Meet Cecilie Enger - Selected Title Author

We are happy to present our selected title author Cecilie Enger. She has written A Minute’s Silence (original title: Ett minutts stillhet). The book is one of NORLA’s Selected Titles of the spring 2023.

Read our interview with Cecilie here.

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Cecilie Enger. Photo: Adrian Nielsen/NORLA

What is the book about?

A Minute’s Silence is a novel that explores language, identity, and memories. It’s about everything we don’t tell each other, and everything we suppress. I’ve tried to show how closely interwoven language and life are.

The main character, Åsta Cooper (70), has spent the majority of her life following her English diplomat husband around the world. Now they’re living in Warsaw. Åsta starts thinking she has room for development when she meets Ane Knutsen, a fellow Norwegian forty years her junior. Then Åsta suffers a stroke and loses access to the English language – the language she speaks with her husband – and which has been her own for almost half a century. What’s left is the Norwegian of her childhood from an upbringing in a completely different existence – and a consuming dependence on Ane to be understood and translated. In an attempt to regain access to the English language, a speech pathologist tells Åsta to write and speak in her mother tongue: Norwegian.

Influenced by what’s happening around her, Åsta writes about a past she’s suppressed and incidents she’s never shared with anyone. Incidents that have had a considerable influence on the life she’s lived.

The novel is also about the power of words – those that are expressed, those that are unspoken, and those that are written. It’s also about the degree of empathy that means everything when it comes to how we live. If there’s a lot of it or a little, if we lose it, if we cultivate it. What can empathy fill a life with or what can a lack of empathy drain from it?

What inspired you to write this book?

People are never static or “cast in one piece,” as it’s called. The basis of the novel was that I wanted to create a plot where a person – and her relationship to herself and others – is clearly subject to change. I wanted to examine how it alters her personality and her surroundings. At the beginning of the novel, Åsta Cooper is a strong woman admired by the forty-year-younger Ane Knutsen. But when Åsta, who is living in Poland, has a stroke and becomes linguistically dependent on Ane to be understood, something changes radically within them both. The unsettling power balance and dependency that develops also does something to their personalities. Because access to language is access to power.

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Read more

See full presentation of the book here

Read more about the author here

See all NORLA’s Selected Titles for the spring 2023 here