Ti Amo


Translated from by

Published: September 13, 2022





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Book Description

What can be found within a gaze? What lies inside a painting or behind a handful of repeated words? These are the questions that haunt our unnamed narrator as she tends to her husband, stricken with cancer, in the final months of his life. She examines the elements of their life together: their Vietnamese rose-colored folding table where they eat their meals, each of the New Year’s Eves they’ve shared, their friendships, and their most intimate exchanges. With everything in flux, she searches for the facets that will remain. Hanne Ørstavik writes, “I have a compulsion for truth that feels like my very life force itself.” Tentative, laced with a tingling frankness, Ørstavik’s prose adheres so closely to the inner workings of its narrator’s mind as to nearly undo itself. In Martin Aitken’s translation, Ørstavik’s piercing story sings.

Ørstavik sketches a spare but capacious meditation on both the shape of [her characters’] relationship and the effort required, practically and emotionally, by the narrator to care for her partner through the end of his life . . . The narrator maintains a controlled—but not cold—distance that only enriches the intimacy throughout . . . Various phrases and riffs on the word love, including ti amo, sustain an incantatory power, and the brevity of this striking text makes its final moments soar.
Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

The novel shares a compassionate vision, bridging the gulf between the one who will go on and the one who will not ... A remarkably frank and finely sieved account of two people approaching the ultimate parting of the ways.
Kirkus Reviews, starred review

A slim, devastating . . . novel driven by a search for an answer to this question: what is the truth of another’s death?
Kevin Brazil, Times Literary Supplement

What is so impressive is [Ørstavik's] ability to capture—with precision, candor and, indeed, tenacity—her shifting sense of self, as the foundations on which it rests crumble with every passing moment.
Toby Lichtig, The Wall Street Journal

This novella, sometimes hard to read for its bleakness but impossible to look away from, shows that even when we know the destination, the journey is still worthwhile.
John Self, The Guardian

In 120 pages of poetic, honest and heart-searing reflection, translated by Martin Aitken, an unnamed woman charts the experience of caring for her dying husband as he refuses to acknowledge his terminal diagnosis. It is a book about intimacy, and the beauty and deep challenge of loving another human being — and how our connections to one another can be both rock solid and as fragile as glass.
Enuma Okoro, Financial Times, "Best Books of 2022 List"

Ti Amo is a sensual and honest exploration of love, of the heavy feeling permeating the weeks and months before the impending death of a loved one, the memories that engulf you before the imminent parting. Many novels depict the heaviness of the grief that follows the loss of a loved one but this book is unique in the way it renders the awareness of our mortality. Death is not an abstract idea; it is presented as an almost tactile experience.
Nataliya Deleva, Reading in Translation

This year’s little novel from Ørstavik opens rooms with great emotions and wise thoughts about life, love and death. All we can do is say thank you and enter.
Ellen Engelstad, Klassekampen, Best of 2020

Hanne Ørstavik has written perhaps her best novel about the great loss of her own life.
Adresseavisen, #1 on the Best of 2020 list

With ti amo, Hanne Ørstavik rediscovers the intensity and presence of her first novel Love. ti amo explores the liminal experiences that a novel can contain. At the same time we see her oeuvre from a new perspective. It’s a powerful novel about loving, and her best in a long time.
Astrid Fosvold, Vårt Land, Best of 2020

What do we really talk about when we talk about “truth” in literature? Hanne Ørstavik’s painful book of grief provides rich answers … thoughtful and – even for her – enormously raw … Ørstavik accomplishes astonishingly much on few pages in this book.

An exceptionally good novel about grieving and waiting … Ørstavik writes brilliantly about life with a husband who is dying … the book’s powerful opening immediately led my thoughts to Marguerite Duras’ iconic love novel The Lover (1984) … With perceptible details Ørstavik creates images in the reader’s head. She brings us straight into a human drama that many of us will eventually go through … Ørstavik writes so well that the book feels both essential, timeless and universal. She manages to show the enormous power that resides in words. Here they make both the husband and love come alive to the reader

One of the most powerful things about the book is precisely this description of the process of losing someone to illness. The time it takes. That it’s possible to feel bereaved already before death arrives … It’s exhausting reading, breathless in its resignation … And then, midway through the book, there is a turning point. To me this is where the book really grabbed me, catching me off guard, I would say, in a brilliant way. One shouldn’t reveal too much of this, but I will say that it’s one of life’s ambushes deep down in the valley of death, equal parts dream and taboo, possible and impossible, an incident that gives grief a colour nuance it probably only can have for those who have stared into its eyes long enough.

