it stands it kept me at arm's length and I never felt fully engaged with the charactersI received an arc of this book curtesy of NetGalley and Knopf Doubleday Publishing in exchange for an honest review Thanks for that

  3. says:

    A trippy hopelessly empty ish world populated with people seemingly shambling through their lives without purpose and mostly dignity They get words and goop if they misuse the wordsVery reminding of Zamuatin's We of Orwell's 1984 Though this one was libeerally sprinkled with feminist and diversity vibes And it felt a lot depressing than the prototypes I sort of want to unread this novel Sadly I can'tIs there something behind the gray of our sky? cI’m thinking I might take the gag off Vanja Otherwise it’ll be hard for us to talk cWe’re a finite population in a world we don’t really understand We struggle endlessly to maintain order That struggle entails a society with strict rules c“Pencil pencil pencil pen cilpen cilpen cilpen cilpen cilpen—”The last pencil in the row shuddered As Vanja bent closer to look the shiny yellow surface whitened and buckled Then suddenly and soundlessly it collapsed into a pencil shaped strip of gloop Vanja instinctively shrank back Her stomach turned She had done it She had said the wrong name and the pencil had lost its shape It shouldn’t have happened that uickly “Pencil” Vanja hissed at the gloop “Pencil Pencil Pencil” c“If one doesn’t want to have children One waits and sort of hopes that it doesn’t have to happen And then one turns twenty five and the uestions start coming and they put you in a room with a counselor who explains that it’s one’s communal duty and finally one gives in one goes to the fert unit and shakes hands with some pitiful man who has to masturbate into a cup so the doctors have something to impregnate one with and one resigns and puts one’s feet in the stirrups because one has No Choice” c

  4. says:

    This one is a hard one to review without giving away certain discoverable plot twists except to say what a surreal surreal worldI think it's a mild New Strange Or perhaps it's a hardcore Magical Realism Perhaps it's just a study in what it means to use imagination when surrounded by literalism Maybe it's a whole society built on the necessity of crushing that imagination in all ways Maybe it's a necessity And maybe we're in bizarro commune land brushing its fingertips against 1984And maybe it's a love story With mushroomsLike I said it's hard to describe without giving it all away and yet it's still a gentle dip into the whole stranger in a strange land firmly rooted in banality until it's suddenly far far from banal I enjoyed it It made me scratch my head and just go with the strange Mild strange slowly getting very very weird What can I say? I likey

  5. says:

    I didn't think I would like another dystopia any time soon but here I am This was pretty good I am not surprised to learn this novel was written by a Swedish writer because the basis of this story is deeply rooted in the pipe dream of perfect socialism you know total gender and class euality and adherence to group needs at the expense of individual I am not trying to disparage Scandinavian socialism I am all for it The dystopia of this world is the theoretical socialism the type I personally learned from early Soviet movies and fiction filled to the brim with propaganda Even approved poetry in this story reminded me of the Soviet wordsmith Vladimir Mayakovsky The ideal of communal living and sacrificing for the community's good never worked in real life like it doesn't in Amatka After reading the ending a couple of times it is a tad vague I am not sure if the revolution was the right choice though not enough information only time will tell I guess To me the science fiction angle wasn't that interesting the alien gloop thing was done better in Solaris but the depiction of the conflict between personal and societal good is uite stark here As is the power of naming things

  6. says:

    People often conflate pity with sympathy Both words may refer superficially to a feeling of compassion for another’s misfortune; contextually they can have radically different uses Sympathy often carries with it some notion of euity – it asks that compassion be born of justness that understanding is earned because it is shared Conversely pity holds a note of condescension from the pitying and a certain amount of solicitousness on the part of the pitied Sympathy is meant to strengthen bonds between people; pity makes a spectacle of suffering and consolation dividing us into spectators and subjects widening the gapThe cardinal sin of Amatka is that it makes its protagonist Vanja far pitiable than sympathetic The novel practically sobs her into existence It is one thing to make a character an introvert and uite another to bludgeon the reader with her reticence to exhibit her meekness as a demand for empathy But that is exactly what Karin Tidbeck does here The world of the novel is an interesting one a place where language literally has the power to shape reality so much so that things must be named repeatedly or they will lose their form and turn into an ooze of noxious goo As a result the authorities exhibit an undue amount of control over the behavior of and by extension the thoughts of the citizens they police Vanja dreams of a boot free neck with predictably tragic resultsI am usually fully on board for stories where systemic oppression is addressed but in this case the “evil system” and “innocent victim” are codified in such absolute unsubtle terms that it comes off as a jaundiced writerly construction rather than a lived in world And lest you think I am mistaken in my estimation of how Vanja and this novel are meant to be read the ending literally valorizes the woeful fawning of its hero spelling it out in no uncertain terms It is one thing to nudge a reader’s sympathies and uite another to push them over a cliff

  7. says:

