IN EVERY MOMENT WE ARE STILL ALIVE, BY TOM MALMQUIST, TRANSLATED BY HENNING KOCK
When Tom, the narrator of In Every Moment We Are Still Alive, learns that his wife Karin has an incurable illness, he is abruptly confronted with the meaning of family and grief as his life unravels. Though it would be easy to explore such subject matter in ways that feel overwrought and saturated with emotion, debut author Tom Malmquist steers away from sentimentality through prose that renders events objectively, allowing his readers to experience the whirlwind of tragedy without any superfluous details. Malmquist’s syntax is clean, sparsely punctuated, often times minimalist in its style, yet ambitious in its vision, and its effect is urgency on the page: “I look up: first I see the oxygen tube, light blue, looking like part of a toy as it hangs down between Karin’s oxygen mask and the respirator, which makes a recurring crunching sound as it synchronises with Karin’s rising and sinking chest. . .” Sentences like this one, in addition to the relatively long paragraphs found throughout the book, give readers the sense that they, like Tom, do not have much room to breathe as they learn the complexities of both Karin’s illness and the struggles of being a single father in mourning. And as Malmquist jumps back in time, allowing readers to see what Tom and Karin’s life was like before her illness, Tom’s flaws become apparent; his volatile personality complicates the reader’s understanding of his relationships with both Karin and his immediate family. Ultimately, both these jumps in time and Malmquist’s incisive prose paint a full and complex portrait of a man overwhelmed, and the transformation he endures as he becomes a father.