Traces of the City


Published in Norway by Cappelen Damm (original title: Byens spor), 2017, 448 pp.


Rights sold to: Germany (btb), UK (MacLehose Press), Denmark, Poland, Czech Republic, Turkey



We’ve all stood on a street corner and let the city lights and sounds pass by. What do we hear when we listen to the sounds of the city? What traces do they leave in us? Who is at the other end of the line when the phone rings? What story can we deduce from the protocols from Fagerborg’s branch of the Red Cross in the post-war years? How do the stories all connect? When someone loses something, someone else finds something different. The city and the streets are the same as before, but the people who emerge in Traces of the City have never been seen before.
At the centre are Ewald and Maj Kristoffersen, but their fates are closely interwoven with the city and the streets they live on: At Bristol (where Ewald spends a lot of time with his colleagues), the pianist Enzo Zanetti plays, while above them lives the widow Mrs. Vik. Down the road a couple has a butcher shop. They have a son, Jostein, who goes deaf after a traffic accident. Jesper, Ewald and Maj’s son, promises to be his ears in the world. The butcher couple and Mrs. Vik have a telephone, but not the Kristoffersen family. Maj is a treasurer for the Red Cross, where the female leaders are married to the doctor who declares Jesper to be too sensitive. Jesper takes piano lessons from Enzo Zanetti, Mrs. Vik meets the widower Olaf Hall who runs the second-hand bookshop at the cemetery. His stepson, Bjørn Stranger, is the one who saves Jostein’s life when he gets run over.
We become acquainted with all these characters and more when we put our ears to the city’s conch and listen to it. There are few – if any – who can conjure up a time and place in a way that makes it alive for us here and now like Lars Saabye Christensen. With Traces of the City, he has written a breath-taking and magnificent start to what will be a new trilogy.

“Lars Saabye Christensen’s writing put you in a good mood, and sometimes make you laugh out loud. But the characteristic vulnerability is strongly present, both in the written sentences and between the lines. Even more so than before.”

“A portrait formulated with the poetic melancholy, so typical to Saabye Christensen when he is at his best.”

“This is a story that reaches far into the roots of your heart. Warmth, sympathy and the ability to live with characterize this novel, telling the tale of life in Oslo just after WWII.”

“Here Saabye Christensen is at his best. May he stay like this for a long time.”

“But it is this he wants to show us; all the details, looks and gestures, all the sensible and human that we are missing out of in our time, with our vision glued to an iPhone. I do not think that I am completely mistaken if I say that the fans, the hard core ones, are going to really love this perspective.”

Lars Saabye Christensen (1953–) has published a number of novels, poetry and short story collections since his literary debut in 1976 with The Story of Gly (Historien om Gly). His breakthrough came with Beatles (1984), one of the greatest literary sales successes in Norway that, over the years, new generations continue to hold close to their hearts. The author received the Nordic Council Literature Prize for The Half Brother (Halvbroren) in 2001. He has also received the Riverton Prize, the Critics’ Prize, the Brage Prize, the Norwegian Booksellers’ Prize, the Dobloug Prize and the Norwegian Reader’s Prize. His works have been published in 36 countries.