“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.
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.