CHILDREN OF GOD
Lars Petter Sveen, Guy Puzey (translator), Graywolf Press (OCTOBER) Softcover $16 (256pp) 978-1-55597-820-4
Lars Petter Sveen’s Children of God collects stories featuring the New Testament’s marginal people. On the edge of the Roman empire, a place where everything is “so mixed up, so confusing … that it [is] impossible to keep track of all the groupings and all the factions,” characters’ lives intersect. The miraculous and the inexplicable fold into the mundane as a matter of course. As characters navigate the chaos within and without, each story bears witness to human nature and the finegrained texture of revelation, suffering, and doubt.
There are Roman soldiers and prostitutes, thieves and apostles, and whether they are following orders, rules, family expectations, or social mores, the familiar becomes a potent trap for them. Whatever devil someone knows proves more beguiling than the light-bearer they don’t.
Jesus—whether he is present or absent, alive or dead—is the most important catalyst. In counterpoint, there’s a persistent antagonist in the form of a blind stranger who is “what stays in the shadows while the light falls elsewhere.” He offers a nightmarish familiarity variously disguised as comfort and ambition.
In the central contest between light and dark, each character’s journey is intensely personal, directed by memories, human connections, and experiences. The implications echo, from “A Light Gone,” where the leader of a child gang lays down his life for his followers, to “I Smell of Earth,” where notions of heaven and hell are turned on their ear.
Children of God exposes the turmoil of illumination, a striving that exists alongside what’s confusing, inscrutable, and seemingly contrary. Puzey’s impressive translation delivers an astounding voice to English-language literature.