The recent coronavirus pandemic gives Robert Zola Christensen’s novel, The Larvae, Ansaldo and the Spice Merchant’s Son, published in 2016, frighteningly new relevance: The world is no longer what we thought it was. Physical reality as we know it and feel it has been distorted out of proportion, as the mine owner says. Or in the words of the protagonist, Jean-Baptiste: The world I thought I had known had truly cracked and broken into pieces. First cracked and then broken into pieces.
The novel takes place in the year 1749, a time in which the ideas of the Enlightenment flourished, namely the indomitable belief that reality could be grasped and categorized rationally and scientifically and that it was precisely that rational and scientific approach which would bring humanity greater joy and liberation. Liberation from the supernatural and religious worldview of previous times that restricted the individual within its oppressive power structure.
The Larvae, Ansaldo and the Spice Merchant’s Son is a pastiche of the travelogues of the Enlightenment and Robert Zola Christensen has managed to capture it through his use of language that is both true to the phraseology of the 18th century and at the same time flows and is accessible to modern readers.
Throughout the entire novel there is an undertone of sinister horror as well as sheer awe combined with an unassuming, dry, matter-of-fact sense of humor.
—from Karen Fastrup's Introduction to the Danish version
Robert Zola Christensen Ph.D., has written more than 30 books in both non-fiction and fiction (novels, crime fiction, children books). His works have been translated into several languages, including German, French, Serbian, Russian and Swedish. His latest novel, No Balloons (2017), explores the different lifestyles in Scandinavia, political correctness and the role of man today. Originally from Denmark, Robert Zola Christensen is currently an Associate Professor at Lund University in Sweden.
Nina Sokol is a poet and translator in the midst of translating novels, short stories. plays and poems by Danish writers. She was a grant poet-in-residence at The Vermont Studio Center in 2011. She has received several grants from the Danish Art’s Council to translate plays, including a play written by the fairy tale writer H.C. Andersen which was published by the journal “InTranslation.” She has also translated an excerpt from one of the winning novels of last year›s EU Prize for Literature (Danish, 2016) as well as translated such authors Niviaq Korneliussen and Bjørn Rasmussen. Her own poems have appeared in American journals, including Miller’s Pond and the Hiram Poetry Review and a collection was published by Lapwing Publications in Belfast, Ireland (2015).