Young and Promising...

In a few hours, the wildly successful Norwegian drama, Young and Promising, will hit UK screens on Channel 4/Walter Presents. Following three young women in Oslo trying to forge careers in comedy, acting and writing respectively, the series has been nominated for a raft of awards in its home country and, for the benefit of foreign audiences, has been favourably compared with HBO's Girls. Nenne, the aspiring author in the series, is played by Gine Cornelia Pedersen, the first of whose - to date - two novels, Zero, will be released in English for the first time by Nordisk Books in 2018. The book has been described in the Norwegian press as a 'bomb crater' and like a 'punk rock single', so there is lots to look forward to. But whilst you're waiting, Nordisk Books is proud to present a brief interview with Gine on the eve of Young and Promising's UK premiere...

Nordisk Books: Gine, to get us started, could you name an author, an actor and a musician/band that have inspired you?

Gine Cornelia Pedersen: I was deeply inspired after having read the book ‘The Hour of the Star’, by Clarice Lispector. The freedom in her language! I wish she was alive so I could write her a letter to express my gratitude. Another example of underestimated women in literature; why wasn’t this in our curriculum at school? Sylvia Plath and Mathias Faldbakken also had an impact on me in my teenage years, I was (and still am) deeply inspired by their literature.

Radiohead’s music is the soundtrack of my life, so to speak. And I have always been moved to tears, and laughed my heart out, at Robin Williams and I love Julianne Moore. They could both play anything. 

NB: I set up Nordisk Books to introduce the UK public to non-crime fiction from Scandinavia. Are there any unsung authors you would recommend?

GCP: Roskva Koritzinsky. She is an acknowledged writer in Norway, who has not been translated yet, and I really think the world needs to experience the literature that she composes. She is a genius!

NB: What is your focus at the moment; writing, acting, other?

GCP: My focus at the moment is to be able to combine acting and writing, and finding space in myself (and my schedule) to be able to do both wholeheartedly. Plus, I have some other projects I really want to find time to indulge in. 

NB: What is the best thing about being able to live from acting and writing? And what is the worst?

GCP: The best thing about it is that it´s like a very unrealistic dream come true. I work with all the things I love, and always have dreamed of.

The worst is maybe to suddenly be very visible - and talking to the press. I am a private person. Paradoxically enough. 

NB: You now live in Oslo; what is your favourite part of the city?

GCP: Oslo is a city with so many soulful places. I grew up in a part of town called Majorstuen, so that´s where I feel most nostalgic. The best thing about Oslo is that you could take the tram for 20 minutes and be in the middle of the forest, or at a wonderful beach, or hop on a boat and travel to a nearby island.

NB: Mental health is at the heart of your book and your character in YaP. Do you think this subject is treated enough/well in the arts today?

GCP: I think the human psyche, and the troubles of living, are subjects that get as much exposure in literature/art as love. And also, as love, subjects that will never get old.

leaving, on a jet plane

It turns out all this is rather time consuming, so unfortunately the blog has gone to the bottom of the to do list, as I figured it's more important that more people get to read the fantastic work we're publishing, rather than my self involved nonsense, but as I'm up early with a bit of time to kill before a flight to Aarhus, I thought I'd jot down a few thoughts.

The big news since the last post is that Nordisk Books has published the Norwegian, Kim Hiorthøy's, beautiful and odd book, You can't betray your best friend and learn to sing at the same time. I've been asked by a few people now how I've come across the books that are starting to form Nordisk's list and I must admit I can't really remember where I first saw this, only that I was wooed by the title and knew I was going to love everything about it as soon as I saw the drawing on page one. Kim's an astonishing character, the breadth of variety in his work is really a great achievement and he's a charming individual to boot. When we launched the book at Libreria, I asked him where the title came from. He explained simply that when he wrote/drew the book, he had just let down/betrayed his best friend and felt that it would be impossible, given how low he felt, to do something as positive as learning to sing. I think this combination of the literal and the elegiac, with the surreal and the naïvist, which permeates the book throughout, is exactly what makes it so appealing.

