cover image Knots


Gunnhild Øyehaug, trans. from the Norwegian by Kari Dickson. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $22 (160p) ISBN 978-0-374-18167-3

Norwegian writer Øyehaug’s newly translated collection charts entanglements of all kinds, from difficult families and first loves to more metaphysical experiments that combine a crisp minimalism with endearingly offbeat conceits. “Small Knot,” for instance, literalizes a fraught mother-son relationship with an umbilical cord that remains intact well into the son’s adult life—and even after the mother’s death—while a lonely woman longing for more encounters a UFO in “Vitalie Meets an Officer.” The best of Øyehaug’s miniatures deal with elusive emotional states, like the confession of love for a terminally ill man in “It’s Raining In Love,” the jealousy experienced by the friends of a highly successful encyclopedia salesman in “Echo,” or the contemplative ecstasy of a woman named Edel whom, in “Two by Two,” thinks that “nature has been abandoned and we are to blame, we have focused on language and become complicated.” Øyehaug transfigures a trip to IKEA, a late-night bathroom break, the lonely vigil of an egg and prawn vendor. Other stories read like surreal drawing room plays, offering a glimpse at the private lives of Arthur Rimbaud and Maurice Blanchot. “Meanwhile, on Another Planet” concludes “What can we learn from this? That impossible situations can arise on other planets too.” This kind of dry, odd, understated humor comes to seem a hallmark of Øyehaug, whose stories are as original as they are joyously delicate and tranquil. (July)