An international hit, this bold seafaring epic spans 100 years in the lives of the men and women from a small town on an island off the Danish coast. Starting with the war between Germany and Denmark in 1848 and continuing through WWII, the men of Marstal sail, fight, trade, and die at sea while the women raise their children and wait for their husbands' and sons' uncertain return. The story loosely follows one family, the Madsens, beginning with the legendary Laurids Madsen, "best known for having single-handedly started a war," and then his son, Albert, and a boy named Knud Erik, whom Albert takes under his wing. From adventures on the storm-ravaged seas and in exotic lands, to battles in town over the shipping industry and family life, dozens of stories coalesce into an odyssey taut with action and drama and suffused with enough heart to satisfy readers who want more than the breakneck thrills of ships battling the elements. By the time readers turn the final page, they will have come to intimately know this town and its sailors who tear out across an unforgiving sea. (Feb.)
We, The Drowned is "most memorable for the sheer gusto of its narrative. The author ennobles the old-fashioned art of storytelling by showing how the relating of a tale can itself foster a spirit of fellowship... We, The Drowned is itself a monument to the way that history can be made epic through legend."
-The Wall Street Journal
"As an epic of grand design, We, The Drowned is a thumping success."
-The San Francisco Chronicle
"Powerful reading for a long winter's night... This gorgeous, unsparing novel ends during the last days of World War II with a captain struggling to bring his crew home after their ship is torpedoed. The sea is Marstal's life and Jensen's unstrained metaphor: luring the Marstallers away from home, offering uncertain passage and providing few harbors that are safe for long."
-The Washington Post
"From adventures on the storm-ravaged seas and in exotic lands, to battles in town over the shipping industry and family life, dozens of stories coalesce into an odyssey taut with action and drama and suffused with enough heart to satisfy readers who want more than the breakneck thrills of ships battling the elements."
-Publishers Weekly (starred)
"For all the brutality and suspense in the manner of Conrad, Melville, and Stevenson, Jensen's oceanic novel (already a bestseller overseas and gorgeously translated) is tenderly human . . . Jensen's resplendent saga, an epic voyage of the imagination, is mesmerizing in its unsparing drama, fascinating in its knowledge of the sea, wryly humorous, and profound in its embrace of compassion, reason, and justice."
"Expertly told . . . Jensen is a sympathetic storyteller with an eye for the absurd, with the result that if this novel descends from Moby-Dick, it also looks to The Tin Drum for inspiration . . . An elegant meditation on life, death, and the ways of the sea."
"...vast and daring... rich, powerful and rewarding... one of the more engrossing literary vorages of recent years."
-The Financial Times (UK)
"Carsten Jensen is without doubt one of the most exciting authors in Nordic literature today. I always wait with great anticipation for his books. He is, in my opinion, completely unique as a story teller."
"A novel of immense authority and ambition and beauty, by a master storyteller at the height of his powers. This is a book to sail into, to explore, to get lost in, but it is also a book that brings the reader, dazzled by wonders, home to the heart from which great stories come."
—Joseph O’Connor, author of Star of the Sea
This long and solid first novel tells an epic multi-generational story of the maritime community of Marstal, Denmark, beginning in the mid-19th century, with Laurids Madsen, a sailor conscripted into the makeshift Danish navy during the country's war with Germany. After the war, Laurids signs on to a ship and sails off, never to be seen or heard from again. Enter his son, Albert, who sails the oceans in search of his father and undergoes many harrowing and strange experiences before returning to Marstal a wealthy man. Albert befriends a young widow and tries to provide companionship for her son Knud Erik but is later drawn into a complicated and tragic relationship with the boy's mother. Albert dies, which turns the story over to Knud Erik as he, too, goes to sea, over his mother's objections. She has inherited Albert's wealth and has made it her mission to end the town's tragic relationship to the sea, which leaves many men dead and makes many women widows. VERDICT Starting off slowly, Jensen's novel builds momentum and becomes quite thrilling and engaging on many levels, from adventures on the high seas to devastating personal dramas in a small community at the mercy of the forces of nature and history. It may not appeal to a large audience, but it won't disappoint those willing to make the effort.—Jim Coan, SUNY at Oneonta Lib.
A bestselling Danish novel, by journalist and foreign correspondent Jensen, that chronicles the long-suffering inhabitants of a port city over the course of a century.
Call him Laurids, one of the two kinds of people who populate Jensen's Homeric catalogue: the drowned and the saved, the latter of whom usually wind up drowned anyway. Laurids Madsden "went up to Heaven and came down again, thanks to his boots," as Jensen whimsically writes—though, he adds, Laurids never got farther north than the top of his main mast before death spat him back out. Laurids is a veteran of wars and long circumnavigations of the globe, and, now a captain in middle age, childless and unmarried, he faces the difficult task of figuring out how to move about on the dry land of his home. Says one of his neighbors, "You call Marstal a sailors' town, but do you know what I call it? I call it a town of wives. It's the women who live here. The men are just visiting."Those women, Jensen's omniscient narrator tells us, "live in a state of permanent uncertainty," for those men are in the habit of disappearing for two or three years at a time and battling very long odds of survival, to say nothing of heavily armed Germans. Hope is either a greening plant or an open wound, the narrator adds, and so the people of Marstal go about their business not quite knowing who among them is living or dead. Jensen (I Have Seen the World Begin: Travels Through China, Cambodia, and Vietnam, 2002, etc.) peoples his long, expertly told saga with figures from Danish history as well as of his own invention, from Crown Prince Frederik to a ship's captain who "remained equally pale in summer and winter, in northern hemisphere and southern," and all with the usual frailties and foibles. Jensen is a sympathetic storyteller with an eye for the absurd, with the result that if this novel descends fromMoby-Dick, it also looks toThe Tin Drumfor inspiration.
"Is there anything more heartbreaking than drowning in sight of land?" asks our narrator—and we know the answer. An elegant meditation on life, death and the ways of the sea.