January 24, 2022

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Mom and Daughter, Separated in Parallel Universes

Mother and Daughter, Separated in Parallel Universes

PRESENT TENSE MACHINE
By Gunnhild Øyehaug
Translated by Kari Dickson

In Bergen, Norway, lives Anna, a novelist who struggles together with her newest mission whereas parenting her teenage youngsters and considering the origins of language. (The writer bio on her books, all written underneath a pseudonym, reads solely: “Hedda Solhaug is a textual content machine.”) Throughout city, her daughter Laura is anticipating a toddler together with her musician boyfriend. Laura worries about their hazardous, noisy flat, about her boyfriend’s constancy, about her personal faithfulness, given her attraction to an incarcerated scholar within the on-line literature class she’s instructing. She experiences “the disconcerting feeling that every thing is double.”

No surprise, as a result of Laura has been dwelling in a parallel universe since being by chance transported there by her mom’s misreading of a poem. Anna and Laura now not keep in mind one another as a result of when Laura was a toddler, Anna misinterpret the Swedish phrase trädgård (backyard) because the nonsense phrase tärdgård. Her daughter was immediately now not using her tricycle in Anna’s backyard, however was transported, motherless, to a tärdgård in one other world.

Gunnhild Øyehaug’s novel “Current Tense Machine” makes frequent allusions to science-fiction movies and astronomical analysis however is in the end unconcerned with the mechanics of its conceit. What’s vital is the expertise and aftermath of a minimize so clear it each does and doesn’t go away a wound. As a result of Laura by no means existed in her mom’s present life, Anna’s mourning is diffuse, diverted into obsession with language. Laura’s father is tormented by a “fuzziness that he can’t fairly grasp, that accompanies him daily, like an insistent empty area, like a shadow with no shadow.”

There is no such thing as a bridging the schism between worlds, and it doesn’t really feel like a spoiler to say so. Øyehaug’s two earlier books translated into English, the story assortment “Knots” and the novel “Wait, Blink,” share together with her newest a cosmic knottiness, through which lives tangle in unpredictable, tenuous, typically irreconcilable methods. As translated by Kari Dickson, all three books additionally include pleasurably sudden descriptions and touches of humor. Anna worries {that a} scent from a poem is intruding into the actual world after which notices the open jar of soy sauce in her sink. A draft of chilly air circulates in Laura’s house like “a chilling, repetitive thought.”

Photos and objects recur inside and throughout the parallel universes (canine with wrinkly faces, jars of jam), however the closest factor to a reunion Øyehaug affords is Anna and Laura’s shared curiosity in an upcoming relay efficiency of Erik Satie’s “Vexations,” a bit of music each girls discover “irritating” however emblematic — of the passage of time, of being “a hyperlink within the chain.”

A 3rd voice, neither Anna nor Laura, pops up at intervals to complain about her moist socks or the tip of the world, and to say accountability for the textual content we’re studying. That is our narrator, who confesses to having repeatedly rung Anna’s doorbell, however provided her no solutions, simply extra thriller, for the reason that narrator, in spite of everything, is invisible to her characters.

She makes herself very seen to the reader by means of regular reminders of artifice. In a chapter she titles “The Digression,” the narrator declares that the earlier chapter has reminded her of the BICEP2, a telescope mounted on the South Pole: “It strikes us as unfair that physicists are capable of construct a telescope like that and set up it on earth, with its listening ear turned to area, however language theorists can’t do the identical.” If readers don’t already see themselves in that “us,” these characters might exhaust slightly than convert them. However for the remainder of us, the novel is an ingenious pocket universe the place time strikes not simply ahead and even backward however in sideways leaps. Questions in regards to the nature of actuality are made poignant by the characters asking them: girls struggling to know who they’re within the shadow of losses they will sense however not keep in mind.

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