The Land of Short Sentences

Title: The Land of Short Sentence (original title:Meter i Sekundet)

Writer: Stine Pilgaard (translated by Hunter Simpson)

Publishing House: World Editions

Date of Publication: March 1st 2022  (first published May 15th 2020)

Rating: 5 stars

‘’We are still new to this field, and we walk through them with our baby carriage in a state of confusion, like two restless vagabonds. We look up at the windmills, the way they appear against the sky like visitors from a distant time, futuristic souvenirs from other planets. They shoot up around our house like cheerful weeds, and, on the rare occasions they stand still, it’s as if the globe is holding its breath for a short second, bewildered by the wind’s absence.’’

A young family moves to Jutland. A new community, a new professional position, a new life. In a land where short sentences are required, our narrator tries to achieve the golden balance between being a mother and a wife and a successful journalist. From obstacles such as finally getting a driving license to worries concerning baby prams and day schools, she discovers that more often than not togetherness may help you move forward and scheduling is not the be-all-end-all in life…

‘’We are all born into a story that we haven’t asked to be a part of, and our lives begin with a brutal decision that was made without our consent.’’

Pilgaard weaves a story with a beautiful sense of place but her themes are universal and highly relatable. Told through a charming mixture of playful, tender irony and poignant confessions, our protagonist demonstrates the familiar confusion that comes with moving to a place that seems and feels ‘’different’’, the pressure and demands of motherhood, the desired ‘’normality’’, the boundaries of language, the possible loss of individuality when you sacrifice the ‘’I’’ for the sake of a familial ‘We’. While providing advice, she actually conveys her own thoughts, memories and fears and we get to know a delightful heroine. Because every modern woman is a heroine. You don’t need legends and myths. Our mundane reality is a constant battle.

Written in a characteristic no-nonsense style, direct and raw at parts, a trait of Danish Literature, Pilgaard’s novel is made for spring morning and summer afternoons when the days are long, the nights are bright, and the clamour from children, colleagues, partners and whatnot finally subsides.

‘’Our generation knows that planes can come crashing into buildings, that people can throw themselves into the sky. We understand that cells can divide in the body, that people can wear bombs under their clothes, that cars heading in the wrong direction suddenly appear on the freeways. All things must pass, but see this is a relief. Sweet Sleepless One, life is not an orderly event, but a fleeting and pointless movement around a dark room. And yet beauty can appear to us like something from another realm. A lovely poem, an unusual painting, a view that leaves us breathless. Your task is to use your time in the best possible way while you await death.’’

Many thanks to World Editions and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.