In February, Nordisk Books turned one year old. I endeavoured to celebrate this with a well intended if ultimately misguided attempt at a 'PR stunt' by cycling round London in the sleet, handing out cupcakes to booksellers. Not sure it was really worth the effort (read: frozen hands), but I hope those who did get a cake, enjoyed them. For those who didn't get one, here they are.

Following my rant about why Politiken's article on Havoc was unfounded and just generally unresonable (see last blog post), I was delighted (read: vindicated) to see that another of the Danish broadsheets, Kristeligt Dagblad, was kind enough to publish a glowing review. Always nice to have confirmation that we're on the right track.

And now? I'm working flat out to make sure the next book is moving along and can't wait to release it to the world (publication date to be confirmed, but looking like late autumn). It's already been turned into both a play and an opera in its native Sweden, and its author was runner up as Swedish 'Woman of the Year, 2017'...

On top of that, I'm organising an evening of all things Nordic in Leeds, a film screening in London and I've just gone and bought another book. So it may be some time until this blog sees any activity, but do check out Twitter and Instagram for more timely updates.

Thanks for your support!

creating havoc in english

Wow, it’s been a busy few weeks. After the success of the launch and the first batch of sales going through, I’ve been trying to drum up free publicity for Havoc by doing a few interviews. The first one, published by the Bookseller Magazine, was excellent and with their almost 150k Twitter followers, got some great exposure – even leading directly to the second one, with Bookmachine. It’s really exciting to see people in the industry getting behind Nordisk Books and hopefully it will have introduced a few more people to what I’m trying to do here and, particularly, to Tom Kristensen and the authors that will follow.

            Unfortunately, one cannot win every time and the very first interview I did, with a young Danish freelance journalist, has not turned out as well. Whereas during the interview itself he seemed genuinely enthusiastic about the entire idea, sadly he has chosen to take the article in a different direction, claiming that it is irresponsible of the Danish publisher who sold the rights to Havoc to do so to a new, inexperienced press. His main concerns, due to be published in a major Danish paper in the coming weeks and as reiterated in the article by a university professor in Copenhagen, are essentially twofold.

            Firstly, they believe that in not using a more established publisher, there is a risk that the quality of the book will not live up to their expected standards as regards a Danish modern classic. The way the article is written, and especially the comments from the aforementioned university professor, suggest it is a foregone conclusion that the quality of the translation will be shoddy and undignified. I find this especially disappointing of a man of academia, as he has not read the Nordisk Books edition of Havoc and as such, speculating on the potential lack of literary faithfulness seems, at the very least, poorly researched.

            Secondly, they are solicitous that, given Nordisk Books’ limited means when compared to the larger houses (not something I can, or would want to, argue with), Tom Kristensen’s work will not get the exposure it deserves in their eyes. Now, perhaps this is the case. Indeed, there are a great many fantastic works of fiction – translated or otherwise – that do not get what many would see as fair mainstream exposure. However, given the fact that this book has been in print in Denmark since 1930 and no one had seen fit to publish it in the UK at any point in the last 86 years, one would have sincerely hoped that the individuals in question – notably the professor who is, from what I understand, a leading expert on Tom Kristensen and on Havoc in particular – would be enthralled that someone was willing to take the project on. This is certainly the view of everyone else I have spoken to on the subject. Interestingly, in connection with this, they reference another Danish title published in 2010 (it is incorrectly stated as 2013 in the version of the article I have seen) by an American press they implicitly consider more serious. Perhaps they would be surprised to learn that the title in question is outsold on the US Amazon site by the Danish original – possibly due to the fact that the paperback has a retail price of over USD 80. One would imagine this is not what these gentlemen are really hoping for with an English release of Havoc?

