In English

Watch Madeleine Hessérus on Swedish Television’s literature show Babel.

Review Quotes for The Elephant’s Foot

”I read the book slowly to prolong the pleasure of the novel’s suggestive description of the scientists’ surprisingly passionate existences. Patiently gathering data, aloofness and envy, the irrational disgruntlement /… / Hessérus’ portrayal of the scientists’ expeditions into the zone is a literary achievement. The prose wriggles and almost spills out of the pages in the same way that the trees pierce through abandoned buildings in the real-life town of Pripyat / … / ‘The Elephant’s Foot’ is an oil painting disguised as a novel.” Inga-Lina Lindqvist, Aftonbladet

”Never have I read a novel with such powerful, affecting, and not least stylistically solid landscape descriptions as in Madeleine Hessérus’ new book. But then again, this does not concern just any old landscape, it concerns the “zone”: the radioactive and inhabitable area around the nuclear power plant in Chernobyl. The atmosphere belongs to the nightmare and the fairy tale at the same time /… / Quietly, without much fuss, but with the same powers of observation and strong sense of detail that characterizes the descriptions of the landscape, and with an evident and extraordinarily impressive scientific authority, Hessérus not only manages to make this research understandable, she also succeeds in making it so engaging that even the most inveterate humanist gets a feel for the scientist’s driving forces.” Merete Mazzarella, Upsala Nya Tidning

During the main part of the reading of the novel ‘The Elephant´s foot’ I am totally absorbed by Madeleine Hessérus objective and exact depiction of a research station/…/people to love or hate or just feel indifferent towards. And she describes it so well and builds up such a tension around the competition, the warmth and passion which grows between these scientists/…/They catalogue mice craniums together. They travel to the Zone where they encounter the surprising glimpses of normality and idyllic places created by the resettlers in the middle of the waste land/…/ It is profoundly fascinating to go along with them out there, Madeleine Hessérus seems to have made a considerable research/…/I read her almost like a document, a testimony from one of the world´s secret hiding-places.” Jenny Aschenbrenner, Kulturnytt, P1

“An exceptionally well-made story about the interaction between man and nature/…/The Center is somewhat of a border community in miniature, a melting-pot of different mentalities and views of the world where east and west converge. Hessérus has an eye for group dynamics and psychosocial processes. People as well as interrelationships are depicted trustworthy and with insight./…/In a calm pace Hessérus opens up for every conceivable feeling, mood or sensation, she masters it with sure sensitivity – the language is vivid and altogether fantastic!” 5/5 Sandra Sandström, LitteraturMagazinet

“’The Elephant’s Foot is a beautiful, lingering novel: the plot is simple but the prose is intense and full of images.” Josefin Holmström, Svenska Dagbladet

”Hessérus is, however, a stylist with a wide repertoire, and when she writes about the zone, the defunct villages and how nature behaves in the far-reaching area, the prose takes on a different shape. The zone’s powerful and eerie silence is evoked in relief to the nature that won’t be constrained by radiation and access order /… / Hessérus masterfully employs the tensions that exist between the uncontrollable on one hand, and the human spirit and ambitions on the other hand. ‘The Elephant’s Foot’ is an elegant culmination of her thematic trilogy.” Elisabeth Hjorth, Sydsvenskan

”Civilization versus nature is Madeleine Hessérus recurrent theme, but The Elephant´s Foot is also a love story. When love hits the Swedish visiting scientist Katarina and an Ukrainian Chernobyl veteran it triggers off a complicated chain reaction. Their relationship is a secret garden in a barren and ominous landscape, but can it survive? An electric atmosphere which hypnotizes.” Jenny Lind, M-Magasin

”Madeleine Hessérus has found a subtle and tremendously fascinating way to portray how our perception of reality can falter.” Bodil Juggas, Arbetarbladet

It is a novel that calls for reflection: poetic and perceptive, neither a word too many nor too little, as clear as a footprint but also as mysterious as a prophecy.” ÅM Hellman, Blekinge Läns Tidning

“’The Elephant’s Foot’ is a highly readable love story with great earnestness. An important novel about human faux pas and its consequences.” Solveig Halvorsen Kåven, Dala-Demokraten

”Madeleine Hessérus’ new novel, “The Elephant’s Foot”, is a story of the almost classic kind: broad, analytical and richly detailed, with elaborately drawn characters and a setting that completely determines the problem and the message.” Dan Sjögren, Norrländska Socialdemokraten

”A fascinating story /… / I am deeply affected by the characters I encounter.” Lena Kjersén Edman, Västerbottens-Kuriren

”We are all living on borrowed time. Our civilization is something provisional, a state of emergency in a voracious nature, in a cold infinity. Everything in our tiny human world is temporary. That is how one can summarize the existential message in Madeleine Hessérus’ well-composed and multi-faceted new novel.” Torbjörn Elensky, Tidningen Vi

”The writing in Madeleine Hessérus’ ‘The Elephant’s Foot’ is startlingly beautiful when she describes how nature is reclaiming the zone, the sealed off area around Chernobyl’s quarantined nuclear power plant.” Milena Bergquist, Femina

The Elephant’s Foot – Synopsis

”The Elephant’s Foot” takes place in the exclusion zone around Chernobyl. It is a novel about mankind’s complex relationship with nature, but it is also a novel about love and the powerful tension that can arise between people in a close-knit group. The love story is set against the backdrop of the exclusion zone’s post-apocalyptic landscapes, created by man, which force the main characters to face themselves: here it is impossible to escape one’s responsibility. In that respect the novel also portrays the hope for regeneration – as paradoxical as the savage explosiveness of the vegetation in the zone’s abandoned cities.

