THU—September 23—2 PM ET, free



MoreLectures + Literary

Join us for a book talk on the new novel Awake with Danish author Harald Voetmann & translator Johanne Sorgenfri Ottosen, out in translation September 21 from New Directions!

In a shuttered bedroom in ancient Italy, the sleepless Pliny the Elder lies in bed obsessively dictating new chapters of his Natural History to his slave Diocles. Fat, wheezing, imperious, and prone to nosebleeds, Pliny does not believe in spending his evenings in repose: There’s no time to waste if he is to classify every element of the natural world in a single work. By day Pliny the Elder carries out his many civic duties and gives the occasional disastrous public reading. But despite his astonishing ambition to catalog everything from precious metals to the moon, as well as a collection of exotic plants sourced from the farthest reaches of the world, Pliny the Elder still takes immense pleasure in the common rose. After he rushes to an erupting Mount Vesuvius and perishes in the ash, his nephew, Pliny the Younger, becomes custodian of his life’s work; but where Pliny the Elder saw starlight, Pliny the Younger only sees fireflies.

In today’s program, Voetmann and Ottosen will discuss the writing and the translation of the novel with a moderator.

This event will take place as a Zoom webinar; please ask questions in the chat or send them in advance to Registration is required; please sign up at the link above.

“Vivid, earthy, by turns hilarious, gross, and tragic, but always powerfully engaging. Reading and rereading this book remains a rare pleasure” —Susanna Nied

About the Speakers

Nominated for the Nordic Council Prize, the Danish author Harald Voetmann (b. 1978) has written novels, short stories, poetry and a monograph on the Roman poet Sulpicia. He also translates classical Latin literature, notably Petronius and Juvenal. Awake is the first in his series of three historical novels: the second centers on the 16th-century Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, and the final book introduces the 11th-century German mystic Othlo of St. Emmeram.

Johanne Sorgenfri Ottosen is a Danish translator born in 1986. She currently lives in Copenhagen where she also works as an illustrator and literary editor.