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Agnes Lidbeck

Supporting Act

“The social contract is not negotiated at an individual level. It is universal,
a set of rules that must be followed in order for society to function. The fundamental requirement is that a woman must play three roles. She must be a mother. She must be desirable. She must be the caregiver, she must nurture.

Each role must be played in accordance with agreed guidelines. Her responses are pre-ordained. Improvisation is reserved for those of unsound mind. It is the woman who has the most to gain from maintaining these boundaries. As long as she remains comprehensible to those around her, she will also be comprehensible to herself.

The opposite, being incomprehensible, is something she fears: a symptom of a physiological or empathic shortcoming.”

As Anna gives birth to her first child, she gives in completely to the role of the mother; transforming her identity, body, values, and purpose in the process. Despite her efforts at perfection, the strains of family life (the son, Harry, is soon followed by a daughter, Hedda) take a toll on the relationship between Anna and husband Jens, but through silent conflict and wilting passion, the marriage lingers on. As time passes, Anna seeks validation in an affair with an aging author, Ivan. When he is diagnosed with a terminal illness, it falls upon Anna to care for him at the end.

Throughout the phases of her life, Anna’s actions are steered by strict adherence to the rules of society – a discipline which at times feel paradoxically liberating. Hidden by the traditional faces of womanhood, she is saved from the burden of acknowledging her own desires.

In Supporting Act, Agnes Lidbeck investigates voluntary submission without the context of sexual domination. It is a scrutinizing examination of modern womanhood as well as an in-depth portrait of Anna as mother, lover and carer. Lidbeck makes a convincing and powerful debut that will not leave any reader unaffected.

Agnes

About the author

Lidbeck

Agnes Lidbeck made her sensational breakthrough with the literary triptych Supporting Act (2017), The Rift (2018) and At a Loss (2019), and the bestselling poetry collection From (2018, Ellerströms), securing her a position as one of the most prominent voices in contemporary Swedish literature. All My Love is her fifth novel.

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About the book

Sold to

China: Guomai (simplified Chinese), Denmark: Modtryk, Poland: Prószynski, Serbia: Treci, USA: Ensemble Press (NA rights)

“The social contract is not negotiated at an individual level. It is universal,
a set of rules that must be followed in order for society to function. The fundamental requirement is that a woman must play three roles. She must be a mother. She must be desirable. She must be the caregiver, she must nurture.

Each role must be played in accordance with agreed guidelines. Her responses are pre-ordained. Improvisation is reserved for those of unsound mind. It is the woman who has the most to gain from maintaining these boundaries. As long as she remains comprehensible to those around her, she will also be comprehensible to herself.

The opposite, being incomprehensible, is something she fears: a symptom of a physiological or empathic shortcoming.”

As Anna gives birth to her first child, she gives in completely to the role of the mother; transforming her identity, body, values, and purpose in the process. Despite her efforts at perfection, the strains of family life (the son, Harry, is soon followed by a daughter, Hedda) take a toll on the relationship between Anna and husband Jens, but through silent conflict and wilting passion, the marriage lingers on. As time passes, Anna seeks validation in an affair with an aging author, Ivan. When he is diagnosed with a terminal illness, it falls upon Anna to care for him at the end.

Throughout the phases of her life, Anna’s actions are steered by strict adherence to the rules of society – a discipline which at times feel paradoxically liberating. Hidden by the traditional faces of womanhood, she is saved from the burden of acknowledging her own desires.

In Supporting Act, Agnes Lidbeck investigates voluntary submission without the context of sexual domination. It is a scrutinizing examination of modern womanhood as well as an in-depth portrait of Anna as mother, lover and carer. Lidbeck makes a convincing and powerful debut that will not leave any reader unaffected.

Reviews

Agnes Lidbeck has written a sharp and haunting debut

Agnes Lidbeck has written a sharp and haunting debut. The sharpness is in her gaze, how she chooses to follow large parts of this woman’s life but also how she does it like it was all make-believe, taking place somewhere else. /…/ And Lidbeck’s own gaze is never judging, which enhances the tension. She lets Anna observe her own body, his body, the fluff on the children’s heads and their gestures, from a neutral point, like no one have ever done it before. She’s not afraid of Anna’s incapacity, which could be read as coldness – no, she’s examining the world from what it is. The little world. For that is the one in which Anna is stuck.

SR Kulturnytt
Supporting Act is a sensational debut.

In my years as a literary critic I have rarely come across anything like it. Finna sig is a sensational debut.

Expressen
It is tremendously skilfully done

Agnes Lidbeck writes with an exact clarity, stripped and pregnant. The story flows through a series of statements, Anna’s actions documented without unnecessary adjectives or elaborations. It is effective, only that which must be there is there. The children, for instance, are only glimpsed in subordinate clauses, they are not important by themselves, only as objects for Anna’s motherly role. It is efficient and strangely entertaining, a really twisted look upon the everyday life, emphasizing the absurdness of our everlasting turns to fit our doughy bodies into hard structures.

Svenska Dagbladet (SE)
Sometimes you come across real gems

Sometimes you come across real gems: books that are interesting, well-written and well-balanced between a neat linguistic style and an engaging story. Rarely, they come from debutants. Agnes Lidbeck’s debut novel, about women’s roles, self-realization and being content, is an exception.

Borås Tidning

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