            This pre-emptive rebuttal may perhaps seem overzealous, however it is simply extraordinarily frustrating to have so much hard work belittled, and in such a lazy and unjustified fashion. The Danish publisher of Havoc has been incredibly supportive and has offered the professor in question a free copy of Nordisk Books’ edition of Havoc, so that he may form a more educated opinion, but should the article see the light of day, whatever damage it is likely to cause will already be done. Translation is by its very nature subjective, however I am absolutely ready to stand by the book that is now – finally! – in print in the UK and hope this is just the first of many.

            Incidentally, it may interest the gentlemen involved to know that almost 100 copies of Havoc have been sold already, with several days to go until official publication date. Not too shabby when one takes into account the fact that according to Fiammetta Rocco, administrator of the Man Booker International prize, the average work of literary fiction in translation released in the UK 2015 sold 531 copies. Maybe I’m not so far behind Random House and co. after all…

launched!

Havoc by Tom Kristensen is now officially launched (albeit not quite available yet to the masses; publication date is October 6th). The party on Friday night was great fun, thanks to everyone who came out (especially to Kristina for providing a rather large bottle of Norwegian snaps, that really made Saturday morning, er, unbearable). You can see some photos in the newly opened gallery here (thanks James!). A fine way to get the book off to the start it deserves! 

 

enthralling times

Things are starting to move rather quickly. Havoc is done and dusted (excluding the fact that the cover needs redoing, due to a certain domestic cleaning company recently relaunching their logo so that it looks identical to the originally intended cover. Ugh. Also just noticed an unintentional pun in this paragraph - 'dusted'. Apologies.). A lot of punctuation there. 

On the plus side, book number two is now firmly underway, translation making progress and thoughts about the design beginning to circulate. We're off to Norway this time and it's very different to book one. More to come on this one, but I'm hoping to get it to print in time for a release in October alongside Havoc

I'm currently sat in a hotel bar in Stockholm, having had a very succesful day of meetings with the publishing houses here, so thank you to all of you for making me feel like this project is not completely insane. I'll be travelling onward from here with a handsome, if a little impractical stack of books and cannot wait to complete the Nordic trilogy - Denmark and Norway already in the bag, Sweden soon to follow hopefully. Rather trite, but it'll help with the marketing no doubt. 

Having tested (and heartily approved of) both the isterband and the straight up boiled sausage with the works at Magnus Nilsson's fantastic hotdog stand within the very elegant Teatern foodhall (this is not Westfields), I'm off for a relatively well earned glass of wine and the Cotillard/Fassbender production of Macbeth in bed. #fridaynight

Vi snakkes...

news!

Wow, so it may look like this website is just using up bandwidth, but consider it to be akin to the duck on the pond - all calm and serene above the surface, but legs madly paddling below. Except instead of a duck's legs, there's a tired publisher. Madly paddling. 

I am so excited to announce that the first book released by Nordisk will be Tom Kristensen's 'Havoc' ('Hærværk' in the original Danish). I'll be posting more on this later, but expect it to hit the streets in early October. This one is a bit different from most of the stuff you'll be seeing from Nordisk Books (namely in that it was originally published as long ago as 1930), but as a modern classic in Denmark and as a study of the effects that drink and jazz can have on a man, it's hard to beat. 

Talks are advancing on the second book at the moment - off to Norway this time. Also fascinating work, in a completely other register, but I won't jinx it by saying any more now. 

Loads more to come in any case - I'll be in Stockholm at the end of the month, hitting the book stores for inspiration, so with a bit of luck, I may have a hat trick on my hands come the end of summer...

In the meantime - god nat!

 

getting there

So it's been a rather busy few weeks. The upshot of which is that the first book to come out on Nordisk is starting very much to become a reality. It's 80% typeset and the first draft of the cover - which looks amazing - is being revised. Meanwhile, I'm trying to get the next couple of releases sorted out. It's all wonderfully exciting.

World Book Night tomorrow - I may just let you know what I've been up to in more detail...