When Death Takes Something From You Give It Back
By Naja Marie Aidt
An unflinchingly raw and lyrical exploration of loss, poetry and love.
"I raise my glass to my eldest son. His pregnant wife and daughter are sleeping above us. Outside, the March evening is cold and clear. 'To life!' I say as the glasses clink with a delicate and pleasing sound. My mother says something to the dog. Then the phone rings. We don't answer it. Who could be calling so late on a Saturday evening?"
In March 2015, Naja Marie Aidt's 25-year-old son, Carl, died in a tragic accident.
When Death Takes Something From You Give It Back is about losing a child. It is about formulating a vocabulary to express the deepest kind of pain. And it's about finding a way to write about a reality invaded by grief, lessened by loss.
Faced with the sudden emptiness of language, Naja finds solace in the anguish of Joan Didion, Nick Cave, C.S. Lewis, Mallarmé, Plato and other writers who have suffered the deadening impact of loss. Their torment suffuses with her own as Naja wrestles with words and contests their capacity to speak for the depths of her sorrow.
This palimpsest of mourning enables Naja to turn over the pathetic, precious transience of existence and articulates her greatest fear: to forget. The insistent compulsion to reconstruct the harrowing aftermath of Carl's death keeps him painfully present, while fragmented memories, journal entries and poetry inch her closer to piecing Carl's life together.
Intensely moving and quietly devastating, this is what is it to be a family, what it is to love and lose, and what it is to treasure life in spite of death's indomitable resolve.
Originally from Greenland, Naja Marie Aidt is a Danish poet and author with nearly 30 works - mostly poetry - in various genres to her name. She is also a playwright and screenwriter and has published children's books and translated fiction and poetry from Swedish and Norwegian. She has received numerous honors, including the Danish Critics Choice Award, The Danish Art Foundation's Award for Lifelong Service, and the Nordic nations' most prestigious literary prize, the Nordic Council's Literature Prize, in 2008 for Baboon. Her work has been translated into ten languages. Her work has also been anthologized in the Best European Fiction series and has appeared in leading American and International journals and magazines. Baboon was published in the States by Two Lines Press in 2014. Denise Newman won the PEN Translation Prize for her translation of Baboon in 2015. Naja Marie Aidt's first novel Rock, Paper, Scissors was published in August 2015 by Open Letter Books. She lives in Brooklyn.
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- Publication date:
21 Mar 2019
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Naja Marie Aidt's shattering elegy about her grown son's death is a modern Greek tragedy-and a relentless account of grief's deepest reality. — Weekendavisen
Naja Marie Aidt's book on the loss of her son is a genuine and unbearable masterwork. ...[Her writing] about death, grief and the indescribable consequences make up this incredibly good book. I wish Aidt never had to write about this endless nightmare, indeed, one of its most important points is that grief never goes away. And yet, we now have a book without illusions, a merciless and insistent depiction of how deeply death reaches into the body and soul. Aidt has rendered a convincing reconstruction of the depths of grief. — Jyllands Posten
An immense work of art ... an extremely beautiful and shockingly sorrowful work and a declaration of love's communality. One of the most painful and paradoxically one of the most beautiful books I have ever read... — Kristeligt Dagblad