Friday, March 30, 2012

It’s through the IFFP Window (A murder most mundane)

professor-andersens-night 1
What if ? after eating a great meal alone, maybe you’ve had a couple of glasses of your favourite spirit, &  now thoroughly relaxed you look out of the window, casting a comfortable possessive eye over this, your neighbourhood, your domain that you know every brick of. What if whilst you are doing this, you see a murder committed ?

How would you react?
Would you report it?
Are you sure?

Christmas Eve and Professor Anderson is a contented successful man spending this eve by himself in his apartment, quite happy with his lot as he prepares his traditional meal in his traditional manner. Pal Anderson is a 55 year old Professor of Literature, living a life of apparent ease, untroubled by his existence as he relaxes with a meal and a couple of glasses of good cognac. He glances over at the windows of his neighbours & observes what looks like a beautiful young woman, he glances again and this time he sees a man murdering her.

Faced with this act he recoils back with shock and horror. He heads to the phone and picks it up, before finding himself unable to make the call, unable to report to what he himself perceives is an awful crime. At first it’s as though he is merely postponing his decision, reasoning the why’s and wherefores, but his inaction soon leads to prevarication, in that he is actively evading making the call. The next day he goes to a dinner party at the house of  his friend, he even sets off early with the aim of discussing his dilemma with his best friend, but finds himself unable to. We then follow the Professor over a period of a couple of months as his inability to act becomes a point that brings his whole life under question, until he is questioning every aspect of his world. Even bumping into the murderer in a sushi bar leads to no more than another round of self analysis.

Although this book is centred around a murder, like the Professor himself, it explores everything bar the murder. Pal Anderson and his existential angst meander from location to location, like some lab rat caught in a maze constantly stumbling over this most mundane of murders.

This is a beautiful and subtly written book and at times this is it’s problem, there’s a drowsiness, an indolence to the tale and although that was a reflection of the Professor’s dilemma, at times I felt we were stuck in the doldrums. There’s also a great deal of intelligence in this book, that makes this harder to write about without name dropping  the usual suspects, it’s almost as if the book is better a couple of days after you’ve finished it, when it has had time to percolate through your thought processes.

In a way the book reminded me more of a research paper - detailing a certain segment of society - than a thriller, the dry almost clinical style and the third person narrative combine to give the idea of some individual monitoring the professor’s every move with notepad in hand. Despite this the book has moments of humour and can be poignant & moving as though Dag Solstad felt some affection for his lab rat.

Dag Solstad
Born 16 July 1941, is a Norwegian novelist, short-story writer. He has written close to 30 books and has received the Norwegian Literary Critics Award three times. His works have been translated into 20 languages.
Dag Solstad (Wiki)
literaturfestival - dag-solstad

Agnes Scott Langeland
Born in Scotland, Agnes Scott Langeland has resided in Norway since 1971. As a translator, she has mainly focused on contemporary Norwegian literature and culture. In addition to her translations of Kjell Askildsen, she has published poems by Rune Christiansen in The Edinburgh Review; and Petter Mejlænder's book Pushwagner (Magikon, 2008). She is currently a lecturer in the English language at the University of Agder.


Unknown said...

Not a fave, good but not excellent. I'd be surprised if this one got any further (my review, very similar to yours, will be out early next week).

Mark said...

I agree: I liked the idea, but I think it was just that bit too introspective, and thus became a bit tiresome. A shame, because it definitely has something going for it.

stujallen said...

oh this is one I quite Liked ,simple and complex on another level not easy to pull off ,all the best stu

@parridhlantern said...

Hi Tony, It's not that I didn't admire it,just it's introspection was to much of the navel gazing variety.

Hello Mark, Yes also liked the idea, on paper I thought this would have been my favourite & would give the author another go, but..... it's that but, that gets me every time.

Hi Stu, It's not that I didn't like it, just that not as much as I thought I would, totally agree with your remark, it is definitely both, just there's better on this list.

Judith / Leeswammes said...

Hmm, you make it difficult! You present me a book with a great premise, by a Norwegian writer (tick!) but then... too much introspection? Should I try it anyway? Or is it not for the likes of me? What you say, Gary?

@parridhlantern said...

Hi Judith, I liked it, just didn't love it, but mines is just one opinion, Stu loved it & it's only 154 pages long