cover image Termush


Sven Holm, trans. from the Danish by Sylvia Clayton. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $16 trade paper (128p) ISBN 978-0-374-61358-7

Holm, who died in 2019, makes his U.S. debut with an excellent portrayal of nuclear destruction that—though it was originally published in 1967—speaks to the recent impact of Covid-19. Termush is a luxury coastal resort where patrons receive temporary respite from the nuclear fallout that consumes the world just outside its chandeliers, swimming pools, and fine art. Radiation meters keep track of drifting phosphorous, guests have their urine checked for radiation, and the management does its best to insulate them from the blasted landscape, mass death, and desperate survivors beyond the resort’s gates. The insomniac narrator trusts only the radio and an enchanting fellow guest named Maria, with whom he begins to discover a truth that Termush’s staff struggles to conceal. Soon, however, there’s no denying the bodies piling up, the strangers trespassing in the hotel’s rarified atmosphere, or the blaring alarms that foretell pandemonium. The images and motif are nightmarish, as are the narrator’s creeping revelations: “Is nothing changed, can everything be swept away as a dream is swept out of the conscious mind in the morning?” This vision of apocalyptic horror and class critique contains multitudes. (Jan.)