Read full synopsis here.

The City Without Women

Stockholm in a not too distant future: a wave of brutal murders of women shakes the city. Following a prolonged conflict, where women and men arm themselves against one another, a wall is constructed. In the southern parts of the city the women take shelter behind the heavily guarded wall, while in the northern parts the men are left behind in a city that is quickly disintegrating.

On a rainy morning Jakob Hall arrives in the Northern city. He is  a representative of the resistance movement against the wall, an organisation based on the islands in the archipelago. He has come to fight the terrorist organisation that controls the Northern city.
In the city he gets to know three young men and is pulled into a winding chain of events that takes them through the malls of the sex trade, through the gambling quarters and passageways below ground. The past comes back to haunt him and he remembers Hedda, the woman he never stopped loving and who disappeared when the wall was built.

Staden utan kvinnor is a visionary and multi-faceted tale about a city, as eerily bizarre as it is credible. With this novel, Madeleine Hessérus continues to explore the urban landscape that she also portrayed in the critically acclaimed novel Till Isola (2004).


Praise for Staden utan kvinnor (The City Without Women)

Madeleine Hessérus is one of Sweden’s most accomplished stylists, her language is music. That she has already proved with her short stories and the critically acclaimed novel Till Isola. With this new novel her talent of combining symbolism and visionary suspense with an engaging and provocative thought experiment is revealed.   / … / ”Staden utan kvinnor” is a sterling artistic masterpiece. With reverence I would like to compare it to novels like ”Kallocain” by Karin Boye or ”The Wall” by Marlen Haushofer.
  Lena Kjersén Edman, Västerbottens-Kuriren

”Staden utan kvinnor” is a powerful and impressive venture, a novel with an unusual gravity and with many questions of the kind that have become rare in contemporary fiction… Once more Madeleine Hessérus proves that she doubtlessly and evidently belongs to the small group of really important and superior Swedish authors. If the jury doesn’t nominate ”Staden utan kvinnor” for the August Award, it will be little short of a breach of duty. Helsingborgs Dagblad

”Some authors don’t get the attention they derserve. They don’t shout loud enough. Madeleine Hessérus is one of those authors… ‘Staden utan kvinnor’ is a disturbing and terrifying novel. The vision of the future it portrays can also be viewed as a satire of present time. Also read Madeleine Hessérus for the sake of the language! It is concise, charged and poetic.” Svenska Dagbladet

“Hessérus is a sharp critic of today´s society and civilisation, with a language where many sentences will stay after reading. The wall is a metaphor often used and in her dystopian novel she uses it on many levels. It is not only a wall between people and gender, but also between people and the future and history of society.” Göteborgs-Posten

“Reading Madeleine Hessérus´ novel “The City Without Women” is to tumble about in darkness and rage. Hessérus has also written two collections of short stories, “Not as Beautiful as in Valparaíso” (1997) and “The Dead Queen” (2001) and the novel “To Isola” (2004). “The City Without Women” lines up beautifully together with the others. It is a gruesome prophecy but also a wide-ranging love story and a tale about hope in humanity. Crafting such an extensive description of a society with its vast gallery of people in transformation demands great skills.” Dalarnas Tidningar

“The women live on one side, the men on the other. There is a wall in Stockholm which casts dark shadows on a city of violence. With a thought-provoking language Madeleine Hessérus nails her readers to a dystopian world which suddenly feels awkwardly … familiar.” Fokus

”The details are gathered into one fascinating whole, even if the individual brushstrokes are fascinating enough /…/ ‘Staden utan kvinnor’ is impressively independent, different from most works in contemporary fiction /…/ Madeleine Hessérus’ voice in Swedish literature is refreshing” Arbetarbladet

”The novel is maze-like /…/  it is very fascinating and it raises questions long after it is finished. What are our cities like today? Do we want people to be separated by walls? Nerikes Allehanda

”Madeleine Hessérus’ novel ‘Staden utan kvinnor’ is an ingeniously multi-faceted creation /…/ With her sometimes essay-like narrative she lulls the reader into some sort of a fact-based security where you actually believe everything she says and are happily guided along, but right at that moment there is a shift, where a potential opening is turned into its absolute opposite. This happens in an illusory gentle way, but it is terrifically skilfully executed. It is a very interesting and well-written novel that Madeleine Hessérus has produced about the causes and effects of the lack of love and the urban society’s varities in its most possible and frightful consequences.” Tidningen Kulturen

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