The New York Review Of Books: "Under Their Skin" by Laura Miller
Writing in The New York Review Of Books, Laura Miller goes deep into Olga Ravn’s The Employees: A Workplace Novel Of The 22nd Century. The premise is unsettling, as is the title:
It is the first book by the Danish poet, novelist, and literary critic to be translated into English and was shortlisted for the International Booker Prize in 2021. Presented as a collection of records, primarily the transcripts of statements made by the crew of the Six Thousand Ship to a committee of unspecified composition, it documents the breakdown of the ship’s mission after the vessel arrives at a planet called New Discovery and the crew brings aboard a selection of objects found there.
But the objects—which are referred to only as “the objects,” the most reductive and nondescriptive term for pretty much anything—aren’t monsters and don’t chase the crew members around. None of the speakers offer a full description of these things (or creatures?), but Ravn has said they were inspired by the sculptures of the Danish artist Lea Guldditte Hestelund, with whom she has collaborated. From the fragments of information offered, they appear to resemble living stones. (Hestelund’s marble sculptures look like fleshy blobs.) They come in varying colors, patterns, and textures. They hum, and they change temperature. One secretes a resinlike substance when exposed to sunlight. Another intermittently produces what appear to be eggs. Above all, they emit fragrances that most (but not all) of the crew find soothing. Some crew members like to sleep with their faces covered by cloths saturated in the resin.