Translated from the original Norwegian by James Anderson
The White Bathing Hut is a genetic detective story. The narrator uses a wheelchair because of an inherited illness that has caused his muscle tissue to degenerate, making him unable to walk. One day, he falls from his wheelchair. His family is away, his cell phone out of reach, and he has no choice but to lie on the floor of his apartment, dissecting his life, until help arrives. He recalls his parents’ reactions of shame and silence when, as a teenager, his illness was first diagnosed. Now in her old age, his mother remains stubbornly secretive. A chance call from a cousin provides the narrator with clues about his grandfather and uncle, whom he never met and who both also had the disease. His search for the truth about his heredity is given new urgency when his mother is diagnosed with cancer. He must persuade her to speak before she dies, for his own sake and for his daughter’s. The White Bathing Hut is an indictment of contemporary Norwegian society, which claims to abhor its history of eugenics, yet still seeks to control the lives of people with disabilities.
About the Author/Translator:
Thorvald Steen has published a wide range of novels, plays, collections of poems and short stories, children’s books and essays. His Norwegian breakthrough came in 1992 with a cycle of poems, Ilden, and shortly afterwards he achieved international recognition with his creative historical novels Don Carlos (1993), Giovanni (1995), Constantinople (1999) and Camel Clouds (2004). In 2006, he wrote the coming-of-age-novel The Weight of Snow Crystals, followed in 2008 with the freestanding sequel The Longest Leap. English translations of his novels Lionheart (2012), The Little Horse (2014) and The Invisible Library (2018) are available from Seagull Books.
James Anderson’s literary translations from the Norwegian include Berlin Poplars by Anne B. Ragde, Nutmeg by Kristin Valla, and several books by Jostein Gaarder. For Seagull books, he has translated Tomas Espedal’s Tramp, Against Art, Against Nature and Bergeners and Thorvald Steen’s Lionheart, The Little Horse and The Invisible Library.
Nominating Library’s Comments:
Since he was a youth he has lived with a rare muscle disease, but only when he is in his 60s and sitting in a wheelchair does he learn the truth about his grandfather and uncle, who had the same hereditary disease, and that his own mother never has told the truth. – Olso Public Library, Norway