Tag: Norwegian literature

Love by Hanne Ørstavik

Posted October 11, 2018 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literary Fiction / 0 Comments

Love by Hanne ØrstavikTitle: Love (Goodreads)
Author: Hanne Ørstavik
Translator: Martin Aitken
Published: Archipelago Books, 2018
Pages: 180
Genres: Literary Fiction
My Copy: Audiobook

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindleWordery (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Shortlisted for the National Book Award for Translated Literature 2018

There is something hypnotic about Love by Hanne Ørstavik that has really stayed with me. Set over a cold night in Norway the novel follows Vibeke and Jon, a mother and son living in a small town. It is the night before Jon’s birthday and we follow them throughout the night. They may be a family but they are on separate journeys.

What really drew me to this book is the uneasy feeling I constantly had around these two different characters. They lived together but they felt separated. There was a tension in the air the entire time and I was never sure if I should trust any characters in the novel. This tension is what made Hanne Ørstavik’s Love a compelling read. The mother/son relationship is not what you expect and feels odd but that is what is driving the novel.

“The sound of the car. When he’s waiting he can never quite recall it. I’ve forgotten, he tells himself. But then it comes back to him, often in pauses between the waiting, after he’s stopped thinking about it. And then she comes, and he recognizes the sound in an instant; he hears it with his tummy, it’s my tummy that remembers the sound, not me, he thinks to himself. And no sooner has he heard the car than he sees it too, from the corner of the window, her blue car coming round the bend behind the banks of snow, and she turns in at the house and drives up the little slope to the front door.”

It is rare to read a novel where the mundane feels so thrilling. Love is a novel of the everyday life but written almost in a way a thriller would be written. The shifting narrative helps keep the two connected while the plot is showing the disconnection between the two. It really was a brilliant way to have two characters remain connected and disconnected at the same time.

The emotional tension Hanne Ørstavik created in Love is what makes this a standout read. Martin Aitken was able to provide a brilliant translation from the Norwegian and I can see myself dipping into this one again and again. I have not been able to stop thinking about this one and I feel like the way Ørstavik was able to manipulate the reader, but in a good way. It her ability to make the everyday feel eerie, mixed with her masterful storytelling. It is hard to keep that tension at the best of times but Love makes it look easy.