cover image Ti Amo

Ti Amo

Hanne Ørstavik, trans. from the Norwegian by Martin Aitken. Archipelago, $18 trade paper (128p) ISBN 978-1-953861-44-3

Ørstavik (The Pastor) offers a remarkable depiction of love and loss in this powerful elegaic narrative. The unnamed narrator, a Norwegian writer, addresses her partner, an Italian publisher, who is dying from pancreatic cancer. “What I’ve been writing,” the narrator explains to him, “is the most truthful way I’ve been able to be with you, with all that cannot be said between us in our days together.” Thus Ørstavik sketches a spare but capacious meditation on both the shape of their relationship and the effort required, practically and emotionally, by the narrator to care for her partner through the end of his life. Where scenes might become cloying or melodramatic, the narrator maintains a controlled—but not cold—distance that only enriches the intimacy throughout, suffusing the mundane (refilling prescriptions) and the visceral (loss of bowel control) with frankness and tenderness. Various phrases and riffs on the word love, including ti amo, sustain an incantatory power, and the brevity of this striking text makes its final moments soar. “I’ll do anything for you,” the speaker tells her partner. “But writing it down here it feels like so little.” In Ørstavik’s skilled hands, a little becomes so much more. (Sept.)