Synopses & Reviews
Edwin Mortens is almost blind, but has good hearing; his wife Erna is hard of hearing, but has excellent eyes. Paralyzed from the waist down, Edwin sits locked in his bathroom all day, every day, trying to liberate his mind from his body. The experiment is going relatively well: nearly all his bodily functions have ceased, his limbs are in a state of decay, and his digestive system is in the process of breaking down. "This body," he says, "is a sewer."
To pass the time, Edwin dedicates his days to chewing gum and screaming at his wife, on whom he is, nonetheless, entirely dependent; while Erna's life, despite Edwin's constant abuse, revolves around her hideous husband. Edwin and Erna live in a state of perfect equilibrium--fueled by habit, cruelty, humiliation, and quite possibly love--until a young maintenance man is called to replace a lightbulb in Edwin's bathroom, and the "Siamese twins" find themselves embroiled in a new and vicious struggle for power.
"A tenderly contentious marriage of many decades forms the tragic-comic snarl in this lively novel. Edwin and Erna Mortens have grown so familiar and repugnant to each other that death would be a blessed release. The novel is told in alternate first-person chapters first wife, then husband and each voice is wonderfully energetic and emotionally charged. Edwin is a former director of a retirement home (his job was to 'oversee the process of death') whose gradual loss of sight robbed him of his job and his sense of self-worth; powerless to do anything without his wife's help (he calls her 'Sweetie' and his 'prison warden'), and deteriorating rapidly, Edwin rails against his imminent death and Erna's perceived duplicity. Erna, meanwhile, is losing her hearing, and though dutiful and long-suffering, she is also mischievous, offering Edwin's old room to their building's young super. Saeterbakken skillfully creates a delightful, solipsistic tension between the querulous old couple. Their kinship is a lovely, bitter riot." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
A brutally comic portrait of marriage, taken to extremes reminiscent of the work of Samuel Beckett and Thomas Bernhard.
About the Author
Stig Saeterbakken was born in 1966. His novels include The Visit and Invisible Hands. Among his acclaimed works is The Evil Eye, a collection of essays investigating relations between literature and evil.Stokes Schwartz's translation work includes technical, historical, and literary pieces. He studied Scandinavian languages and literature--with a concentration in Norwegian--at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the University of Minnesota, and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim.