Ti amo

Hanne Ørstavik, 1969-

Book - 2022

Based in Ørstavik's own experience of losing her Italian husband to cancer. By facing loss directly, she includes readers in an experience that many face in isolation. Written and set in the early months of 2020, its themes of loss and suffering are particularly well suited for a time of international mourning.

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FICTION/Orstavik Hanne
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Brooklyn, NY : Archipelago Books 2022.
Main Author
Hanne Ørstavik, 1969- (author)
Other Authors
Martin Aitken (translator)
First Archipelago Books edition
Item Description
Translated from the Norwegian.
Physical Description
120 pages ; 17 cm
Contents unavailable.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Ørstavik (The Pastor) offers a remarkable depiction of love and loss in this powerful elegaic narrative. The unnamed narrator, a Norwegian writer, addresses her partner, an Italian publisher, who is dying from pancreatic cancer. "What I've been writing," the narrator explains to him, "is the most truthful way I've been able to be with you, with all that cannot be said between us in our days together." Thus Ørstavik sketches a spare but capacious meditation on both the shape of their relationship and the effort required, practically and emotionally, by the narrator to care for her partner through the end of his life. Where scenes might become cloying or melodramatic, the narrator maintains a controlled--but not cold--distance that only enriches the intimacy throughout, suffusing the mundane (refilling prescriptions) and the visceral (loss of bowel control) with frankness and tenderness. Various phrases and riffs on the word love, including ti amo, sustain an incantatory power, and the brevity of this striking text makes its final moments soar. "I'll do anything for you," the speaker tells her partner. "But writing it down here it feels like so little." In Ørstavik's skilled hands, a little becomes so much more. (Sept.)

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

A husband and wife living in Italy confront the man's imminent death from cancer in a meditation on relationships, loss, and identity in every facet of existence. Noted Norwegian writer Ørstavik's new, novella-length work hints at autobiography, introducing an unnamed narrator who is a Norwegian novelist relocated to Milan, as the author has done, with an oeuvre that includes Love, one of Ørstavik's own books. The narrator is deferring her next novel to write this penetrating chronicle of her partner's decline. When did his cancer begin, she wonders, tracing their four years together, the trips, the timing of his proposal (after his diagnosis), and settling on spring 2018 when "the energy went out of you." Now, in 2020, he is dealing with rapidly advancing illness and extreme pain while she is tending him, writing (her way of existing), and confronting their differences at a crucial junction. Why does he choose not to discuss his death, less than 12 months away? How much strength is he using to avoid knowing? Throughout the brief text, the statement "I love you/Ti amo" is repeated and exchanged like a tolling bell as the couple both unites and divides in the face of inevitable extremis. Meanwhile, Ørstavik maintains a brutally tender, hyperprecise gaze: "For a long time just looking at you was painful to me, I couldn't look at you without the knowledge that you're going to die….And even though it's not that acute anymore, it still won't pass, now it's quieter in a way, normal almost, death has become an attendant presence." Yet, dark though its central topic undeniably is, the novel shares a compassionate vision, bridging the gulf between the one who will go on and the one who will not: "What I've been writing is the most truthful way I've been able to be with you, with all that cannot be said between us in our days together." A remarkably frank and finely sieved account of two people approaching the ultimate parting of the ways. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.