Often I Am Happy

Jens Christian Grøndahl

Translated by Jens Christian Grøndahl
19 April 2018
160 pages


When Ellinor addresses her best friend Anna, she does not expect a reply. Anna has been dead for forty years, killed in the same skiing accident that claimed Henning: Ellinor’s first husband and Anna’s lover.

Ellinor instead tells her that Georg has died – Georg who was once Anna’s, but whom Ellinor came to love in her place, and whom she came to care for, along with Anna’s two infant sons. Yet with Georg’s death Ellinor finds herself able to cut the ties of her assumed life with surprising ease.

Returning to the area of Copenhagen where she grew up, away from the adopted comfort of the home she shared with Georg, Ellinor finds herself addressing her own history: her marriage to Henning, their seemingly charmed friendship with the newly-wed Anna and Georg, right back to her own mother's story – a story of heartbreaking pride.

Because there are some secrets – both our own and of others – that we can only share with the dead. Secrets that nonetheless shape who we are and who we love. Often I Am Happy by Jens Christian Grøndahl is a profoundly moving work of fiction.

In Danish novelist Grøndahl’s stunning latest, a recently widowed 70-year-old woman reexamines her life and past decisions . . . A compassionate and often edifying commentary on the elasticity of love, the strength it takes to move forward after a death, and the power of forgiveness.
This atmosphere of nonchalance, of indifference, of cracked glass, is the signature atmosphere of Jens Christian Grøndahl . . . Often I Am Happy is [among Grøndahl’s works] one of the most condensed, most suffused with grief and mixed beauty . . . His characters, so perfectly drawn, nevertheless thrive only as they disappear. The real, in the work of this great novelist, also has about it something of the haziness of memory.