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Asta Olivia Nordenhof

 (DK) Asta Olivia Nordenhof (c) Albert Sanvig Madsen

Asta Olivia Nordenhof (born 1988) is an award-winning Danish poet and author and a graduate of the Danish Academy of Creative Writing, where she now teaches. Her debut novel Et ansigt til Emily (A Face for Emily, Basilisk, Copenhagen, 2011) won the Munch-Christensen Debutant Prize. In 2013, she won, among other awards, the Montana Literary Award for her critically acclaimed poetry collection Det nemme og det ensomme (The Easiness and the Loneliness, Basilisk, Copenhagen, 2013), which sold over 10 000 copies in Denmark and was translated into English and other languages. Penge på lommen (Money to Burn), published in 2020, is Nordenhof’s most recent work and the first novel in a planned septology entitled Scandinavian Star.

 

  • EUPL Year: 
    2020
  • EUPL Country: 

Winning Book

Penge på lommen

Money in Your Pocket is the first volume of a novel sequence which has the fire on board the Scandinavian Star ferry as its central theme. The tragedy that took place on 6 April 1990 led to the death of 159 people. It was followed by an official investigation that blamed the fire on a convicted arsonist who died during the incident. If the focal point is an actual event, the characters in the story are fictitious. In this volume, we meet Kurt and Maggie. They live on a farm just outside Nyborg. Kurt’s bus company has yielded a nice profit for several years in a row and he dreams of investing the money in something big. Meanwhile, Maggie tries to understand what love is and why she let it swallow her whole life. We also meet the narrator. She’s somewhere on the Danish island of Funen when she experiences a fright that leads her into the lives of Kurt and Maggie.

(DK) Penge på lommen

Publishing House

Address: 

Nansensgade 77, kld., Copenhagen, Denmark

Email Address: 
Organisation: 
Forlaget Basilisk

Agent / Rights Director

Email Address: 
Representative: 
Alexander Buk-Swienty (Copenhagen Literay Agency)

Translation Deals

  • Bulgarie : Janet 45
  • Croatie : Naklada Ljevak
  • Finlande : Teos
  • Macédoine : Antolog
  • Norvège : Forlaget Oktober
  • Serbie : Treci Trg
  • Suède : Norstedts

Excerpt

Penge på lommen - Asta Olivia Nordenhof - Language: Danish

Maggie var fjorten, da hun første gang blev voldtaget. Men voldtægt er mit ord, ikke hendes. Mange år senere sad hun overfor en kvinde i Dannerhuset, hun var taget derhen for at spørge, om hun huskede rigtigt, når hun huskede, at Kurt havde været voldelig, men blev bange og spurgte i stedet, om hun havde været udsat for en voldtægt dengang, og kvinden på den anden side af bordet lyttede og svarede, at ja, det var en voldtægt. Maggie gik derfra og følte sig som en bedrager, fordi hun ikke havde nævnt det, der for hende var det egentligt uudholdelige spørgsmål, at hun blev våd, at hun åbnede sig for ham.

Hun var som sagt fjorten, var blevet smidt ud hjemmefra. Hun havde haft en fyr med hjemme en aften hun troede hendes mor ville komme sent hjem fra arbejde, de havde drukket sig fulde i kirsebærvin, det var nogle vamle kys, og pludselig stod hendes mor i døråbningen og bad hende forsvinde. Gaden føltes meget åben, da hun den følgende morgen stod dernede med sin rygsæk. Det eneste, hun kunne forestille sig, var at finde en mand, der ville have hende boende, men hun vidste ikke, hvor hun skulle starte. Hun gik ad Vesterbrogade, da hun så plakaten. Teltlejr i Jylland, alle var velkomne.

Hun sad og kæderøg på togets toilet indtil anklagerne fra den anden side af døren blev alvorlige, så stod hun af i Odense og ventede en time på det næste tog, hvor hun, klog af skade, skiftede toilet hver gang toget holdt. Der var bare en lille vindblæst stationsbygning der, hvor hun skulle stå af, omkring stationen græssende køer, solen stod højt, asfalten på perronen var varm mod lårene, da hun satte sig og spredte sminketaskens indhold ud foran sig, fandt lommespejlet frem og gik i gang med at male.

