There Is a Big Open Square in Bordeaux
Longlisted for The P2 listeners’ best novel prize 2013
One of the ten best translated books in Denmark in 2014 in Berlingske Tidende
There is a big open square in Bordeaux where Ruth steps out of her taxi with her trolley suitcase, wondering if Johannes is going to show up.
Abel runs a gallery in Bordeaux, and she takes Ruth with her out into the night.
Meanwhile, Abel’s daughter Lily walks under the trees along the canal in Bordeaux. She meets Ralf there; a young boy carrying a guitar case.
There Is a Big Open Square in Bordeaux is a love story, a story about the yearning for closeness and sexuality, and the despair that can follow if feelings can’t be reciprocated.
Praise for There Is a Big Open Square in Bordeaux:
“The bodily desire is described with linguistic precision in this new novel. Norwegian Hanne Ørstavik impresses yet again with a cool artistic perspective … The desire is intellectually described in Ørstavik’s fine, sheer prose … There is great linguistic beauty in Ørstavik’s novel, each page feels like an image, which unfolds and lifts like a living illustration”
“Hanne Ørstavik writes simultaneously very concrete, sensuously and lyrically dense about it all, and especially the body, gender and the murmur of longing and lust in Ruth … tremendously consequent”
5/6, Berlingske Tidende, Denmark
“An intimate and wise love story about the yearning after physical contact and sexuality … Ruth’s bodily longing and accompanying vulnerability is depicted in an unvarnished and tight language which powerfully creeps under my skin. A beautiful and touching novel about the different expressions and torments of love”
5/6, ALT for damerne, Denmark
“Fantastically good novel about the essence of love, of desire, longing and pain”
“Her new novel, There Is a Big Open Square in Bordeaux, is a true masterpiece which shows that she controls the means of this intimate and close story better than anyone else … perhaps the best depiction of sexual frustration I have ever read. Ørstavik describes the desires of the body, its various betrayed emotions, in an uncovered and matter-of-factly prose, making resistance impossible. Sometimes, it’s like I’m there, in the flesh of the narrator.”
Expressen, Sweden (based on the Norwegian edition)
“For the first time, Hanne Ørstavik has written a proper love story – filled with a yearning for warmth, sincerity, intimacy and sex. And it is more beautiful and powerful than ever”
“Ørstavik is one of the writers who really explore life and existence in her novels, and this becomes clearer as the years pass … a courageous novel … The most intense and challenging novel Ørstavik has written in years.”
“Ørstavik is a champion of depicting bodily isolated vulnerability”
“This novel speaks volumes about women’s desire and men who yield, in a relationship where the woman remains obsequious, where they are held hostage by a pattern … a new sentence may begin in the middle of the last one—but this goes well with Ørstavik’s flow and character. The prose keeps you going, like Ruth desperately needs to keep going … This time around, Ørstavik writes sexually and explicitly … The importance of her project is not lessened by years. It constitutes a literary line that many readers will joyfully follow.”
“The plot is imparted in a strict, strong language, and, as always, Hanne Ørstavik heads straight for the core of what she wants to explore. It might seem like a brave project, the theme is bold and she is not afraid of discomfort. At the same time, she sticks with a form she masters perfectly; the light pressure on that certain point, again and again, until the pain is unbearable … the most interesting book Ørstavik has written in a long while.”
“As always, Ørstavik dives into the yearnings of the mind and the yearnings of the body. Yet, the novel seems more extroverted than before … She writes better than ever. She wraps all things — emotions, change of light, a few nocturne hours — carefully into the words and make them beautiful and new. There are lovely encounters; between Abel and his father, between Lily and an old lady, between Ruth and the floor of an art gallery … an insightful and intense novel about the cost of finding an open space, in yourself and in the other, where love may happen.”
“‘Will you meet me’ – thus opens Ørstavik’s new novel, with a question without a question mark. She pulls her complex contemplations of human beings’ real possibility for knowing one another into a more open landscape … an immensly palpable language, with vivid and frightening depictions of the inner landscape of people”
“Ørstavik has written a dangerous love story, more straightforward than previous ones … an existensial love story where sexuallity is both destructive, exploratory and important. The language is simply beautiful in its exploration. The tender anguish in Ruth’s encounter with the man who’d rather go to a brothel than share his days with her, is potent … This time around, I seem to detect in Øsrtavik an interesting will to alternate between what is completely clear and what is more poetic and obscure.
“An insightful exploration of the intricacies of sexuality.”