My Work by Olga Ravn, translated by Jennifer Russell and Sophia Hersi Smith

My Work by Olga Ravn, translated by Jennifer Russell and Sophia Hersi Smith

A Time Magazine Most Anticipated Book of Fall 2023

Winner of the Politiken Literature Prize

Literature in Translation Series
Literary Fiction / Autofiction
Publication Date: September 5, 2023
390 pages
5.25 x 8 inches
ISBN 9781771668644

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From the acclaimed author of the International Booker Prize–shortlisted literary sensation The Employees comes a radical, funny, and mercilessly honest novel about motherhood.

Anna is utterly lost. Still in shock after the birth of her son, she moves to snowbound Stockholm with her newborn and boyfriend, where a chasm soon opens between the couple. Lonely and isolated, Anna reads too many internet articles and shops for clothes she cannot afford. To avoid sinking deeper into her depression, she must read and write herself back into her proper place in the world.

My Work is a fervent, intimate, and compulsive examination of the relationship between motherhood, writing, and everyday life. In a mesmerizing, propulsive blend of prose, poetry, journal entries, and letters, Olga Ravn probes the pain, postpartum depression, housework, shopping, mundanity, and anxiety of motherhood, all the while celebrating the unbounded that comes from the love in a parent and child relationship—and rediscovering oneself through art.

Praise for My Work

My Work is ferocious, horrific, elegant, insightful, irreverent, and funny. Can a woman still be a person after motherhood? Of course not, Ravn argues, or rather, admits. And in prose, poems, and journal entries, she documents all the absurdity and repulsiveness of growing a creature in your body and then raising it. It is a magnificent and satisfying meditation. One of the most honest and revelatory works of fiction about motherhood I have ever read. Ravn’s writing is ecstatic, philosophical, and addictive.”  —Heather O’Neill, author of When We Lost Our Heads

“This novel from Olga Ravn, this new golden notebook, needs to be read by absolutely anyone who has known the quiet madness and claustrophobic happiness of the interior, especially mothers who also long for a life of literature. But this novel absolutely needs to be read by everyone else as well. Oh, Olga Ravn, always inventing new forms, you are a genius. How do you do it?” —Kate Zambreno, author of The Light Room

Press Coverage

“Maintenance, Hvidovre” by Olga Ravn, translated by Martin Aitken —The New Yorker

An Excerpt from My WorkGranta

The 36 Most Anticipated Books of Fall 2023 —Time Magazine

Lit Hub’s Most Anticipated Books of 2023 —Lit Hub

“This brilliant and unflinching work deserves to be a classic.” —Publishers Weekly

“A stunning book that speaks aloud thoughts the reader believed had been theirs alone in long nursery hours of the night.”  —Kirkus Reviews

“If The Employees asks what truly separates different classes of labouring life forms, My Work opens up a chasm between one woman and herself, who after giving birth “became less human.” —The Guardian

Interview with Olga Ravn: “Learning how to love a child isn’t something that happens in a second”— The Guardian

“Explores childbirth and motherhood by mixing different literary forms—fiction, essay, poetry, memoir, letters—with [Ravn’s] signature experimental flair.” —Sophia Stewart, The Millions

“On the surface, My Work seems quite different in scope [from The Employees]…but something tells me that interacting with humanoids and sentient space objects have more in common with the first stages of motherhood than one might think.” ―Eliza Smith, Lit Hub

“Ravn has created a truly unique project which is not so much a story as it is an accumulation. It is all the selves, shed and grown, that mothers and birthing people encounter in the slippery aftermath of childbirth; it is the documentation of the mother/art monster problem, a problem that in Ravn’s telling, is as much about addition as it is subtraction.” —Amber Sparks, Brooklyn Rail

The Limits of Agency: On Olga Ravn’s My WorkLos Angeles Review of Books

Some children do ’ave ’em: Fragments on ‘the shattering experience of motherhood’ —Times Literary Supplement

“Olga Ravn has not only added a highly personal and literary page-turner to her body of work: she has made a brave and important contribution to literary history and social debate, which since the 1970s has been in dire need of writing that incorporates lived experience.” —Børsen

“Olga Ravn writes dazzlingly about the task of motherhood and the task of writing… This is powerful writing that’s hard to put down.” —Politiken

“Luminous.” —Jyllands-Posten

An excerpt from My Work by Olga Ravn (translated by Sophia Hersi Smith and Jennifer Russell) Lit Hub

For a New Mother, and the Author who Created Her, the Struggle is Real

“Ravn tugs skillfully at the threads of reality, subtly distorting events to reveal hidden, dislocated truths” The New York Times

On the Time We Forget in Olga Ravn’s My Work The Ex-Puritan

Investigating Motherhood: A Recommended Reading List by Katherine Leyton 49th Shelf

“Ravn makes a provocative and compelling intervention into writing on motherhood by challenging the banishment of motherhood and domestic labour from discussions of work … It is an ambitious and accomplished novel that acts simultaneously as a work of theory; it is bold, original, and brilliant.” —Clementine Oberst, The Miramichi Reader

About the Author

Olga Ravn is one of Denmark’s most celebrated contemporary authors. Her novel The Employees, translated by Martin Aitken, was nominated for numerous prizes, including the International Booker Prize and the inaugural Ursula K. Le Guin Prize for Fiction. Time Magazine named The Employees one of the 100 Must-Read Books of 2022. My Work, originally published in Danish as Mit arbejde, won the Politiken Literature Prize in 2020. In collaboration with Danish publisher Gyldendal, she edited a selection of Tove Ditlevsen’s texts and books that relaunched Ditlevsen’s readership worldwide. She has also worked as a critic, teacher, and translator. Ravn lives in Copenhagen.

Jennifer Russell and Sophia Hersi Smith are translators living in Copenhagen. They received an American-Scandinavian Foundation Award for their co-translation of Rakel Haslund-Gjerrild’s All the Birds in the Sky in 2020. Their translations have appeared in The Paris ReviewGrantaAsymptoteEuropeNow, Poetry International, and on stage.