An assured, lyrical novel about the siren call of our roots, and the force of nature.
It’s 1961 and Lars is happy in England, having found love with Yvonne, a young and care-free florist. But soon the tide of guilt and remorse lap at his toes as he thinks of Lise and Jon, his wife and young son he’s left behind on the island of Tristan. He imagines Jon, standing on the black sand of the beach, scanning the horizon for the ship that might bring his father back. And then news breaks: the volcano on Tristan has erupted. Will it be too late for Lars to return?
Told in alternating points-of-view and flashbacks between the 1950s and 60s, Tristania is an evocative novel about the life and secrets of the people in the orbit of a remote volcanic island —both a prison and a paradise—and the distances between places and people. It speaks of leaving and returning; about our roots, and how they keep pulling us back with nods to Homer and Strindberg.
Kurtto’s prose is vivid, rich, and poetic as she masterfully inhabits her protagonists lives and passions—both on Tristan and overseas.
Historical note: Tristan da Cunha, (colloquially, ‘Tristan’) a British Overseas Territory, is an active volcanic island with a population of 247 British citizens in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean, 2400 km from anywhere. The volcano on the island erupted in 1961, which led to the evacuation of the island. The islanders, however, decided to return to their ravaged settlement the following year – rejecting England’s booming consumerist society in the swinging 1960s. Over time it has inspired writers, including Jules Verne and Alice Munro, with its remoteness and thriving community.
Nominated for the Nordic Council Prize for Literature 2019
‘Marianna Kurtto’s first novel is a masterful and self-assured work of art with a most engaging atmosphere.’ – Helsingin Sanomat
‘Unique style […] 300 pages of beauty. […] Rythmically calm, yet you can feel the lava bubbling beneath.’ – Aamulehti
‘One of the strengths of the narrative style of Tristania is the development of the story through the creative use of flashbacks and flashforwards. The novel moves with the people, and constantly takes unexpected turns. The narrative style rewards the reader by solving the problems and unknotting the jumble of human relationships. The novel is supported all the way through by language that reveals a love of inventive similes and metaphors which add a lyrical element to the work.’ – Nordic Council Prize Jury