The Employees

By (author): Olga Ravn

Translated by: Martin Aitken

Shortlisted for the International Booker Prize and the Ursula K. Le Guin Prize for Fiction, The Employees reshuffles a sci-fi voyage into a riotously original existential nightmare.

Funny and doom-drenched, The Employees chronicles the fate of the Six-Thousand Ship. The human and humanoid crew members alike complain about their daily tasks in a series of staff reports and memos. When the ship takes on a number of strange objects from the planet New Discovery, the crew become strangely and deeply attached to them, and start aching for the same things—warmth and intimacy, loved ones who have passed, shopping and child-rearing, and faraway Earth, which now only persists in memory—even as tensions boil toward mutiny, especially among the humanoids.

Olga Ravn’s prose is chilling, crackling, exhilarating, and foreboding. The Employees probes into what makes us human, while delivering a hilariously stinging critique of life governed by the logic of productivity.


Martin Aitken

MARTIN AITKEN has translated the work of contemporary Scandinavian writers such as Karl Ove Knausgaard, Peter Høeg, Ida Jessen, and Kim Leine. He was a finalist at the U.S. National Book Awards 2018 and received the PEN America Translation Prize 2019 for his translation of Hanne Ørstavik’s Love. His translation of Olga Ravn’s The Employees was shortlisted for the 2021 International Booker Prize. Aitken lives in Denmark.


Olga Ravn

OLGA RAVN is one of Denmark’s most celebrated contemporary authors. Her novel The Employees, translated by Martin Aitken, was nominated for numerous prizes, including the International Booker Prize and the inaugural Ursula K. Le Guin Prize for Fiction. Time Magazine named The Employees one of the 100 Must-Read Books of 2022. My Work won the Politiken Literature Prize in 2020. In collaboration with Danish publisher Gyldendal, she edited a selection of Tove Ditlevsen’s texts and books that relaunched Ditlevsen’s readership worldwide. She has also worked as a critic, teacher, and translator. Ravn lives in Copenhagen.


“But what The Employees captures best is humanity’s ambivalence about life itself, its sticky messes and unappealing functions, the goo that connects us to everything that crawls and mindlessly self-propagates, not to mention that obliterating payoff at the end of it all.” —The New York Review of Books

The Employees is not only a disconcertingly quotidian space opera; it’s also an audacious satire of corporate language and the late-capitalist workplace, and a winningly abstracted investigation into what it means to be human.” —The Guardian

“This beautiful and moving novel, set in a workplace—a spaceship some time in the future—is by turns loving and cold, funny and deliberately prosaic; capable of building a sense of existential horror one minute then quotidian comfort and private grief the next. In deceptively simple prose, threaded on a fully achieved and ambitiously experimental structure, it asks big questions about sentience and the nature of humanity. And about what happiness might be.” —2021 International Booker Prize Judges’ Citation

The Employees is a clever exploration of what it means to be a person—and an excellent satire of corporate lingo.” —Time Magazine

“A book that strikes a rare balance between SF philosophy and workaday feeling all while whirling through space” —Kirkus Reviews

“What might result if Ursula K. Le Guin and Nell Zink had a baby.” —Tank Magazine

“Beautiful, sinister, gripping. A tantalizing puzzle you can never quite solve. All the reviews say that the novel is, ultimately, about what it means to be human. What makes it exceptional, however, is the way it explores the richness and strangeness of being non-human.” —Mark Haddon, author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time

“Questions of ontology—of what it means to be alive and to have a soul—pervade this brief but philosophically dense work of speculative fiction.” —Steven Beattie, That Shakespearean Rag

“In Olga Ravn’s The Employees humans and humanoids show a way forward for a calamitous earth. The novel is crisp, pushing the reader to finish reading it in a single sitting, but also packs within a myriad of thoughts.” —Anandi Mishra. Full Stop


  • Ursula K. Le Guin Prize for Fiction 2022, Short-listed
  • International Booker Prize 2021, Short-listed
  • National Book Award for Translated Literature 2022, Long-listed
  • Dublin Literary Award 2022, Long-listed
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    140 Pages
    8.00in * 5.25in * .30in


    March 08, 2022


    Book*hug Press



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    My Work

    By (author): Olga Ravn

    Translated by: Jennifer Russell