Tsum | Review: Marit Törnqvist – Turtle and Me

Without the tortoise I turned out to be nobody

The surreal-looking front cover of Turtle and me It immediately draws attention: in a semi-impressionist scene, a man walks with a turtle on a leash, as if walking a dog. The discreet color palette and calm décor give the cover an intimate feel, and Marit Tornqvist manages to maintain exactly that atmosphere in her new book.

Turtle and me It starts with a powerful picture: a nearly five-year-old wants to hear the story of the tortoise from his grandfather again. With a capital letter, in fact, because the pet is considered a full-fledged member of the family. Through richly detailed flashbacks, Grandpa tells of his encounter with Turtle and then of the disruptive effect this unusual pet could have on his life. Accompanying prints depict the loving relationship between grandfather and grandson; For the attentive reader, Törnqvist has added some meaningful details.

Grandfather – also at the age of five – got a turtle from his grandfather. A unique bond soon develops between the child and his adorable pet, prompting the young protagonist with a big promise: “The tortoise will always be with me! My whole life is long. This is beautifully reflected in an abstract edition of the soccer game, where the protagonist takes on the role of a goalkeeper and a tortoise – tied to an after-hours goal. When the boy is initially praised by family, friends, and classmates for his pet, this image gradually changes: until the duo is treated as an outcast. This takes on a strong visual form: the boy and the tortoise are shown, as it were, on the playing field in a “pen” surrounded by pink chalk lines. The relationship between the boy and his social environment disappeared; The turtle in the literal and figurative sense forms a shield against the world. Remarkable in the fingerprints is the rather strange reaction of humans, since absolutely no attempt is made to identify the tortoise and/or the hero in their uniqueness. Admittedly, the story offers (very) few opportunities for this. Törnqvist places a strong emphasis on the unique bond between a boy and his unusual pet, but gives little meaning to this friendship. You can see how the protagonist drags his tortoises all over the place, but the amazing relationship between the two was worth more depth.

In both word and image, the ruin of the two is a poignant truth, which is almost captured in poetic sentences:

But the two were disappointed.
The tortoise doesn’t say much.

I was impressed and went away until I was sure.
Turtle and I had to break up.
It’s not the same anymore.

The solution was soon found: the boy – who in the meantime turned into a man – would return the turtle to “the home of my grandfather”. The exact distance between the two makes it possible to think deeply about the unusual relationship with the tortoise: “Without a tortoise, I turn out to be nobody. I wasn’t even me. A discreet print shows the interior partition; Gray streaky image zoomed in on a man caught in a rainstorm, walking with a dog. When a man travels to his homeland, he happily meets the tortoise, which is cleverly associated with finding great love. And so the three travel home: “May our eternal happiness begin.” When death appears years later, this again results in a delicate atmospheric print in shades of gray that announces the approaching end.

In the final scene, the writer meaningfully communicates with her first edition, creating a rich, multi-layered story of life and death, love and letting go, travel and home. Sometimes in abundant color prints, then again in still photos with a blurred background. drop method Turtle and me Because of the semi-pure text on; Törnqvist rarely uses one word too much. Sometimes the text is still too descriptive, or the author repeats what the prints already show, but usually words and image form a successful alliance, once again confirming Törnqvist’s standing as a double talent, and this is bestowed on only a few.

Turtle and me It deals with both individual and global themes, in word and image. A unique gem is generated almost automatically that invites reading and re-reading and thus worthy of a wide and diverse readership.

Jürgen Peters

Marit Tornqvist – Turtle and me† Queredo, Amsterdam / Antwerp. 64 pages 17.99 €


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