Archive for the ‘Norwegian Literature’ Category

I discovered Hanne Ørstavik’sLove‘ when I was looking at Archipelago Books’ catalogue last year. I got it at that that time, but never got around to reading it. Then I read Miracle’s (from ‘The Book-Butterfly) review of the book recently, and got inspired by it and decided to pick this book up. I finished reading it today in one sitting.

A single mother and her son have moved into a small town. It is the son’s birthday the next day. By an accident of circumstances, they both leave the home in the evening, and end up meeting strangers and having different adventures. You have to read the book to find out what happened next.

The story has only a few main characters. Nothing much happens in it. There is a lot unsaid which is there below the surface, waiting to burst out. Hanne Ørstavik’s offers a masterclass on the old creative writing rule – “Show, don’t tell”. Whether the author describes different kinds of love in the story, or whether she leaves the interpretations of love to our imagination – this is all up to discussion. You should read the book and ask yourself what you think about it.

My favourite character in the book was an old man who comes in the beginning. He was cool. But all the characters in the story were quite interesting. Hanne Ørstavik writing is soft and flows smoothly like the evening breeze.

I’ll leave you with some of my favourite quotes from the book.

“She wants her hair to look like a cloud caressing her face.”

“She feels like they share something now. It feels like pushing a boat from the shore, the moment the boat comes free of the sand and floats, floats on the water.”

“The whisky is golden, like distilled fire.”

“I’ll sheathe us both in speechless intimacy, until we’re ready for the abruptness of words.”

“She thinks the speed at which a person reads says something about the kind of rhythm they possess, the way they are in life.”

“She feels the lure of sitting with a good book, a big thick one of the kind that leave an impression stronger and realer than life itself.”

Have you read Hanne Ørstavik’s book? What do you think about it?


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I discovered ‘Doppler‘ by Erlend Loe sometime back. I love Norwegian and Scandinavian literature but haven’t read one recently, and so was excited to read this.

The story is narrated by Doppler. He lives in the forest bordering the city at the start of the story. He used to be a regular guy – worked hard, had a good job, was a responsible family man, with a kind wife and two kids. Then one day his father died. And then he goes cycling through the forest and trips on some tree roots and falls. He is not able to get up or call for help and while he is down something happens. Something in his mind opens up and lets in a new kind of light and suddenly he starts questioning everything about his life. Before long he moves into the forest and starts living there with a baby elk for company and the beautiful things that happen after that form the rest of the story.

I loved ‘Doppler‘. Doppler’s narrative voice is wonderful and his sense of humour is charming and I couldn’t stop laughing at many of his observations. The book asks many of the big questions on what is important in life without providing any simplistic answers. It is not all wonderful and pleasant for Doppler in the forest and the book doesn’t shy away from depicting that. One of the things I loved about the book was the way the forging of new friendships is described. The way Doppler and the baby elk, whom he calls Bongo, become friends is itself complex, because it starts with a heartbreaking event, but when they start hanging out together, and Doppler starts treating Bongo like a human child, it makes us smile with pleasure. Before long Doppler’s son starts camping in the forest with him and he becomes friends with Bongo, and Bongo’s friend circle starts going up. There are three other fascinating characters in the story, with whom Doppler becomes friends, but I don’t want to write about them, because it is more pleasurable to discover about them yourself.

I enjoyed reading ‘Doppler‘. It was such a pleasurable read and I was smiling most of the time when I was reading it. I can’t wait to read more books by Erlend Loe.

I’ll leave you with some of my favourite passages from the book.

“…as a cyclist you’re forced to be an outlaw. You’re forced to live on the wild side of society and at odds with established traffic conventions which are increasingly focussed on motorised traffic, even for healthy people. Cyclists are an oppressed breed, we are a silent minority, our hunting grounds are diminishing all the time and we’re being forced into patterns of behaviour which aren’t natural to us, we can’t speak our own language, we’re being forced underground. But be warned because this injustice is so obvious, and it cannot surprise anyone that anger and aggression are accumulating in cyclists and that one fine day, when non-cyclists have become so fat that they can hardly manoeuvre themselves in and out of their cars, we will strike back with all our might and main.”

“On the kitchen worktop there is the biggest Toblerone that money can buy. It weighs four and a half kilos; it’s over a metre long and as wide as my thigh. I’ve often seen bars like that myself. At Kastrup and other airports I used to fly on business before moving into the forest. But I’ve only ever bought the small ones. I’ve never dared to go the whole hog and buy the big one. It was being nice that held me back, I recollect. Always being nice. Small Toblerone bars are nice. They demonstrate a father’s consideration for his family. He remembered them. He thought of them. But big Toblerone bars are too big to be nice. They’re extreme and say dark things about the buyer. He’s got an eating problem. He’s lonely. He’s weird. He’s capable of anything.”

“It’s embedded in our DNA that we constantly have to be doing things. Finding things to do. As long as you’re active that’s fine, in a way, however mindless the activity. We want to avoid boredom at all costs, but I’ve started to notice that I like being bored. Boredom is underrated. I tell Gregus that my plan is to bore myself to happiness.”

“It’s become far more difficult to do things, and it’s become impossible to do nothing. Doing nothing is a very demanding job when other people are constantly on your back.”

“One problem with people is that as soon as they fill a space it’s them you see and not the space. Large, desolate landscapes stop being large, desolate landscapes once they have people in them. They define what the eye sees. And the human eye is almost always directed at other humans. In this way an illusion is created that humans are more important than those things on earth which are not human. It’s a sick illusion. Perhaps elk are the most important creatures when it comes down to it, I say to Bongo. Perhaps you’re the ones who know best but you’re extremely patient. I doubt that, of course, but who knows? It’s definitely not humans anyway. I refuse to believe that.”

Have you read ‘Doppler‘? What do you think about it?

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