Magmaby Thora Hjorleifsdottir Translated from Icelandic by Meg Matich
A compulsive, propulsive debut about a young woman’s haunting experience of love, abuse, and sex in an era of pornification by one of Iceland’s most provocative writers
20-year old Lilja is in love. As a young university student, she is quickly smitten with the intelligent, beautiful young man from school who quotes Derrida and reads Latin and cooks balanced vegetarian meals. Before she even realizes, she’s moved in with him, living in his cramped apartment, surrounded by sour towels and flat Diet Cokes. As the newfound intimacy of sharing a shower and a bed fuels her desire to please her partner, his acts of nearly imperceptible abuse continue to mount undetected. Lilja desperately tries to be the perfect lover, attempting to meet his every need. But in order to do so, she gradually lets go of her boundaries and starts to lose her sense of self.
With astounding clarity and restraint, Hjörleifsdóttir sheds light on the commonplace undercurrents of violence that so often go undetected in romantic relationships. She deftly illustrates the failings of psychiatric systems in recognizing symptoms of cruelty, and in powerful, poetic prose depicts the unspooling of a tender-hearted woman desperate to love well.
“Beautifully spare prose… A powerful excavation of what can go wrong when you love another.” —Literary Hub, “38 Novels You Need to Read This Summer”
“Arresting… The provocative Icelandic poet’s debut novel… urgently explores the challenges and costs of a young woman’s passionate yet toxic relationship… Hjörleifsdóttir explores the subtle, insidious ways in which desire and infatuation can blind one to manipulation, abuse and violence.”—Time, “Best Books of Summer 2021”
“Poet Hjörleifsdóttir’s heart-wrenching American debut is a raw and empathetic depiction of a woman so subtly manipulated into an abusive relationship that she loses her sense of self and cannot find a way out… The short but powerful entries are masterfully written, showcasing how quickly and quietly an abusive relationship can form in the name of love.”—Booklist
“Unsettling… an achingly plausible mix of verve and bluntness… Throughout, Hjorleifsdottir’s fresh prose disturbingly evokes the young woman’s unmoored state. The burnished micro-chapters form a narrative necklace of gems.”—Publishers Weekly
“Bulleted, candid, first-person prose that parallels the quickness in which women’s lives can become less their own.”—Literary Hub
“Hjörleifsdóttir’s narrator pulls us into the tale of her near undoing and her struggle to find her own value. It is the masterful writer who can shock us and make it ring so true.”—Lily King
“Magma is a luminous and poetic novel unlike any I have ever read. How to describe the slow escalation by which possession becomes control, and power abuse? Thora Hjörleifsdóttir shows how and the effects are shocking and beautiful. She has created a whole new landscape for storytelling.”—John Freeman
“A novel that speaks directly to its present age… An incredibly compelling book.”—Iceland National Radio