Lejren lå smukt mellem bakker og bag dem var havet. Teltpladsen vrimlede med børn, kvinderne havde løse, lange kjoler på, og Maggie blev nervøs, hun følte sig udstillet og grotesk i sit stramme kostume og ville være taget hjem igen, hvis ikke det var for sent nu. Hun tænkte på sin mor, og det stak hende i hjertet, at hun havde kaldt hende en latterlig gammel kælling, inden hun smækkede døren efter sig. Ud på aftenen samledes folk om bålet. Maggie som havde gået for sig selv hele eftermiddagen, kiggede rundt efter en mand. Hun startede adspredt, strøede lidt af sig selv alle vegne, men besluttede sig så for en ung fyr med rodet hår og et lidt åndssvagt men også charmerende ansigt, satte sig tæt op af ham og fortalte, at hun var blevet forældreløs og ledte efter et telt,hvor hun kunne overnatte. Han delte et stort telt med noget familie, hun skulle være velkommen.

Senere lagde hun sig derind, mens han endnu sad ved bålet, og ventede at han ville følge hende, men i stedet var det hans onkel, der fulgte efter og lagde sig hos hende. Han lagde hånden på hendes kind, og hun løftede den væk.

Der må være sket en misforståelse, det var det hun, som om hun var ansat i sin egen krops reception, med et beklagende smil forsøgte at signalere. Han mumlede noget, det lød som en grød, vristede sin hånd ud af hendes greb og førte den tilbage på hendes krop, løftede blusen og fandt hendes bryst med munden. Hun var fortsat høflig og fuld af beklagelser, gode argumenter, hun følte, at det var hendes opgave at argumentere, nu hun havde anbragt sig i teltet og givet det indtryk, og argumentet var, at hun var for ung, og han var for gammel, at det ikke ville se kønt ud, heller ikke for ham. Så lagde hun kræfter i, forsøgte at løfte hans ansigt op fra sin mave, sagde nej og vær sød, men han sendte hende et grødet smil, sagde noget, der føltes varmt og klistret, ulækkert, ind i hendes øre og greb hendes håndled med én hånd, mens han med den anden hånd trak hendes trusser til side og førte to fingre op.

Det kom i en forfærdelig bølge nedefra, hun lå stille og mærkede, at hendes krop forrådte hende, hun blev våd, hans pik gled ubesværet op. Hun har ikke nogen ord for det, der foregik, indtil han kom oppe i hende og tumlede til siden og snart efter snorkede. Had, skam, angst og liderlighed flettede sig sammen og spandt en livsvarig drøm i hende. Hun lærte at vold og sex er det samme, og hun lærte at tro, at sammenblandingen kom fra et dyb i hende selv og ikke udefra. Hun lå med sit dunkende skød og sit hjerte, der bankede helt sindssygt, svimlede afsted, og så, med en kort og hård tanke, lukkede hun sig: Man er alene, og det eneste, man har, er viljen til at fortsætte fremad.

Det første, der skulle klares, var at komme uset fra lejren. Først fremme ved landevejen standsede hun op, satte sig i grøftekanten og tændte en cigaret. Det føltes som om hun burde græde, men hun kunne ikke. Hun tænkte uklart, næsten abstrakt på, hvor hun skulle sove. Det var mere et spørgsmål, der betvang kroppen og drev den afsted, end et spørgsmål der havde en ende. Så rejste hun sig og rakte tomlen frem. Fra passagersædet så hun ud på Jylland, der med en langsom, uvirkelig selvfølgelighed, strakte sig tætsort og havmættet i alle retninger omkring bilen.

Hun var nitten år, da hun anden gang blev voldtaget. Eller hvad der præcist skete ved hun ikke. Hun var gået alene på Andys bar. I baren havde der siddet en mand i cowboystøvler og lignet sådan et fjols, hun let kunne snøre. Hun fortalte en af sine historier. Det kunne være den, hvor hun var en russisk adelsdatter i eksil, rådede over en kæmpe formue som alligevel var nyttesløs her, hvor man ikke rigtig kunne leve.