A tender novel about losing your closest one to cancer … perceptive, thoughtful and brilliantly written … [Ørstavik’s] novels are characterised by the way she uses language and words to create identity. She has never done it as successfully and satisfyingly as now … above all it’s a beautiful novel. About love in a real sense.
Adresseavisen, 6/6 stars

What is true? What is real? How can you reach into another human being? These questions have been central throughout Hanne Ørstavik’s work. In her latest novel, Ti amo, in a story which is her own, she takes these questions to another level … Ørstavik has an impressive ability to expose the inner world of a person, to reach in to where it hurts the most and explore complex experiences in simple prose, without everything falling apart.
Vårt Land

Throughout the brief text, the statement 'I love you/Ti amo' is repeated and exchanged like a tolling bell as the couple both unites and divides in the face of inevitable extremis. Meanwhile, Ørstavik maintains a brutally tender, hyperprecise gaze . . . Dark though its central topic undeniably is, the novel shares a compassionate vision, bridging the gulf between the one who will go on and the one who will not.
Kirkus Reviews, starred review

[Ti Amo] is far more personal than relational . . . The vulnerability that tears through the page is woefully human.
Neil Czeszejko, Delphic Review

Ti Amo is novel of passion, commitment and confusion. It is an open window into the complicated, often conflicted, emotions of caregiving without the numbing effects afforded by time and distance . . . [Ti Amo] is more than autobiographical fiction or memoir—it is also a deeply personal tribute to power of love.
Joseph Schreiber, Rough Ghosts


Ørstavik’s slow-burning narrative crescendoes as a potent feminist anthem.
Publishers Weekly on The Pastor, Best Books of 2021

A beautiful and haunting gem . . . A quiet, resonant novel in which a young female pastor narrates the story of her self-exile to a sparse outpost in the far North and her relationships with the village locals—a rough, hardworking bunch who hide their vulnerabilities . . . The Pastor is the fascinating story of a woman in a strange setting who continually probes the vital question of how to live a meaningful life.
Lori Feathers on The Pastor, Literary Hub

The desolate beauty of a Nordic winter mirrors the interior landscape of a troubled priest in The Pastor, a mesmerizing study of spiritual unease . . . With writerly grace and moral seriousness . . . The Pastor summons a sweep of images and questions bound to linger.
Theo Henderson on The Pastor, Shelf Awareness, starred review

Love​​’s impeccable English translation by Martin Aitken reflects the economy and self-possession of Nordic prose. Its seamless narration, drawn in counterpoint, reverberates beyond the eerie landscape, lingering in the mind...​​ Love​​, like love, yields its own gifts.​
​Fani Papageorgiou on Love, Hyperallergic

Ørstavik's mastery of perspective and clean, crackling sentences prevent sentimentality or sensationalism from trailing this story of a woman and her accidentally untended child . . . [an] excellent novel of near misses.
Claire Vaye Watkins on Love, New York Times Book Review

Ørstavik has found fertile territory here in which to dig into the raging solipsism of the inner life . . . We are all sealed worlds, Ørstavik seems to suggest; it’s dark outside, and it’s dark inside too.”
Justine Jordan, The Guardian

A transcendently beautiful, poignant autofiction from Orstavik that mirrors the author's experience loving and living with her own husband as he was dying. This reader knows what it's like to care for a seriously ailing partner, and the author's meditations on her experience rang true to me and were very affirming and touching. Ti Amo is a love letter through all the complications that life throws at a partnership. It's one of my favorite books of the year.
Jennifer Ray, Powell's Bookstore

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