Days in the history of silence

Merethe Lindstrøm

Book - 2013

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New York : Other Press 2013.
Physical Description
230 pages ; 21 cm
Main Author
Merethe Lindstrøm (author)
Other Authors
Anne Bruce, 1952 April 22- (translator)
Review by Booklist Reviews

By all accounts, Eva and Simon should be able to look back on their lives with very few regrets. Eva made a career for herself as a doting teacher, Simon became an accomplished physician, and they jointly raised three children while creating a warm and loving home. Now, with Simon's health rapidly declining in his later years, many of Eva's memories, long suppressed, begin to resurface. Between the chilling memory of a long-ago home intruder and the abrupt dismissal of a beloved housekeeper, Eva begins to wonder just how ideal her marriage really was and how many memories she and Simon have left to share. This deeply intimate character portrait dwells in the intersection of nostalgia, loss, and forgotten histories. The narrative is mainly episodic, allowing the reader glimpses into a marriage marred by depression and repression. Bruce's translation allows Lindstrøm's sparse and evocative prose to shine, giving equal weight to both highly dramatic and domestically mundane events. Fans of Anne Holt, Nicholas Mosley, and Max Frisch will savor Days in the History of Silence. Copyright 2013 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Eva's elderly husband, Simon, has gradually stopped speaking—but as she recalls their life histories, we realize his silence may not be as inexplicable as it seems. Is Simon's muteness a product of dementia, "a kind of wasteland where one's personality is deleted," or a revelation of his essentially silent inner self? Eva and Simon spent a lifetime keeping secrets from their daughters, including his childhood hiding from the Nazis, and her son from another relationship given away for adoption. But silence does not erase: ghosts remain, demanding to be confronted. This remarkable novel, winner of the 2012 Nordic Council Literature Prize, explores the theme of silence in many different forms—a children's game, a refuge, a lie, a punishment, a solution—and shows its impact on those who long to be spoken to. For Eva, shut out of Simon's inner world, "It is not simply the feeling that he is no longer there. It is the feeling that you are not either." Lindstrom (The Guests) works in associations and superimpositions, like "a photograph that is overexposed and shows two subjects, melding in an accidental combination. As your memories do in your consciousness." The prose is simple and elegant, revealing an extraordinary talent. (Aug.) [Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Bound together not by love but by their painful respective histories, Eva and Simon discover that their pasts can no longer be repressed after the abrupt dismissal of their housekeeper sets in motion a disastrous chain of events.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Bound together by the painful facts of their respective histories, not love, Eva and Simon discover that their past can no longer be repressed after the abrupt dismissal of their housekeeper sets in motion a disastrous chain of events. Original.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

From the acclaimed Nordic Council Literature Prize winner, a story that reveals the devastating effects of mistaking silence for peace and feeling shame for inevitable circumstances  Eva and Simon have spent most of their adult lives together. He is a physician and she is a teacher, and they have three grown daughters and a comfortable home. Yet what binds them together isn’t only affection and solidarity but also the painful facts of their respective histories, which they keep hidden even from their own children. But after the abrupt dismissal of their housekeeper and Simon’s increasing withdrawal into himself, the past can no longer be repressed.   Lindstrøm has crafted a masterpiece about the grave mistakes we make when we misjudge the legacy of war, common prejudices, and our own strategies of survival.