In exhilarating, provocative prose, Ia Genberg reveals an intimate and powerful celebration of what it means to be human. Translated from Swedish by Kira Josefsson.

A famous broadcaster writes a forgotten love letter; a friend abruptly disappears; a lover leaves something unexpected behind; a traumatised woman is consumed by her own anxiety. In the throes of a high fever, a woman lies bedridden. Suddenly, she is struck with an urge to revisit a particular novel from her past. Inside the book is an inscription: a message from an ex-girlfriend. Pages from her past begin to flip, full of things she cannot forget and people who cannot be forgotten. Johanna, that same ex-girlfriend, now a famous TV host. Niki, the friend who disappeared all those years ago. Alejandro, who appears like a storm in precisely the right moment. And Birgitte, whose elusive qualities shield a painful secret. Who is the real subject of a portrait, the person being painted or the one holding the brush?

The Details was shortlisted for the International Booker Prize 2024, announced on April 9 2024.
 

Shortlisted
The International Booker Prize 2024
Published by
Wildfire Books
Publication date

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Portrait of author Ia Genberg

Ia Genberg

About the Author

Swedish author Ia Genberg began her writing career as a journalist. She is the winner of the August Prize 2022 and the Aftonbladet Literary Prize 2023.

More about Ia Genberg
Portrait of translator Kira Josefsson

Kira Josefsson

About the Author

Kira Josefsson is a writer, editor, and translator working between Swedish and English.
More about Kira Josefsson

What the International Booker Prize 2024 judges said

‘Ia Genberg writes with a remarkably sharp eye about a series of messy relationships between friends, family and lovers. Using, as she says, “details, rather than information”, she gives us not simply the “residue of life presented in a combination of letters” but an evocation of contemporary Stockholm and a moving portrait of her narrator. She has at times a melancholic eye, but her wit and liveliness constantly break through.’  

Group photo of the International Booker Prize 2024 Judges; Romesh Gunesekera, Natalie Diaz, William Kentridge, Eleanor Wachtel and Aaron Robertson.

What the critics said

Catherine Lacey, The New York Times

‘“As far as the dead are concerned, chronology has no import and all that matters are the details,” Genberg writes in the last chapter, and though this isn’t the kind of novel given to spoilers, there are elements here best left for a reader to discover firsthand.

The literal fever that begins the book mirrors the feverish beginnings and endings of these relationships, as well as the fever of reading — how it forces the reader inward, then leaves an invisible imprint in its wake. Genberg’s marvelous prose is also a kind of fever, mesmerizing and hot to the touch.’

Eliza Smith, LitHub

‘It’s difficult to describe the experience of reading Ia Genberg’s English language debut (winner of the August Prize, Sweden’s most prestigious book award) beyond saying that it resembles a fever dream—which is appropriate, given that the narrator herself is in bed with a rising fever, as she recalls four important people from her past: Johanna, an ex-girlfriend, now famous; Niki, a friend who disappeared; Alejandro, a former lover; and Birgitte, her daughter. Genberg’s prose is a feat of characterization, a triumph of lending language and profundity to observations of daily life. At a tight 150 pages, I didn’t read it so much as subconsciously absorb it.’

The New Yorker

‘This elliptical novel, narrated by an unnamed woman who is confined to her bed by a high fever, consists of four character studies. During her illness, the woman picks up a book—an edition of Paul Auster’s “New York Trilogy”—inscribed to her by a former lover. Flipping through it brings back vivid recollections of that woman, whose frosty personality “was part of her—and not as deficiency but as tool, a useful little patch of ice.” These reminiscences lead to others: first of a wayward roommate; then of a “hurricane” ex-boyfriend; and finally of the narrator’s traumatized mother. She relates her textured insights into human nature through small moments. “As far as the dead are concerned,” she muses, “all that matters are the details, the degree of density.”’