Novel 11, Book 18 by Dag Solstad

Novel 11, Book 18 by Dag Solstad. The reason I started reading this Norwegian author is that I had previously read other books originally written in Norwegian and translated into English by Sverre Lyngstad, like “Hunger” by Knut Hamsun.

Fifty-year-old Bjorg Hansen has been living in a small city, where he fled to be with his mistress almost two decades ago. Now, the mistress is gone, and although he has no contact with his previous wife, Hansen keeps in touch with their son, Peter.

Hansen works as the treasurer of the city and, being passionate about literature, joins the town’s theatrical society, making some friends. Despite this, he feels lonely and uncertain about the future. As a plan slowly forms in his mind, his son gets in touch, announcing he’ll come to town to study optometry. Eventually, father and son share Hansen’s apartment, but it turns out to be challenging for Hansen. Sharing his home with his son becomes an unpleasant experience, not because of conflicts, but simply because Hansen doesn’t like Peter’s personality.

The novel is really good and occasionally conveys an existentialist message. Hansen feels he hasn’t done anything interesting or important in his life. He fears dying in silence with nothing to say. Everything around him, including his son, seems dull and uninteresting.

At some point, it’s revealed that Hansen plans to commit fraud. If he succeeds, he and his accomplice will gain a large amount of money. For this insurance fraud, he needs to travel to Lithuania, fake a car accident, and arrange a surgery to make him effectively disabled, leading to financial compensation. Hansen then returns to Norway in a wheelchair.

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