On the Calculation of Volume (Book I) (Paperback)

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On the Calculation of Volume (Book I) By Solvej Balle, Barbara J. Haveland (Translated by) Cover Image

On the Calculation of Volume (Book I) (Paperback)

By Solvej Balle, Barbara J. Haveland (Translated by)

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Utterly riveting, Solvej Balle’s On the Calculation of Volume (Book I) is the grand opening of her speculative fiction septology, winner of the 2022 Nordic Council Literature Prize (Scandinavia’s most important literary award) for being “a masterpiece of its time.” 


Tara Selter, the heroine of On the Calculation of Volume, has involuntarily stepped off the train of time: in her world, November eighteenth repeats itself endlessly. We meet Tara on her 122nd November 18th: she no longer experiences the changes of days, weeks, months, or seasons. She finds herself in a lonely new reality without being able to explain why: how is it that she wakes every morning into the same day, knowing to the exact second when the blackbird will burst into song and when the rain will begin? Will she ever be able to share her new life with her beloved and now chronically befuddled husband? And on top of her profound isolation and confusion, Tara takes in with pain how slight a difference she makes in the world. (As she puts it: “That’s how little the activities of one person matter on the eighteenth of November.”)


Balle is hypnotic and masterful in her remixing of the endless recursive day, creating curious little folds of time and foreshadowings: her flashbacks light up inside the text like old flash bulbs.


The first volume’s gravitational pull—a force inverse to its constriction—has the effect of a strong tranquilizer, but a drug under which your powers of observation only grow sharper and more acute. Give in to the book's logic (its minute movements, its thrilling shifts, its slant wit, its slowing of time) and its spell is utterly intoxicating.


Solvej Balle’s seven-volume novel wrings enthralling and magical new dimensions from time and its hapless, mortal subjects.  As one Danish reviewer beautifully put it, Balle’s fiction consists of writing that listens. “Reading her is like being caressed by language itself.”



Solvej Balle was born in 1962, made her debut in 1986 with Lyrefugl, and she went on to write one of the 1990s’ most acclaimed works of Danish literature, According to the Law: Four Accounts of Mankind (praised by Publishers Weekly for its blend of “sly humor, bleak vision, and terrified sense of the absurd with a tacit intuition that the world has a meaning not yet fathomed”). Since then, she’s published a book on art theory, Det umuliges kunst, 2005, a political memoir Frydendal og andre gidsler, 2008, and two books of short prose Hvis and , published simultaneously in 2013. On the Calculation of Volume is Solvej Balle’s major comeback, not just to Danish or Nordic fiction, but—expanding the possibilities of the novel—to all of world literature.

Barbara J. Haveland (born 1951) is a Scottish literary translator, resident in Copenhagen. She translates fiction, poetry and drama from Danish and Norwegian to English. She has translated works by many leading Danish and Norwegian writers, both classic and contemporary, including Henrik Ibsen, Peter Høeg, Linn Ullmann and Carl Frode Tiller.
Product Details ISBN: 9780811237253
ISBN-10: 0811237257
Publisher: New Directions
Publication Date: November 19th, 2024
Pages: 160
Language: English
A masterpiece of its time.
— jury of the Nordic Council Literary Prize

Solvej Balle writes with relentless consequence, consistency, concise uncanniness, and a singular dry intensity. Original, glistening with beauty.
— Erik Skyum-Nielsen - Information

Solvej Balle uses language as a flashlight and a shovel, alternately illuminating and eroding the foundation of the existence we know as ours.
— Klassekampen

An unparalleled cliffhanger.
— Morgenbladet

This novel is filled with a tactile, concrete and aptly existence-affirming universe, captured in sparkling sentences.
— Vårt Land