Swallowed by the Cold
“The Apartment” is from Jensen Beach’s new collection, SWALLOWED BY THE COLD (Graywolf, 2016). His writing has appeared in A Public Space, Cincinnati Review, Ninth Letter, the Paris Review, and The New Yorker, and online at Tin House, Kenyon Review, Electric Literature, Lit Hub, and American Short Fiction, among others. He holds an MFA in fiction from the Program for Poets and Writers at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, as well as an MA and BA in English from Stockholm University.
Publishers Weekly praised the collection: “Characters’ morally ambiguous actions . . . simultaneously provoke readers’ judgment and invite compassion. . . . [Swallowed by the Cold] memorably depicts how selfish humans can be, and how often we’re alienated from one another.”
Beach said this about the origin of his story: Summer 2009, my family and I spent the summer in Sweden. The view from the apartment we lived in was more or less the same as it is in “The Apartment.” Though as far as I know there were no dead bodies or potential daughters of former lovers across the courtyard. My wife and I had very small children then, and that summer I was on parental leave with our middle son while my wife went back to work. Every day my sons and I would get up and go into town to a park or museum or to meet their grandmother. Then midmorning, we’d come home to the apartment for naps and then lunch.
I’d spend nap time writing. This was after I’d spent a year back in the US in rural Massachusetts for graduate school; for two months city life and the proximity to so many other people had been surprising and annoying and amusing me. One day on our way back from the park, I saw that someone had taped a piece of paper with a name on it to the callbox outside the building. When I got up in the apartment I wrote what would become the first line of “The Apartment.” About two years later, back home, living then in Illinois, I opened the file that had the line, “Louise knew by the new name on the call box that someone had moved in.” And I started writing the story.