Danish author Dorthe Nors’ new work, “So Much for that Winter” (Graywolf, $15) is two novellas about women moving on with their lives after breakups. But it’s the form of these novellas that really drives home the sense of humor and wonder required to start over.
Nors’ use of unconventional storytelling forms beautifully illustrates how modern life has both veered from tradition and become constrained by its archaic conventions.
The first novella, “Minna Needs Rehearsal Space,” is told through a series of short, stand-alone declarative sentences. The title character searches in vain for rehearsal space and ends up traveling to the remote island of Bornholm to sing off the cliffs and “make noise the way she wishes.” After a poignant, emotional song, “Minna opens her eyes, and there stands an angler….The angler calls out, ‘The fish are getting spooked.’”
While Minna is the story of a woman on a physical journey, “Days” is more introspective, made up entirely of lists detailing the narrator’s days, which are spent biking, writing, and contemplating.
It’s difficult to explain just how moving this novella is without quoting at least one entire list. Read separately, a list is a remarkable poem documenting — with honesty usually only reserved for the most revered friend — the days’ events and introspections. When the lists are read together as a novella, a portrait of a thoughtful woman seeking her place in the world emerges.
It’s wonderfully surprising how powerful a list — or in this case a series of lists — can be. Nors writes with the fearlessness of someone used to confronting nature: her work is as steady and unpredictable as the sky. With her keen eye fixed on the power of small, everyday moments, “So Much for that Winter” is a wonderful reminder, both in form and function, of the unexpected joys present in each day.