Read and discuss Scandinavian literature in translation as part of our Nordic Book Club, now online! Each month we select a novel from some of the best Nordic literary voices. On May 10, we’ll be discussing Present Tense Machine by Gunnhild Øyehaug, out now in translation by Kari Dickson, which was recently discussed by the author in a virtual panel now streaming here.
On an ordinary day in Bergen, Norway, in the late 1990s, Anna is reading in the garden while her two-year-old daughter, Laura, plays on her tricycle. Then, in one startling moment, Anna misreads a word, an alternate universe opens up, and Laura disappears.
Twenty years or so later, life has gone on as if nothing happened, but in each of the women’s lives, something is not quite right. Both Anna and Laura continue to exist, but they are invisible to each other and forgotten in each other’s worlds. Both are writers and amateur pianists. They are married; Anna had two more children after Laura disappeared, and Laura is expecting a child of her own. They worry about their families, their jobs, the climate—and whether this reality is all there is.
Øyehaug delivers another dazzling renovation of what fiction can do: a testament to the fact that language shapes the world.