Original title: Sivuhenkilö
Author: Saara Turunen
Genre: Literary Fiction
English sample & synopsis
A witty and honest artist’s novel about a year in the life of a debut author.
The Bystander is a journey of one year in a life of its writer. When the narrator’s debut novel is published, she feels like everything has changed. Strangely enough no one else seems to notice this. Thus begins an intensive year of esteemed literary prizes, ambivalent reviews, strange interview questions and awkward marketing activities. All the while the narrator ponders the meaning of it all. Why are we here? What is behind the space? What if you are lonely? And its’s spring, and you had just written a book and everything was meant to be great, but people just had their partners and high-quality sofas, and ‘we gotta go’ they said? What if you were expecting something else, but there was just silence everywhere?
* * *
The Bystander is a sharp story of a woman with a looming fear of being invisible, need to achieve, relentless chase for being heard. In addition to pointing out the problems of the art criticism and literary world itself, the novel speaks about the loneliness and being a bystander in 21st century. It asks urgent questions about identity and family, but refuses to give any simple answers.
At the same time ironic and earnest, the novel burrows into the issues of existence, social norms and unconventional choices. The text glows in the depiction of everyday details: watering the house plants, riding a bike and cooking noodles. It shifts between fiction and reality, mixing shame and self-contemptuous humour with sharp narration.
Chillingly ironic, crunching depiction of the today’s world and the female position on it. Talentedly constructed artist novel with lean and precise sentences and an autobiographical voice that turns many times into essay-like narration.
The Bystander is Saara Turunen’s second novel. Her first, Love/Monster (2015), was awarded with a prestigious Helsingin Sanomat Literary prize.