Title: Everything Like Before: Stories Author: Kjell Askildsen
Translated from the Norwegian by Seán Kinsella
Publisher: Archipelago Books
Genre: Short Stories
Source: The Boxwalla
This was my introduction to Askildsen. To the subtlety of language, situations, and to how people react. Askildsen’s short stories are seemingly calm but there’s so much going on under the safe. The characters are forever in a limbo, left to their own device, with nothing or no one in sight.
Whether it is tales of marital unhappiness, conflicts between parent and child, or the struggles of the elderly, Askildsen’s stories are all about everyday despair and life as it goes on. His spaces are ordinary – the kitchen, the park, the drawing room, a movie theatre, restaurants, and bars – where relationships begin, end, or are simply compromised on.
Nothing of significance is happening, even to the characters it doesn’t seem that way. There is however an understated longing for what is not known, love for what is not around, and solitude that is not needed.
Askildsen’s writing is simple and plain. These stories are more vignettes. They don’t run into pages and yet say so much. They also range from morose and bleak to the comic. For instance, the funny side of a son visiting his father to understand their relationship better or the title story that is of a marriage – real, tragic, and funny. The stories are a treat, to be savoured slowly. The translation by Seán Kinsella leaves so much to the imagination, I guess just how the author intends it to be. Everything Like Before is a fantastic collection of thirty dozen stories that range across the spectrum of emotions and make you want more of them.