Knut Faldbakken: Aftenlandet (Twilight Country)

The latest addition to my website is Knut Faldbakken‘s Aftenlandet (Twilight Country). This is a low-key dystopian novel set in Sweetwater (the English name is used in the original Norwegian), in an unnamed industrial country. Things are not going well (but not too badly either). Allan Ung, his young wife Lisa and their four-year old son, Boy, have had enough of their small flat, with no garden in an insalubrious area so, when they get hold of a non-functioning but useable camper van, they move to the Dump, an area which was to be developed for a port but never was and is now an official and unofficial dump. Allan had given up his work as an architect, a job he hated, and works in a petrol station and will continue to work there part-time. There are a few (very few) others doing the same and they work together and survive as we gradually (very gradually) watch society go downhill. There is a bit of violence but very localised and no big bangs but we get climate change and the gradual breakdown of society as Allan, Lisa and Boy struggle to survive.

Nikolaj Frobenius: Latours katalog (De Sade’s Valet)

The latest addition to my website is Nikolaj Frobenius‘s Latours katalog (De Sade’s Valet). The focus is on Latour, the historical valet of the Marquis de Sade, though his story is much invented by Frobenius. His mother was the most repulsive woman in France, his father an escaped convict. He shows a nasty side as a child but also shows a keen interest in anatomy. When his mother dies, he heads for Paris, firstly to avenge the people who caused grief to his mother (he has a list) and secondly to study anatomy. Working in a brothel, he meets the Marquis de Sade and joins him on his travels, his stays in prison and his perverted life. We follow the life of the two and, later of the police officer trying to track down de Sade but also the murderer of the people on Latour’s list. There are lots of unpleasantnesses in this novel so it is not for the squeamish but Frobenius tells a good tale.

Tomas Espedal: Imot kunsten (Against Art)

The latest addition to my website is Tomas Espedal‘s Imot kunsten (Against Art). The narrator – Tomas Espedal – has just lost his wife and is now responsible for being both mother and father to his fifteen-year old daughter, Amalie. He is a writer and we learn how he became one but also see how he writes – very well – at the same time as we learn that we are, to a great extent, made by our families and we learn about the previous generations of his family and how their behaviour and actions influenced subsequent generations, including him, whether they liked it or not or admitted it or not. However, above all it is the fine writing of the author as he goes through life that makes this book.

Cora Sandel: Alberte og Jakob (Alberta and Jacob)

The latest addition to my website is Cora Sandel‘s Alberte og Jakob (Alberta and Jacob). This is a semi-autobiographical novel, the first in a trilogy, set in a small town, based on Tromsø. Alberta is a young woman who has left school and now has nothing to look forward to but marriage and a family. She clashes with her parents, who have their own problems, has only one friend, an outspoken, carefree young woman, and generally does not fit in or know where she is going. She is only close to her younger brother, Jacob, but he manages to escape, going to sea, and she is left alone. Everything was dead, joyless, sickening, without hope.

Jan Kjaerstad: Forføreren (The Seducer)

The latest addition to my website is Jan Kjaerstad‘s Forføreren (The Seducer). This novel is about Jonas Wergeland, a TV documentary producer, who charms everybody (hence the title) though women adore his magic penis. At the start of the novel he arrives home from Seville to find his wife has been murdered. We jump backward and forward as we follow his life. He has had huge success in Norway, making colourful documentaries of famous Norwegians, which has enabled him to travel the world and given him many adventures, from meeting Chairman Mao to almost being eaten by a polar bear. We learn of his childhood as well as of his current adventures, the twenty-three women in his life, and how he became the success he is today, culminating in the death of his wife. For me, however, the main character is the narrator who plays no role other than to narrate and who mocks the Norwegians, the characters and life.

