The Winter Garden

Julie Paludan Müller On:

The Winter Garden by Dorthe Nors

There is something very particular afoot in the stories of Dorthe Nors: You could call it the Dorthesque. The Dorthesque is an – often very subtle – twist away from realism, in which the text takes a step into a slightly grotesque or absurd territory, while staying deeply human. Dorthe Nors’ universe has an inimitable mix of darkness and humour, and each individual sentence possesses its own clear identity. ‘The Winter Garden’ opens in a very Dorthesque manner with the death of the legendary Danish comedian Dirch Passer. Danish readers will think ‘grown man in a babygro’, recalling one of Passer’s defining acts in an oversize baby swing – touching on story’s theme of relationships between adult and child. The narrator thinks back to his parents’ divorce and the summer when he lived with his dad. Perhaps because there isn’t room for him at his mother’s place. Father and son spend the summer watching football behind closed curtains. There is a desperate and pathetic quality to the father who has too much room and has taken up growing succulent plants as an outlet for all his love. They both try to embellish the situation: The winter garden is a much nicer name for the patio enclosure, and dad almost looks like Tarzan. But it doesn’t quite fit; there is no real contact in the language. The text presents a fairly wild and sad (and super elegant) dismantling of the paternal authority, with the narrator wielding the axe. There is great loneliness to the almost laconic voice speaking. And still, I always find Dorthe Nors vaguely funny: The way in which the father’s female colleague checks out the wallpaper alone … I love her texts for that, and for hitting where it hurts.


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