Kjell Askildsen’s Everything Like Before is a collection that showcases the deep absence and loneliness that tiptoes under the surface of the mundane lives of its characters. Translated from the Norwegian by Sean Kinsella and beautifully curated and released by Archipelago books, the stories all weave through the icy, cold, rainy landscape that reflects the emptiness after death, the smell of char after a fire, and the choice between another cigarette and glass of wine on the porch or just pouring the rest of the bottle down the drain. Askildsen’s stories are short and cut like the bitter end of a hard candy. The prose is tight. Askildsen chooses less, and the dialogue the characters provide does as much to create three-dimensional portraits in the flesh while also opening a canyon between them in how much we realize they are not saying about their loss, loneliness, resentments, and powerlessness. We can see they are all capable of joy, but in a life that beats them down in a precise 500 words, we realize it is never coming. An absolutely amazing collection, I was lucky to receive an ARC from Archipelago. Askildsen is a master of the micro, and the characters and vignettes in this collection showcase just how incredible he is at his form when presenting the rift, silence, and miscommunication among his vibrant, heartbroken characters.
Photo Credit: By DXR – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48342629