Shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize 2017
Sonja thinks about the dead prime ministers in the cemetery. It’s lovely to take a blanket there. Then she can lie on it, looking at Hans Hedtoft while the ducks quack and the roof of the big chapel gleams in the sun… The dead make no noise, and if she’s lucky a bird of prey might soar overhead. Then she’ll lie there, and escape.
Sonja's over forty, and she's trying to move in the right direction.
She's learning to drive. She's joined a meditation group. And she's attempting to reconnect with her sister. But Sonja would rather eat cake than meditate. Her driving instructor won't let her change gear. And her sister won't return her calls.
Sonja's mind keeps wandering back to the dramatic landscapes of her childhood - the singing whooper swans, the endless sky, and getting lost barefoot in the rye fields - but how can she return to a place that she no longer recognises? And how can she escape the alienating streets of Copenhagen?
Mirror, Shoulder, Signal is a poignant, sharp-witted tale of one woman's journey in search of herself when there's no one to ask for directions.
Dorthe Nors is an enormous literary star in her native Denmark and Mirror Shoulder Signal may yet stand as her breakout work in the UK.
‘This 200-page lamentation on contemporary loneliness would quickly grate if it were not for the benevolent ingenuity of Nors’s writing.’ – The Guardian
'Dorthe Nors is fantastic!' - Junot Diaz
'Nors' writing is by turns witty, gut wrenching, stark and lyrical.' - Los Angeles Times
The Man Booker International Judges comment: ‘Mirror, Shoulder, Signal is an astonishingly assured portrait of one woman’s mixture of wonder and self-doubt. Thanks to Misha Hoekstra’s polished translation, it celebrates the extraordinary in Sonja’s ordinary existence and reveals deeply-felt emotions just beneath the surface of everyday situations.’
Dorthe Nors was born in 1970 in Denmark. She is one of the most original voices in contemporary Danish literature. Her short stories have appeared in numerous international periodicals, including the Boston Review and Harper’s, and she is the first Danish writer ever to have a story published in the New Yorker. Nors has published four novels, in addition to a collection of stories, Karate Chop, and a novella, Minna Needs Rehearsal Space, which were published together in English by Pushkin Press. Karate Chop won the prestigious P. O. Enquist Literary Prize in 2014. She lives in rural Jutland, Denmark.
Misha Hoekstra, born in the US in 1963, has won several awards for his literary translations. He lives in Aarhus, where he works as a freelance writer and translator.
Publisher: Pushkin Press
Number of pages: 192
Dimensions: 216 x 135 mm
Sonja is a thoroughly modern heroine... nothing at all like Bridget Jones. Comical and clever, with a knife-twist of uneasiness The Times This novel reads like a sort of Danish Woody Allen: existential, domestic, gently humorous Daily Mail Dorthe Nors is fantastic -- Junot Diaz Witty and insightful depth... Nors writes important modern women's fiction... she gives back agency and centrality to older women Financial Times In this short novel Nors manages to condense the essence of life Spectator Benevolent ingenuity of Nors's writing... excellent situational tragicomedy... Nors's reinvention of experimental fiction is marvellous Guardian A magnificent exploration of anxiety... Ms Nors's novel delivers a bracing antidote to the cult of hygge Economist This is a book for anyone, from Stockholm to Shanghai, who finds themselves living in a city, feeling unaccountably anxious, with "restless legs poised for flight" TLS Forty-something Sonja takes control by learning to drive - with hilarious consequences Vogue An unflinching eye makes the new queen of Danish literature stand out... very moving... Nors' watchful eye... the tenderness of her writing Big Issue An insightful and compassionate novel Sunday Herald You sit on the roller coaster and let her drive. You give in to the pure pleasure of reading, the exuberance of the language, the myriads of colourful characters EuroLit Network A quick and offbeat read. It might just remind you of situations you've allowed to control you, and inspire you to find a way out Bookbag The ending... is perfect: hopeful without sentimentality, allowing for love but not equating love with magic. And the love comes from a most unexpected place, one that made me smile with surprised delight Elle Things (blog) Sharp, very funny... deftly combining wit with acute observation