Written in 1991, Under the Sun is the story of Margrethe Thiede, the daughter of a lighthouse keeper in an unnamed small fishing community on the north-western coast of Denmark. We follow Margrethe through her childhood, her years as a student in the capital, her marriage to a mentally unstable man, her involvement in the peace movement, and her old age. The novel is also about a changing community where fears of violence at sea and rampant commercialism on land are strong undercurrents. The building of a naval base and the ominous presence of foreign submarines intimidate the fishermen and their families, and an accident caused by one of these intruding vessels forms the catastrophic climax of the novel. The storytelling is funny, playful and clever. Dreamscapes and fairy-tale worlds blend with realistic narration to form a Danish brand of magic realism. The author explores central questions about the relationship between language and constructed worlds, about time and space, and about the nature of fiction.
Hanne Marie Svendsen is best known for the intriguing blend of realism and fantasy in her novels and short stories, notably the award-winning novel Guldkuglen (1985, published in English translation as The Gold Ball in 1989). Svendsen has published nine novels, two plays, three collections of short stories, three children’s books and two radio plays. Born in 1933, Svendsen began her professional career at Denmark’s Radio, where she became deputy head of the theatre and literature department. She also taught at the University of Copenhagen, and published several critical books before devoting herself to writing fiction full-time. Inspired by her many journeys abroad as well as by storytellers from her native Skagen, the northernmost town in Denmark, she has become a consummate storyteller herself.