Nordenhök is one of Sweden’s most interesting writers. Her subdued prose and poignant stories are truly affecting. New novel Caesaria echoes themes and nuances from previous works, as well as the macabre scenes and the archaically embellished prose, but this time everything is brought to a head – to accompany a highly remarkable history /… / By using biblical images and the 19th century Romantic movement’s lyrical arabesque of feral vegetation, the elemental forces come crashing through in this both horrific and astonishing peepshow of a novel, in which Hanna Nordenhök successfully adds mythological meaning to everything.
More than anything, this is a breathlessly creepy and deeply affecting portrait of a girl’s life, so confined and so deprived of impressions that it’s verging on madness /… / It is unsettling to be detained at Lilltuna for 244 pages, beyond there and then, also beyond gender warfare and class oppression, incarcerated in a low-level dread, radiantly and skilfully evoked by Hanna Nordenhök
Hanna Nordenhök’s wonderfully poetic prose creates a powerful and complex sensation, that recalls both the Garden of Eden as well as a pressure vessel /… / Where Hanna Nordenhök’s previous novels played out against an identifiable reality: in Dalby, in Indonesia, in Råby juvenile detention centre, Caesaria’s house appears as something straight out of a fairytale, a next-door-neighbour to Rapunzel’s and Cinderella’s castles. But here there is no liberation, no way out. Her dilemma resembles that of Segismundo in Calderon’s 17th century drama Life is a Dream. What is reality to those who have grown up trapped in their own bodies, relying upon their own senses, without any contact with the world outside? An illusion, a dream, a nightmare? The victim, an object for a past apparatus of care and violence, speaks and thus creates her own world of colours, scents, light and sounds: frightening, alluring, full of beauty, pain and grief. Society fades away, and what is left is existence itself, shimmering and profound like a black pearl.
If it is true that the Sámis have one hundred words for snow, Nordenhök must have one hundred ways to describe the light of the skies. Hanna Nordenhök writes sentences that are intense and ambiguous, like sinister omens of what is to come /… / The furiously beautiful sentences and the horror that lurks underneath them create an atmosphere that recalls Marguerite Duras’ portrayals of the intimate relationship between lust and pain.
As a matter of fact I’m repeatedly reminded of Enquist’s masterpiece Downfall (Nedstörtad ängel) from 1985, also when it comes to stylistic technique. You find the same poetic touch, the same profound psychological eye, the same restrained yet pregnant style. /.../ Nordenhök has a precise tone coupled with a multi-layered and musical language that easily flows over the pages and into the reader. It’s a pleasure to read her prose.
(Nordenhök) creates within the reader an attentiveness which makes the shifts between the novel’s two plots so literary razor-sharp, that you sense as if you suddenly leave one room to enter another. And with this intensified attention, you also become able to notice and experience the kind of lopsided yet significant similarities between life and death and between the activities in both plots. Without these similarities being simplified or given any educational purpose.
A safeguard for abandoned children. /.../ an intensely poignant and beautiful novel.
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