Sigurd Hoel: Møte ved Milepelen (Meeting at the Milestone)

The latest addition to my website is Sigurd Hoel‘s Møte ved Milepelen (Meeting at the Milestone). Published only two years after World War II, this book had considerable impact in Norway, as it deals with the issue of Norwegian collaboration with the Nazis. Our unnamed narrator has provided a safe house for the Resistance and learns from one man he is sheltering that a man he had known as a student is now living in a rural village and is unhappy in his life but has joined the Nazi party. Our narrator will later examine why several people he knew had become collaborators with the Nazis but he is also sent to the village to find out why the Nazis seem to know what the Resistance is up to. Is there a spy? If so, who and why? He gets involved with various people from his past but, at the same time, ends up not really knowing why these people collaborated and, as he says, not finding the pattern in my own life. The book deservedly had considerable success both in Norway and abroad when published.

Axel Jensen: Ikaros – ung mann i Sahara (Icarus – A Young Man in Sahara)

The latest addition to my website is Axel Jensen‘s Ikaros – ung mann i Sahara (Icarus – A Young Man in Sahara). Our unnamed narrator, a young Norwegian, heads for Algeria but finds Algiers too noisy so goes off to the remote town of Tamanrasset, where the sensible doctor tells him everything is going to hell. No one will survive the next war. He learns of a Frenchman, Nerval, who had been in a concentration camp in the war and now is now out in the desert, sitting on a rock and living off goats’ milk. Our hero sets out on a temperamental donkey to join him and finds him playing with a horned snake and with a Tuareg family living nearby. It is Nerval who tells him it is just as though I were the only normal person in the whole world, only the lunatic can be quite normal in our time. Our hero is looking for himself and for meaning in this troubled world but it does not work out.

Jens Bjørneboe: Frihetens øyeblikk (Moment of Freedom)

Latest on my website: Jens Bjørneboe‘s Frihetens øyeblikk (Moment of Freedom) This is a thoroughly grim account by a forty-six year old Norwegian, living in a remote Alpine part of Germany called Heiligenberg, who cannot remember his own name. He works in a menial position for a court and is writing a History of Bestiality while studying the court and the people of the region. He recounts some of the horrors of the past – the Nazis, the Soviets, the Belgian Congo. The people in Heiligenberg seem, on the face of it, to be ordinary decent bourgeois but are anything but. Mass murders are routine and our hero uncovers a guilty secret which shows that most of the town people are depraved. We also learn of his travels and early life, which have given him material for his History. From my life I can hardly remember anything but murder, war, concentration camps, torture, slavery, executions, bombed-out cities, and the half-burned bodies of children he tells us and all that feeds into his book.

Lars Saabye Christensen: Beatles (Beatles)

The latest addition to my website is Lars Saabye Christensen‘s . The novel tells the stories of four Norwegian boys/young men from 1965 (when they are fourteen) to 1972. Initially, they are fairly conventional – they like pop music (and, obviously, the Beatles in particular, each one adopting the name of one of the Fab Four) and football, clash with their parents and often misbehave. As they grow older, girls, drugs and politics enter their lives. They are anti-the Vietnam War and US imperialism and opposed to Norway joining the EEC. They all have girlfriend problems and all struggle with where they are going in life. The book gradually gets darker as drugs and mental health issues come into the picture. The book gives a picture of Norway when, as elsewhere, things were changing, and our four heroes – and other characters – cannot always cope with this new world,

Johan Bojer: Den store hunger (The Great Hunger)

The latest addition to my website is Johan Bojer‘s Den store hunger (The Great Hunger). Bojer write about the poor and downtrodden. This book is about Peer Holm, the illegitimate son (as was Bojer himself) of a well-to-do army officer). He was farmed out to poor foster-parents in the Lofoten Islands, where the main activity was fishing. He hoped to inherit from his father when he died but only received a measly sum but managed to get work in a smithy and then studied engineering and had a successful career abroad before returning to Norway where he married and had children. However, he was soon bored and invested a lot of money in an engineering project which went wrong, leaving him back where he had been – flat broke. The moral of the story, clearly outlined by Bojer, is that money and wordly success are not the true path to happiness but, rather, it is a strong spirit, a belief in God and devotion to what the Germans call Kinder und Kirche – children and church, family and religion.

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