Birgit Vanderbeke · women in translation month

The Mussel Feast

What fascinated me the most was the absolute brilliance of gradation with which the story was narrated. From understatements to hints to cautious and finally uninhibited confessions, it primarily reveals a man that is everything but a man of reason he regards himself to be, but also the family, his family he tyrannized into being “proper”.

Our family used different expressions now; for example, when we burned our mouths on potatoes that were too hot we no longer shouted, Christ that’s hot; sometimes we still said it by accident, because we hadn’t switched modes, but my father would say, potatoes have a high heat capacity, that’s the more accurate way of putting it.

Terrific details, the minutiae of their everyday life that Vanderbeke chose to communicate give an extremely vivid and horrifying picture. I was in a constant state of awe and eventually got the feeling one seems to get with similarly accomplished stories – that it is real.