Karate Chop

The fifteen stories in this slim collection hit with full force – like a karate chop. With surgical precision, Dorthe Nors is able to both build worlds and collapse them in the span of just a few pages. Lose yourself in this crisp tour de force and you will be surprised, delighted, and moved. Nors is a keen observer of details and a marvelous chronicler of the wonder inherent in the everyday. There is drama where we least expect it. A man is butchered in his sleep by his girlfriend in the last sentence of the collection’s title story, “Karate Chop”; in “The Heron”, an army of self-righteous mothers with strollers suddenly explode in the middle of a public park; and in “The Buddhist”, a failed bureaucrat turns to Buddhism in his quest for power and redemption.

Wonderfully weird and addictive, these carefully crafted narratives offer surprising perspectives on human behavior in the twenty-first century. Karate Chop slices through contemporary life with stunning precision and is as sophisticated as it is accessible.

“Nors presents a range of voices and offbeat images in these 15 unsettling and poetic stories. Some pieces, like one about a four-pound tomato, are oddly beautiful; others are brilliantly disturbing.”
THE NEW YORK TIMES (US)

“A major new voice in European literature.”
BOOKTRUST (UK)

“In this collection of stories, Danish fiction comes off a little like Danish furniture, spare and sublime. Author Dorthe Nors knows how to capture the smallest moments and sculpt them into the unforgettable.”
OPRAH (US)

“However stingy reviewers are with these kinds of words, it now has it that ‘masterpiece’ needs to be dusted off. […] Karate Chop is simply a magnificent book. Get ready to be amazed.”
DAGBLADENES BUREAU (DK)

“These stories are swift and unexpected and bruising. Nors’ insight into the strange nuances of human interactions, especially those rooted in violence or sorrow, is keen to the point of vivisection. In the span of two pages, she is able to both build and unmake a character, achieving the same complexity that other writers require entire novels to establish. What’s more, her protagonists are familiar and unsettling, with characteristics that echo in our psyches and ask us to call into question all we assume about ourselves and others. […] Lovers of the art of literary fiction, students of psychology, and everyone looking for a quick, thought-provoking read should all indulge themselves in the subversive delight of this short story collection.”
BOOKLIST (US)

“The short-short stories in Danish sensation Nors’s slim, potent collection, Karate Chop […] Evoke the weirdness and wonder of relating in the digital age.”
VOGUE (US)

“These very short works […] are as sharp-edged, destructive, and intentionally made as the title suggests. Nowhere here is a word out of place. Imagine Grace Paley with more than a little of Mary Gaitskill’s keen eye for the despair and violence of sex, mixed with an otherness that’s unsettlingly odd and vivid. The sentences are brightly visual and attuned to the weird details of each character’s inner world. […] Nors’s writing doesn’t just observe the details of life—online searches, laundry, fantasies, conversations with semi-strangers, compulsions—it offers a marvelous, truthful take on how these details illustrate our souls.”
PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, STARRED REVIEW (US)

“Horror and comedy both require timing, and Dorthe Nors has it.”
CHICAGO TRIBUNE (US)

“Arresting. […] These amuse-bouches are a fine introduction to [Nors’s] work.”
KIRKUS REVIEWS (US)

“Nors illuminates an ominous world of disconnected people trying to make sense of their dislocation. […] Nors’ affectless, matter-of-fact storytelling […] is the perfect complement to the low-wattage desperation and inertia her characters feel…Karate Chop is just like that: It loves you and wants to teach you, but it also wants to harm you.”
LOS ANGELES TIMES (US)

“Dorthe Nors knows how to do it. She can set a sentence loose with all kinds of intimations, toss out a remark randomly and, in a split second, light up the whole scene. […] All in all, Karate Chop is a clear-eyed collection about the little edge we find ourselves standing at every day. The borderland. Where we discover something we have never seen before. Because the light is falling in a certain way. Because the mood changes. Or because we discover that there are people and places that the light never reaches.”
WEEKENDAVISEN (DK)

“The intricately crafted stories in Karate Chop, from popular Danish writer Dorthe Nors, focus on ordinary occurrences […] and then twist them into brilliantly slanted cautionary tales about desire, romance, deception, and dread.”
ELLE (US)

Karate Chop is a collection of brittle, blackly comic and quietly explosive stories that provide snapshots of modern Danish life and home in at daring angles to highlight the quirks, agonies and vulnerabilities of the human condition.”
STAR TRIBUNE (US)

“In this slim collection of stories, the Danish Nors examines everyday issues with intensity and force.”
MARIE CLAIRE (US)

“Dorthe Nors is a writer of moments—quiet, raw portraits of existential mediation, at times dyspeptic, but never unsympathetic.”
PARIS REVIEW DAILY (US)

“Exceptional. […] Nors is adroit at offering powerful summation at the precise moment with a single cutting phrase or an unexpected observation. […] These brief realistic stories provide universal insight into an everyday, modern existence.”
THE RUMPUS (US)

“In the overwhelming stories by Danish writer Dorthe Nors, humanity can suddenly end in horrible violence. […] Both sides of this reverse edition are piercing.”
DE VOLKSKRANT, FIVE STARS (NL)

