MILK TEETH by Helene Bukowski
130 x 200mm, 210 pages, Black & white printing, Perfect bound, Softcover, Signed, 2023
Skalde writes her thoughts on pieces of paper, making new discoveries and revelations and understanding the world that is, and once was, through her mother’s limited library of books. Edith, her mother, prefers the solitude of her room and has begun to interact less and less with her daughter. Their house is full of silence and secrets. Having only ever known life with her mother, Skalde rarely crosses the boundaries of their plot of earth to visit neighbours and she certainly never leaves their zone. Skalde has never even seen blue in the sky—their region has been plagued by fog for as long as she can remember. Their terrain is dry and burning and Edith and their neighbours cling to memories of what once was: snow and rain, green grass and trees ripe with fruit.
Resigned to her fate, Skalde fills her days reading, writing and trying to live under her reclusive mother’s rules, until one day, from seemingly nowhere, a girl named Meisis arrives and Skalde decides to go against Edith’s wishes by bringing her in. Meisis’s arrival doesn’t simply mean that Skalde has someone to care for or a friend: it means that there has been a serious breach in security for the area and this proves to be too much for the community, a community that has decided to separate itself from the rest of the world and to do whatever it takes to survive, to handle.
Beautifully written in immersive, spare prose, Helene Bukowski’s debut novel is about what it means to be a mother at the end of the world, about living with the impacts of climate change and the way we view ‘outsiders’. Jen Calleja’s impressive translation is a moving rendition of this modern fairy-tale, where each moment witnessed, and every word uttered, is weighted with importance in the quiet, dying world of these characters living on the brink.
Translated by Jen Calleja