cover image The Gold Ball

The Gold Ball

Hanne Marie Svendsen. Knopf Publishing Group, $18.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-394-57185-0

Published in Scandinavia to critical acclaim, this remarkable novel and rich family saga resembles a Danish version of One Hundred Years of Solitude. Set on an imaginary island off the coast of Denmark, it concerns the mythical Neils Gore and his descendants. Woven with strands of the prosaic and the mysterious, it is simultaneously a compilation of beautifully rendered miniatures of character and island life--fantastic fables, naturalistic chronology, folklore--as well as a meditation on memory, time and a search for ancestry and identity. The narrator/author addresses her ancestor Maja Stina--an ageless figure who is imbued with the power of time and memory: ``Do you think my stories are too frivolous? You have to put up with that. I am the storyteller, and I have the right to use and invent what I want.'' This constant dialogue with Maja Stina frames commentary on the friction between autobiography, biography and fiction, and between real time and narrative time. While providing interesting insights into the creative act, this self-conscious metafictional technique becomes a bit too intrusive, and allays the power of the fabulistic stories. However, there is much here on the ``progress'' of civilization during the 400 years of this story, and on the regrettable loss of magic in contemporary lives. (Aug.)