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Everything Like Before by Kjell Askildsen
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Everything Like Before

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Everything Like Before by Kjell Askildsen
Paperback $21.00
Apr 27, 2021 | ISBN 9781939810946

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  • Apr 27, 2021 | ISBN 9781939810946

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“Stark, minimalist stories, translated from the Norwegian, about characters hungry for more than life has delivered.” New York Times

“Redolent of Chekhov and Isaac Babel . . . There is an old-world pathos to these stories; their public face is stoic, but one often sees them in private hours where they pull the rug out on their personality to give the reader the chance to clasp their essences tighter . . . [Everything Like Before] made me remember fiction-making is about communication, something someone as avant-garde as Donald Barthelme would proselytize for.” —Greg Gerke, The Los Angeles Review of Books

“These three dozen stories and vignettes by the venerable Norwegian writer range from bleak to darkly comic . . . [Everything Like Before] features mainly spare prose exploring the distances and conflicts between people linked by blood, marriage, or circumstance . . . [Kjell Askildsen] is a fine craftsman who offers lighter moments amid the Nordic gloom and an unrelenting intelligence.”
Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)

“Deftly translated by Séan Kinsella, this selection of odd, austere yet transfixing stories from various points of Askildsen’s long career showcases his stylistic verve and his relentless scrutiny of human frailties and absurdities . . . It is hard not to be entranced by his stripped-back prose, or the original way in which he depicts the agony of empty lives and the trials of everyday existence. ”—Malcom Forbes, Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Kitchens, decks, doorways, sidewalks, restaurants, and bars are charged with significance as spaces where characters negotiate relationships and appraise their lives. Mundane objects that carry emotional weight—raincoats, hair ribbons, cups of coffee—bring the stories alive . . . In the short stories of Everything Like Before, loneliness, despair, and longing are described with devastating nuance.” —Rebecca Hussey, Foreword Reviews

“[Kjell Askildsen] is a consummate chronicler of contradictory, quicksilver emotions and impulses. There is in his work a careful calibration of his characters’ inner lives, of small dramas in no way empty of incident, whose ultimate crux is the desultory, dangerous weight of tim. —Ben Goldman, Words Without Borders

“Kafkaesque… with wry humor and sardonic wit, Askildsen is a clear master of the genre.”Travel Through Stories

“Ultimately, Askildsen’s stories are about the horror of the mundane, the emptiness of everyday life, and the paradox of both wanting and fearing change (…) these tales are unconcerned with plot, but rather focus on the subtleties and impossibilities of human interaction. They provide us with windows through which we, like the characters, may watch each other, may be held up for scrunity.”The Literateur

“Kjell Askildsen’s dry, absurd humor is not unlike that of Beckett…His short stories are packed with irony, and the dialogue is sharp and expressive” Times Literary Supplement

“The lengthier works shine brightest, among them “A Sudden Liberating Thought,” in which a Beckett-like series of encounters between two old men becomes a discourse on euthanasia; and “Mardon’s Night,” where three people’s thoughts and actions blur in enigmatic blocks of text…. this definitive volume brims with stellar material.”Publishers Weekly

“a meditation on individual freedom, a book fraught with the day-to-day pressures of human life. The nine brief stories collected within can be described in terms of absences. The absence, for example, of experimental or ornate, “flowery,” prose. The absence of unnecessary characters. The absence of exotic or alien locales, or of complicated plot arcs … One senses that Askildsen is delicately, deliberately seeking answers to a particular set of nagging questions, and is never quite satisfied with what he uncovers”—Adam Segal, Numero Cinq Magazine

“Kjell Askildsen writes what might reasonably be called ghost stories in which there are no ghosts. His prose, uniformly muted and bare, seems haunted by absence…His landscapes are stage sets in which houses and lawns exist alone in an empty world…”—Aaron Their, The Nation
“…full of compelling strangeness. Lives surge through a few brittle pages, suppressed loves and resentments threaten to erupt. Characters are rarely isolated but their loneliness is palpable as they steal time in the shadows. Names recur throughout the book so the reader tries to connect people with events, but it’s the loose ends which draw you back to these taut dramas.”—Max Liu, The Independent

“I am just over the moon about Everything Like Before. An honest-to-goodness fount of suggestion and restraint, cascading omens and omissions throughout. Perennial storytelling.”
—Justin Walls, bookseller at

“These stories are about the subtleties of human exchange, micro commutes between one activity and another . . . The characters, their circumstances, the awkward, familiar touches of humor remind me a bit of Miranda July’s stories, but just of a different generation.” —Stephanie Malak, Sound Bite Book Review

“Despite the dark subject matter, the stories [in Everything Like Before] make for bracing reading due to Askildsen’s spare prose and the sly humor that arrives unexpectedly in the middle of a character’s downfall . . . Rueful quips abound throughout this collection and lend a refreshing lightness to Askildsen’s bleak vision of the absurd.” – Phillip Garland, World Literature Today

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