Speed reading - 3 novellas in translation

In Gøhril Gabrielsen’s taut psychological thriller, Ankomst (Peirene Press), a nameless research scientist is measuring the impact of climatic changes on seabird populations. As she waits for her lover to join her on a frozen peninsular in northern Norway, isolation begins to take its toll. In her self-imposed exile, memories and imagination collide with increasing regularity. We learn of the circumstances that have led her to leave behind her young daughter and the trauma, that has shaped her recent decisions.


Set in Austria at the end of the Second World War, Paulus Hochgatterer’s bittersweet The Day My Grandfather was a Hero (MacLehose Press) is about a farming family whose son is at the front. They take in Nelli, an orphaned victim of a recent bombing and, later, a starving young man. Mikhail, a Russian POW on the run, carries a rolled-up painter’s canvas which he guards closely. The family’s routine is disrupted further with the arrival of a group of German soldiers who threaten to shatter their fragile peace.


In The Sweet Indifference of the World (Granta), Swiss novelist Peter Stamm blurs past and present. Christoph, a middle-aged writer, tells Lena, a young actress, a story of lost love. Magdalena was also an actress, and Lena is in a relationship with an aspiring writer, Chris. As they talk, their relationships appear to overlap. Has Christoph been given the opportunity to rewrite the past, to give his life “a different turn”, or are his memories unreliable?  Stamm tantalises with metafictional twists until the final pages. 

Orignally published in The Tablet