Johanne, Johanne

Lars Sidenius, trans. from the Danish by Paul Larkin. Dalkey Archive, $15 ISBN 978-1-62897-132-3
Told entirely through a woman’s text messages, Sidenius’s debut never lives up to the novelty of its intriguing conceit. The texts sent from Johanne, a literary agent with a young daughter and a sham marriage, to a man named Jonah track their affair from inception to inevitable end. A few points of drama cut through the mostly banal conversation: Johanne’s unplanned pregnancy with Jonah’s child and subsequent abortion, Jonah’s triple bypass surgery. The book skims over the sensual and fraught nature of an affair, instead relying on repetitive sexting. Johanne’s texts fail to reveal much about womanhood, sexuality, literature, or relationships. Many entries can be read as slice-of-life realism, but often the meaning is lost in the lingo: “u really hammered me right thru this time man.” “Its so magic being with u! both with and without bathrobes. :) kisses.” “I want u up my splashy hole.” Readers will wonder what Jonah sees in Johanne, but no answers are forthcoming, as Jonah’s replies are omitted from the novel. Sidenius’s formal constraint closes off a nuanced portrait of Johanne, and the book accomplishes a paradoxical feat for a story ostensibly about a woman: simultaneously removing and centering a man. (July)
Reviewed on: 05/02/2016
Release date: 07/01/2016
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