“Alvin”
by Jonas Eika
translated from the Danish by Sherilyn Nicolette Hellberg
from the April 19, 2021 issue of The New Yorker

Jonas Eika is a young Danish writer who make his literary debut in 2015 when he was only 24. His second book, a collection of short stories translated into English as After the Sun, came out in 2018 and was awarded the 2019 Nordic Council Literature Prize. It will come out in the United States, translated from the Danish by Sherilyn Nicolette Hellberg, from Riverhead Books in August. “Alvin” is from this collection.

I am very interested. This first paragraph is filled with the kind of rambling energy that I like:

I arrived in Copenhagen sweaty and halfway out of myself after an extremely fictional flight. Frankly, I would use that word for any air travel, but on this trip I had, shortly after takeoff, fallen into a light feverish daze in which I relived a series of flights I had taken earlier in my life. First, there was the flight home from Nepal with my ex?wife, then girlfriend, our first trip together, when we, maybe out of boredom, curled up in our seats and took turns miming various sexual scenarios that the other person had to guess and sketch on a piece of paper, which we tore into pieces and reassembled into new situations to mime again, so that the game could continue for eternities. In my daze there was also my departure from Copenhagen six years later, after she became pregnant around the same time that she had been cheating on me with a colleague, and I was so panicked and grieved by my jealousy—which seemed just as impossible to live with if the baby was mine as if it wasn’t—that I packed my things, went to the airport, and said “Málaga” to the man behind the counter, for some reason I said “Málaga.” Additionally, I relived a flight home to Málaga from a work trip a few years later, during which I was unable to work, to say a word to anyone, because I was completely paralyzed by what I had seen from my window during takeoff: Past the gates, overlooking the runway, there was an observation deck where kids of all ages stood with their parents watching the planes take off. At one end, a woman leaned against the railing—long, dark hair in the frozen sun—looking at a man running toward her, across the deck, and as we flew past he fell to the ground as if shot by a gun. I couldn’t hear the gunshot, if one had even been fired, and the plane continued into the clouds with me sitting stiff in my seat for the rest of the flight, doubting what I had seen.

I have this on the table to read later this week and will share additional thoughts below. In the meantime, please feel free to share your own!

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