These fifteen stories offer glimpses of everyday life that expose the ominous lurking under the ordinary: while his wife sleeps, a husband prowls the Internet, obsessed with female serial killers; a bureaucrat tries to reinvent himself, exposing goodness as artifice when he converts to Buddhism in search of power; a woman sits on the edge of the bed where her lover lies, attempting to locate a motive for his violence within her own self-doubt. Shifting between moments of violence (real and imagined) and mundane contemporary life, these stories explore the complexity of human emotions, our capacity for cruelty as well as compassion.
Horror and comedy both require timing, and Dorthe Nors has it. The stories in her newly translated collection Karate Chop are less meditations on human savagery than riffs on it, understated monologues of everydayness through which the horror surfaces like a joke. Blink and you might miss the punch line ... her prose is direct, almost flat, a series of uncluttered and voice-driven sentences that achieve their rhythm through careful juxtaposition and build ... The occasional epiphany, when it occurs, is more likely to be ugly than uplifting ... Nors' free, indirect style leaves just enough room for the reader to distrust the character's perception of events ... the story turns itself inside-out — the title blow dealt to the reader as much as to any character ... In Nors' stories, narratives about why humans are the way they are dissolve before the simple fact that they are. This is, after all, one of the tenets of comedy, which is only interested in motives to the extent that they are ridiculous ... One hopes Nors' novels are translated into English soon.
The majority of them are dark and good, and a few stories are exceptional. In the better ones the reader is inserted into the middle of the story and the tone is casual, as if we already know the broader details ... Nors is adroit at offering powerful summation at the precise moment with a single cutting phrase or an unexpected observation ... surprising, subtle, and potent ... A few seem incomplete or have a style and tone that is in discord with the rest of the collection. But overall these brief realistic stories, as translated by Martin Aitken, provide universal insight into an everyday, modern existence. Readers might view a few as being very close to slice-of-a-life sketches, and that might be a fair criticism, although I wouldn’t necessarily judge it as a negative.
This gripping collection of short stories leaves you wanting more ... Dorthe Nors’ Karate Chop, translated from the Danish by Martin Aitken, contains 15 stories in 82 pages. The stories don’t feel minimalist – they’re full of life and ripe with death – but they’re brief because there is no fat on them ... Nors draws in the reader in a variety of ways. Some of her stories begin in an odd register ... Many of the stories have spot-on insight into how people package up their traumas and hide from themselves what hurts ... Nors has written four novels not yet translated into English. Oh! Don’t make us wait.