FSG Originals. Jan. 2024. 128p. tr. from Danish by Sylvia Clayton. ISBN 9780374613587. pap. $16. F
In this hypnotic 1967 Danish novella, translated in 1969 by Sylvia Clayton, well-to-do doomsday preppers holed up in the specially outfitted seaside resort of Termush tentatively emerge from their fallout shelters into a world that appears unchanged. Management takes precautions against the invisible miasma of radiation and doles out the comforts of home. Soft music plays over speakers while the guests tamp down their incomprehension, desperate for normalcy amidst a pervasive uncertainty that invades their dreams. Then the first outsider arrives. COVID-era readers may nod with recognition at such uncanny details as contact tracing, seemingly arbitrary threat levels, distrust of medical authorities, and the rise of a xenophobic “chairman” whose “primitive blend of cunning and stupidity attracts supporters to rally round behind him,” even as he opines that “an inspired lie could be preferred to a malignant truth.”
VERDICT Holm’s enigmatic fable deftly imagines from the inside out what might become of our fragile societal and mental constructs when the world as we knew it is gone, placing it alongside such psychologically acute post-apocalyptic rediscoveries as Marlen Haushofer’s The Wall and Kay Dick’s They.
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