K.E. Semmel has translated numerous authors from Danish and Norwegian. In addition to the books named below, he has translated work by, among others, Pia Tafdrup, Jakob Martin Strid, Line Marie Lång, and Galina Werschenska. For his work he has received multiple grants from the Danish Arts Foundation, and he is a 2016 NEA Literary Translation Fellow. Click on the links below to see book covers.
The Wall Between by Jesper Bugge Kold
After Peter Körber is stabbed to death in Berlin, his son, Andreas, leaves his home in Denmark, where he was raised by his mother and stepfather, and travels to that once-divided city to uncover the brutal truth. In his search to know this complete stranger, Andreas hopes to come to grips with his own identity crisis, stalled academic career, and failed relationship.
But what kind of man was his father? A complicated portrait begins to emerge concerning Peter’s role in the German Democratic Republic before reunification. As Andreas struggles to find a chink in the wall of secrets and lies that obscures the real Peter Körber, he brings to light disturbing revelations that open fresh wounds and have devastating consequences.
The Hermit by Thomas Rydahl
A car is found on a deserted beach on the Spanish island of Fuerteventura. On the back seat lies a cardboard box containing the body of a small boy buried in newspaper cuttings. No one knows his name, and there is no trace of a driver. The last thing an ailing tourist resort needs is a murder, and the police are desperate to close the case.
The island is rife with rumours about the reclusive Erhard. Two decades of self-imposed exile from his wife and children have left him alienated and alone, whiling away his days in a drunken haze, driving an old taxi to get by. This unlikeliest of detectives determines to solve the crime himself - and he has nothing to lose.
Winter Men by Jesper Bugge Kold
As the dark specter of the Nazis settles over Germany, two wealthy and educated brothers are suddenly thrust into the rising tide of war. Karl, a former soldier and successful businessman, dutifully answers the call to defend his country, while contemplative academic Gerhard is coerced into informing for the Gestapo. Soon the brothers are serving in the SS, and as Hitler’s hateful agenda brings about unspeakable atrocities, they find themselves with innocent blood on their hands.
Following Germany’s eventual defeat, Karl and Gerhard are haunted by their insurmountable guilt, and each seeks a way to escape from wounds that will never heal. They survived the war and its revelation of systematic horrors, but can they survive the unshakable knowledge of their own culpability?
The Devil's Apprentice by Kenneth B. Andersen
Philip is a good boy, a really good boy. So he doesn’t understand why he’s suddenly in Hell, handpicked to be the Devil’s successor. The Devil, too, quickly realizes that a mistake has been made, but he still needs to begin Philip’s training in the ways of Evil—and to bring out his dark side. Philip quickly makes friends and enemies in this odd, gloomy world. Meanwhile, he discovers an evil-minded plot against the dark throne…(Unpublished, for now)
Rock, Paper, Scissors by Naja Marie Aidt
Rock, Paper, Scissors
opens shortly after the death of Thomas and Jenny’s criminal father. While trying to fix a toaster that he left behind, Thomas discovers a secret, setting into motion a series of events leading to the dissolution of his life, and plunging him into a dark, shadowy underworld of violence and betrayal.
The Seventh Child by Erik Valeur
On September 11, 2001, on a desolate beach on the outskirts of Copenhagen, police begin investigating the strange death of an unidentified woman. Surrounding the body are what appear to be offerings to the deceased: a book, a small noose, a dead golden canary, a linden tree branch, and a photo of the Kongslund Orphanage. As the police puzzle over their bizarre findings, the Twin Towers fall in walls of flame and the case is quickly overshadowed by the terror half a world away. Years later, as the sixtieth anniversary of the matron’s reign at Kongslund approaches, identical anonymous letters are sent to six of the home’s former residents, hinting at a cover-up that has allowed Denmark’s most influential to hide away their dirty secrets and keep their grip on power. As one tenacious reporter hunts for clues, he begins to unravel the true parentage of some of Kongslund’s “orphans.” Can he figure out who is sending the mysterious letters and who murdered the woman on the beach years earlier before it is too late?
Milk & Other Stories by Simon Fruelund
The fourteen stories in this collection display the often quiet, inconspicuous way in which terrible truths and experiences are intimated: the death of a sailboarder makes a widower see deeper into love and loss; a young poet visits his former teacher only to discover he is literally not the person he used to be; a middle-aged man glimpses the terrible humdrum of his third marriage as his son embarks on a new chapter in his life. These revelations are conveyed to readers without grandeur or pathos, and they demonstrate Fruelund’s gift of subtlety and nuance. Like scenes from a life unfiltered by authorial comment, readers see characters’ stories played out dramatically; in brief but brilliant flashes, readers see lives they may recognize as their own. The 14 stories in this collection range across the wide arc of human experience, from the comic to the tragic, and readers take from their time with the stories a feeling, a mood, which lingers long after they put the book aside.
Civil Twilight by Simon Fruelund
Dante’s Avenue is an ordinary residential street in a Copenhagen suburb. There are trees lining the sidewalk. There are speed bumps and cars parked along the curb. There’s a pastor, an undertaker, and a stewardess. There’s a bog. There’s a housing complex where the welfare recipient, the taxi driver, and the refugee family live. There’s a man in a white suit. Simon Fruelund’s Civil Twilight
is a tight, precisely told novella about the surprising interconnectedness of life in the suburbs and about people’s attitudes towards religion, death, family, and sex.
The Absent One by Jussi Adler Olsen
In The Keeper of Lost Causes
, American audiences were finally introduced to Copenhagen’s Detective Carl Mørck and his creator, #1 international bestselling author Jussi Adler-Olsen. Now, Mørck is back. He’s settled into Department Q and is ready to take on another cold case. This time, it’s the brutal double-murder of a brother and sister two decades earlier. One of the suspects confessed and is serving time, but it’s clear to Mørck that all is not what it seems. Kimmie, a homeless woman with secrets involving certain powerful individuals, could hold the key—if Mørck can track her down before they do.
The Caller by Karin Fossum
One mild summer evening, a young couple are enjoying dinner while their daughter sleeps peacefully in her stroller under a tree. When her mother steps outside she is stunned: the child is covered in blood. Inspector Sejer is called to the hospital to meet the family. Mercifully, the child is unharmed, but the parents are deeply shaken, and Sejer spends the evening trying to understand why anyone would carry out such a sinister prank. Then, just before midnight, somebody rings his doorbell. No one is at the door, but the caller has left a small gray envelope on Sejer’s mat. From his living room window, the inspector watches a figure disappear into the darkness. Inside the envelope Sejer finds a postcard bearing a short message: Hell begins now.