Adam i Paradis is a piercing tale of age, art, and suppressed desire set in the early 20. century. The biographical novel is nominated for the Nordic Council Literature Prize, and critics have praised Rakel Haslund-Gjerrild for fundamentally reimagining historical fiction.
”My God, Rakel Haslund-Gjerrild can write… This is literature of the highest order,” wrote critic Linea Maja Ernst in the Danish paper Weekendavisen after the publication of Adam i Paradis.
Set in 1913, the novel follows Danish painter Kristian Zahrtmann as he grapples with old age and struggles to finish his masterpiece – a depiction of Adam in the Garden of Eden. All the while, Zahrtmann’s yearning for his beautiful male model runs like a silent undercurrent through the pages.
This is a time of great upheaval – Europe is at the brink of war, and in Denmark two highly publicized trials against homosexual men have just taken place. Haslund-Gjerrild depicts this bygone age in a startlingly authentic manner, and with her imaginative prose the past world of Zahrtmann seems as real as our own.
“Along with a number of other writers from her generation, Haslund-Gjerrild has turned historical prose into our day’s most lively and interesting literary trend,” writes David Jacobsen Turner, literary editor at Weekendavisen.
“Haslund-Gjerrild has turned historical prose into our day’s most lively and interesting literary trend”– David Jacobsen Turner in Weekendavisen
In a five-starred review in Jyllands-Posten, Niels Lillelund praises Haslund-Gjerrild’s ability to write about the past:
“An intense reading experience which elegantly and passionately leads the reader back into another era.”
In January, Haslund-Gjerrild received Weekendavisen’s prestigious literary award for Adam i Paradis, and the novel is currently nominated for the Nordic Council Literature Prize, the Montana Literature Prize, and Politiken’s Literature Prize.
Painting with language
Rakel Haslund-Gjerrild’s language – rich in color, nuance, and sensuousness – has been widely celebrated by critics.
“Her language buzzes and spins while remaining precise – each word is carefully chosen, as if it were a precious stone. Haslund-Gjerrild writes as if she has borrowed Zahrtmann’s paint brush, and this is what distinguishes Adam in Paradise from the many other biographical novels that use art as mere window dressing,” writes Benedicte Gui de Thurah Huang in Politiken, giving the novel five stars.
“Her language buzzes and spins while remaining precise – each word is carefully chosen, as if it were a precious stone.”– Benedicte Gui de Thurah in Politiken
In the motivation for the nomination of Adam i Paradis for the Nordic Council Literature Prize, the jury likewise stresses Haslund-Gjerrild’s masterly language.
”The novel is a treasure chest of metaphors, playful and vibrant. Haslund-Gjerrild manages to transport us back in time and yet to write as though everything is new and fresh. She is not restricted by the historical reality, which rather seems to have given her access to a reservoir of creative freedom… She lends us eyes and a language to sense with,” the jury writes.
The winner of the Nordic Council Literature Prize will be announced in November 2022.
Rights sold in Europe
Countries all over Europe have noticed Rakel Haslund-Gjerrild’s literary talent. In Norway, the rights to Adam i Paradis have been bought by the prominent publishing house Aschehoug. Literary agent Annette Orre from Aschehoug writes:
”My colleagues and I have found ourselves deeply moved, immersed in, and impressed with this novel. We have marveled at the colors, the joy, the sensuousness, the composition, as well as admired the author’s great precision and equally great empathy when it comes to capturing the small, almost invisible movements in human interaction.”
Publishers in Germany and Hungary have also purchased the rights to Adam i Paradis, while Haslund-Gjerrild’s first novel, Alle himlens fugle (All the birds in the sky), has been published in Hungary and will soon be published in France.