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Ti Amo


A penetrating study of passion, suffering, and loss from one of Norway’s most tenacious writers: National Book Award Finalist and PEN translation prize winner Hanne Ørstavik

Celebrated throughout the world for her candor and sensitivity to the rhythms of language, Hanne Ørstavik is a leading light on the international stage. Ørstavik writes with “a compulsion for truth that feels like [her] very life force itself.” Laced with a tingling frankness, Ørstavik’s prose adheres so closely to the inner workings of its narrator’s mind as to nearly undo itself. In Martin Aitken’s translation, Ørstavik’s piercing story sings.

Ti Amo brings a new, deeply personal approach, as the novel is based in Ørstavik’s own experience of losing her Italian husband to cancer. By facing loss directly, she includes readers in an experience that many face in isolation. Written and set in the early months of 2020, its themes of loss and suffering are particularly well suited for a time of international mourning.

What can be found within a gaze? What lies inside a painting or behind a handful of repeated words? These are the questions that haunt our unnamed narrator as she tends to her husband, stricken with cancer, in the final months of his life.

She examines the elements of their life together: their Vietnamese rose-colored folding table where they eat their meals, each of the New Year’s Eves they’ve shared, their friendships, and their most intimate exchanges.

With everything in flux, she searches for the facets that will remain.

"What is so impressive is [Ørstavik's] ability to capture—with precision, candor and, indeed, tenacity—her shifting sense of self, as the foundations on which it rests crumble with every passing moment."
--Toby Lichtig, The Wall Street Journal

"A slim, devastating . . . novel driven by a search for an answer to this question: what is the truth of another’s death?"
--Kevin Brazil, Times Literary Supplement

"Throughout the brief text, the statement 'I love you/Ti amo' is repeated and exchanged like a tolling bell as the couple both unites and divides in the face of inevitable extremis. Meanwhile, Ørstavik maintains a brutally tender, hyperprecise gaze . . . Dark though its central topic undeniably is, the novel shares a compassionate vision, bridging the gulf between the one who will go on and the one who will not."
--Kirkus Reviews, (starred review)

“Ørstavik sketches a spare but capacious meditation on both the shape of [her characters’] relationship and the effort required, practically and emotionally, by the narrator to care for her partner through the end of his life . . . The narrator maintains a controlled—but not cold—distance that only enriches the intimacy throughout . . . Various phrases and riffs on the word love, including ti amo, sustain an incantatory power, and the brevity of this striking text makes its final moments soar.”
--Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"[Ti Amo] is far more personal than relational . . . The vulnerability that tears through the page is woefully human."
--Neil Czeszejko, Delphic Review

"Ti Amo is novel of passion, commitment and confusion. It is an open window into the complicated, often conflicted, emotions of caregiving without the numbing effects afforded by time and distance . . . [Ti Amo] is more than autobiographical fiction or memoir—it is also a deeply personal tribute to power of love."
--Joseph Schreiber, Rough Ghosts

"The translation by Martin Aitken is perfectly pitched to capture the volatility of the narrator’s thoughts . . . Tender, anguished and truthful, Ti Amo recalls a line from a novel by Duras I read years ago: ‘There are no holidays from love.’" 
--Lee Langley, The Spectator

"A transcendently beautiful, poignant autofiction from Orstavik that mirrors the author's experience loving and living with her own husband as he was dying. This reader knows what it's like to care for a seriously ailing partner, and the author's meditations on her experience rang true to me and were very affirming and touching. Ti Amo is a love letter through all the complications that life throws at a partnership. It's one of my favorite books of the year."
--Jennifer Kemnitz, Bookseller Lead at Powell's Bookshop

"This novella, sometimes hard to read for its bleakness but impossible to look away from, shows that even when we know the destination, the journey is still worthwhile."
--John Self, The Guardian

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