On a small island off the coast of Norway, late 1990s. Andreas is going over the estate after his late foster father, Johannes. Amidst the clutter he finds the tale of the island’s past.: the truth about the State Councillor in the Quisling government who allowed the island to become a coloni for poor children; the story of the parents who went missing during suspicious circumstances, and about Andreas’ sister Minna, who has left him alone with a guilt impossible to atone.

Steve Sem-Sandberg’s new novel is a hypnotic tale of an island, overrun with stories and myths. The Tempest portrays a hatefulness that is inherited generation after generation and a love that will conquer all.

First published by Albert Bonniers Förlag, Sweden, 2016
274 pages

Czech Republic, Paseka
Denmark, Gyldendal
France, Robert Laffont
Germany, Klett-Cotta
Hungary, Jelenkor
Iceland, Ugla Útgafa
Poland, Literackie
Sweden, Albert Bonniers Förlag
UK, Faber & Faber

The book thrums with building intensity, the writing deceptive in its simplicity but with a hypnotic rhythm and cadence which echoes the novel’s dreamlike exploration of the past, of the shadows which loom. With harmonies and discords to Shakespeare’s play, it expresses the power of nature in its beauty and cruelty, how there are monsters which lurk within and how myth and legend build their own kind truth. Most of all it questions our own understanding of what has gone before: “That something is closely remembered does not always mean you recognise the reality of it.
Ruth Mckee, Irish Times

Sinister mysteries thicken and swirl like the island’s mist as this densely atmospheric novel progresses, culminating in a conclusion that avoids easy answers.’
Daily Mail

This is a novel about the way historical crimes are written on a landscape, about the manner in which moral decay takes on physical form. What makes The Tempest truly special, though, is the risks that Sem-Sandberg takes with narrative conventions, the way that his prose seems to break every rule in the creative writing handbook, and yet does so joyfully, recklessly and utterly convincingly. That such stylistic complexity is rendered in a manner that feels entirely natural is testimony to the great skill of the translator, Anna Paterson. The prose leaps wilfully between past and present tenses, the voice suddenly breaks into the second person and at one point Johannes takes over Andreas’s first-person narrative. Perspectives telescope in and out, giving us sweeping passages of history or wide-angle landscapes followed by intimately observed and close-up moments in time. It’s as if the book’s most significant borrowing from Shakespeare’s play is not the island setting, but rather Prospero’s total control of narrative, the omnipotence of the author-magician.
The Spectator

To catch sight of oneself, learn about one’s own history, challenges the established picture, the Story – this is The Tempest. Steve Sem-Sandberg weaves together these fragments like one of the true greats. We see the historical events – here in Norway during the Second World War and its aftermath – but we also see the wounds and grief the Story has left the individual with./…/
Steve Sem-Sandberg has written a suggestive and layered novel, told through a crystal clear narrative that immediately wins over the reader. The story is detailed, we can feel and smell it, we are present, in the moment. It was a long time since I disappeared so unreservedly into a novel’s intensity./…/
When love and power wants to be utopian, it turns evil. An address to our time that should be taken most seriously
Stefan Eklund, Dagens Nyheter

It might be that “The Tempest” is read as a way station between the bigger books. A smaller tale in the great swell of history, doubly so. That would indeed just reassert how these types of novels, written in the periphery of a great authorship, can be the ones to shine brightest and most uniquely. ”The Tempest” is, in a way, just that book. A small masterpiece, that can be read as poetry.
Hanna Nordenhök, Expressen

Steve Sem-Sanberg moves closer to the present with his latest novel. But mankind’s darkness remains unchanged, and his portrayal of it is masterful./…/
After all, Sem-Sandberg’s design is undeniable, the way he describes a passing aircraft or, even better, a crisp rain or a translucent dawn. It is the poetical drama of theses phenomena that creates a lingering, saturated read, as it is when you read something really beautiful.
Elisabeth Hjorth, Sydsvenskan

Steve Sem-Sandberg is one of those authors you can count on, a stylist of rank, a kind of Prospero in his own right with mastery of intrigue, characters and plots twists. He writes with such natural feeling and authority that one doesn’t have to worry in the least, one can just lean back and ride along while the author carefully portions out his sad tale and describes bombs that move “down along the sky like cross stitches in a tapestry”. “The Tempest” is about things that are handed down from person to person through the generations, and his prose is adapted for just such a leisurely course of events. /…/ this is a competent and solid novel that is simultaneously beautiful and strangely relaxing. Shakespeare’s play echoes and vibrates through the pages without ever making too much of a fuss. The result is a tale that both shimmers and threatens. That’s what a Prospero writes.
Josefin Holmström, Svenska Dagbladet

The story of Andreas Lehman’s complex relationship with his sister, which is exposed in a feverish, fragmentary, backwards way in Sem-Sandberg’s prose, rightly described as hypnotic.
Björn Werner, Ystads Allehanda

“Steve Sem-Sandberg’s name is printed in gold on the cover of The Tempest. This is hardly a coincidence, he is a golden writer and his writing absolutely sparkles. […] I want to highlight Sem-Sandberg’s sharp eye for intricate psycology, his ability to depict the goodness metamorphosis to the subtle evil, the irresponsible egotism’s destructive force. And to turn all of this into mighty and moving storytelling.”

Tommy Sundin, Västerbottens Kuriren

“It says a lot about Steve Sem-Sandberg’s talent as both a thinker and an author that he, as he does here, can compress the components that carry so strong associations. He creates a story that tells far beyond what one actually reads, while he keeps it so composed. […] I am deeply impressed by this completed sensual austerity.”

Anneli Dufva, Sveriges Radio

“Sem-Sandberg portrays the complexity of memory processes: the difference between what we remember and believe we remember, the attempt to retroactively explain the images and scenes from the past, straying along the wrong track and on suddenly appeared trails. […]”The Tempest” consolidates Sem-Sandberg’s position as one of the most interesting contemporary Swedish writers.”

Marta Ronne, Upsala Nya Tidning