The World and Varvara
Translated from the Danish by
ISBN 978-1-959556-41-1 150 pages $18.00
pub date: October 2023
"Beautifully executed, propelled by [Fruelund’s] exceptional assurance of form and bone-dry wit."
—Olga Ravn, Booker Prize shortlisted author of The Employees
“The World and Varvara is the type of book you cannot put down.”
“A pure reading pleasure.”
Varvara Eng is a flamboyant, 79 ½ year old Danish actress who has lived a very colorful life. When the struggling young writer Pelle is hired to write Varvara’s memoir, he’s told that Varvara wants “someone who knows how to lie without being exposed.” The memoir is supposed to be published when Varvara turns 80, which means Pelle has eight weeks to finish it. But there are certain distractions.
There’s Pelle’s mounting bills, for one thing. Also there’s his girlfriend, Johanne, who doesn’t understand why he has agreed to become a ghost writer. And there’s Varvara’s lover, the diamond-trader Knud, who once in a while needs a courier for what may or may not be legal activities. And then there’s the captivating young photographer, Knirke, whom he meets right before she embarks on a long trip around the globe.
So as Pelle begins to interview Varvara, nothing goes according to plan.
Told in the characteristically spare, precise style for which Fruelund is known in Denmark, one that calls to mind the innovative fiction of David Markson or Jenny Offill, The World and Varvara is a comic novel about celebrity and literature and the difficulty of accurately rendering another person’s life.
Praise for Simon Fruelund
“Simon Fruelund has a uniquely spooky view of human folly. His vivisection of suburban life in Civil Twilight is by turns funny, moving, and surpassingly strange. There is little civility here, but plenty of twilight.”
—Nathaniel Rich, author of The Mayor’s Tongue and Odds Against Tomorrow
“These 14 stories from Danish author Fruelund are a kaleidoscope of fleeting moments from ordinary lives, rendered profound by what we cannot see just beyond the frame…. This consistently beautiful book has a quietness that recalls the stark Danish countryside, the stories’ primary setting.”
"Fruelund's prose is muscular, descriptive, and often lyrical."
“In Civil Twilight, Simon Fruelund takes as his subject nothing less than the nature of how we live together. The unnamed residents in this remote Copenhagen suburb pass each other in the street, watch each other through the windows. Their stories spin around in elegant, kaleidoscopic chapters from which beautiful patterns emerge. The devil lurks in Fruelund’s perfectly placed details. It all feels so real. Civil Twilight is a remarkable book that’s not read as much as lived in.”
—Andrew Ervin, author of Extraordinary Renditions and Burning Down George Orwell’s House
“Fruelund is a master of the short form, importing some designs from our own Raymond Carver, applying them to the interstices of the European everyday, and making them his own.”
—Alan Cheuse, late NPR reviewer and author of To Catch the Lightning and The Fires
“Fruelund takes the functionality of an Egg chair and the irony of Kierkegaard to weave a collection of stories that linger and make us question those small moments, seemingly small decisions, that effect us more than we think they will.”
—Monica Carter, Three Percent blog
Fruelund captures the frigidity of familial relationships, jilted lovers, and spurned mentors. He hangs these reticent characters against a barren ice-
desert where haunting flames still flare up in the infinitesimal gaps as they pull apart from each other and their comfortable surroundings. The
default tone is one of mourning after it’s become a habit. Milk and Other Stories is a fist ready to punch you in the throat. You reel from the impact
even though the hand has long ago unclenched and disappeared into the night.
—Frank Garrett, writer and translator of Bruno Schulz's Undula
Simon Fruelund is a Danish author who debuted in 1997 with the story collection Milk (US edition 2013). Since then he has published another story collection, four short novels, among them Civil Twilight (US edition 2013), and a poetry collection. From 1997 to 2006 he worked as an editor at the publisher Gyldendal. Since 2012 he has taught creative writing at Vallekilde Højskole. The World and Varvara is his third book translated into English.
K.E. Semmel is a writer and translator. His translations include novels by, among others, Naja Marie Aidt, Karin Fossum, Simon Fruelund, and Jussi Adler Olsen. He is a former Literary Translation Fellow from the National Endowment for the Arts. His debut novel, The Book of Losman, is forthcoming in 2024 from SFWP. Visit him online at kesemmel.com