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Hanna Johansson

Antiquity

A lonely woman in her thirties gets to know the older artist Helena when she interviews her for a magazine. Before long she becomes her assistant, friend, and witness; she instinctively feels she wants to be her everything. Helena invites the narrator to join her and her daughter Olga on the Greek island Ermoupoli, where they spend the summer. Olga, a difficult teenager, is at first the narrator’s competitor for Helena’s attention. The narrator is jealous of their clearly defined dynamics, their unquestionable relationship. But over the course of a few hot weeks, the dynamics change as the narrator begins to find Helena boring and irrelevant; she’s about to leave the island when she understands that something forbidden is brewing between her and Olga. She decides to stay. The narrator and Olga initiate a secret sexual relationship, and the narrator feels intoxicated with power and possibility, even as a tawdry sense that what they’re doing is wrong undergirds the situation and their uneven power dynamics. Fall approaches, and Helena decides it is time for them to leave. Whatever existed between the narrator and Olga, between the narrator and Helena, is gone, impossible, as the narrator is once again on the outside of the family, and the long hot weeks of summer become a memory, its contours irreversibly shaped and transformed into narrative while the lived experience slips away.

Hanna Johansson’s debut novel trains a sumptuous gaze on desire between women and the full spectrum of attraction that exists beyond the strictures of heteronormativity, and thus beyond easily legible categories. This queer Lolita story is as sensual as it is disturbing, as gorgeous as it is complicated, probing the depths of memory, power, and the narratives that arrange our experience of the world.

“ A wonderful novel written with the menacing elegance of a cat burglar working in the shadows and at great heights.”
—Catherine Lacey, author of Biography of X

“ In Antiquity, Hanna Johansson probes the most forbidden recesses of desire, aging, and memory in sentences as lucent and incisive as shards of glass. Wily, mesmeric, and utterly disarming, this fabulously translated novel held me captive from the very first page, and its questions and images will linger in my blood for a long time. Rarely have I felt so transported and beguiled by a book, let alone a debut. Don’t miss it.”
—Maggie Millner, author of Couplets: A Love Story

“ Entrancing and calamitous, Antiquity dreams deeply into the shadows of desire and obsession. A precise and mysterious spell of a book.”
—Rachel Yoder, author of Nightbitch

“ A moody exploration of loneliness and obsession against the backdrop of an arrestingly beautiful Greek island / . . . / Johansson’s sentences are lovely and her observations are sharp and clear-eyed.”
—Publishers Weekly


WINNER OF THE KATAPULT PRIZE 2021

SHORTLISTED FOR BORÅS TIDNING’S DEBUTANT PRIZE 2021

Hanna

About the author

Johansson

Hanna Johansson (b. 1991) is a writer and critic who frequently contributes to national Swedish media on topics such as art, literature and queer issues. Antiquity is her debut.

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Greece: World Books, Poland: Pauza, UK & Commonwealth: Scribe, US: Catapult Press (World English rights)

A lonely woman in her thirties gets to know the older artist Helena when she interviews her for a magazine. Before long she becomes her assistant, friend, and witness; she instinctively feels she wants to be her everything. Helena invites the narrator to join her and her daughter Olga on the Greek island Ermoupoli, where they spend the summer. Olga, a difficult teenager, is at first the narrator’s competitor for Helena’s attention. The narrator is jealous of their clearly defined dynamics, their unquestionable relationship. But over the course of a few hot weeks, the dynamics change as the narrator begins to find Helena boring and irrelevant; she’s about to leave the island when she understands that something forbidden is brewing between her and Olga. She decides to stay. The narrator and Olga initiate a secret sexual relationship, and the narrator feels intoxicated with power and possibility, even as a tawdry sense that what they’re doing is wrong undergirds the situation and their uneven power dynamics. Fall approaches, and Helena decides it is time for them to leave. Whatever existed between the narrator and Olga, between the narrator and Helena, is gone, impossible, as the narrator is once again on the outside of the family, and the long hot weeks of summer become a memory, its contours irreversibly shaped and transformed into narrative while the lived experience slips away.

Hanna Johansson’s debut novel trains a sumptuous gaze on desire between women and the full spectrum of attraction that exists beyond the strictures of heteronormativity, and thus beyond easily legible categories. This queer Lolita story is as sensual as it is disturbing, as gorgeous as it is complicated, probing the depths of memory, power, and the narratives that arrange our experience of the world.

“ A wonderful novel written with the menacing elegance of a cat burglar working in the shadows and at great heights.”
—Catherine Lacey, author of Biography of X

“ In Antiquity, Hanna Johansson probes the most forbidden recesses of desire, aging, and memory in sentences as lucent and incisive as shards of glass. Wily, mesmeric, and utterly disarming, this fabulously translated novel held me captive from the very first page, and its questions and images will linger in my blood for a long time. Rarely have I felt so transported and beguiled by a book, let alone a debut. Don’t miss it.”
—Maggie Millner, author of Couplets: A Love Story

“ Entrancing and calamitous, Antiquity dreams deeply into the shadows of desire and obsession. A precise and mysterious spell of a book.”
—Rachel Yoder, author of Nightbitch

“ A moody exploration of loneliness and obsession against the backdrop of an arrestingly beautiful Greek island / . . . / Johansson’s sentences are lovely and her observations are sharp and clear-eyed.”
—Publishers Weekly


WINNER OF THE KATAPULT PRIZE 2021

SHORTLISTED FOR BORÅS TIDNING’S DEBUTANT PRIZE 2021

Reviews

Antiquity is an incredible debut

Antiquity is an incredible debut. Hanna Johansson has written a Mediterranean novel with an air of Duras, Per Hagman, and Call Me by Your Name, and she’s done so with a style that is as poetically dreamy as it is clear and concrete. Antiquity is ridden with precise, curious observations—scars are like sweetwater drops, terrazzo floors are the color of lobster sauce—since the narrator, in her heightened state, notices absolutely everything. As memories from her Stockholm life fade and blur together, she’s anchored in her own present, and every detail pops

Expressen
Hanna Johansson is electrifying when she dissolves any assumption that sexuality is simple

The Greek square that opens the novel is drawn with both realism and suggestiveness, with striking snapshots of upper-class boys and their fathers, of the kind of summer lethargy that threatens to explode into something immeasurable. And those boundaries are crossed when the narrator begins a sexual relationship with the now teenaged Olga, the girl from the photograph. Though their intimacy is only sketched in short paragraphs, Hanna Johansson is electrifying when she dissolves any assumption that sexuality is simple

Dagens Nyheter
There is a nostalgic melancholia in the intense prose that is strikingly beautiful /… / Antiquity is a solid literary composition and a fantastic debut.
Upsala Nya Tidning

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