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Hanna Nordenhök

The Aspens

It is Endre, her brother’s friend, who makes her come back. Back to Malmö, to the apartment where she grew up, and to Marga. It is Endre who hands her the wrinkled paper bag with the old documents from Råby, the youth detention centre where her brother ended up. “Because you write,” Endre says. As Marga sleeps or leaves the house, Sussi writes; mother and daughter always in parallel with each other.

Among the documents is the private diary of baron Gyllenkrok, the founder of Råby, Sweden’s first rescue house for uncivilized children. A man with an imperative desire to tame the wild. There is this boy, Petrus, raised in a poor neighbourhood in Malmö in the 1840s, separated from his brother after their mother’s premature death. And there is this wolf, ominously kept on a leash at the baron’s country manor. But there are also the wounded memories of her little brother, B., and the aspens, as a lost promise of a magical haven. There is also the sister, who during a hot and greyish summer has taken it upon herself to write it all.

Two pairs of siblings; two separate eras. The seemingly remote courses of events are drawn closer to each other, circling Råby like a magnetic epicentre.

The Aspens is a darkly concerted tale inspired by real events and places. It is a story about love between siblings and how social exposure drives them apart like a wedge. It deals with society’s view on crime and punishment, inheritance and environment, how it is carried like an echo through centuries: antiquated, inadequate. Hanna Nordenhök ties a thread, thin and trembling like an aspen leaf, between fear and rescue in this hypnotic novel about an unforgiving place and its lost children, and with it she cements her position as a modern Swedish Duras.

Hanna

About the author

Nordenhök

Hanna Nordenhök (b. 1977) has been awarded several major literary honours for her work. Her last novel Caesaria (2020) scooped Swedish Radio’s Literary Prize and was also shortlisted for Vi’s Literature Prize. Nordenhök also works as a translator from the Spanish and has been praised for her translations of Fernanda Melchor, Andrea Abreu and Gloria Gervitz. Wonderland…

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About the book

It is Endre, her brother’s friend, who makes her come back. Back to Malmö, to the apartment where she grew up, and to Marga. It is Endre who hands her the wrinkled paper bag with the old documents from Råby, the youth detention centre where her brother ended up. “Because you write,” Endre says. As Marga sleeps or leaves the house, Sussi writes; mother and daughter always in parallel with each other.

Among the documents is the private diary of baron Gyllenkrok, the founder of Råby, Sweden’s first rescue house for uncivilized children. A man with an imperative desire to tame the wild. There is this boy, Petrus, raised in a poor neighbourhood in Malmö in the 1840s, separated from his brother after their mother’s premature death. And there is this wolf, ominously kept on a leash at the baron’s country manor. But there are also the wounded memories of her little brother, B., and the aspens, as a lost promise of a magical haven. There is also the sister, who during a hot and greyish summer has taken it upon herself to write it all.

Two pairs of siblings; two separate eras. The seemingly remote courses of events are drawn closer to each other, circling Råby like a magnetic epicentre.

The Aspens is a darkly concerted tale inspired by real events and places. It is a story about love between siblings and how social exposure drives them apart like a wedge. It deals with society’s view on crime and punishment, inheritance and environment, how it is carried like an echo through centuries: antiquated, inadequate. Hanna Nordenhök ties a thread, thin and trembling like an aspen leaf, between fear and rescue in this hypnotic novel about an unforgiving place and its lost children, and with it she cements her position as a modern Swedish Duras.

Reviews

It’s a pleasure to read her prose.

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.

Svenska Dagbladet
(Nordenhök) creates within the reader an attentiveness which makes the shifts between the novel’s two plots so literary razor-sharp,

(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. 

SR Kulturnytt
A safeguard for abandoned children. /.../ an intensely poignant and beautiful novel.
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