Hun vågnede op på fortovet i Sølvgade, det var begyndt at dæmre og hun frøs, der gik lidt tid, før hun forstod, at det var hendes eget blod på fliserne. På hospitalet sagde de, at nogen havde tæsket hende, og at mærkerne på armene og brystet fik dem til at tro, at hun var blevet holdt fast, formentlig havde gjort modstand. De kunne også fastslå, at hun havde haft sex. Hun nikkede, hun hørte efter med en påtaget opmærksom mine, det føltes som at være til eksamen. Helst ville hun ud og ryge og gå i gang med at glemme det, hun allerede havde glemt, men hun forstod, at det ville virke forkert, mistænkeligt, hvis hun frabad sig at vide, hvad hun selv havde oplevet. Så slap de hende endelig fri, og hun gik hjem.

Det meste af tiden lykkedes det ikke at tænke på det. Samme eftermiddag var hun i parken med en ven, og slog sit ophovnede ansigt hen med en latter. Jaja, hun var fuld i går, man får nogle knubs. Men det kom i jag. Han kunne være allevegne. Hun ville ikke nødvendigvis kunne genkende hans ansigt, men han ville kunne genkende hendes. Han kunne sidde lige i nærheden og eje det øjeblik, hun tror, er hendes eget. Et par år efter havde hun haft sex med så mange, at hun snarere måtte antage, at hun ofte passerede mænd på gaden uvidende om, at de genkendte hende. Et mandeansigt var et hul man kunne trække penge op af, når hun åbnede de små skuffer i kommoden derhjemme, var der altid sedler at finde. Strøgbutikkerne lukkede sig op for hende, hun købte, købte, købte, stjal også stadig, selv om hun nu havde råd. En kort kjole holdt fast under armhulen og skjult under jakken, og tre kjoler på disken. Et par sko også, i sølv.

***

Hun tager en taxa og fylder kabinen ud med en tung duft af ravgul parfume. Fremme i lejligheden giver manden, hun mødte et par dage forinden, sig til at fremvise sin nye støvsuger. Han tænder for kontakten og holder røret frem mod hende, se, hvor den suger, og for at gøre det endnu mere klart sætter han røret mod sin egen arm og suger sin hud et stykke med ud. Maggie ved ikke, hvad hun skal forstå ved det optrin, hun drikker af rødvinen, som sikkert er dyr, og bag hendes arrogante grimasse, er det som om, bunden går ud af en spand, som om hofterne næsten ikke kan holde på vandet, latteren. Det er hendes plan at få lov til at være her mindst en uge, det skal udfylde et hul, der er opstået mellem andre muligheder.

Hun er prisgivet, det er klart, alle disse mænd med deres støvsugere og ludende hundeansigter, men hvad skulle hun ellers gøre, tage arbejde på en fabrik, stemple ind klokken fem? Det ville aldrig kunne lade sig gøre, det regulære arbejdsmarked har ikke noget rum for et menneske som hende, som indimellem skal bruge en hel dag på at græde eller ligge på en plæne og overrisles af angst, og aldrig, aldrig ville kunne møde til tiden eller rigtig høre efter en besked. Der findes ingen arbejdsgiver, der kan bruge hende til noget, og desuden, hvis hun skal bruges, og sådan er loven, vil hun gerne bilde sig ind, at hun selv bestemmer hvordan. I det mindste er der ikke rigtig nogen, der kan fyre hende. Hun er blevet fyret tre gange, to gange som barnepige og én gang som ekspeditrice, efter kun et par dages arbejde. Hun anstrengte sig under fyringssamtalerne, holdt på ansigtet og tårerne indtil hun var ude, hvor tårerne gik løs. Ydmygelsen ved at blive fyret er, hvad den er, hun har for længst opgivet at have en ære, men penge. Penge, et rum der udvider sig langt hinsides smertegrænsen. Den følgende morgen tager han på arbejde. Han er arkitekt åbenbart, viste hende nogle stregtegninger i aftes. Hun er lidt beklemt, glad for at han er væk, for han viste sig at pibe som, ja, som en lille museunge i sengen, og da han sov, stod hun op og fik kuldegysninger, når hun tænkte på lyden, sad i hans køkken og følte ikke den eufori, hun ellers kan føle den første nat i et fremmed hjem.

