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In the sixteenth century, on the island of Uranienborg, the pioneering Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe is undertaking an elaborate study of the night sky
A great mind and a formidable personality, Brahe is also the world’s most illustrious noseless man of his time. Told by Brahe and his assistants—a filthy cast of characters—Sublunar is both novel and almanac. Alongside sexual deviancy, spankings, ruminations on a new nose—flesh, wood, or gold?—Brahe (a choleric and capricious character) and his peculiar helpers (“I would rather watch her globes tonight than icy stars”) take painstainking measurements that will revolutionize astronomy, long before the invention of the telescope. Meanwhile the plague rages in Europe...
The second in Voetmann’s triptych of historical novels, Sublunar is as visceral, absurd, and tragic as its predecessor Awake, but with a special nocturnal glow and a lunatic-edged gaze trained on the moon and the stars.
About the Author
Nominated for the Nordic Council Prize, the Danish author Harald Voetmann (b. 1978) has written novels, short stories, poetry, and a monograph on the Roman poet Sulpicia. He also translates classical Latin literature, notably Petronius and Juvenal. Sublunar is the second in his series of three historical novels about mankind’s will to conquer nature. New Directions published the first novel, Awake, about Pliny the Elder, in 2021; the final instalment, following eleventh-century German mystic Othlo of St. Emmeram, will publish in 2024.
Johanne Sorgenfri Ottosen is a Danish translator born in 1986. She currently lives in Copenhagen where she also works as an illustrator and literary editor.
Original, piercing, and richly exhilarating. Voetmann’s text is a sharp reminder of how powerfully and succinctly well-chosen words can create a world, render experiences, and express thoughts—in short, transport us, to places and in ways we could not have imagined. — Claire Messud - Harper's
Reading Voetmann’s books makes me feel so alive. His voice is like no other, his hold on his material masterful. — Olga Ravn
Arresting and memorable. — Kirkus Reviews
Voetmann’s saturnine imagery touches both ends of the optic nerve, intermingling what is seen with what is known… Marvelous. — Trevor Quirk - The Baffler
Voetmann seems to work from the ground up. Although Awake and Sublunar might be called novels of ideas, Voetmann's intellectual concerns are not forcefully imposed upon fictional dramas arbitrarily designed to illustrate them, but rather arise from particulars that are irreducible. Each page of the books contains a richness of detail and a depth of attention that has all but vanished from the contemporary novel—or, for that matter, any other mass-produced object. The novels themselves—each scarcely more than a hundred pages— are miniatures that appear to have been less written than chiseled. Images glow in stark relief against the somber backdrops and recur with slight variations, as though guided by a Fibonacci sequence. Amid the guts and gore, there are moments of quiet splendour.