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Harald Voetmann’s eye-opening English debut, Awake, is the first book of his erudite, grotesque, and absurdist trilogy about mankind’s inhuman will to conquer nature
In a shuttered bedroom in ancient Italy, the sleepless Pliny the Elder lies in bed obsessively dictating new chapters of his Natural History to his slave Diocles. Fat, wheezing, imperious, and prone to nosebleeds, Pliny does not believe in spending his evenings in repose: No—to be awake is to be alive. There’s no time to waste if he is to classify every element of the natural world in a single work. By day Pliny the Elder carries out his many civic duties and gives the occasional disastrous public reading. But despite his astonishing ambition to catalog everything from precious metals to the moon, as well as a collection of exotic plants sourced from the farthest reaches of the world, Pliny the Elder still takes immense pleasure in the common rose. After he rushes to an erupting Mount Vesuvius and perishes in the ash, his nephew, Pliny the Younger, becomes custodian of his life’s work. But where Pliny the Elder saw starlight, Pliny the Younger only sees fireflies.
In masterfully honed prose, Voetmann brings the formidable Pliny the Elder (and his pompous nephew) to life. Awake is a comic delight about one of history’s great minds and the not-so-great human body it was housed in.
About the Author
Harald Voetmann is a Danish author, born 1978. He has written novels, short stories, poetry and a monograph on the Roman poet Sulpicia. He studied Latin at the University of Copenhagen and is also a translator of classical Latin literature, notably Petronius and Juvenal. Awake is the first in his series of three historical novels about the urge to understand and conquer Nature.
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.
A flawless and sparkling little monument to human life.
A slim novel of ideas, seemingly turning its back on the present, or rather illuminating from within a turn that leads to the very history of European mentality.
— Svenska Dagbladet
Book of the year.
Susanna Nied, translator of Inger Christensen
— Reading and rereading this book remains a rare pleasure.