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 March 7, we’ll be discussing W. A Novel by Steve Sem-Sandberg, who discussed the novel with us last September in a virtual book talk streaming here.
Considered the first modern drama and based on true events, Georg Büchner’s play Woyzeck tells the story of a loyal soldier and survivor of the Napoleonic Wars who, in a fit of jealous rage, kills the woman he loves. In this literary reimagining of the text, Sem-Sandberg’s W grippingly recounts the lovers’ relationship, the murder case, and the execution, unfolding as the soldier W. struggles to recount the events of his life.
Bringing new light to this story from court documents from the original case, Sem-Sandberg masterfully sustains a rich period atmosphere though poetic and controlled prose even down to the choice of pronouns, as the soldier is held at a cold distance in court proceedings when addressed with the formal, capitalized “You.”
Against a landscape devastated by inhumanity and greed and, yet, which manages to sustain hope, W. tells a ruthless, moving, and utterly relevant story of a soldier fighting to make something of the life given to him.
About the Author
Steve Sem-Sandberg’s novels include The Emperor of Lies, winner of the August Prize; The Chosen Ones, winner of France’s Prix Médicis étranger; and W., which was awarded the Eyvind Johnson Prize. His books have been bestsellers around the world and have been translated into 30 languages. In 2020, he was elected to the Swedish Academy, the body that chooses the Nobel Prize for Literature.