By Josefine Klougart
Translated from the Danish by Martin Aitken
Nominated for the 2019 International Dublin Literary Award
Klougart mixes prose, lyric essay, drama, poetry, and images to meditate on death and loss through breathtaking, moving, apocalyptic writing.
Publication Date: February 7, 2017
Nominated for the 2019 International Dublin Literary Award
"Klougart has an unusual ability to create phrases, images and a language that you long to stay in and remember forever." —Dagens Nyheter
"One can speak of unbearable beauty, but one can also speak of a linguistic beauty that makes it possible to bear the unbearable." —Politiken
In this genre-bending apocalyptic novel Josefine Klougart fuses myriad literary styles to breathtaking effect in poetic meditations on life and death interspersed with haunting imagery. Her experimental novel asks readers to reconsider death, asserting sorrow and loss as beautiful and necessary aspects of living.
Hailed as "the Virginia Woolf of Scandinavia," Klougart mixes prose, lyric essay, drama, poetry, and images to breathtaking effect in her writing, and Of Darkness marks the arrival of a wholly new literary talent in world literature.
Josefine Klougart (b. 1985) made her literary debut in 2010 with the novel Rise and Fall, which was nominated for the prestigious Nordic Council Literature Prize. Her third novel, One of Us is Sleeping, forthcoming from Open Letter Books in summer 2016, was also nominated for a Nordic Council Literature Prize, making her the youngest author ever nominated twice for this prominent prize. Her fourth and most recent novel, Of Darkness, appeared in Denmark in 2014 to universal critical acclaim and became a massive bestseller in Denmark and Norway.
Translator Martin Aitken has won numerous awards for his translations of Danish literature, and he is currently working with Karl Ove Knausgaard to translate the final volume of My Struggle and his nonfiction.
“She has an unusual ability to create phrases, images and a language that you long to stay in and remember forever.” —Dagens Nyheter
“Josefine Klougart writes dazzlingly beautiful. . . . Klougarts literature is ambitious and demanding, but truly rewarding.” —Göteborgs-Poste
“Scandinavia has its own Virginia Woolf. Few come closer to the human condition than Klougart.” —VG (Norway)
“One can speak of unbearable beauty, but one can also speak of a linguistic beauty that makes it possible to bear the unbearable.” —Politiken
All that the eyes see, upon which a gaze falls.
A bag someone places on the floor is: a bag someone places on the floor. All things remain as things, and in that way they are here. The room is not disrupted, the chronology is not disrupted—none of its constituent parts have ever been together in that way. The way I have always been she, and you have always been he. There isn’t necessarily any problem in that. A movement in and out of our bodies, a recollection returned, wandering back and forth between us. Or an anger no one understands. A common reservoir, the increasingly threadlike capillaries of the veins; something proceeding through time, then turning back.
All sounds are quite as distinct. All voices can be heard, and as such none enjoys priority.
A whisper is as clear as a shout. Something serves to amplify the weaker sounds and lengthen the louder ones so that we may hear them. The eyes decide for themselves what they want to observe.
That may be a comfort.
The ceiling, like the spine of a crouching animal. The duality of movement: inwards and outwards; down to the floor, then up. A whisper, and the space expands. Or: a whisper, and the space is compressed.
Not focusing on anything allows things to emerge more clearly. The ways in which they connect—with the eyes that see, and the bodies that listen. The fact of the eye requiring distance in order for an image to come together again in a new way.
Plains and skin. Coasts, cuticles.
Such leaps, on all imaginable scales.
Sound and image work on their own, independently. A thing such as distance. What can distances be measured against. A sky. A sail we have stretched out between walls. The arching vaults of cathedrals.
And the same goes for time, the past mingling with what is; the salient past that is here, and all that is yet to come: here.
The will of the image, and the will of sound. A liberation of the different planes.
The image of a beach, a broad belt of sand in panorama. There are no people in sight, we see only beach, sea, sky. Presently we hear two voices, a man and a woman talking. We hear them clearly, their voices rise with ease above the clamour of the waves.
Next, they enter the frame, and the image splits into two images superimposed: the beach before and the beach now; before him and after him, before her and after her; everything that happened here will happen here—happens here. Death is perhaps merely a displacement, the same as silence. A moment’s imprudence and then again: here.
Josefine Klougart is considered one of the major voices of contemporary Scandinavian literature, hailed as “one of the most important writers, not just of her generation, but of her time.” Klougart’s debut novel, Rise and Fall, and her third novel, One of Us Is Sleeping, both received Nordic Council Literature Prize nominations, making her the first Danish author ever to have two of her first three books nominated for Scandinavia's most prestigious award. One of Us is Sleeping was published in its English translation by Open Letter Books in 2016. Her fourth novel, Of Darkness, appeared in 2014 to massive critical acclaim throughout Scandinavia, and will be published in English by Deep Vellum in early 2017.
Martin Aitken is an award-winning translator of Danish literature. His work includes novels by such authors such as Peter Høeg, Helle Helle, Pia Juul, and Kim Leine, and he has been awarded the American-Scandinavian Foundation’s Nadia Christensen Translation Prize, and was longlisted for both the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. He is currently translating from the Norwegian of the sixth book in Karl Ove Knausgaard’s highly acclaimed My Struggle sextology.