It’s time to meet the Fall 2021 authors and their books! We’ll be diving more deeply into the books we introduced in our Fall 2021 season reveal, previewing individual titles.
Our series of sneak peeks continues with Because Venus Crossed an Alpine Violet on the Day That I Was Born by Mona Høvring, translated from the Norwegian by Kari Dickson and Rachel Rankin. Høvring’s award-winning novel is as sharp as it is sensitive, and as insightful as it is original when exploring the many distractions of the heart. “It is luminous and vibrant,” writes Fredrik Wandrup. “The words embrace the world with sensuality, humour, wonder and a confusion of feelings.”
In a hotel, high up in a mountain village, two sisters aim to reconnect after distant years that contrast their close, almost twin-like upbringing. Martha has just been discharged from a sanatorium after a mental breakdown. Ella agrees to keep her company in the hope that the clean winter air will provide clarity—and a way back to their childhood connection. It’s only when plans go awry and Martha disappears in a rage that Ella discovers a new sense of self, an identity outside her filial role. This new identity is reinforced by various encounters, including one with the writing of Stefan Zweig, which has a profound impact on her.
In its native Norway, Because Venus Crossed an Alpine Violet on the Day That I Was Born won the 2021 Dobloug Prize, the Norwegian Critics Prize for Literature, and was shortlisted for the Norwegian Booksellers’ Prize. We’ve selected an excerpt from the book, which you can read and enjoy below. Because Venus Crossed an Alpine Violet on the Day That I Was Born will be released on October 5th, 2021, and is available now for pre-order, either from our online shop or from your local independent bookstore. As part of our celebration of Women in Translation Month, we’re offering 20% off all books written and translated by women, including Because Venus Crossed an Alpine Violet on the Day That I Was Born. The sale ends on August 30th, at 11:59 p.m. EST.
We’re delighted to share an introductory video from Mona Høvring and an excerpt from the book below. Enjoy!
“The Alpine Village”
Owing to a mild speech impediment I’ve had since childhood, I confuse the pronunciation of the author Stefan Zweig’s surname with the German word Schweig—be quiet. Not that I’m as well-read as I’d like to be, and my German is really rather poor, but I have admired Zweig for a long time. I devour his books and read everything I can find about him. Oh, what a sorrowful end he came to in Rio de Janeiro, and that heart-wrenching suicide note he left: “aus freiem Willen und mit klaren Sinnen.” Whenever I throw myself into my own writing, my own attempts to understand the world, there he is, a quiet reminder—Verwirrung der Gefühle.
This story begins with me and my sister arriving in an alpine village well into the afternoon. It was winter. The train came to a halt by a station that both slumbered and soared, self-consciously proclaiming its height above sea level.
My sister didn’t make the slightest move to help unload our suitcases. She positioned herself on the platform and stood there, completely indifferent, while the conductor helped me with our heavy luggage. I was on the cusp of explaining that she was sick, that she’d just got out of hospital, but contented myself with shaking his hand and saying that I appreciated his thoughtfulness. Before he blew his whistle and boarded the train, the conductor winked at me and wished me good luck. Was it out of pity? Had he understood something I hadn’t, seen something I hadn’t?
My sister disappeared around the corner of the station building. I had to wheel and carry everything by myself. It was hard going.
In the days before we left, I’d been living in a perpetual daydream. I studied the glossy, seductive brochures we’d been sent. The colour of the sky in the photographs was reminiscent of the light and hue of old films, and the mountains shone with irresistible pinks—they seemed to whisper to me in an unknown language. I pictured an exotic winter wonderland. I dreamt of alpine ski slopes and indoor swimming pools and sophisticated menus curated by expert chefs from the content. It was like the ecstasy of transformation. I envisioned another epoch.
But it was not an alpine village in some Central European monarchy we’d arrived at, no—my sister couldn’t stand air travel, so we were staying in a simple Norwegian village. It lay in splendid isolation at the bottom of a steep mountain, and the people there weren’t exactly incomprehensible, but they did speak in a distinctive, slightly drawn-out dialect.
I found my sister by the bus stop. She had positioned herself beside an older woman and a young boy. She looked like any other traveller—nothing suggested instability, nothing screamed hysteria or breakdown. It looked as though she had full control over both time and place, and even though I was outraged by her behaviour, her convincing composure did give me strength. Yes, it pleased me greatly. But I couldn’t thank her for the calmness she was emanating, couldn’t comment on it. I had to keep my thoughts to myself. Praising her was the same as giving her a task, an obligation. I feared that even the smallest hint of responsibility would whip up her anxiety and contrariness. No, thanking her would ruin everything.
Mona Høvring is the author of six poetry collections and four novels. Her previous novels include the acclaimed Something That Helps (2004), The Waiting Room in the Atlantic (2012), winner of the Unified Language Prize, and Camilla’s Long Nights (2013), nominated for the Nordic Council Literature Prize. Because Venus Crossed an Alpine Violet on the Day That I Was Born won the Norwegian Critics’ Prize for Literature, was a finalist for the Norwegian Booksellers’ Prize, and was included on numerous critics’ Best of 2018 book lists.
Kari Dickson is a literary translator. She translates from Norwegian, and her work includes literary fiction, literary fiction, children’s books, theatre, and nonfiction. In 2019, Book*hug Press published her translation of Rune Christiansen’s Fanny and the Mystery in Grieving Forest. She is also an occasional tutor in Norwegian language, literature and translation at the University of Edinburgh, and has worked with the British Centre for Literary Translation (BCLT) and the National Centre for Writing. She lives in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Rachel Rankin is a poet and translator based in Edinburgh, Scotland. She received a Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award in 2019 and was selected for the National Centre for Writing’s Emerging Translator Mentorship Programme in 2018. She has also worked as a tutor in Scandinavian Studies at the University of Edinburgh, where she has taught classes in Norwegian language and Scandinavian literature.