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What Kingdom (Paperback)

What Kingdom By FINE GRABOL, Martin Aitken (Translated by) Cover Image
By FINE GRABOL, Martin Aitken (Translated by)
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Description


“An incredibly moving and gripping novel . . . so sure-footed, clear, vibrating, like chiffon or a cigarette.” — Olga Ravn

An incandescent debut about young adults learning how to care for themselves — from within the limits of the psychiatric system

Perfect for fans of Tove Ditlevsen and devotees of Sylvia Plath


In honest, crackling investigations of the psychiatric system and the young people trying to find their way, Gråbøl’s soaring debut offers a critique of institutionalization and an urgent recalibrating of the language and conceptions of care.

“I’m not inarticulate, but I leave language to the room around me,” says Fine Gråbøl’s nameless narrator as she dreams of furniture flickering to life in the room she occupies at a temporary psychiatric care unit for young adults. A chair that greets you, or shiny tiles of floor that follow a peculiar grammar of their own. Our narrator is obsessed with the way items rise up out of their thingness, assuming personalities and private motives. She also cannot sleep, and practices her daily routines with the urgency of survival – peeling a carrot, drinking prune juice – all an acutely calibrated exploration into having a home.

Structured as a series of intimate vignettes like those of Olga Ravn, What Kingdom thrums with the swirling voices of this shared home. Hector blares Michael Jackson from the recreation room and recalls a past in Peru when his psychoses were treated with exorcism. The town would shake the devil out of his small, teenage body before he was relocated to Denmark. Or Marie, who has lived in the temporary unit since she was eighteen, has no idea that her mother lives just four floors below in a permanent care unit.

Echoing the aching writings of Janet Frame on electroconvulsive therapy, or Linda Boström Knausgård’s mythical meditations on silence and mental health, Fine Gråbøl renders a delicate and deep uncoupling from the world.

About the Author


What Kingdom is Danish writer Fine Gråbøl’s (b. 1992) debut novel. She has previously published a collection of poetry, Knoglemarv lavendel (Bone-marrow Lavender, 2018), together with the poetry collective BMS – consisting of Dorte Limkilde, Mette Kierstein, Ronja Johansen, and Gråbøl. What Kingdom is inspired by the author’s own experiences with psychiatric care and has been called "such a strong debut, so sure-footed, clear, vibrating, like chiffon or a cigarette" (Olga Ravn).

Martin Aitken is the acclaimed translator of numerous novels from Danish and Norwegian, including works by Karl Ove Knausgaard, Peter Høeg, Jussi Adler-Olsen, and Pia Juul. In 2012, he was awarded the American-Scandinavian Foundation's Nadia Christensen Translation Prize, and in 2019 he was awarded the PEN Translation Prize for his translation of Love by Hanne Ørstavik. His translation of Ørstavik's Ti Amo was named a Financial Times Best Book of the Year.

Praise For…


"Before the relative independence of the residential facility, our narrator was locked in the psychiatric ward of a hospital and subjected to repeated electroconvulsive therapy . . . Gråbøl’s eye is unsparing and convincing, her prose vivid and alive . . . The narrator doesn’t deny that she needs help . . . But at the same time, she has questions: 'Why doesn’t anyone wonder about the line between trauma and treatment?...about the relationship between compulsion and compliance?...care and abuse?...between surrender and obliteration?'" Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“It has been a privilege to read this extraordinary work. The unnamed narrator’s absolute vulnerability is transformed into compelling beauty by the authority and precision of her language. I love the pace of the writing. How, after a passage in which the raw pain and hurt break through into anger, a sentence of clear transcendent poetry can follow. The perfect emotional control is astonishing. It is a very exposing, brave book. It lays open the narrator’s frustration at her inability to be heard, to be considered, within the cold strictures of the institution where she passes her days: "the basis of our lives is powerlessness plus capitulation." I was riveted by the attention to detail – it demands our attention, in return; the objective way the narrator perceives the confined world she lives in, without a trace of self-pity, compels us to know she is speaking the truth. There is an urgent need for the system to be changed, for an individual to be listened to, not just dealt with. This book makes us listen.” – Celia Paul, author of Self-Portrait and Letters to Gwen John

"An incredibly moving and gripping novel . . . so sure-footed, clear, vibrating, like chiffon or a cigarette."
— Olga Ravn, author of The Employees and My Work

"Rendered through recursion and fragmentation, the wholeness of What Kingdom is revealed like a jigsaw puzzle whose pieces are kept in a shoebox and turns out to have no edges. Somehow both warm and cool, Fine Gråbøl’s keenly observant prose suggests the affinities between phantasm, phenomena and what lies between. Bureaucracy and self-inflicted burns—the banal and the brutal—are reported with the same attenuated precision. Only an unreliable narrator could be trusted with this story. This book has gotten inside me, a guide for unexplored rooms and corridors."
— Anne de Marcken, author of It Lasts Forever and Then It's Over

"This debut novel centers around the minute day-to-days of a patient in a mental hospital. Gråbøl, a Danish poet beloved by the likes of Olga Ravn and Celia Paul, weaves an intricate picture of a life lived under rules and restraint by creating a text that is simultaneously demure and porous, with an elliptical structure . . . This book is especially exciting because its publisher, Archipelago, rarely puts out debut fiction, and the cover features artwork by Karoline Ebbesen, a Danish painter who was admitted to a mental asylum in 1885 and lived there for the next 50 years." — Dilara O'Neil, Vulture

“It has been a privilege to read this extraordinary work. The unnamed narrator’s absolute vulnerability is transformed into compelling beauty by the authority and precision of her language. I love the pace of the writing. How, after a passage in which the raw pain and hurt break through into anger, a sentence of clear transcendent poetry can follow. The perfect emotional control is astonishing. It is a very exposing, brave book. It lays open the narrator’s frustration at her inability to be heard, to be considered, within the cold strictures of the institution where she passes her days: "the basis of our lives is powerlessness plus capitulation." I was riveted by the attention to detail – it demands our attention, in return; the objective way the narrator perceives the confined world she lives in, without a trace of self-pity, compels us to know she is speaking the truth. There is an urgent need for the system to be changed, for an individual to be listened to, not just dealt with. This book makes us listen.” – Celia Paul, author of Self-Portrait and Letters to Gwen John

"The sentences are short, truncated even, sometimes in a poetic way ('Splendid hearts, free hands') but often not . . . The brevity is beautiful, and also something more . . .  [What Kingdom] warns of the increasing neoliberalization and capitalization of the Danish welfare state and the effects of this on an already strained and shrinking public health care system . . . What Kingdom [has a] thoroughgoing commitment to community and connection." — Sherilyn Hellberg, Words Without Borders

"Gråbøl offers a searing critique on the way the government treats the mentally ill . . . Our narrator is preoccupied with the furniture . . . For her, chairs “address the night,” and this is a vital observation. Our protagonist notices everything. While we never get her name, the reader understands her survival is dependent on discovering herself through these inanimate objects . . . What Kingdom is a wonderful debut . . . a modern day classic; one I will return to time and time again." Courtenay Schembri Gray, The Maple Moon


Product Details
ISBN: 9781953861849
ISBN-10: 1953861849
Publisher: Archipelago
Publication Date: April 16th, 2024
Pages: 152
Language: English