Κarate Chop


Title: Karate Chop (original title: Kantslag)

Writer: Dorthe Nors (translated by Martin Aitken)

Publishing House: Graywolf Press

Date of Publication: February 4th 2014 (first published September 25th 2008)

Rating: 5 stars

‘’Once in a while everyone wishes someone dead, though no one should ever kill.’’

Do You Know Jussi? : A girl on the brink of womanhood contemplates missing people, growing older and a possibly traumatic initiation into what it means to be an ‘’adult’’.

Mutual Destruction: The bond between a hunter and his dogs becomes a metaphor for a failed marriage. This story was the epitome of the ‘’emotional toil’’ but it was brilliant.

The Buddhist: A story about politics, lying, loneliness and the need to stay true to yourself. What starts as an elegant satire, becomes a classic Dorthe Nors story of complex feelings and acute commentary.

The Winter Garden: Having to deal with your parents’ divorce, its implications, their new relationship feels like a tiny version of Hell on Earth.

The Big Tomato: In a tender, melancholic and hopeful story, two Mexicans living in New York discover love while remembering their homeland and their beautiful culture. Falling in love out of the blue is a feeling that shakes your world. What could be more beautiful?

Duckling: A man of contradictions is remembered by his children in a story about family and the expectations of men…

‘’So then he surfs around, visiting a variety of websites, these days thinking about things he hasn’t thought about since he was a child. People who can predict things. Clocks that stop when someone dies. Calves with two heads, and women who kill people.

Female Killers: A man is exploring the darkest corners of the Web, fascinated by the life and deeds of a notorious woman. The closure of this story will give you nightmares.

Flight: A couple separates – for a number of reasons- and our story follows the woman’s unspoken sorrow. What happens when we ‘’storage’’ our feelings? When others congratulate us because ‘’we’re coping marvellously’’ and our heart is bleeding?

Nat Newsom: A contemplative story, formed as a scientific memo, about identity, honesty, kindness, naivety and the cruelty of a society that chooses to treat the ones who are different as ‘’invisible entities.’’

‘’It’s all about loving yourself. If you don’t love yourself, who else will?’’

Hair Salon: They say that a hair salon is THE place to learn every single secret of your neighbourhood. Now I can’t say I am a regular customer in mine (huzzah for long black-blue locks) but in this story, we come to think about togetherness, privacy and, ultimately, voluntary loneliness.

‘’But something is always going on in the night, there are always smells and sounds: pigeons rustling in the attic, creatures on the move, and the herons of Frederiksberg Gardens can sometimes be seen, looking like gray poultry shears in the sky over Valby.’’

The Heron: The heron and the park become a canvas, a miniature of our society, with all its vices, dangers, violence, and obsessions, written in Nors’s characteristic satire.

Karate Chop: A story that requires a strong stomach. An acute chronicle of physical and emotional abuse, toxic masculinity and revenge.

Mother, Grandmother and Aunt Ellen: A moving story of hardships, losses, and above all, the unique bond between a mother and her daughters, seen through the eyes of the grandson.

‘’She started frequenting cemeteries that summer, preferring the ones others rarely visited. She could go straight from social events with white wine, canapes, and peripheral acquaintances, cycle to the nearest cemetery, and find the corner where no one ever really want. At the far end of Vestre Cemetery, by the Innuit and the Faeroese and the war graves, down by the disused chapel was a quiet spot. Well away from the plots where brewers, publishers, and prime ministers lay shoulder to shoulder and were dead.’’

‘’Her favourite, though, was just between Frederiksberg and Valby. It was best in the twilight. In late July the evenings were still long and the place was like an overgrown park. Walking along the paths in the cemetery she found the unkempt graves of long-forgotten painters and poets, and at the northern end she came across a section where roses grew everywhere. The bushes had grown over the stones, weeds had tangled up in them, and they were the same roses her mother had at home.’’

She Frequented Cemeteries: In the most beautiful story of this outstanding collection, a young woman frequents cemeteries, searching for peace and thinking of the man she loves. The ethereal, haunting beauty and tranquillity of the story cannot be described. Nor can the feeling of being in love…

The Wadden Sea: A story about the bond between a mother and her child. An elegy of new beginnings and finding a new home. A song of the sea and the human soul.

Beautifully translated by Martin Aitken, Dorthe Nors’s stories showcase the power of Literature, its unique ability to laugh, cry, contemplate. To see yourself in the stories, to live a dozen lives.

‘’At two in the morning, I thought fresh air might do the trick. I stood out back and looked out over the landscape. I could see the stream winding through the meadow. There was frost in the grass and then I began to cry.’’