A Life in Books (blog) Dorthe Nors' novel is wonderful to read on different levels Miss Mesmerized (blog) Gripping... how often can we honestly say that a book is unlike anything else? Yet here it is, unique in form and effect... Nors has found a novel way of getting into the human heart... even the author blurb is exciting: it tells us that as well as this novella and collection of stories, Nors has written four novels not yet translated into English. Oh! Don't make us wait -- John Self Guardian Unsettling and poetic... Some pieces, like one about a four-pound tomato, are oddly beautiful; others are brilliantly disturbing New York Times Book Review Dorthe Nors is a writer of moments-quiet, raw portraits of existential meditation, at times dyspeptic, but never unsympathetic Paris Review 'What We're Loving' The short-short stories in Danish sensation Nors's slim, potent collection, Karate Chop ... Evoke the weirdness and wonder of relating in the digital age Vogue In this collection of stories, Danish fiction comes off a little like Danish furniture, spare and sublime. Author Dorthe Nors knows how to capture the smallest moments and sculpt them into the unforgettable Oprah Magazine Nors illuminates an ominous world of disconnected people trying to make sense of their dislocation...Nors' affectless, matter-of-fact storytelling...is the perfect complement to the low-wattage desperation and inertia her characters feel...Karate Chop is just like that: It loves you and wants to teach you, but it also wants to harm you Los Angeles Times In the span of two pages, she is able to both build and unmake a character, achieving the same complexity that other writers require entire novels to establish. (...) Karate Chop is the first of Nors' books to be translated to English but certainly won't be the last. Lovers of the art of literary fiction, students of psychology, and everyone looking for a quick, thought- provoking read should all indulge themselves in the subversive delight of this short story collection Booklist The intricately crafted stories in Karate Chop, from popular Danish writer Dorthe Nors, focus on ordinary occurrences ... and then twist them into brilliantly slanted cautionary tales about desire, romance, deception, and dread Elle Nors has found her own space away from Copenhagen's literati... Her words whip along, each idea cascading into the next: it's like having a window into someone's thoughts and makes for a stimulating... read Independent Unpredictable, poetic and powerful, with comedy, hope and surrealism alongside mental illness, violence and tragedy Curious Animal Magazine (On Karate Chop:) 'Spare, poetic, ominously disturbing' (On Minna Needs Rehearsal Space:) 'A playful experiment in finding mood and meaning in the staccato prose of the newspaper headline or social media status update' Bookanista One of Denmark's most inventive and acclaimed contemporary writer Bookanista An attractive format... shows us more than one side to Nors's work. Short, sharp stories... oblique and precise... Very striking David Hebblethwaite's Blog In this beautifully packaged back-to-back collection, Pushkin Press presents a stunningly original new voice from Denmark... Dorthe Nors has the fabulous talent (...) of restraint... The stories (...) will stay with readers far beyond the page... A major new voice in European literature Booktrust [A] unique book... a fresh, brave voice... Nors creates an incredibly direct and forceful short story. Stick with her, it's worth it We Love This Book Darkly funny and incisive... In these literary body-blows, Nors takes merciless aim at families, relationships and egos FT Nors is the Danish doyenne of the genre... [She] presents a hauntingly familiar world, which presents unpredicted turns that are at once astoundingly disturbing and curiously beautiful The Lady Dorthe Nors's story collection, Karate Chop, also blew me away. Published by Pushkin Press in an attractive back-to-back edition (the innovative novella Minna Needs Rehearsal Space is on the flipside) these are some of the best five-page stories I've ever read. -- Thomas Morris Irish Times Nors has a great knack... for portraying the voids and fault lines in an unbalanced mind... crisp, quirky, jarringly funny TLS My favorite discovery was Minna Needs Rehearsal Space by the ferociously-talented Danish writer Dorthe Nors ... a beautiful, moving, totally compelling account of one woman's yearning. I simply can't wait for Nors's next English translation. -- Nick Barley, director Edinburgh International Book Festival The Herald