The Unseen is a monument over human courage and life-saving practical and social knowledge.
This novel is set in the first half of the 20th Century on the island Barrøy. The island is small, there is only space for Ingrid’s family. Life on the island is difficult and the Barrøy family is poor, but certainly not without guts and skills. They live off of their small land, they have some livestock, they fish in the sea and make use of whatever the waves wash ashore.
The dramatic ocean and the seasonal changes make for a plot in itself. Roy’s descriptions of man and nature are breath taking. The family’s love for their environment is brilliantly communicated. A life somewhere else is unthinkable to them. This is their paradise on Earth. The Barrøy family is depicted with great wisdom, sensitivity and narrative skill. Roy turns their practical knowledge into little gems of stories with metaphorical and existential depth.
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The quiet island life of a Norwegian family is evoked in sparse, sublime prose.
THE FINANCIAL TIMES
This is a profound interrogation of freedom and fate, as well as a fascinating portrait of a vanished time, written in prose as clear and washed clean as the world after a storm.
...as blunt as it is subtle and is easily among the best books I have ever read.(...) There is a unique universality about The Unseen. Jacobsen’s prose is beautiful, clean, poised and plain speaking, but there are interludes of Shakespearean grandeur in the dazzling descriptions of storms. The family seems to accept these vicious tempests as necessary rituals. (...) Yes, there is a terrific story but it is the writing that will cause most readers to read this book at one sitting.
THE IRISH TIMES
A beautifully crafted novel . . . Quite simply a brilliant piece of work . . . Rendered beautifully into English by Don Bartlett and Don Shaw, The Unseen is a towering achievement that would be a deserved Booker International winner.
'(…) the pages are packed full of quiet humour, charming personalities and surprising events. All of this is wrapped up in a dense, poetic and wonderfully imaginative imagery that made me wish the book would never end.'
Brønnøysunds Avis, 6/6
'Roy Jacobsen holds his own among the masters and it would be odd if he weren’t on the list of nominations for the Nordic Council literature prize. With this novel, the small people are no longer unseen. A new monument has been raised to the coastal folk.'
An extraordinary depiction of a remote area
'Equipped with a playful, subtly shifting and omniscient narrative voice. Jacobsen drifts in and out of the different family members, and gives each of them a strong and vibrant presence in the text. (…) Roy Jacobsen’s new novel is quite simply literature of a high, high class.'
Roy Jacobsen’s The Unseen is a modern masterpiece about poverty in Norway
'Roy Jacobsen’s new book will stand as an utterly central novel in Norwegian literature. (…) Few Norwegian authors are capable of conjuring up such contrasts in such powerful language: on a par with the best of the sagas, and of Jewish and Greek narrative art.'
Respect for seriousness
'In The Unseen, Roy Jacobsen shows why he is one of our most important authors. (…) Now I’m reading about falling snow and enjoying very single word. This is a rare thing because, as a reader, I could die of the boredom these sorts of descriptions provoke in me. His descriptions aren’t like those of Hamsun – it’s not a question of copying – but in both cases we sense the impression nature has had on them as authors. (…) This is an excellent novel. The level of precision is joyous the language is poetic. Roy Jacobsen stays the course. He has the gaze and skills it takes to convey the truth about humanity. The result is great art.'