First Fiction Friday: Mona Høvring's Because Venus Crossed an Alpine Violet on the Day that I Was Born
Acclaimed Norwegian author Mona Høvring's Because Venus Crossed an Alpine Violet on the Day that I Was Born (Book*hug Press) has won multiple awards in Norway, and now for the first time, the novel (and the first of Høvring's books) has been translated into English by Kari Dickson and Rachel Rankin. An ethereal, moving story of two sisters, Because Venus is propulsive in pacing and keen in insightful.
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Because Venus Crossed an Alpine Violet on the Day that I Was Born takes readers high above sea level in a dreamy tale of sisterly disaffection. At a hotel mountain retreat, Martha and Ella, aim to reconnect after distant years that contrast their close, almost twin-like upbringing. Martha has just been discharged from a sanatorium after a mental breakdown. Ella agrees to keep her company in the hope that the clean winter air will provide clarity—and a way back to their childhood connection. When tensions build and Martha disappears in a rage, Ella discovers a new sense of self outside of this fractured relationship.
Because Venus Crossed an Alpine Violet on the Day that I Was Born strikes an uncanny note of shimmering lyricism and abrupt philosophical insight. As Ella roves the mountain village, her internal musings are punctured by encounters with a series of odd characters: the precise and omnipresent hotel manager; the enigmatic love interest; the wistful Salvation Army soldier; and, not least, the Stephan Zweig novel, hidden within a bedside pile of books. Each interaction offers a revelation of some sort, if not the clarity that Ella had wished for.
The novel won the 2021 Dobloug Prize (Norway) and the Norwegian Critics’ Prize for Literature, was shortlisted for the Norwegian Booksellers’ Prize, and more recently, was longlisted for the Prix Femina 2021 (France). Kari Dickson and Rachel Rankin’s tender translation introduces this novel about the necessity of imagination and the grammar of compassion to an English readership.
This is a book with gorgeous prose and a unique take on how we come to know ourselves. For Høvring, we are beings-adrift, with no authentic core and infinite ways to search our souls. It is often in encountering other people that we learn to define ourselves. Sometimes these others arrive, as if by fate, to reveal new shades of meaning, other times they exist in the fabric of our memories, anchoring us in dialogue with the past. Ultimately, it seems, we are what resonates with us—and what resonates with us might change. If we learn to occupy these endless internal adjustments with cool serenity, we come as close as we can get to wisdom.
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In Because Venus the spectral beauty of Clarice Lispector's prose meets Tove Ditlevsen's propulsive search for meaning and eloquent self-examination.
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Mona Høvring is the author of six poetry collections and four novels. Her previous novels include the acclaimed Something That Helps (2004), The Waiting Room in the Atlantic (2012), winner of the Unified Language Prize, and Camilla’s Long Nights (2013), nominated for the Nordic Council Literature Prize. Because Venus Crossed an Alpine Violet on the Day that I Was Born won the Norwegian Critics’ Prize for Literature, was a finalist for the Norwegian Booksellers’ Prize, and was included on numerous critics’ Best of 2018 book lists.
Photo credit Agnete Brun
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Thanks so much to Rachel Gerry at Book*hug Press for introducing us to Because Venus Crossed an Alpine Violet on the Day that I Was Born available here on All Lit Up.
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