cover image Encircling


Carl Frode Tiller, trans. from the Norwegian by Barbara J. Haveland. Graywolf, $16 ISBN 978-1-55597-762-7

In this first volume of the ambitious Encircling Trilogy (winner of the European Prize for Literature), David’s memory has vanished and three voices from his youth recall his life in a series of letters. Jon writes of growing up in the sheltered town of Namsos, Norway, in the 1980s and how his sexual explorations with David proved that the bohemian “image of ourselves which we had formed was real.” The brooding vicar Arvid, on the other hand, saw in David, his stepson, a kindred spirit. “Like me,” he writes, “you had a great thirst for knowledge.” David’s friend Silje’s memory is different still—she writes wistfully of his “fanaticism and refusal to compromise.” The image of David that emerges is infused with stunning dimension, a stark contrast with the everyday domestic turmoil and illness the aging narrators cope with between letters. Silje bemoans the loss of “the rawness, the intensity, and the passion I had,” and Jon ruefully casts himself as a “young, once plump, man with girlish features and a receding hairline.” As the novel progresses, Tiller skillfully parries David’s shifting character into uncertainty about the narrative itself. (Feb.)