With Vivian, her second novel to be published in English, Christina Hesselholdt delves into the world of the enigmatic American photographer Vivian Maier (1926-2009), whose unique body of work only reached the public by chance. On the surface, Vivian Maier lived a quiet life, working as a nanny for bourgeois families in Chicago and New York. And yet, over the course of four decades, she took more than 150,000 photos, most of them with Rolleiflex cameras. The pictures were discovered in an auction shortly before she died, impoverished and feasibly very lonely. Who was this outsider artist, and why did she remain in the shadows her whole life? In this playful, polyphonic novel, we watch Vivian grow up in a severely dysfunctional family in New York and Champsaur in France, and we follow her later life as a nanny and street photographer in Chicago. A meditation on art, madness and identity, Vivian is a brilliant novel by Denmark's most inventive and radical novelist.

Product Details

$17.95  $16.51
Fitzcarraldo Editions
Publish Date
August 20, 2019
4.9 X 0.8 X 7.7 inches | 0.55 pounds
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About the Author

Christina Hesselholdt, born in 1962, studied at the Danish Academy of Creative Writing in Copenhagen and published her first novel, Køkkenet, Gravkammeret & Landskabet [The Kitchen, the Tomb & the Landscape] in 1991. She has since written several novels and books for children, and has received critical acclaim and awards for her books, including the Beatrice Prize in 2007, the Jytte Borberg Prize in 2007 and the Critics' Prize in 2010. She was included in Dalkey Archive's Best European Fiction 2013. Companions, her first book to appear in English, was published by Fitzcarraldo Editions in 2017. For Vivian, a novel about the photographer Vivian Maier, she won the Danish Radio Best Novel Award 2017 and was shortlisted for the Nordic Council Literature Prize in 2017.
Paul Russell Garrett translates from Danish and Norwegian. He serves on the management committee of the Translators Association and is Programme Director for a new theatre translation initiative, [Foreign Affairs] Translates!


Praise for Companions

'Hesselholdt's most penetrating insights into the texture of lived experience come in moments of vivid imagery and unexpected humor, which bridge the weight of biography and the lightness of an instant. ... those who find connections among these disparate moments will be rewarded with a rare and fragile experience: a rediscovery of the strength of narrative bonds, impossible to dissolve and difficult to forget.'
-- Alexandra Kleeman, New York Times

'In her meditative and engrossing English-language debut, Hesselholdt dives into the consciousnesses of six cerebral, animated, eccentric, and occasionally melancholy Danes. ... Their stories are told in introspective monologues by turns splenetic and lyrical. The anxious characters wrestle with whether to retreat from or let oneself be "consumed by life," turning to the "saturate[d]" works of Woolf, Lawrence Durrell, Thomas Bernhard, and Sylvia Plath for sustenance. For this bookish lot, literature supplies invaluable companions, and readers will be captivated.'
-- Publishers Weekly,

'A blend of arresting detail, digression, and erudition tinged with nostalgia characterizes this novel, which ranges back and forth between different points of view. ... Both the difficulty and the pleasure of being human shine through in these pages.'
-- Kirkus Reviews

'[A]n affecting homage to, and a high-spirited literary dissection of, Woolf's book [The Waves] ... Companions, translated with care and élan by Paul Russell Garrett, is not at all a gloomy work. Hesselholdt's touch is light, even mocking, as much as her subject matter is grave. There is a dancing intelligence roaming free here, darting back and forth among ideas and sensations. Her novel is a deceptively nonchalant defence of modernism and a work of pure animation.'
-- Catherine Taylor, Financial Times

'Hesselholdt writes well. There is a profundity to her exploration of middle age ... her tender, considered scrutiny of mourning.'
-- Samuel Graydon, Times Literary Supplement

'Wonderfully rich prose, what a precious companion.'
-- Helle Helle, author of This Should Be Written in the Present Tense

'At times, the language is poetic and nostalgic, at others almost clinical, which reflects the internal conflicts of the characters well. Hesselholdt writes with a sharp ability to pinpoint the trials and tribulations that plague the human condition...'
-- Buzz Magazine

'Hesselholdt has never been better. Humour and grief go hand in hand, and the language shimmers from the drily caustic to the tenderly casual to the breathtakingly erotic.'
-- Berlingske Tidende

'I am quite certain that this book will do something to Danish literature. Hesselholdt is part of a generation of remarkable female authors who had their breakthroughs at the beginning of the 1990s and who in the past decade have turned their writing in new and surprising directions. None of them has moved to as wild and, yes, as promising a place as Hesselholdt has come to now.'
-- Information
'Bringing together features of the essay, literary biography, and historical fiction, Hesselholdt ... offers intriguing moments for those craving insight into the life of an artist.'
-- Publisher's Weekly

'Vivian is a fascinating, ingeniously constructed piece of documentary fiction. The novel's short sections illuminate Vivian Maier in brilliant flashes without ever dispelling her singular mystery.'
-- Adam Foulds, author of Dream Sequence

'Christina Hesselholdt transposes one of the greatest enigmas of twentieth century photography, Vivian Maier, with a synaesthetic delicacy. Part eerie acapella of confessions, part hoarder's clippings come to life, Hesselholdt's exceptional work on the life of Vivian Maier is as rare and roguish as the artist herself.'
--Yelena Moskovich, author of Virtuoso

'Only the second of Hesselholdt's works to be translated into English -- adroitly so by Paul Russell Garrett -- this fragmented, polyphonic novel plays with the enigma of its subject: "Vivian", "Viv", "Vivienne", "Miss Maier", "Kiki", "V. Smith", depending on the scene or her mood. ... Never sacrificing the opacity that makes Maier so fascinating, [Vivian] is as strange and mercurial as the inscrutable figure at its centre, and as prickly too. But then, as Hesselholdt has Vivian explain to one of her small charges, "Art is not somewhere you feel comfortable."'
--Lucy Scholes, Financial Times

'Hesselholdt brings Maier to life, luminously: looking down into the viewfinder on the top of her Rolleiflex camera, seeing the image for the first and last time.'
--Tom Overton, frieze

'Skilfully told through multiple perspectives, confessions and thought fragments, Vivian is an outsider's tale of creativity, urbanity and loneliness, written with sensitivity and intelligence.'
-- Sam Whyte, Buzz Magazine