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Mirja Unge

Dog Nights

Nadja returns to the village where she grew up after many years in Stockholm. Her childhood home has been abandoned for quite some time and her parents, once hippies, have grown old and left the gruelling country life behind them. She finds shift work at a youth home and gets herself settled in the isolated house, with the neighbour’s runaway cat as her only company.

Not much has changed in the village and most of the faces remain the same. Ellie, her once partner in crime, has gained weight and a brood of kids; Sauli, her old flame, spends his nights in the local pizzeria following a motorcycle accident which left him in a wheel-chair; lonesome Lars is still living with his mother, playing his piano and searching the personal ads; the Sawmill Queen, although elderly and frail, is still exercising her power, while Anna, Olof and Didrik still remain in their unconventional love triangle.

But what concerns Nadia is that the alarming authority and violence that once caused her to leave is just as tangible now, as if it had been passed down to a new generation. Unsettling memories start to haunt her as she also suspects there is something strange going on. Someone tries to run her off the road and a teenage girl at the youth home is found dead. At the same time there is a black dog that keeps appearing in the most unexpected places.

Dog Nights is an evocative and sinister country noir with a large and disparate cast of characters, conveyed through Unge’s idiosyncratic prose and deadpan sense of humour.

Mirja Unge, born 1973 in Stockholm, has been praised for her distinctive writing style and has also received several prominent awards for her literary works. She made her debut in 1998 with The Words Came From the Mouth, for which she was awarded the Katapult Prize for best debut. She has since written two additional novels…

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About the book

Nadja returns to the village where she grew up after many years in Stockholm. Her childhood home has been abandoned for quite some time and her parents, once hippies, have grown old and left the gruelling country life behind them. She finds shift work at a youth home and gets herself settled in the isolated house, with the neighbour’s runaway cat as her only company.

Not much has changed in the village and most of the faces remain the same. Ellie, her once partner in crime, has gained weight and a brood of kids; Sauli, her old flame, spends his nights in the local pizzeria following a motorcycle accident which left him in a wheel-chair; lonesome Lars is still living with his mother, playing his piano and searching the personal ads; the Sawmill Queen, although elderly and frail, is still exercising her power, while Anna, Olof and Didrik still remain in their unconventional love triangle.

But what concerns Nadia is that the alarming authority and violence that once caused her to leave is just as tangible now, as if it had been passed down to a new generation. Unsettling memories start to haunt her as she also suspects there is something strange going on. Someone tries to run her off the road and a teenage girl at the youth home is found dead. At the same time there is a black dog that keeps appearing in the most unexpected places.

Dog Nights is an evocative and sinister country noir with a large and disparate cast of characters, conveyed through Unge’s idiosyncratic prose and deadpan sense of humour.

Reviews

Unge knows her rural landscapes and her vulnerable youths and here she confirms once again how awfully effective her literary style is

Unge knows her rural landscapes and her vulnerable youths and here she confirms once again how awfully effective her literary style is. The everyday conversations that are so carefully blended with lyrical suggestion and evocation of the surreal. The people that emerge as something more than or that remain as sinister spectres /… / But it is perhaps less important to know how Nadja got on, since Dog Nights presents a bigger story of a place and of an immense and continually growing nature, with frightening animals and hordes of insects. This nature also comes across something powerfully seductive and ambiguously dark. Like a destiny.

Aftonbladet
In Unge’s books, life is agonising and have always been

It’s not Twin Peaks, there is nothing supernatural at play, just plain old misery. In Unge’s books, life is agonising and have always been. Girls are continuously under threat, need to hide their bodies, and still they are ignored. They’re good at silence, but to capture something vital in words, is more difficult. Was it really that bad, her mother asked in the car home from the parent-teacher meeting that time when the boys in the class had been confronted with what they had done to Nadja. Silence in the car before her mother puts some music on – the Rolling Stones – and pats a ring-clad finger against the wheel. Nothing is the same after that, Nadja has caught sight of her mother who doesn’t see her. The teenager becomes an adult, but the adult remains a teenager. Mirja Unge doesn’t waste many words on that transformation, a ring with a freshwater pearl drumming to the car stereo is enough. The insight hits you like a punch to the gut. To read Mirja Unge is to experience such breathtaking moments, not just once but several times.

Dagens Nyheter
Unge is worthy of all the literary prizes she will get

Dog Nights is like a sinkhole: it grabs hold, sucks, and pulls you in, and becomes a text that is hard to put away. The closest association is a really well-made tv-series, imagine the first season of True Detective /… / Unge is worthy of all the literary prizes she will get, and most of them she has already received. Because in the same way as you can detect the formula of a thriller and still be frightened when the axe pierces through the door or when the hockey mask is reflected in the dark window glass, Unge’s evasive prose works wonderfully. Musical, almost, it is an essential part of what makes the book twist itself and come alive in your hands and turn into one of those that collects food stains, and pages wavy with sleet, because you can’t stop reading either when you eat your salad or when you walk to the bus. Read at your own risk of falling and slipping. And yes, a review is supposed to say something about the plot. And okay, in short: young woman returns to the countryside. You may guess what happens next. But it’s certainly good.

Göteborgs-Posten
Dog Nights is in many ways an evocative, absorbing novel, of how unaddressed traumas can make life come to a standstill

Few authors have such a distinctive language as Mirja Unge. And I have been astonished and dazzled by it since her debut in 1998 with The Words Came from the Mouths. How it meanders, with completely unique sentences structures, and provides a space for people on the periphery. Dog Nights is linguistically on the same outstanding level. Dog Nights is in many ways an evocative, absorbing novel, of how unaddressed traumas can make life come to a standstill. And it takes the reader on a passage in the deepest pit of the soul. But towards the end, Mirja Unge thankfully also portrays a sense of relief, a faint streak of light in the middle of everything that is filthy, dark as night. It is much-needed!

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