cover image Long Live the Post Horn

Long Live the Post Horn

Vigdis Hjorth, trans. from the Norwegian by Charlotte Barslund. Verso, $18.95 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-1-78873-313-7

Norwegian writer Hjorth’s bleak and wry tale (after Will and Testament) turns on a challenge to the national postal service from the private sector. In the winter of 2010–2011, a European Union debate on whether to open up certain postal services to competition makes its way to nonmember Norway. Kraft-Kom, a small media consultant firm, has been contracted by the postal workers union to make a public appeal to vote against the measure. Ellinor and a coworker are charged with helming the campaign, a task that has fallen to them after the suicide of their colleague Dag. The reassignment jeopardizes the campaign, as Dag’s death along with Ellinor’s plateauing romance have shaken Ellinor into an existential slump. What pulls Ellinor from her languor and reinvigorates her work is a story involving an undelivered letter and the dedication of one postman to find its addressee. Ellinor’s ennui is enlivened, in Barslund’s sharp translation, by Hjorth’s candid prose and concise paragraphs, a style that allows Ellinor to pivot between dry musings and sardonic narration. The effect is entertaining in small doses but tends to drag in the long term. Still, Hjorth’s substantive and witty novel of personal growth delivers on multiple levels. (Sept.)