Paradise Rot, the newly translated debut novel from experimental Norwegian musician Jenny Hval, centers around a stranger come to stay ... Paradise Rot is an odd microcosm inside an ordinary world, something so enclosed that it might go unobserved if you didn’t know where to look. It is, in many ways, a novel about finding and then choosing a self; it also shows the pull of unexpected queer desire and the dismantling of boundaries that draw requires. But most of all, in the way that a microscope reveals an unsettling truth about the familiar (that it’s teeming with life you never expected), Paradise Rot is hard to forget.
As per the title's promise, Paradise Rot seeps with goo. There are 'spit bubbles,' 'pearls of fat,' 'a pee soaked mattress,' 'warm white globs' and 'sticky black crotches' frothing freely around; apple flesh 'bubbles in between teeth,' sweat forms 'cold sweet sap,' and velvety 'honey funguses' sprout from space. Such freaky finery fills only a petri dish's worth of secretions from the sticky bildungsroman of Djåoanna, or Jo – a mousy, twenty-year-old Norwegian on semester abroad in the fictional seaside town of Aybourne, Australia – poised on the cusp of a fantastic sexual awakening. Lonely, curt and unmoored, little Jo tumbles into an oozy erotic fantasia in the same way that one falls asleep and enters a dream: slowly, then suddenly. 'Sometimes I'm not sure what's going on,' she whispers partway through her psychedelic trip through Aybourne. 'I don't know how to explain it.'
Musician Jenny Hval’s Paradise Rot follows a Norwegian biology student and her hypertuned sensitivities. Electric, idiosyncratic, and disturbing observations elucidate Jo’s sexual awakening ... Psychologically dark and at times claustrophobic, this unusual debut portrays raw want as a gradual encroachment. Paradise Rot dances between dream and nightmare, probing the jagged line between exploration and suffocation with unnerving clarity.