Rosa Liksom – Compartement No. 6

Compartment No.6 is a novel of a young Finn woman, who is travelling on the Trans-Siberian Railway from Moscow to Ulan Bator. She planned to do this trip with her friend Mitka, but he went to an insane asylum before.

Now her fellow passenger is a drinking, swearing, misogynic and scarred by life russian, who shares, contrary to the young woman,  permanently his thoughts and his past with us. If he is not badmouthing about his wife (or his past women), trying to hit on the young woman, telling us his very own worldly wisdom or swearing, then he drinks.

The more vodka he drinks, the more abusive and rougher gets his language. The young woman is disgusted from his rude manner and fascinated of his philosophy at the same time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two very different characters on a few square meters

She is at the mercy of all this in the small compartment no. 6 in the Trans-Siberian Railway.

No word or thought of the young woman is mentioned, she remains nearly the whole novel quiet. Her surrounding world is described all the more. The narrative draws a painting of the Russian landscape at soviet time  and a psychogram of the inhabitants characterized by communism. The tension of the two unvoluntary protagonists is palpable from the first to the last page and carries us along the Siberian birch forest.

The regularly faux pas, due to the vodka, are destroying the budding friendship again and again, but the two are growing together while the one week journey. The man takes care of the young woman, in the compartment with tea, bread, various cucumbers and onions, as well as in the soviet cities along the railroad. The arising friendship culminates in a donated knife, with which he killed a man in his past.

 

A different type of travel novel

 

Rosa Liksoms novel takes us into the Russian past, which few people west of the Iron Curtain witnessed. A fraction of them who did, travelled by the Trans-Siberian railway. The combination of time and location, concatenated with the very different protagonists and the painterly language of Rosa Liksoms make up the enormous appeal of the book.

Rosa Liksom was honoured with the Finlandia Prize in 2011 for this novel.

A recommendation for everybody who is interested in the former Soviet countries or travelling with the Trans-Siberian railway.


Get it  at amazon:  Paperback or ebook (affiliate link)

 

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