Dorthe Nors writes short fiction that is precise, brief and shattering ... Lyrical stream-of- consciousness prose is intercut with short, blunt sentences, enacting the push and pull of revelation between her protagonists and their environment. Misha Hoekstra’s translation delicately renders Nors’s intensity, along with her subtlety, by sticking to a straightforward and intentionally repetitive vocabulary. The almost standardized formula of Nors’s short fiction, more rigid here than in previous collections, can be frustrating, as we quickly begin to anticipate capricious plots and untrustworthy narrators. This is not, however, always to the detriment of Wild Swims . The twists here are often not conclusions but opportunities to look at matters slantwise; meanwhile, our expectations of narrative instability encourage close reading, and Nors frequently leaves statements open. In the absence of satisfying conclusions, such lines can be reinterpreted on each new reading, presenting wildly different possibilities.
How slippery the work of the Danish writer Dorthe Nors is, how it sideswipes and gleams ... The stories are vivid the way a flash of immobilizing pain is vivid ... Perhaps because they’re so very short and because they mostly sketch slight interior shifts in her characters, Nors’s stories all feel a little bashful, a little tender. Surely this is intentional ... Most of her stories are too short to linger deeply in time or consciousness; the characters spin back into their silence almost as soon as they emerge on the page. Nors is a master at portraying female rage, but here there is also no violent explosion outward, instead a sort of inner collapse; her characters assiduously resist confronting their fury until it rises up against them and attacks their bodies ... The sense of simultaneous, furious upwelling into text and retraction into shame or reticence gives the stories a powerful undercurrent, as if they were constantly wrestling with themselves. Inherently self-contradicting, they wobble interestingly on their axes, pulled between outraged individualism and the restrictive Janteloven.
Ranging from four to seven pages, the stories are small sips ending in dark rum punches ... Scenes capture feelings that elude a camera lens, unveiling inner motivations. Voices shift effectively, with some in first person, others in third. Most pieces convey remoteness, in landscape as well as character. Even in large cities there’s a bareness. People neither exude joy nor connect with one another. Nors teases at times with a cozy beginning, but eventually the murky underbelly emerges ... The twists Nors inserts veer toward the bleak yet encapsulate relatable emotions in sometimes witty ways ... Nors juggles adeptly, often keeping several story strands aloft and then abruptly walking away, leaving them suspended in midair, powerfully unresolved ... The Danes have long lauded Dorthe Nors, and the English-speaking world now understands why.