cover image Novel 11, Book 18

Novel 11, Book 18

Dag Solstad, trans. from the Norwegian by Sverre Lyngstad. New Directions, $15.95 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-0-8112-2826-8

A bourgeois man scavenges for meaning in the sly and emotionally rich latest from Solstad (Professor Andersen’s Night). Soft-spoken civil servant Bjørn Hansen left his wife and young son, Peter, in Oslo 18 years earlier and moved to a small town. Now, as he approaches his 50th birthday, his quiet life with a new woman, Turid, begins to wear on him. Bjørn leaves Turid to try and start over once again, and with his doctor develops a plan to seize control of his fate (“his great Negation, as he had begun to call it, through an action that would be irrevocable”), the details of which are revealed in the final act. The elaborate scheme, though, is interrupted when Peter, now 20, decides to move in with the father he barely knows. Written with a sharp eye for detail and featuring a winning cast (Turid is particularly vivid, as is the way Bjørn’s love for her ebbs as she grows older and becomes less beautiful to him; his contempt for his unpopular son is also sharp), the narrative offers much to admire, even if the second half lacks the keen emotional observation of the first and leaves the repercussions of Bjørn’s choices underexplored. Still, Solstad consistently intrigues. (June)