Good Books • Dorthe Nors • May 20, 2016
In celebration of the forthcoming publication of So Much for That Winter by Dorthe Nors, the next A Public Space Book with Graywolf Press, we're excited to share this excerpt from "Days," one of the two novellas in the collection.
a novella from So Much for That Winter by Dorthe Nors, translated from the Danish by Misha Hoekstra
- Woke up one year older, feeling that this should be seen as a sign,
- but it isn’t a sign of anything, other than that a day has passed.
- Paid my back taxes,
- attended to my mail,
- and took a long walk along the usual route through the cemetery to the elephants, and their mighty bodies played with each other in the pool as if they knew full well that their weight could prove fatal, and I stood there a long time, I stood at the side of an old woman who also pondered the elephants’ love lives.
- Bought scones at the good bakery on Gammel Kongevej
- and sat down on the way home to read a book, not far from the grotto in Søndermarken, but was badgered by a duck that begged bread from park visitors, while the sweethearts on the blanket next to me were watching all the birds warily, including mine, because the woman was afraid of birds and because the man enjoyed defending her from them,
- and so we managed to pass the afternoon that way.
- Felt pain in my mouth,
- pain in my lower back and the one hip,
- walked slowly home
- and opened all the windows, for it’s a mild evening in Copenhagen,
- and tomorrow I will maintain my faith in the day after tomorrow,
- and that one day it will be me who’s allowed to be there when the instruments are tuning,
- for there comes a day,
- and a day after that day,
- that’s the way days are.
- Slept late,
- went for a run,
- lay down in bed and was awakened by the pigeons,
- went for a bike ride after dinner to Western Cemetery and sat down someplace among the dead where no one could find me, and wished the evening the best, for that couldn’t hurt.
- Went home, because the mosquitoes began to bite, and made a cup of coffee,
- stood there with the coffee in my hand,
- stood there and my nose grew cold, it suddenly hit me,
- Perhaps I spend too much time in cemeteries, I thought,
- and lay down on the floor, vanished corporeally, and if I don’t exist, everything up to this point doesn’t exist either, my history, America, the stone I walk around with in my pocket, and then what he wrote last winter,
- and if none of those things exist, sorrow doesn’t exist, and then tomorrow doesn’t exist either,
- I thought, unable to breathe, for that which doesn’t exist cannot breathe,
- for there aren’t many advantages to being that which doesn’t exist, except for being able to walk through walls and listen at doors,
- and I’d heard it all now, so what is that?
- Got to my feet,
- placed myself over by the window,
- listened to one of the neighborhood dogs and stayed with it through thick and thin,
- thought, Why doesn’t anyone let it in? and could feel I was no longer a young woman,
- just a woman who has lived longer than my neighbor and the dog down there and many of the dead, and a thousand years ago I would have long since been laid in my grave, I thought, but look at me now,
- mournful, alive, and kicking,
- and I’d like to be able to believe in tomorrow,
- and I can’t do anything but;
- I’m hopelessly up the creek in the situation.
Misha Hoekstra taught creative writing and literature at Deep Springs College before moving to Denmark in 1997. He writes and performs songs as Minka Hoist.
Dorthe Nors, excerpt from “Days,” from
- Sent my regrets,
- thought about life’s insistence on equilibrium: we lurch from side to side, and for every time someone’s caressed on the cheek, there’s a place in the world where someone gets boxed on the ear, for every gleam of sunlight a shower of hail, for every door opened one closed, and thus for the heat that arises one place, somewhere else a new magnet is placed on the fridge.
- Scribbled down the line: From her heart sprang the periphery of everything.
- Scribbled down the line: Grow up!
- and tied a ribbon in my hair.
- Went for a walk in the cemetery,
- placed the petals from the first rugosa in my palm,
- and everything’s dicey, but quiet.
- Thought that the worst thing about the things that change us for life, is that every day we have to persuade ourselves not to look at them and how they attest to the insignificance with which we’re shuffled around, we’re lost and found and lost again,
- these daily administrative actions,
- even my pulse isn’t sacred,
- my family, my writing, my best intentions,
- everything’s dealt with, I thought,
- and tomorrow it’s up and stand on your feet, stand and walk and bear the dead weight from place to place,
- jump over the sun,
- make contact with the universe
- and continue on down to the laundromat.
So Much for That Winter. Copyright © 2010 by Dorthe Nors & Rosinante & Co., Copenhagen. English translation copyright © 2016 by Misha Hoekstra. Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota, www.graywolfpress.org.