    This was my first exposure to Tidbeck I knew nothing about her or the book before I started it I had just gone on vacation and when I realized I was reading something rather bleak and Scandinavian I almost put it down It didn't seem like the right fit But there was just enough weirdness in those early chapters to get me to stick aroundDystopia is popular these days and this is certainly a speculative dystopia But I enjoyed it immensely While reading it I kept commenting about it to my traveling companion I spent the first third saying how I really didn't know what was happening and I wasn't sure how I felt And then I spent the last third saying whoa it got really good and whoa what is even happening right now It is rare to read a speculative novel that feels like it's doing something different Of course it also reminded me of a lot of great early sci fi especially those set on a bleak and sparse Mars which feels an awful lot like the setting here in AmatkaI don't want to tell you much at all about the society it's set in because finding all that out is part of the joy of reading it And even when you feel like you've got a pretty good handle on how things are run and you're wondering why you're reading a memo about the ingredients in soap products you realize that there are a few little things that are just not uite right but you don't really know why yet I kept reading for the answer to that why and often when I've read a book that nags at me like that the eventual reveal isn't worth the buildup But not this time That feeling that maybe you've got this figured out except still maybe not ends up leading to a few pivotal and crucial reveals about the world the book is set in that feel new and deep with meaningThis is also not one of those let's wrap all this up in a big bow novels It will not all be explained It will not all make total sense But the last few chapters leave a searing vision in your mind If you're at all like me you will talk about it for days I really must find Tidbeck

  8. says:

    45 starsCurrently I'm absolutely happy with my picks This was another little jewel Amatka hits all the short story lover overly explaining hater marks of my darker reader personalityIt is bleak the characters are distant there is no comfortable hand holding by the author the end is completely open and certainly confusing So I can see why some readers don't like it For me on the other hand these are all points that speak in favour of a novel Of course there is a thin line between trusting the reader and trusting the reader too much aka leaving me with the feeling that I didn't get it at all but Karin Tidbeck stays on the right side of the lineOnce I started listening to the audiobook good performace by Kirsten Potter there was no way I could take the earplugs out of my ears again I was sucked into the weird strange world and concept from the very beginning and finished it in one go My mind was racing trying to fill in gaps in the narration trying to figure out what was going on All in all it felt like a short story in novel lengthReaders who need a solution to their stories perhaps better stay away from this one Oh and I would recommend to NOT read the summary on GR as so often it gives away too much of the story which was part of the pleasure for me to figure it out as I went alongA novel of a different kind and one that definitely makes me look up the author for further works

  9. says:

    As I listed in the I would recommend to section Like classic dystopias andor Jeff VanderMeer's works particularly the Area X trilogy? It's perfect for readers who are intrigued by the idea of the unlikely intersection of that particular venn diagram The weirdness seeps in drip by drip building significantly in the final chapters until all semblance of normalcy uite literally dissolvesThe very end was for me a bit anti climactic but just as with VanderMeer's Annihilation the ambiguous nature of the final pages has grown on me as I've ruminated on the experienceA few observations1 There are some really thought provoking and unusual language related speculations at the core of the story as well as commentary on the nature of reality matter perception consensus history freedom change choice tradition loyalty community family fertility the individual vs the group creativity convention contagionthe list goes on 2 There is a bleakness a blandness a rather dour joyless bureaucratic efficiency to the world that lulls the reader making the weird currents even effective at impressing their strangeness via the shift they introduce The monotonous and mundane meet the nebulous and the alien3 I got an impression of experimentation on the part of the author as if she were throwing various ideas into a stew to see how they would cook up together This might not work for some readers but for me it was great fun as I'm a fan of thought exercises and philosophical riffing But there are a LOT of ideas introduced see point #1 some explored others only touched on and sometimes vexingly dropped and the gestalt might be muddied or overshadowed by the many components for some readers4 The author doesn't do much hand holding of the reader I appreciate this approach but some reader may find themselves shouting What the HECK is going on? right from the first pages5 If you finish this and enjoy it you will probably find yourself mentally naming the objects around you Pencil pencil pencil and likely consider what might arise from changing those names 6 This book is chock full of rabbit holes down which one might fall rabbit holes within rabbit holes both of the What if? variety and the run to Google variety 7 A personal impression When I was a little girl my dad had one of those old school label makers that could be made to print out a little strip with bold embossed text of one's choosing He used to label everything in the house as a way of playfully irritating my mother One might enter the bathroom and discover labels announcing MIRROR TOILET SINK etc on the appropriate objects It was like living in the Batcave from the old campy original Batman TV series I thought of that over and over while reading Amatka

  10. says:

    The kind of book where I had no idea what I'd be rating it until the very end It's completely readable and thought provoking but with a story like this so much depends on how it all comes togetherAmatka takes place in a mysterious future world where the very fabric of reality is constantly at risk of being destroyed The inhabits of the four colonies that make up this world are taught from an early age that they must consistently mark objects in order to keep them rooted in reality They do this by observing the space around them and repeating the names of everything in sight thereby allowing the objects to retain their shape and functionIn a precarious world such as this one that the inhabits still don't fully understand it becomes necessary to enforce strict rules to maintain orderBut what if there's a better and freer way to live? That's the uestion that Vanja begins to ask herself as she learns about the mysterious history of Amatka one of the four coloniesIt's a fascinating premise and for most of the book there was just the right amount of obscurity to keep me needing to know The problem I had was that ultimately the payoff wasn't enough I'm than okay with ambiguity in novels—often I even prefer it to a clean resolution—but I needs than what Amatka deliveredIt's always hard for me to avoid comparing books like this to Jesse Ball's novels In my opinion Ball seems to strike that perfect balance where he maintains the obscurity and wonder while still offering a fully satisfying story It's hard to pull that off Amatka has a brilliant concept but the execution left me feeling underwhelmed