Vidden av en fot
(The Width of a Foot)

Information · Cover · Reviews · Contents


Texts · Original title: Vidden av en fot · In Swedish · Stockholm: Norstedts, 2008, 420 pages · Cover: Lotta Kühlhorn · Cover photo from private collection · ISBN: 978-91-301803-4 · English language rights available


In The Width of a Foot, Aris Fioretos gathers texts written in the course of the last quarter century. The volume contains biographical sketches, but also poems and aphorisms, essays and pamphlets.

The texts scrutinze world literature from Heraclitus to Winnie the Pooh, by way of Nelly Sachs, Nabokov, and Charlie Chaplin. Anatomical field studies are juxtaposed with ruminations on libraries, chatterboxes, and couches. And over all that sun shines which has the width of a human foot. It is a volume both idiosyncratic and general, that celebrates the body’s 37 degrees Celsius as principle.

Aris Fioretos was born 1960 in Gothenburg. Since his debut in 1991, he has published a series of books, most recently the internationally acclaimed novel The Truth about Sascha Knisch (2002). He has received prizes and awards both in Sweden and abroad. Fioretos has translated Paul Auster and Vladimir Nabokov, among others, into Swedish, and also been the counsellor for culture at the Swedish Embassy in Berlin. He writes regularly for the morning newspaper Dagens Nyheter.


“Dressed in sailor’s jacket and captain’s cap, white t-shirt, brand new, rolled-up blue jeans, and the onlt sneakers he would ever own, white as snow, the father stood in the middle like a cross between shipping magnate and hamnbuse. Raising his fist toward the viewer, he did his best to take his role seriously. At his sides were his two sons. Both wore jeans and darkblue plush sweaters. On their heads were sailor’s caps which most of all resembled textile cake forms. Through the panorama window, their mother — and, later, whoever looked at the photo — could make out the lake, gray-blue and springlike, before it was transformed, halfway up, into a milky white sky. These were the custodians of paradise.” (From the book)


“It is a quiet and stylish delight to read, smilingly, the playful Aris Fioretos, now that finally he has collected many of his very best texts in a gorgeous bok entitled The Width of a Foot. . . . Everything seems to be an addventure for the curious Fioretos, who never seems able to decide whether he should be a critic or a writer. He writes without distance about the discovery of the unconditional pleasures of reading, and how, surprised, he takes part in its delights. . . . These are sharp thoughts outside of habitual reasoning. Sarcasm, he seems to imply, is the last thing to abandon man. His tone is unyieldingly intelligent, he does not worry if the reader follows him as he demnstrates a faultless sense for improbably coincidences, a shrewd sense of humour that touches on both cunning and studious subtlety: only when he loses his head can he receive it. . . . Amazingly good, wickedly enchanting, seductively wonderful.” –

The Width of a Foot is extremely readable, often a brilliant book. Not least of all, I appreciate the intellectual agility in Fioretos’ perspective and the pregancy of his observations.” – Magnus Eriksson, Svenska Dagbladet

“As Fioretos himself intimates, the boarder between these sections are anything but clear, and it is probably just that which I like tiwth this book: that what is private is exposed to criticism, and criticism turns personal. offhand, I cannot think of any Swede who moves with such justification and at the same time elegantly from personal recollections to literary discoveries, straigth through bookjackets and skin. . . . When he is at his best, he achieves something essential this way: that movement, that experience, that shiver — that which you cannot interpret or talk your way into, but which may be the whole point of why you read at all.” – Anders Johansson, Expressen

”[The Width of a Foot is] equal parts invigoration and succinctness. The private person’s immersion in childhood and youth are almost provocatively discrete, but precisely by virtue of the terseness and omissions notoriously charged. High swagger and intensity. And even if a certain reserve may accompany his aphorisms, in his essays and the hybrid forms more inclined toward fiction, Fioretos  has what the sports world prabably would term world class. . . . The conviction of his greatness — the writer’s and the reader’s — rests on five pillars: shrewdness, confidence, erudition (aside from the never resting companion Nabokov, half a literary history swishes by). And, most important, devotion and courage. Fioretos is not even retroactively lukewarm when faced with the Sex Pistols.” – Jan Karlsson, Kristianstadbladet