Nede i parken står roserne i blomst, de dufter heftigt, hun sætter sig på en bænk og iagttager et egern pile op og ned ad en stamme, bliver så rørt over den lille rødglinsende ven. Ja, selvfølgelig, svarer hun en kvinde, der spørger efter en cigaret, og kigger efter hende helt indtil hun forsvinder ud gennem lågen. Så svømmer hun tømmermændsagtigt let hen i en billedløs nostalgi.

Translated Excerpt

Money in your pocket - Asta Olivia Nordenhof - Translation by Sherilyn Hellberg

Maggie was fourteen the first time she was raped. But rape is my word, not hers. Years later, she was seated across from an employee of the women’s shelter, where she had gone to ask whether she was remembering correctly, when she remembered Kurt being vi-olent, but she got scared and instead asked if she had been raped back then, and the woman on the other side of the table listened and said yes, that was rape. Maggie left and felt like a traitor be-cause she hadn’t mentioned the part that was unbearable to her, that she got wet, that she opened herself to him.

She was, as I said, fourteen, had been kicked out of the house. She had brought a guy home with her one night when she thought her mother would be home late from work. They were drunk on cherry wine, there were a few slimy kisses, and suddenly her mother was standing in the doorway, telling her to get out. The street felt very open the next morning as she stood there with her backpack. Her first thought was to find a man who would have her, but she didn’t know where to start. She walked down Vesterbrogade and saw the flyer: Community Campsite in Jutland. All welcome.

She chain-smoked in the bathroom on the train until the com-plaints on the other side of the door started getting serious enough for her to get off in Odense and wait an hour for the next train, where she, now the wiser, switched restrooms every time the train stopped. Where she was supposed to get off, there was only a small windswept station building. Cows grazed around the station, the sun was high in the sky, and the asphalt on the platform warm against her thighs when she sat down and spread out the contents of her make-up bag, opened her compact mirror and started painting.

The campground was slipped between two hills and the sea be-hind them. The campsites were teeming with kids. The women were clad in long, flowy dresses and Maggie felt nervous, exposed and grotesque in her tight outfit and would have turned around to go home if it wasn’t already too late. She thought about her mother and felt a stab in her heart when she remembered calling her a stupid old bitch before she slammed the door behind her.

Later that night, people gathered around the bonfire. Maggie, who had spent the afternoon walking around on her own, looked around for a man. She started absently, sprinkling a bit of her-self all over the place, but eventually settled on a young guy with messy hair and a slightly foolish but charming face, sat close to him and told him that both her parents had died, she was looking for a spot to sleep. He was sharing a big tent with a few of his fam-ily members, she was welcome to stay with them. 

Later, she lay down to sleep while he was still out by the fire, had waited for him to follow her, but instead his uncle followed her and lay down next to her. He placed a hand on her cheek, and she moved it away.

There must have been misunderstanding. That was what she tried to signal with an apologetic smile, like her own body’s reception-ist. He mumbled something, an oatmealish sound, twisted his hand out of her grasp and it was on her body again, lifted her shirt and found her breast with his mouth. She was still trying to be po-lite and full of excuses, good arguments. She felt that it was her re-sponsibility to argue; after all she had put herself in this tent and given off some impression, and she argued that she was too young and he was too old, that it wouldn’t look good, not for him either. Then she started to resist, tried to lift his face away from her stom-ach, said no and please, but he sent her an oatmealish smile, whispered something that felt warm and sticky, repulsive, in her ear and grabbed her wrist with one hand, while he used the other to push her panties aside and shove two fingers in. She felt a terrible wave wash over her from below. She lay still and felt her body be-tray her. She got wet. His dick slid easily into her. She doesn’t have any words to describe what happened before he came inside her and rolled over and started snoring. Hatred, shame, dread, and lust wove together, tightened into a lifelong dream inside her. She learned that sex and violence are one and the same, and to believe that the confusion between the two stemmed from a place deep inside her and not the outside world. She lay there with her groin throbbing and her heart beating out of control, dizzy and then, with one brief, hard thought, she closed herself: you are alone and the only thing that you have is the will to keep moving forward. 

