The Swan Thieves


Source / vir
The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova is a book about art, impressionism, obsession, insanity and revenge. Why would an artist take a knife to a painting? Because of revenge and obsession. He isn't obsessed with a painting though, but with another artist, long dead, and a story, that happened long ago but apparently never died. Following the attack on a painting, Robert Oliver is taken to a mental hospital, where he refuses to speak. He paints and he paints obsessively. It is always a potrtrait of the same unknown woman. Since Oliver chose not no speak, it is up to his therapist dr. Andrew Marlow, to find out the story behind Oliver's obsession and his silence. So he travels and he talks to people form Robert's past. In the end it takes an amount of luck and some detective work to understand what went wrong, who wronged whom, who stole the swans and why.

There's a lot of talk about impressionism. Part of the story takes place in France when impressionists exhibited in Salons. Robert Oliver paints in impressionist style. He's a teacher at an art school, he holds workshops at artist's retreats and he believes in mystery as an essential part of a painting. "I don't think painters have the answers about their own paintings. No one knows anything about a painting except the painting itself. Anyway, a painting has to have some kind of mystery to it to make it work," he says.

I rather liked this book. It has a huge amount of pages through which beautifully written story moves slowly. I didn't mind slowness, I think it suited general mood of the story. Robert Oliver is in hospital, he is in no hurry, he isn't going anywhere. The book is told by different people, living in different time periods, some of the story we learn from 19th century letters. The only thing I am still uncertain about is whether the ending wasn't a bit far-fetched. Sisley's painting dr. Marlow remembers seeing in a book, a dress, a visit to a French village and the find of a letter which explains everything. As always, things are not what they seem.

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Tatovi labodov Elizabeth Kostove je zgodba o umetnosti, impresionizmu, obsedenosti, norosti in maščevanju. Zakaj bi umetnik z nožem napadel sliko? Zaradi maščevanja in obsedenosti. Vendar ni obseden s sliko, ampak z drugim, že dolgo mrtvim umetnikom in z zgodbo, ki se je zgodila davno tega, a je očitno še vedno živa. Po napadu na sliko, Roberta Oliverja odpeljejo v psihijatrično bolnišnico, kjer se odloči, da ne bo govoril. Namesto da bi govoril, slika vedno isti motiv: portret neznane ženske. Ker Oliver noče govoriti, njegov terapevt, dr. Andrew Marlow na svojo roko raziskuje Robertovo zgodbo, ozadje njegove obsedenosti in njegovega molka. Na koncu potrebuje nekaj sreče in detektivskega dela, da razume kaj se je pravzaprav zgodilo, kdo je komu povzročil krivico, kdo je ukradel labode in zakaj.

Veliko je govora o impresionizmu. Del zgodbe se dogaja v Franciji, za časa impresionizma, ko so slikarji razstavljali na vsakoletnih Salonih. Robert Oliver slika impresionistično. Uči na umetniški šoli, vodi delavnice v slikarskih kolonijah in  verjame v skrivnostnost, ki naj bi bila nujna lastnost vsake slike. Pravi, da nihče ne ve ničesar o slikah, razen slik samih. Niti slikarji ne. Slika mora vsebovati neko skrivnost, da deluje.

Všeč mi je bila ta knjiga. Lepo napisana zgodba počasi teče skozi ogromno število strani. Počasnost me ni motila. Zdi se mi celo, da ustreza razpoloženju knjige: Oliver je v bolnišnici, nikamor se mu ne mudi, nikamor ne gre. Zgodbo pripoveduje več različnih pripovedovalcev iz različnih časovnih obdobij, del zgodbe izvemo iz pisem iz 19. stoletja. Samo o koncu nisem čisto prepričana. Ali ni malce za lase privlečen? Sisleyeva slika, ki se je dr. Marlow spomni, da jo je videl v knjigi, obleka, obisk francoske vasi in najdba pisma, ki zgodbo postavi na svoje mesto. Kot vedno, stvari niso to, kar se zdijo.


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