Hanne Ørstavik


Shortlisted for the 2020 Republic of Consciousness Prize

Winner of the 2019 PEN America Translation Prize

Finalist for the 2018 National Book Award for Translated Literature

A short, suspenseful Norwegian winter’s tale crafted in beautifully spare and precise prose. A harrowing, tragic story of a mother and her son.

As clear and relentless as the cold air, Love unfolds over one winter’s evening. Single mother Vibeke and her son Jon have just moved to a small, remote town in the north of Norway. Tomorrow Jon will be nine. As Vibeke gets changed after work, Jon wonders what surprises his mother has prepared for him. He leaves the house certain she will make him a cake. But preoccupied with concerns of her own, she too ventures out. Inextricably linked yet desperately at odds, mother and son make their lonely ways through the unforgiving night.

Beautifully translated into English by Martin Aitken, this edition is the twenty-eighth international publication of Love. Hanne Ørstavik’s astonishing grasp of human fragility and her economy of form power this acknowledged masterpiece of Norwegian literature.

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Ebook: £6.99

About the Book

Sarah Jessica Parker recommended Love on Instagram, calling it ‘a treasure’.

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Hanne’s deceptively uncomplicated prose is an exacting task for any translator. Everything’s below the surface. There’s a lightness of touch to her sentences, and a movingly human insight that makes the writing as luminous as the snow of northern Norway where the book is set.’ Martin Aitken

  • Read the full interview between Hanne Orstavik and translator Martin Aitken on Literary Hub, here.
  • Read an interview with Hanne Orstavik on Bookaholic, where she discusses how her novel took shape, here.
  • Listen to Tom Sutcliffe and guests discuss Love on BBC Saturday Review (from around 10:04), here.
  • Hanne Orstavik was on Radio 4’s Open Book
Print status: Available
Translator: Martin Aitken
Original language: Norwegian
Format: B-Format Paperback
Publication date: 7 November 2019
ISBN: 9781911508724
Ebook ISBN: 9781911508731
Availability: UK, EUR & Comm (excl Can)
Number of pages: 144


Karl Ove Knausgaard

‘Love is Hanne Ørstavik’s strongest book.’

Sarah Gilmartin
Irish Times

'An achingly sad, unsentimental story . . . For a short novel that spans only a few hours in time . . . Ørstavik brings us remarkably close to both her characters, shifting effortlessly between them in stark, lucid prose.'

Anita Felicelli
Los Angeles Review of Books

‘[I]n Love, the closeness of the perspectives, the cramming of them together, as if the mother and son are one person, and yet clearly not, feels less about narrative, and more about the limitations of love. We think we know another person, we feel settled in another person, and yet, perhaps every other consciousness is entirely a mystery. That’s the power of this particular book. The tiny emotional and atmospheric shifts are often barely perceptible, and yet they add up to much more.’

Claire Vaye Watkins
The New York Times

‘Ørstavik's mastery of perspective and clean, crackling sentences prevent sentimentality or sensationalism from trailing this story of a woman and her accidentally untended child. Both of them long for love, but the desire lines of the book are beautifully crooked. Jon wants his mother, and to be let in out of the cold...the cold that seems a character throughout this excellent novel of near misses.’

Publishers Weekly, starred review

‘[A] haunting masterpiece... The deceptively simple novel is slow-burning, placing each character into situations associated with horror—entering an unfamiliar house, accepting a ride from a stranger—and the result is a magnificent tale.’

Kirkus Reviews

‘Prizewinning Norwegian Ørstavik follows the parallel courses of a single mother and her 8-year-old son during a night that moves unrelentingly toward tragedy... A nightmarish sense of impending doom hangs over these carefully detailed, tightly controlled pages... icy cold to the core.’

Barbara Hoffert
Library Journal

‘[A] creeping sense of unease is racheted up by the cool, lucid prose and how the paragraphs shift between mother and son, clarifying how close they should be and how close they aren’t... Multi-award winner Ørstavik offers an unsettling read that most will enjoy.’

Kerri Arsenault

‘Love can change everything. And it does in this edgy, elegiac and beautifully written novel...What you think will happen doesn't—and what does breaks your heart.’

M.Bartley Seigel
Words Without Borders

‘What was so striking to me about this slim novel was how quiet and circumspect it was given the emotional gut punch it delivered. ‘Deceptive’ is right, sneaky even, and at the risk of falling into the trap of stereotyping Norwegian lit, the power of quietly mushrooming foreboding is strong with Ørstavik. As I happen to be flying over the dark and snowy north of Norway as I write this, looking out my window at the icy fjords below, I feel the creep, even at 35,000 feet.’

Erik Noonan
Asymptote Journal

‘Love is a beautiful novella of beguiling simplicity, and Martin Aitken’s translation has brought it over into an English that is both familiar and alien.’

Lori Feathers
World Literature Today

‘Love is a deep and vibrantly alive novel... beautifully devastating... This is not your typical love story but rather the sharp-edged account of a boy whose need for attention from his heedless mother is heartfelt and full of yearning.’

Michael Orthofer
The Complete Review

‘Love is effectively atmospheric... neatly textured with its back and forths... A disturbing little read, nicely, darkly told.’

National Book Foundation, 2018 Translated Literature Finalist

‘In Hanne Ørstavik’s Love , the equilibrium between a tense, disquieting plot and a gently experimental binary structure sustain the reader’s attention and awe from beginning to end. The aerial beauty of Martin Aitken’s translation contributes to make the novel a successful rarity: a book that is at the same time a thriller and a dense literary object. “Perfect” may be the proper adjective to describe it.’

Booksellers on Love

‘Hanne Ørstavik crafts an atmosphere of unease out of the ordinary. An old man giving a young boy a pair of skates, a man inviting a woman over for coffee, in Orstavik’s hands these seemingly harmless moments become filled with an underlying sense of dread. Longing and loneliness fill these pages, while always there is a sense of the impossibility of real understanding and connection between people. Ørstavik is a true observer of human nature and Love is her masterpiece.’ Emily Ballaine, Green Apple Books on the Park
‘Point of view works like a spot of living light in this slender book, with deft perspective shifts occurring between Vibeke, a hardworking, distracted mother, and Jon, her curious, lonely young son, on nearly every page. Mother and son are each on a separate journey, but the reader watches their whole shared life, as memories are folded expertly between breaths in Orstavik's urgent, visually vivid present tense--what a lovely shape. Nothing is wasted. And I'm astonished by the precision and poetry of Martin Aitken's translation from the Norwegian.’ Gina Balibrera, Literati Bookstore
‘Written with a precise elegance...builds to an ending as lonely as our characters. Beautiful and affecting, no word is wasted in this perfect winter read.’ Kelsey Westenberg, Pilsen Community Books