The White Bathhouse
It is just before Advent. He receives a phone call from an unknown woman claiming that she is his cousin. There’s never been much talk of the family on his mother’s side. He has never known the name of his grandfather. Now he discovers new truths and relatives he never knew about, and with them difficult questions come up.
He lives with an inherited illness that has forced him into a wheelchair. Is the secrecy in the family connected to the chromosome abnormality he has inherited? Will what he has found out about his grandfather give him insight into his own life?
The White Bathhouse is a story of origins, shame, concealment and the costs of being honest.
Praise for The White Bathhouse:
«Thorvald Steen transforms personal experience to high quality fiction … In a rich, complex text where elements close to reality are used with careful craft, Steen tells a revealing and frighteningly topical story of the fear of being different, of contempt and self-contempt. It should find its way to many readers”
“Very powerful … Steen tells a universal story of generational conflicts, shame and concealment. It’s especially beautiful when the desperation and the hatred towards the mother’s choice and the great difficulties this has led to is mildened – and ends up as a kind of reconciliation”
“Thorvald Steen’s triumphant novel confronts the reader with existential questions about human worth and the right to life, about sham, silence and deviation … The composition is brilliant, in the way it switches between detailed descriptions of the body lying helpless on the floor, memories from conversations with the mother and historical flashbacks … a sparklingly well-written piece of writing, which has everything you can expect from great literature: Well-written, well-composed and epic. This must be Thorvald Steen’s greatest victory as a writer”
“Suspenseful and enlightening. A telephone call changes everything in Thorvald Steen’s new, moving novel, which shows how important it is to have ownership to your own history. Steen lets the story unfold in a tight and controlled manner, effortlessly moving between different time levels … the physical experience of loss and inadequacy is powerfully conveyed … Steen’s novel is easy to recommend – eye-opening, well-composed and suspenseful from beginning to end”
Dagbladet, 5/6 stars
“Genes and illness transformed into shame. Thorvald Steen’s generous confrontation with a life of concealment … an intensely personal novel. It is powerful in more ways than one … It is an infatuating read, in an artfully composed novel which moves freely around in time and space.”
Stavanger Aftenblad, 5/6 stars
“A powerful, wise book about living with a very serious diagnosis … Steen is a literary craftsman of the highest order. The novel is barely 180 pages long, and is tightly and intelligently edited. It struck me that this book could have been a jeremiad, an attack on the family in general – and the mother in particular – but Steen has steered clear of that. Instead it’s a wise book”
Fædrelandsvennen, 5/6 stars
«Steen has given us the most wonderful novels rooted in his own life, and always with a core pointing far out and beyond the personal. That is also the case this time … In spite of the sorrow below the surface of this story, The White Bathhouse is a tour de force of tight directing. Unsentimental, balanced and at times drily funny, this is an unusually painful family story, which shows how destructive silence can be”
“Steen’s skilled prose is neither fancily embellished or conspicuously tight, but when you look closer, it is enormously rhythmic … a novel completely devoid of sentimentality – a triumph, I must stress, for Thorvald Steen as a poet”
“Steen portrays human frailty and shame in a literary frame that is as suspenseful as any crime novel … The pain of the parents for having inflicted this ailment on their child has been handled with shame and silence … this problem is universal, it doesn’t need a chromosomal abnormity and a generation of lies. All children experience pain inflicted on them by their parents, if nothing else then because life itself is painful. And any attempt from parents to run away from their share of the blame, their responsibility, can make matters worse”