European Book Club: Norwegian Session

Where: Norwegian Seamen’s Club, 317 E 52nd St (between Second and First Avenues), NY, NY

The Book: Siamese, by Stig Sæterbakken

Edwin Mortens is almost blind, but has good hearing; his wife Erna is hard of hearing, but has excellent eyes. Paralyzed from the waist down, Edwin sits locked in his bathroom all day, every day, trying to liberate his mind from his body. The experiment is going relatively well: nearly all his bodily functions have ceased, his limbs are in a state of decay, and his digestive system is in the process of breaking down. “This body,” he says, “is a sewer.”

To pass the time, Edwin dedicates his days to chewing gum and screaming at his wife, on whom he is, nonetheless, entirely dependent; while Erna’s life, despite Edwin’s constant abuse, revolves around her hideous husband. Edwin and Erna live in a state of perfect equilibrium—fueled by habit, cruelty, humiliation, and quite possibly love—until a young maintenance man is called to replace a lightbulb in Edwin’s bathroom, and the “Siamese twins” find themselves embroiled in a new and vicious struggle for power.

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