”Aris Fioretos is a virtuoso crafter of metaphors and analogies. With nimble fingers he twists and turns the very essence of literature, planing, sanding and polishing his reflections on the art of letters, creating, and language until the fit and finish are perfect. . . . Such unashamedly highbrow writers are not common on Swedish soil. Occasionally one can feel awkward in the encounter with his sharply dressed expressions, as if they required one to straighten one’s slouch and don one’s best Sunday outfit. But his texts undeniably offer up a plethora of surprising perspectives, as well as furnishing a well-honed sense of humour.” – Anna Lingebrandt, Helsingborgs Dagblad

”An ambitious trusteeship of the œuvre propre, then — or as the Polish writer Witold Gombrowicz has it, an administration of one’s own genius, but why not? The book is an excellent introduction to Fioretos’ broad œuvre, and for faithful readers a handy compilation of disparate texts that on closer inspection turn out to be linked in a web of references and tropes encompassing language, meaning, and the absence of meaning.” – Kristina Lundblad, Göteborgs-Posten

”Fioretos is in a particularly good mood, and it catches. Here we have something as unfashionable as literature that believes in and loves literature. And this is no timid worshipper deferentially scraping his foot in the dust, but a rather irreverent lover. They tend to be the best ones.” – Karin Nykvist, Sydsvenska Dagbladet

”His philosophical enjambments and learned associative leaps are frequently so breathtaking that one has to turn back to the beginning of the sentence, reeling from vertigo, and ever so carefully picks one’s way again across a bridge roped of knotty metaphors to the other side. Once there, one’s marvel is all the greater at the view across the profundities one has just overarched. Fioretos goes his own way, nosing out his own trails in all corners of world literature — not least its overshadowed grey areas.” – Nils Schwartz, Dagens Nyheter

”With an Austrian mother and a Greek father, alienation had an early and natural place in Aris Fioretos’ self-perception. In it can also be traced an unwillingness to bend to the vagaries and dictates of the times. This stance is evident in his criticism and literary appraisals as well, which are at once authoritative and self-willed — in the best sense of the word.” – Peter Viktorsson, Borås Tidning


Foreword, 7


Barbarian Recollections, 11 · Fieldstudies in Anatomy, 24 · The World’s Navel, c. 1965, 28 · Wog’s Art, 34 · Manna from Heaven, 46 · Countdown, 49 · Typewriter God, 54 · Oh, Vienna, 57 · Scenes from a Shakey Life, 63


Tender Intervals, 77 · My Febrile Library, 87 · Unsorted, 109 · Daniel Paul Schreber No. 2 Requests an Audience, 147 · The Watchmaker’s Love for Bats, 151 · Under the Dog’s Star, 157 · Plaidoyer for Chill, 163 · Incubation, 167 · ”Hello-o?”, 168 · Brief Attempt to Prove the Existence of the Soul, 173 · Associations Concerning a Piece of Furniture, 176 · Notes to a Foot, 181 · The Biology of Literature, 186


Outside, 221 · Celan’s Fracture, 239 · The X of Poetry, 243 · Frostenson’s Mouth, 257 · Afterword for Durs Grünbein, 279 · Kl!ng, 293 · My Orchideous Masculinity, 304


Release from Russia, 325 · Industry of Night, 343 · Greetings from the Highland, 347 · Late Afternoon in Evolution, 376 · From the History of the Heart, 377 · Goose Pimple Elegies, 393 · Traces, Oblivion, 406 · Declaration of Love (For Miss Clock), 409

Notes, 411

Illustrations, 420