cover image Through the Night

Through the Night

Stig Saeterbakken, trans. from the Norwegian by Sean Kinsella . Dalkey Archive, $15 trade paper (272 p) ISBN 978-1-56478-874-0

Late Norwegian novelist Saeterbakken (Self-Control) explores the aftermath of grief in his haunting last novel, posthumously released in a vibrant translation by Kinsella. Dentist Karl Meyer is forced to re-evaluate and simplify his life and marriage after the suicide of his young son. The story of his quest to reconstruct himself is achingly told in a lyrical, internally-focused narration. Saeterbakken's confident articulation of the myriad emotions and symptoms that make up Meyer's grief is a grand example of drawing universality from extreme specificity; the prose is evocative in a way that forces the reader to feel deeply the entire gamut of his particular sorrow and guilt while also being an observer of his wife divergent experience. This is set in sharp relief against recollections of happier times before the suicide; Meyer relives the period before the tragedy and makes himself miserable trying to puzzle out to what degree his past actions, including an extramarital affair, make him culpable for the suicide. Readers may lose the plot's thread in a surreal sequence towards the end, but it is not wholly disorienting. Though hardly uplifting, Saeterbakken last is notable for the beauty and heartbreak of its narration. (July)