Mother by Night
ORIGINAL TITLE: Mor om Natten
AUTHOR: Niels Fredrik Dahl
ORIGINAL PUBLISHER: Oktober Forlag
I was certain I would one day tell my father’s story; the one of his cold and adventurous childhood. But that’s not what happened. The story I thought was mine, in fact was not. The story I rejected, turned out to be.
Several years after his mother’s death, he finally opens her journal. The one she kept when he was a child. She called it her night book, and passed it on to him in her old age. Do whatever you want with it, she said, read it or don’t bother. He reluctantly accepted it. He had long before shut her out of his world.
Mother by Night is a portrait of a woman, and a deeply personal novel about two people who live a life together without ever getting to know one another. Niels Fredrik Dahl explores depression, inheritance and loneliness in this brilliant depiction of childhood, family, and addiction. But Mother by Night is also a tale of love. Love shattered, and put back together.
“Mother by Night may very well be Niels Fredrik Dahl’s strongest novel to date … Increasingly often, novels take us into to the very core of relationships, whether pure fiction or on the semi-biographical field. A reader may think that there must soon hardly exist more takes on the subject. Then along comes Niels Fredrik Dahl and makes it gleam as if it was utterly new … The low-key sentences are ostensibly simple and can contain compassionate insight, contempt and despair all at the same time, but also great love – some of them so beautiful that the reader must pause for a moment before carrying on reading … Mother by Night is a novel that leaves the reader sitting at the kitchen table all morning, breakfast untouched. All the way until the conclusion.”
NRK P2 (Norway).
“Wise and moving … Niels Fredrik Dahl has written a raw yet beautiful story about an author and his mother … Whether the journal entries and other events are authentic or not is irrelevant; Dahl makes one believe it, and the mother’s despairing text becomes a trembling red thread throughout the book … Dahl is at his best when relating the inner struggle of the main character. Alcoholism, writer’s block and infidelity are portrayed in an unadorned, raw and painful style … clear, powerful and distinctive prose”
“A fragile son, a melancholy mother, an urge for intoxication. A relationship. In his first novel in eight years, Niels Fredrik Dahl writes musically about the nocturnal sides of mankind … Dahl writes sorely and openly, and at the same time with distinct finesse, about the relationship’s ambivalence. About all that which could never be expressed when the mother was alive … It tears at the heart. The patterns he perceives, yet is incapable of changing … The nuances of it, the games, the communication. The great loneliness that envelopes people. Including those who should be close. Particularly those who should be close … It is easy to read Mother by Night as an autobiography, and shroud it in so called reality. But it is not a novel that needs it.”
“In Niels Fredrik Dahl’s stirring novel, only death is capable of repairing broken love … The intimate exposition is nonetheless tenderly treated; the substance distilled into sensitive literature. It is love, not hate and aggression, that makes this account possible … It is eight years since Dahl published his last novel … With Mother by Night he once again proves that he belongs among the authors one should read.”
“And so, these glimpses of a life flicker past, dark nights with burning rivers … Together, they make up a brilliant, vulnerable, vivacious, and self-deprecating story about the most difficult issues of existence.”
“Mother by Night is an elegy that doesn’t shy away from the crudeness of self-deception, and that portrays the difficulty of talking to those whom we are closest to in life. Those whom we should perhaps talk to the most. It is a lightly dressed book that doesn’t avert its gaze.”
“Norwegian author Niels Fredrik Dahl’s prose is a poetic chant, a spell whose rhetoric suspends time and surrounds the reader with the sounds and scents of its words. It is probably the most beautiful ego-centrism I have ever read, it is the world deciphered from within, it is the Self as the epicenter of the world. It is also the most infernal personal portrayal of an alcoholic’s self-deception, possibly in competition with that of Swedish author P.O. Enquist. Its psychology is almost petrifying, it holds the mystery of the locked room, an echo chamber of past voices and demons. It is a book that is unlikely to leave one’s mind once one has finished it.”
UPSALA NYA TIDNING
“Dahl’s poetic, delicate style magnificently captures what it is like to long for but not be able to escape the agony of abuse, or indeed of life.”
”Goes straight to the heart.”
”Niels Fredrik Dahl i a masterful writer”
”Five stars!” *****
Jysk Fynske Medier
Four stars! ****
”Exquisite Norwegian prose.”
“Niels Fredrik Dahl gives a raw and affectionate account of a childhood landscape primed with tripwires. /…/ It initiates a series of small quakes of recognition in the now middle aged narrator/author, many of them in the form of questions. What was I like as a son? Why do I feel affection for my mother after her death, when I could hardly stand her when she was alive? Were there bonds between us that we could neither see nor understand as we circled around one another like strangers? /…/ The story shifts between the child’s experience of the frail mother and the adult author’s insights after having read her journal. It is a demanding combination, but it works astonishingly well as an involuntary, overdue declaration of love to a mother who, despite her dominating darkness, tried to reach out to her family. /…/ Mother By Night is linguistically intense, but without pathetic literary pirouettes.”
“This portrait, which is as much of a self-portrait, is rendered with candor as its beacon. But this beacon shines in a night that is as ruthlessly pitch black as it is gleaming in its darkness. In this night, a son reaches for his mother, clutches at her anxiety over being a mother, tries to understand her impulse to escape, and perceives the same impulse in himself. Mother By Night is written with the poet’s perfect pitch for the resonance and rhythm of language, and the novelist’s analytical acuity. A wonderful alloy. A literary experience that awakens you to the beat of you own heart.”
- Stephen Farran-Lee, editor-at-large, Natur & Kultur
Danish rights sold to Gyldendal
French rights sold to Actes Sud
Swedish rights sold to Natur & Kultur