“It is said that love is about just one thing – timing. To be in the right place at the right time.”

Frode Grytten appeared on Norwegian literary scene in 1983 and attracted global audiences in 1999, after publishing his eminent book Song of the Beehive. In the highly praised book Rooms by the Sea, Rooms in the City (2008), Grytten follows the same model again: he sets the frame and topic and then processes it in several variations.

The book contains ten stories and each of them is inspired by a painting by Edward Hopper, who is famous for painting people in seemingly common situations in various rooms: bars, hotel rooms, cramped city apartments, terraces of lonesome houses. This is the thread that firmly ties this book into a novel.

Hopper is probably best known for his painting Nighthawks (1942), where two men, a girl and a bartender, so a group of people at a bar, are visible from the street through the storefront. The reader can also understand these stories in such a way: as a view through walls of rooms with people who love quietly, hate loudly, decay alone or help each other. There are many situations and people, and Grytten chose ten situations where the main question is whether to stay (endure, decay, survive) or go (start over, forget, burn all bridges). The stories talk about perfect days, fateful days, days foreshadowing disasters, days where life gets new meaning, and we can say that the entire book describes modern life in civil western countries.

The rooms described in the book are all over the world, from Lisbon to the west coast of Norway. “The heart is a strong muscle,” wrote Grytten in one of the stories, alluding to human ability to somehow surmount all difficulties. His voice is inevitably melancholic, at times full of anxiety, but in each room he leaves enough room for hope, regardless of how small it is.


Author: Frode Grytten

Translator: Bekim Sejranović

Buy this book