LONGLISTED FOR THE 2020 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD IN TRANSLATED LITERATURE
"Knausgård is an impressive writer" —Publishers Weekly
"Knausgård’s writing is crystalline and careful" —Kirkus Reviews
"Boström Knausgård’s careful exploration of mental illness is restrained and entirely unsentimental. (...) Her prose is unobtrusive in its simplicity and minimalism. The result is both powerful and lyrical." —Words Without Borders
This modern spin on the myth of Athena plunges us deep inside the mind of an unlikely twelve-year-old goddess confined to a small Swedish town. Separated from her father just moments after bursting from his skull in full armor, Anna is packed off into foster care where she learns to ski, speaks in tongues, and negotiates the needs of a quirky cast of relatives. Unable to overcome her father’s absence, however, she finally succumbs to depression and is institutionalized. Anna’s rallying war cry rings out across the pages of this concise and piercing novel as a passionate appeal for belonging taken to its emotional extreme.
A modern, orphaned incarnation of the goddess Athena chronicles her madness in Knausg rd's unflinching examination of separation, loss, and depression (after Welcome to America). Twelve-year-old Anna is hatched whole in a suit of armor from the forehead of her father, Conrad. Frightened by his screaming, she escapes to a northern Swedish village, naked but for her golden helmet. After learning that Conrad is a schizophrenic who has since been committed to a psychiatric hospital, Anna is placed by a social services agency with a churchgoing family. Their well-meaning efforts to assimilate her are soon complicated by her determination to correspond with Conrad, and by an apparent gift for speaking in tongues, which pleases them until they learn that she is in fact speaking Greek. The family commits her, too, to a psychiatric hospital. In brilliant, harrowing pages of deep interiority, Knausg rd describes Anna's fever dream of alienation; Anna is desperate for love and confounded by it, and chronically incapable of connecting with those who might provide it. Knausg rd's bluntly surreal style she is also a poet suits Anna's vibrant, tormented imagination. "This is a war," Anna says of her loneliness, evoking her mythological archetype. Tidy endings are nowhere to be found; Knausg rd instead gratifies by portraiture, in her thrilling conception of a young goddess on earth.