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The Double

The Double: (And Other Stories)

Maria Takolander

  • awardShortlisted, Melbourne Prize for Literature, Best Writing Award, 2015
  • Mum and Dad were sitting up in bed, the dark veneer of the bed head framing them from above the waist and the white sheet messed up around their legs. Dad’s mouth was smeared with blood. It was on his teeth. He was panting. Mum was looking into her lap, where she was squeezing her left fist with her right hand. I could see the thumb sticking out, a chunk of flesh hanging off and blood streaming down. 

    A student travels to Estonia to investigate his violent father’s upbringing.

    A woman is possessed by visions of her brother’s brutal death at a lake in Finland.

    A bride plumbs the depths of her loathing for her husband on a journey across Africa.

    A lonely boy is haunted by nightmares of a new classmate who has an affair with their teacher.

    Each of the stories in The Double is unnerving, and unforgettable. Ranging from rural Australia to Northern Europe and beyond, from the dark past of the Soviet era to a terrifying vision of the near future, this collection marks the arrival of a unique and bewitching talent.  


    Part I
    The Red Wheelbarrow
    Three Sisters
    The Double
    The Obscene Bird of Night
    Mad Love
    Paradise Lost
    The Interpretation of Dreams
    The War of the Worlds

    Part II
    A Roānkin Philosophy of Poetry
    Roānkin and the Judge of the Poetry Competition
    Roānkin and the Research Assistant
    Roānkin and the Librarian


    ABC Radio National Books & Arts Daily
    4ZZZ FM
    Deakin University


    Maria with Peter Rose at the Geelong launch of *The Double*

    Maria with Peter Rose at the Geelong launch of The Double

    Maria Takolander
    About the Author

    Maria Takolander is a senior lecturer in literature at Deakin University in Geelong. She is the author of a work of literary criticism and two poetry collections. Her poems have featured in annual best-of anthologies for the past seven years. This is her first book of fiction.

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    Text publication date:
    21 August 2013
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    Praise for Maria Takolander
    andThe Double

    ‘Extraordinary. I was entranced. Takolander’s stories have a remarkable concentration of vision; their images are haunting and powerful, and will remain with me for a long time.' 

    ‘Maria Takolander’s stories are written in a bewitching minor key. Haunting and mysterious, this is a collection that you will want to savour, then read all over again.' 

    ‘Fiercely intelligent and idiosyncratic, sometimes shot through with black humour, sometimes pressing down on the reader with the full weight of human horror…Individually, Takolander’s stories can be bleak. But collectively they are thrilling. Slender as this collection may be, it announces the arrival of a considerable talent.’

    ‘A captivating and slightly uncomfortable series of tales that are in turns frightening, amusing, haunting and reassuring…The settings alternate between the familiar scenes of rural Australia and the more unknown background of Northern Europe, but it is the characters that really shine in this collection…undeniably powerful.’

    ‘An intriguing collection of short stories, The Double comprises an unsettling journey into the lives of Takolander’s peculiarly distant and troubled protagonists as they explore the dark recesses of the human condition.’

    ‘Takolander’s stories are beautifully melancholy, full of arresting, dream-like sequences and imagery that stay with one long after the final page is turned.’

    ‘Incisive, economic, imbued with simple depth and glittering with hard truth, The Double is a literary force. Poetic in its brevity, the stories are none the less substantial, speaking of the nature of courage, the damage done by ignoring the past, and human beings’ ability to torture themselves.‘

    ‘[Maria Takolander’s] stories seem like wordscapes that offer panoramic views without shunning fine, sometimes devastating, details. They reverberate with the passage of time, especially those stories that link Australia to northern Europe, to Stalinism…Takolander’s prose has a quite gorgeous directness, a desert-like sparseness, even when—no, especially when—the topic is melancholy or fearsome.’

    ‘This debut short-story collection…is eerily beautiful and not for the faint of heart…It’s the kind of book that will unnerve you and keep you up at night.’

    The Double is a compulsively readable book, and Takolander’s prose is fluid and engaging.’

    ‘An intriguing collection of short stories…The esoteric tales explore themes of passion, death, desire and redemption.’

    ‘shot through…brilliantly with humour and satire.’

    ‘The best stories in The Double can be brutal yet remain achingly moving and painfully poignant; there are some outstanding, even breathtaking sentences and scenes in this book. Takolander is fluent in capturing moments of sudden grief, shame, intimacy and melancholy.’

    The Double meditates on menace and memory. Takolander has a gift for capturing characters whose alienation or trauma is so bifurcating they become unrecognisable to themselves and each other….The best stories in The Double can be brutal yet remain achingly moving and painfully poignant; there are some outstanding, even breathtaking sentences and scenes in this book…[The Interpretation of Dreams] is a brave, beautifully controlled story full of pathos and disturbance, isolation and rage, and disgust.’

    ‘One of the best contemporary short story collections I’ve read, Takolander’s fictions are intellectual, dark, strange and often dystopian.’

    ‘Takolander’s angle is the familiar made strange, and her work has a wry quality that echoes early Atwood’s fierce genius…[Her] craft and skill is stunning.’

    ‘Takolander’s talent for narrating intimate tragedies across age, gender, and time reveals her as a master of the quiet and deeply personal storm…Takolander’s writing along makes this a fascinating and worthwhile read. The elegant bend she gives to horrific, primal debasement is absolute genius.’

    Other editions ofThe Double
    • The Double
      ISBN: 9781921961946
      21 August 2013
      Buy ebook
    Other Titles byMaria Takolander