Danish author Dorthe Nors is a most curious and innovative writer. If that wasn't evident in her short story collection, Karate Chop (the first of her books to be translated into English), surely the two stylistically inventive novellas in her new work, So Much for That Winter, will make it abundantly clear. Composed of two different pieces, "Minna Needs Rehearsal Space" and "Days," Nors's latest book to be rendered from the Danish, despite what at first glance might seem like a sterile, dispassionate style, offers a rich, lively, and emotionally fertile glimpse of two women wending their way through hardship.
In the longer of the two entries, "Minna Needs Rehearsal Space," Nors employs a series of one-sentence "headlines" to convey the story of her titular character — newly single (and broken up with via text message) — as she contends with frustration, loneliness, an overbearing sister, and successful friends. With Bach and Bergman by her (figurative) side, Minna sets off for an island repose and emotional convalescence. Nors's staccato "headlines," many no more than a few words each, inexplicably coalesce into a resonant, believable, and somewhat melancholy narrative. From the onset, it seemed unlikely to be successful, but "Minna Needs Rehearsal Space" is wonderfully alive, with Minna's character both convincing and credible.
The shorter piece, "Days," is a diary-like record made up of numbered lists. The 30-something woman at the heart of this novella is introspective and full of emotions, but also constantly reminding herself that days elapse and the promise of happiness is contingent upon her keeping going. I'm not sure how or why numbered lists (like the "headlines" before them) work so well in evoking and evincing, but they do, often to remarkable effect.
So Much for That Winter is uniquely composed, yet eminently readable. Nors's experimental style permits a sidelong glance, not only into perhaps the scaffolding upon which stories are built, but also the spaces between things — much as a painting or song reveals itself in the interims between brushstrokes or notes. Dorthe Nors is doing some fascinating work and her chosen forms function as fictional facades, ably demonstrating that feeling may flourish in even the most unlikely of prose techniques. Recommended By Jeremy G., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
Dorthe Nors follows up her acclaimed story collection Karate Chop with a pair of novellas that playfully chart the aftermath of two very twenty-first century romances. In "Days," a woman in her late thirties records her life in a series of lists, giving shape to the tumult of her days—one moment she is eating an apple, the next she is on the floor, howling like a dog. As the details accumulate, we experience with her the full range of emotions: anger, loneliness, regret, pain, and also joy, as the lists become a way to understand, connect to, and rebuild her life.
In "Minna Needs Rehearsal Space," a novella told in headlines, an avant-garde musician is dumped via text message. Fleeing the indignity of the breakup, and friends who flaunt their achievements in life, career, and family, Minna unfriends people on Facebook, listens to Bach and reads Ingmar Bergman then decamps to an island near Sweden "well suited to mental catharsis." A cheeky nod to the listicles and bulletins we scroll through on a daily basis, So Much for That Winter explores how we shape and understand experience, and the disconnection and dislocation that define our twenty-first-century lives, with Nors’s unique wit and humor.
"My favorite discovery was "Minna Needs Rehearsal Space" by the ferociously-talented Danish writer Dorthe Nors (Pushkin Press). It’s a very short novella that takes the form of a series of 'headlines', each stacked on top of one another. A device that’s maddening for the first few lines, it settles down and becomes a powerful driver through a beautiful, moving, totally compelling account of one woman’s yearning. I simply can’t wait for Nors’s next English translation." Nick Barley, director Edinburgh International Book Festival, The Herald
"[So Much For That Winter presents] an edgy evocation of contemporary life. Nors is a creator of small spaces; her fiction is relentless, edgy, brief....it couldn't be more accessible." Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
Dorthe Nors received the 2014 Per Olov Enquist Literary Prize for Karate Chop, which Publishers Weekly named one of the best books of 2014. Her work has appeared in the New Yorker and A Public Space.