A Postcard for Annie (Paperback)
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Writing with the same narrative generosity, the same belief in the dignity and voice of her characters as Marilynne Robinson, this prize-winning collection of stories follows the inner lives of several women on the brink, or the sidelines, of catastrophe.
From the winner of the Lifetime Award from the Danish Arts Foundation and the 2017 Critics’ Choice Award, Ida Jessen’s A Postcard for Annie traces the tangled emotional lives of women facing moral dilemmas.
A young woman witnesses a terrible accident with unexpected consequences, a mother sits with her unconscious son in a hospital room, a pair of sisters remember their mother’s hands braiding their hair.
In seaside tourist villages and in snowy cities, turbulence destabilizes composed lives, whether through outright violence between strangers or habitual domination between loved ones.
Jessen fills each story with bracing passages that splash with the living world, only to become concentrated in the unfixed, vacillating matter of a human psyche caught between silence and speech, paralysis and action.
About the Author
IDA JESSEN made her literary debut in 1989 with the collection of short stories Under sten (Under Stones). Her fiction and children’s books have won an array of awards, including The Egholt Prize, The Albert Dam Grant, The Jytte Borberg Prize, and Danish Booksellers’ Golden Laurels. In 2016, En ny tid (A Change of Time) won the Blixen Award as well as the Danish Broadcasting Corporation’s Best Novel Award.
MARTIN AITKEN is the translator of numerous novels from Danish and Norwegian, including works by Karl Ove Knausgaard, Peter Høeg, Kim Leine, Hanne Ørstavik, and Josefine Klougart. His translations of short stories and poetry have appeared in many literary journals and magazines. In 2012, he was awarded the American-Scandinavian Foundation’s Nadia Christensen Translation Prize.
"Whether they are facing predicaments, making difficult emotional choices or just watching their lives unravel, Jessen's heroines earn our sympathy. Martin Aitken's surefooted translation conveys their plight and allows us to grasp Jessen's astute observations and appreciate her beguiling prose. This collection is the work of a skillful storyteller."
--Malcolm Forbes, Star Tribune
"Jessen's writing is graceful, unhurried, convincing. The narratives unfold in unexpected ways . . . The complexities of love and the passage of time enrich this insightful, original collection."
"Expertly translated by Aitken, Jessen's language flows beautifully, making this a collection readers could easily devour in a sitting; its characters and themes will stay with them long after."
--Kathy Sexton, Booklist
"Jessen returns with a meticulously crafted collection showcasing her trademark psychological realism . . . These are quiet dramas, and even when emotions rise to the surface, they do so in a subtle, simmering fashion . . . Jessen offers myriad if quiet delights."
"These are haunting stories of women trying to stand up to the demands of Fate, and the complex relationships that shape their lives. Whether you are a girlfriend, a wife, a mother, whether you are patient or erratic, you need to convince yourself that you will get through this. But sometimes, it is just impossible to forgive or forget. Danish Literature keeps giving us gems that demand our full attention. Exquisitely translated by Martin Aitken."
--The Opinionated Reader, 5-star review
“In A Postcard for Annie Ida Jessen has honed to perfection her own quite unique form of psychological realism, in a work in which, once more, the women take centre stage; in which secrets, irrational forces and often anything but sensible explanations prevail—and in which she proves herself to be a brilliant depictor of people who find themselves in situations that are both familiar and far-out.”
--Danish Literary Magazine
“Danish writer Ida Jessen’s A Postcard for Annie has at its heart a possible suicide and the reaction of witnesses, especially the narrator--a fascinating narrative with various unexpected twists.”
--The Irish Times
Praise for Jessen’s A Change of Time, translated by Martin Aitken
“In A Change of Time, Ida Jessen has crafted a masterpiece of the epistolary novel told in diary entries. Each log is rich with detail ... Here, one-liners—beautifully translated from the Danish by Martin Aitken—are deeply felt.”
--Bibi Deitz, Bookforum
“The text shines as an honest reckoning with the death of a spouse—but one in a deeply companionless marriage—and the life of two people who shared little but space... Jessen, the Danish translator of Marilynne Robinson, among others, proves to have a keen Robinsonian streak of her own. She writes with the same narrative generosity, the same belief in the dignity and voice of characters that might usually be dismissed.”
--Joel Pinckney, The Millions
“Wit and vivid descriptions are presented in equal measure, as issues of sexual desire and the need for both solitude and companionship come to the fore. An engaging, honest, and beautifully written look at love, loss, and self-realization.”
“Jessen is a talented and empathetic writer (and kudos must be given to translator Aitken, whose translation is supple and luminous), and has imbued a quiet story about a woman finding herself after her husband’s death with poignancy and stunning humanity.”
--Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Imagine picking up a woman’s diary and trying to decipher her character. Imagine teasing out enough from the details to understand her life, her loves, and the circumstances that have made her who she is… Ida Jessen’s novel A Change of Time brings this story to life with spare, yet beautiful, prose superbly translated from the Danish by Martin Aitken.”
--M.K. Tod, Washington Independent Review of Books
“Weaving together diary entries, poems, letters (both opened and unopened) and song, Ida Jessen’s A Change of Time, translated from the Danish by Martin Aitken, is a stirring reflection on death and mourning, loneliness, and female identity in a changing 20th century Denmark.”
“A Change of Time is a book of masterful restraint, and this restraint is a kind of tenderness. It is a book that understands that desire permeates everything - nothing human can be cleansed of it; and that sometimes love clings most inextricably to the smallest places - misjudgment, invisibility, loneliness. It is a book that deepens and dignifies both our innocence and our fallibility.”
"The Danish writer Ida Jessen masterfully explores the female voice in her latest short story collection, A Postcard for Annie. There are six stories in total, which are all remarkably real . . . It feels as though the typical stereotypes society has enforced on us are whispering in our ears and Jessen is laughing at it all. The author’s talents shine because she gives us this intoxicating interiority of strong female characters showing us how complex they are, how strong."
"It’s hard not to become hooked by Ida Jessen’s stubbornness; her refusal to tidy things up for us . . . [She] is a master chronicler of the messiness that overtakes the female mind. She writes unburdened by polemics of any kind. Her characters are vividly drawn—sometimes eccentric, and at other times ordinary—but they seem strangely authentic to us."
--Elaine Margolin, World Literature Today
"Achingly intimate, the stories introduce us to women facing various degrees of inner turmoil. What we see are poignant reflections of the deepest sufferings and pleasures of the human heart—shadow selves that dwell side by side in each of our homes, waiting for someone like Jessen to open the curtains and let the day in."
--Jennifer Kurdyla, Harvard Review
"A Postcard for Annie is a quiet, exquisite collection of short stories of ordinary lives; the highs and lows of marriage and family life told in lucid, restrained prose suffused with great emotional depth."
--Radhika Pandit, Radhika's Reading Retreat
"It is with the custom delicacy, grace, and poetic efficiency that Martin Aitken has approached Ida Jessen’s prose, deftly capturing in English this quiet celebration of female connection, which is also a gentle mourning for what could have been, what never was, and what is. A Postcard for Annie is a collection of stories in which hope is masked in grief, regret, and yearning—yet found anew in nature, in friendship, and in time."
--Rachael Pennington, Asymptote