Her first priority was to leave the campground unseen. It was only when she reached the highway that she stopped, sat on the side of the road, and lit a cigarette. She felt she should cry, but she couldn’t. She thought vaguely, almost abstractly, about where to sleep. It was more a question that coerced her body forward than a question with an end. She got up and stuck out her thumb. From the passenger seat, she watched Jutland go by with its slow, sur-real inevitability, its blackness stretching out from the car in all directions, tightly woven and sea-soaked.

She was nineteen the second time she was raped. Though actually, she doesn’t know what happened. She had gone to Andy’s Bar by herself. A man in cowboy boots was sitting at the bar, looking like a fool, an easy target. She told him one of her stories. Maybe that she was the daughter of a Russian aristocrat living in exile, had a massive fortune at her disposal, but it was useless here, where there wasn’t so much going on. She woke up on the sidewalk of Sølvgade. The sun was coming up and she was freezing. It took a moment for her to realize that the blood on the ground was hers. At the hospital, they said that she had been beaten up, that the bruises on her arms and her chest suggested she had been held down, had probably resisted. They had also deduced that she had had sex. She nodded, pretending to listen. It felt like she was back in school. More than anything, she wanted to leave and smoke a cigarette and to start to forget what she had already forgotten, but she knew that it would seem off, suspicious, if she didn’t want to know what had happened to her. Finally, they let her go, and she walked home. 

Most of the time, she was able to avoid thinking about it. Later that afternoon, she was at the park with a friend, and shrugged off her swollen face with a laugh. Yeah, she got a little too drunk last night, sometimes you get knocked around. But it came back to her in flashes. He could be anywhere. She probably wouldn’t be able to recognize his face, but he would recognize hers. He might be sitting nearby, stealing the moment she thinks is her own.

A few years later, she had been with so many men that she might as well assume that she often passed men on the street, unaware that they recognized her. A man’s face was a hole you could pull money out of. When she opened the small drawers of the dressers at home, there was always money. Shops opened their doors to her, and she bought, bought, bought, still shoplifted too, even though she had the money now. A short dress tucked under one arm, cov-ered by her coat, and three dresses on the counter. A pair of shoes too, silver. 

***

She takes a cab and fills the car with the hefty smell of amber per-fume. Inside the apartment, a man she met a few days ago shows off his new vacuum. He turns it on and holds it out to her, look how powerful it is, and to make his point he holds the end to his arm and sucks up his skin. Maggie doesn’t know how to interpret his performance. She takes a sip of her red wine, which is probably expensive, and behind her arrogant grimace, it’s like the bottom falls out of a bucket, like her hips almost can’t hold back the water, her laughter. Her plan is to stay here for at least a week, to fill a gap that’s opened between other options.

She’s at the mercy, that much is clear, of these men with their vac-uum-cleaners and drooping dog-faces, but what is she supposed to do, get a job at a factory, punch in at five o’clock? It would never work. The labor market can’t accommodate someone like her, who sometimes spends a whole day crying or lying on a lawn letting her anxiety wash over her, who would never show up on time or pay attention to a message. There aren’t any employers who can use her for something, and besides, if she’s going to be used, as the law de-mands, she wants to be able to delude herself into thinking that it’s her choice how. At least there’s nobody to fire her now. She’s been fired three times, twice as a nanny and once as a cashier, after only a few days of work. She struggled through the conversations, hold-ing onto her face and back her tears until she was outside, and she burst into tears. The humiliation of getting fired be what it may — she’s long since given up her honor — but the money. Money, that space that continues far beyond the boundary of pain. 

The next morning, he leaves for work. He’s an architect apparent-ly, showed her some of his sketches last night. She feels a little un-easy, happy that he’s gone because it turned out that he whimpers like, yeah, like a little mouse in bed, and while he was still asleep, she got up and shuddered at the thought of the sound, sat in his kitchen and didn’t feel the euphoria that she usually feels the first night in a new home. 

In the park below, the roses are blooming, their scent pungent. She sits on a bench and watches a squirrel dart up and down a tree, touched by her little shiny, reddish friend. Yes, of course, she says to a woman asking for a cigarette, and watches her disap-pear through the gate. In a hungover daze, she swims effortlessly around an imageless nostalgia. 

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