Baboon by Naja Marie Aidt

Baboon by Naja Marie Aidt

“The emotions unleashed . . . are painfully universal. Yet you know exactly where in the universe you are. This is the hallmark of great short stories.” — Radhika Jones, Time magazine

2015 PEN Translation Award to Denise Newman for her translation of Baboon

“An explosive collection.”
— Los Angeles Times

“Wondrous, with vast loneliness underlying each syllable. . . . A collection whose individual pieces fascinate.”
— Kirkus

“In Danish, the word ‘baboon’ is often used as an endearing reproach to children who misbehave. In Aidt’s stories, however, it is the adults who are the real baboons (indeed, her characters are frequently described as resembling animals), reduced to a state of almost infantile single-mindedness and moral poverty. . . . [A] violent, beautiful, breathlessly paced collection.”
— Los Angels Review of Books

“The strength of Aidt and her admirable translator Denise Newman . . . comes through the book’s steadfast gaze into the shadows of life. . . . Undoubtedly one of the most intelligent writers of the contemporary literary world, Aidt is also clearly one of the most compassionate—and therefore one of the most important—voices in fiction.”
— Music & Literature

“Naja Marie Aidt’s stories ask not only what could be hiding beneath the surface of our otherwise calm lives, but what has been hiding there all along. They are odd and surprising, and refreshing in that they offer no conclusions. She is the writer of dark secrets.”
— Sarah Gerard, author of Binary Star

“[P]recise and evocative, often inspiring a strange balance between curiosity and anxiety in the reader. . . . [Aidt] inspires readers to read between the lines.”
— Publishers Weekly

“[Baboon’s] universe is the same as that of Ingmar Bergman films. A harsh bleakness of people speaking pointedly to each other in moments when there should be tenderness, where violence explodes, engendered by nothing. . . . [W]e see in these temper tantrums our worst selves.”
— Bookslut

“Best news of the year: Naja Marie Aidt’s Baboon, recognized in Scandinavia and beyond as a chiaroscuro tour de force, is finally available in English. This miraculous translation by American poet Denise Newman showcases Aidt’s uncanny eye for light in all its nuances, as well as her unerring ear for the many forms of language. Newman captures the tantalizing, evocative undertones of Aidt’s originals, allowing English-speaking readers to meet this award-winning Danish author at her quirky best.”
— Susanna Nied, translator of The Alphabet by Inger Christensen

Naja Marie Aidt’s recent collection of short stories Baboon is characterized by tackling somewhat uneasy issues such as adultery, divorce, violence, disease, sexuality, and physical attraction. Notice, however, that this interest in repression, pent-up feelings, affection, aggression, and fear is presented without any form of sentimentality, which makes the volume quite remarkable. . . . Add to this the unusual, laconic language and the extraordinary plots and you are faced with a universe that unmistakably is that of Naja Marie Aidt.
— World Literature Today

“Overflowing with a mad passion, sudden rage, and quiet depression.”
— Lars Bukdahl, Weekendavisen

“Aidt’s universe is unmistakable.”
— Søren Vinterberg, Politiken


Beginning in the middle of crisis, then accelerating through plots that grow stranger by the page, Naja Marie Aidt’s stories have a feel all their own. Though they are built around the common questions of sex, love, desire, and gender relations, Aidt pushes them into her own desperate, frantic realm. In one, a whore shows up unannounced at a man’s apartment, roosts in his living room, and then violently threatens him when he tries to make her leave. In another, a wife takes her husband to a city where it is women, not men, who are the dominant sex—but was it all a hallucination when she finds herself tied to a board and dragged back to his car? And in the unforgettable “Blackcurrant,” two young women who have turned away from men and toward lesbianism abscond to a farm, where they discover that their neighbor’s son is experimenting with his own kind of sexuality. The first book from the widely lauded Aidt to reach the English language, Baboon delivers audacious writing that careens toward bizarre, yet utterly truthful, realizations.

“Naja Marie Aidt’s stories ask not only what could be hiding beneath the surface of our otherwise calm lives, but what has been hiding there all along. They are odd and surprising, and refreshing in that they offer no conclusions. She is the writer of dark secrets.” — Sarah Gerard, author of Binary Star

Originally from Greenland, Naja Marie Aidt is a Danish poet and author with nearly 20 works in various genres to her name. She has received numerous honors, including the Nordic nations’ most prestigious literary prize, the Nordic Council’s Literature Prize, in 2008 for Baboon, and her work has been translated into several languages. Her work has also been anthologized in the Best European Fiction series and has appeared in leading American journals of translation.

Denise Newman is a translator and a poet who has published three collections of poetry. She has translated two books by Denmark’s greatest modernist author, Inger Christensen, and her work has appeared widely, including in Denver Quarterly, Volt, Fence, New American Writing, and ZYZZYVA.