Danish poet Aidt presents 15 short stories that glance at modern disconnectedness.
It takes some courage to open a book with a description of “an astonishing landscape,” but Aidt begins with this implicit boast, confident that her work can take readers to places they’ve never been. The characters in this “astonishing landscape” are a vacationing married couple with a child. As the story unfolds, secrets come out and an accident occurs, leading husband and wife into the ellipses of their relationship. The story—which recalls European art films like Rossellini’s Journey to Italy and Kiarostami’s Certified Copy—stuns. But the rest of the collection adopts the same elliptical style, and the result, as a whole, is fascinating, frustrating and cold. Some stories—like “Interruption,” in which a man deals with a strange woman who has inexplicably moved into his apartment, and “Wounds,” in which a visitor to a city stumbles reluctantly into a fraught friendship—are wondrous, with vast loneliness underlying each syllable. But other stories seem like mere sketches, captured moments whose blurred edges struggle to suggest something important in their absence. “This is so incredibly banal,” one character thinks, “and yet it’s so important.” Capturing the importance in banality is Aidt’s laudable aim here, and many of these stories demonstrate a poet’s interest in turning a moment over and looking at it from all sides. But lined up as these moments are, the resulting book becomes occasionally dull, with many stories turning to (or, some might say, devolving into) grotesque sexuality as a quick way to inject intrigue into the “banal.” Too bad—Aidt is a much better writer of short fiction than she often allows herself to be here.
A collection whose individual pieces fascinate but whose overall effect feels diluted by repetition.