The Double (and Other Stories)

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.

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, The Double marks the arrival of a major talent. These stories are bold and original, unnerving and unforgettable.

‘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.’—Jeremy Chambers.

‘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.’—Danielle Wood.

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Honours

Finalist for the 2015 Melbourne Prize for Literature 'Best Writing Award'. 

Named a best book of 2013 by The Australian, Overland and New Zealand Listener.

Named in Readings' list of '50 great reads by Australian women' in 2013 and in Readings' list of '5 Australian short story collections we loved in 2013'.

Reviews

‘Fiercely intelligent and idiosyncratic, sometimes shot through with black humour, sometimes pressing down on the reader with the full weight of human horror . . . Like Samuel Beckett, poet of futility, Takolander manages to kindle beauty out of the hopelessness her fiction describes. Individually, Takolander’s stories can be bleak. But collectively they are thrilling . . . this collection . . . announces the arrival of a considerable talent.The Weekend Australian.

‘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.’—The Saturday Age, Canberra Times, Sydney Morning Herald, The Brisbane Times.

‘Incisive, economic, imbued with simple depth and glittering with hard truth . . . a literary force.’—The West Australian.

‘The Double is a commanding, demanding and very chilling collection . . . Several of the stories are unsettling enough to disrupt sleep. Takolander’s angle is the familiar made strange, and her work has a wry quality that echoes early Atwood’s fierce genius . . . That craft and skill is stunning, and it comes as a surprise that this is Takolander’s first collection – one wonders what other gems she has buried.’—Overland

‘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.’—Australian Bookseller and Publisher.

‘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.’—Readings monthly.

‘The stories seem like wordscapes that offer panoramic views without shunning fine, sometimes devastating, details . . . Takolander’s prose has a quite gorgeous directness, a desert-like sparseness, even when—no, especially when—the topic is melancholy or fearsome.’—Australian Book Review.

‘I have spent most of my reading life consuming novels, yet it is this short story collection that stands out most vividly from what I have read in the last four or five years.’—Meanjin.

‘One of the best contemporary short story collections I’ve read, Takolander’s fictions are intellectual, dark, strange and often dystopian . . . If you like Kafka or Beckett, or MJ Hyland for that matter, you’ll like Takolander.’—Literary Minded.

'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 alone makes this a fascinating and worthwhile read. The elegant bend she gives to horrific, primal debasement is absolute genius'—Foreword Reviews (US).

‘Takolander writes with a subtle hold on both head and heart.  Her stories are tender, occasionally confronting, and always rewarding.’—Overland.

‘These perfectly crafted stories . . . carry a momentum and thoughtful contemplation on their own merit. To do justice to them in a critical review . . . well, that’s something else.’—ANZ Litlovers

‘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.’—Arts Hub

‘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.’—The Melbourne Review

‘An odd and unsettling journey into the dark heart of the human condition . . . The Double is a compulsively readable book, and Takolander’s prose is fluid and engaging.’—The Blurb Magazine.

‘Shot through . . . brilliantly with humour and satire.’—The Otago Daily Times (NZ).

‘An intriguing collection of short stories . . . The Double traverses the world from rural Australia and Africa to the Baltic land of Estonia. The esoteric tales explore themes of passion, death, desire and redemption.’—Sunday Life.

‘This is an enjoyable collection of stories . . . it has something of Hemingway in there which makes for an evocative read.’—The Geelong Advertiser.

‘A fine collection of short stories, both jarring and pleasurable to read, from a wonderfully novel imagination.’—Mascara Literary Review.

'A wonderfully engaging collection . . . both pleasurable to read and intellectually stimulating . . . delectable fare."Transnational Literature.

'En la categoría imperdible, lo que en inglés normalmente se conoce como must-read . . . escritos en una prosa escueta y precisa pero altamente poética.' Notas Literarias.

'Takolander draws upon original characters and experiments with narrative styles . . . The quality and breadth of these stories is testament to . . . the value of a single-author collection.'Westerly.