Mother in Couch
ORIGINAL TITLE: Mamma i soffa
NUMBER OF PAGES: 253
AUTHOR: Jerker Virdborg
ORIGINAL PUBLISHER: Albert Bonniers förlag
GENRE: Current Books, Fiction
“At the outset it was all very simple. My mother, my half-brother Pierre, and I were looking for hallway furniture. Nothing more than that. At the outset, that is. But how, then, can events not develop?” An ordinary visit to an ordinary furniture store soon develops into something quite extraordinary. When it’s time to leave, the mother refuses to budge from the couch she has sat down in: “I’m not going anywhere.”
Thus begins a story as amusing as it is tragic. The adult children do everything they can to coax their mother out of the store while the mysteries in the old building thicken. The dream- and ghost-like Mother in Couch reveals a new feature of Jerker Virdborg’s storytelling: both comically and existentially engaging, it seeks answers to questions that everyone eventually asks themselves: What does it mean to be someone’s parent? What does it mean to be someone’s child?
"Virdborg’s prose is perfectly balanced and harbors tremendous pain. The uncanny atmosphere gradually intensifies, without any actual action – the vague discomfort grows, the magical and inexplicable elements multiply, until everything somehow collapses into pain and light. The concluding scenes are nothing less than magnificent literary art. Mother in Couch is without a doubt Virdborg’s most accomplished work to date and the best I have read in Swedish prose in a very long time."
“That I come to think of Per Olov Enquist is no coincidence; something has been shaken into place in Virdborg’s text. It has a dry and rational pain that makes it a very special kind of poetry … a hyper-controlled, artistically charged weeping. The text is not about showing off literary skill, but rather a painstakingly constructed, cold and softly winding track for the family’s funeral procession to glide along.”
“Mother in Couch raises a number of interesting questions about coercion, freedom, power, vulnerability, and social norms.”
“It’s an intensely amusing idea, a mother who just sits. In addition, the space itself – a medium-sized furniture store in an industrial area by a swampy lake – is depicted so vividly that one can potter about in its warm, pleasantly abandoned shabbiness. A splendid tale.”
“What at first seems like a whimsical idea gradually turns into something much more ominous. In this nervy novel, Virdborg conjures suspense and humor in equally high doses, where the comedy is precipitous and sometimes wears Kafka’s overcoat.”