“Compelling, precise, and funny.”
TROUW (NL)

“Dorthe Nors is one of the new authors, who has eternity on her side.”
WEEKENDAVISEN (DK)

“Danish author Dorthe Nors’ short stories have an exactness, sublimity, and psychological sensitivity that you don’t see every day. Not a word too much, nothing is missing and after having read a while you eagerly await each ending. […] Singular, quiet, yet precisely in the transition to the pathetic or simply the magnificent. It’s a scandal that she hasn’t been translated into Swedish until now.”
NORRLÄNDSKA SOCIALDEMOKRATEN (SE)

“These stories reveal a keen eye that is sensitive to the tiniest of details. The narrator has a clear, distanced, almost reporter-like voice, making the most trivial stories intense and controversial.”
LITERA (HU)

“Karate Chop is a highlight; ingenious, intelligent, yet language-wise easy enough to suit many kinds of readers.”
AFTONBLADET (SE)

“The short stories can in some ways be compared to Hjalmar Söderberg’s Historietter, perhaps the most successful work in Swedish, short story-wise. That is, short stories with a melancholic keynote that still are insanely funny. Nors has the ability to create situations that are full of humanity despite rather absurd premises. […] And she is truly skilled at portraying people, giving them life, through the smallest of means. […] Her short historiettes also resemble punk singles: one minute and fifty-eight second detonations with the capacity to grab hold and create a euphoric rebellion in the reader.”
JÖNKÖPINGSPOSTEN (SE)

“Karate Chop is to my mind a collection of brilliant short stories – brief, harsh, absurd, unrelenting. […] Dorthe Nors is truly a name to remember and I eagerly await the chance to acquaint myself with an authorship that is sure to count among the few that are truly urgent and lasting.”
NORRKÖPINGS TIDNINGAR (SE)

The short stories – They are superb. […] Above all she crams the stories full of details, shifts, glides, inner and outer turmoil, rich accounts and wild turns. It gives you the sense of a colossal amount of things happening in the text. […] But Nors masters the high speed well and effortlessly invents themes, people, milieus, and ways of thinking, as if on recoil.”
ARBETARBLADET (SE)

“Some of the short stories are dreamy, others lean towards the absurd. Some are like observations while others are chilling sinkholes. […] Either way, they captivate me; I must first read them quickly, eat them in big bites, and then go back and enjoy the nuances. […] Dorthe Nors’ karate chopped prose is one I want to meet again.”
KULTURNYTT, PUBLIC SERVICE RADIO (SE)

“It’s funny, intelligent and modern. […] After having finished reading the book I’m immediately seized by the urge to read it again. There’s so much more there, waiting between the words.”
DAGENS ETC (SE)

“Karate chops are a controlled and accepted form of violence. That is also what Dorthe Nors offers: deliberate, well-aimed, and accurate blows. […] One of Nors’ greatest merits is that she is able to portray the madness of everyday life.”
DAGENS NYHETER (SE)

“Dorthe Nors’ novels are sharp and sparkling icebergs lying heavily in the water; in line with the classic aesthetic of the short story, most of the story is found below the surface. […] Nors impresses greatly with her ability to portray complex, vulnerable people […] She masters the art of telling stories of big dimensions, through the selection of few but telling situations. Even if the style may vary from the defusedly beautiful to the facetious, the fundamental tone is always dark. […] Nors’ both sharp and subtle short stories burst into that which is most important: the emotions that drive us, but that are the hardest to put into words.”
DAG OG TID (NO)

“To read the collection is like being in a miniature landscape where you, despite the dark and depressive, want to remain. The 15 short stories are like Post-it notes about life. […] Nors finds her own tone. That tone is tender-hearted – she fills her different narrators with empathy and uses a language which is naked in dazzlingly honest passages. […] She leaves the reader with karate chops and a pounding need to read more from her.”
SVENSKA DAGBLADET (SE)

“I can hardly bare these short stories. They’re too good. They contain far too little to be able to hold so much. My reading muscles are all done up.”
KRISTIANSTADSBLADET (SE)

“Nors moves in dark waters, but she does so with a great deal of humor without ever losing hold on gravity.”
FLORET (SE)

“Beautiful, faceted, haunting stories. […] Dorthe Nors is fantastic. […] a rising star of Danish letters.”
Junot Díaz, author of This is How You Lose Her

“This collection is a marvel. It takes only one story – and really just a paragraph – to note the excellence of this work in its unsentimental and fortright account of people slogging through their lives.”
Fiona Maazel, author of Woke Up Lonely

“Reading Dorthe Nors’s work, one is reminded of the thrills and dangers of living. Memories, laughter, a gesture: everything casts a shadow, meaningful or mysterious. These stories prove that no loss is too small, and each moment counts.”
Yiyun Li, author of The Vagrants

”Nors is a true master. I warmly recommend it!”
Roy Jacobsen, award-winning Norwegian writer

Dorthe Nors is one of the most original voices of contemporary Danish letters. She has written a lauded short story collection, Karate Chop, as well as one novella and five novels, including the most recent: Mirror, Shoulder, Signal (2016), which has been shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize 2017.

Learn more about Dorthe Nors