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Hanna Nordenhök

Wonderland

In Wonderland, Hanna Nordenhök’s bold and dazzling new novel, we follow three different characters, each wandering an ominous contemporary world saturated with abandonment and false mirrors. Their parallel lives never intersect, but they are all deceivers or deceived, or both. This polyphonic novel, written in a shimmering prose for readers of international writers such as Jonas Eika, Emilio Fraia, and Samanta Schweblin, is an account of modern lies, of fraud and deception in our time, but also of lies as a timeless human condition – a fundamental component of who we are.

The novel introduces three main storylines in alternating chapters: a homeless woman travelling between towns and cities on the Pacific West Coast where she pretends to be a child; two Catalan rival journalists that become involved in a dangerous game between fact and fiction at a hotel in Athens; and a housewife living in a luxury bungalow in southern Sweden who chooses to lie – to herself and others –in order to maintain the only life she can tolerate living. Around them appears a hall of mirrors inhabited by a range of unreliable characters described as ‘case studies’ – a gallery of liars portrayed with both lucidity, pragmatism, and a surprising tenderness: bluffing children, doped up martial artists, ghost-writers, dishonest politicians, eco-criminals, and fashionable jetsetters so disfigured by plastic surgery that there seems to be nothing left of their original selves.

Carrying their secret traumas right underneath their skin, this horrific assembly of fakers and swindlers all seem to be escaping something, while at the same time, they are all searching for their own illusory wonderlands. Together they capture a mendacious zeitgeist, a world and an era flooded with fake imagery and slippery truths, as well as the loneliness such a world holds for those who inhabit it.

Wonderland is an existential spinechiller, a spellbinding study on the different faces of fraud – depicting a chameleon-like human existence where truths and lies are never easily separated.

SHORTLISTED FOR TIDNINGEN VI’S LITERATURE PRIZE 2024

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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Mexico : Planeta México (World Spanish rights), Poland: Pauza

In Wonderland, Hanna Nordenhök’s bold and dazzling new novel, we follow three different characters, each wandering an ominous contemporary world saturated with abandonment and false mirrors. Their parallel lives never intersect, but they are all deceivers or deceived, or both. This polyphonic novel, written in a shimmering prose for readers of international writers such as Jonas Eika, Emilio Fraia, and Samanta Schweblin, is an account of modern lies, of fraud and deception in our time, but also of lies as a timeless human condition – a fundamental component of who we are.

The novel introduces three main storylines in alternating chapters: a homeless woman travelling between towns and cities on the Pacific West Coast where she pretends to be a child; two Catalan rival journalists that become involved in a dangerous game between fact and fiction at a hotel in Athens; and a housewife living in a luxury bungalow in southern Sweden who chooses to lie – to herself and others –in order to maintain the only life she can tolerate living. Around them appears a hall of mirrors inhabited by a range of unreliable characters described as ‘case studies’ – a gallery of liars portrayed with both lucidity, pragmatism, and a surprising tenderness: bluffing children, doped up martial artists, ghost-writers, dishonest politicians, eco-criminals, and fashionable jetsetters so disfigured by plastic surgery that there seems to be nothing left of their original selves.

Carrying their secret traumas right underneath their skin, this horrific assembly of fakers and swindlers all seem to be escaping something, while at the same time, they are all searching for their own illusory wonderlands. Together they capture a mendacious zeitgeist, a world and an era flooded with fake imagery and slippery truths, as well as the loneliness such a world holds for those who inhabit it.

Wonderland is an existential spinechiller, a spellbinding study on the different faces of fraud – depicting a chameleon-like human existence where truths and lies are never easily separated.

SHORTLISTED FOR TIDNINGEN VI’S LITERATURE PRIZE 2024

Reviews

A book that, much like a chiropractor, cracks my spine and enhances my visual acuity

Wonderland exposes several layers of the hypothesis we simply describe as ”reality”. Through brief images Hanna Nordenhök sends us deep into the confidential life situations of various people, with a prose that recalls Joyce Carol Oates. The details are almost pedantically recorded; the different types of wood and the barely detectable inconsequences in a perfectly decorated room at Strandvägen, the straightened and whitened teeth of a laughing mother barbecuing at a campsite, the red tie that will become a desperate journalist’s noose /… / I have reviewed a huge number of books. At long intervals I sometimes feel: Here it is. What I’m looking for. A book that, much like a chiropractor, cracks my spine and enhances my visual acuity. Wonderland is such a book.

Göteborgs-Posten
An extraordinary literary trick mirror

What Hanna Nordenhök presents instead of auto-fiction – the literary dominant – are human beings who have become auto-fictive versions of themselves. Who embrace their roles so faithfully that their public personas have gotten caught up in the private skin /… / Nordenhök always writes solemnly, beautifully evocative. But something has happened to her style. It is subdued, more obscure, like someone bending their neck. The ambience is shabby, timeworn, desolate. The symbolism is abundantly clear, all the signs of mental damage that nobody picks up on. But the isolation between humans – recognisable from her authorship – paradoxically evokes something authentic within the reader. A moral, a conscience. One leans inwards toward the sinister text. It is elegantly executed, a slap on the wrist. As a reader I become filthily exhilarated when this subtle squalor awakens me. An extraordinary literary trick mirror.

Expressen
Nordenhök is a masterful illustrator of the moment when this self-deception begins to crack

The present time perceived through fraudulence is an excellent concept for a novel. And sure, one could utilise doomful terms such as fake news and post-truth. But this is no novel of ideas. It is rather an investigation into the modern-day obsession with authenticity and how this search stem from the increasing amount of time we dedicate to self-presentation, something that always involves an amount of lies. Nordenhök is a masterful illustrator of the moment when this self-deception begins to crack. Intercalary, unobtrusive sentences break up an otherwise visceral prose and create an intriguing density that works well with the psychological acuteness that distinguishes this novel /… / In Wonderland, Hanna Nordenhök destroys the notion that there is such a thing as an authentic self. It is an astonishing novel.

Aftonbladet
Masterful literature and psychological depth

There are several different aspects of betrayal and Hanna Nordenhök uncovers them all with uncanny sensitivity /… / Hanna Nordenhök has crafted a brilliant psychological thriller out of human lies. The prose is poised and is just as comfortable no matter where in the world it takes place. I recommend this book as an ideal title for every book club. Masterful literature and psychological depth. It must be discussed.

Norrköpings-Tidningar
If she hasn’t been translated before, now is the time, the sooner the better

I have primarily read Nordenhök’s translations from the Spanish. In that field she is one of the very best. This assessment shall now include her own authorship /… / Nordenhök renders the three main protagonists’ life stories through acute flashbacks. Her prose is remarkably contemporary, identifies places and brands, imitates the jargon of cyberculture, is just as lyrical as it is stringent. If she hasn’t been translated before, now is the time, the sooner the better.

Dagens Nyheter

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