(THIS ARTICLE IS MACHINE TRANSLATED by Google from Norwegian)
Alf I. Veber is king. Everything he takes turns into gold. At least as long as he doesn't make an effort, as long as he doesn't have an overall goal.
As a youngster, he is a goalkeeper talent Norway has never seen before, but drops it all without hesitation when his girlfriend asks for it. At Blindern, he quickly gains a reputation as a super lover in a class of his own, but only among girls he has little interest in. As a student in the history of ideas, he delivers a very good master's thesis, but only after putting the list significantly lower than originally thought. As a casual opinion writer from the Department of the History of Ideas, he is well used and recognized, as a superficial viewer of art, he is a gift to his gallery-owning wife. As an internet entrepreneur he earns millions, as a computer hacker he spreads the virus "I love you" to the whole world, and as a street musician in London he writes, anonymously, well worth noting, this year's big hit.
Alf I. Veber is a walking success in everything that doesn't matter to him. In all that really matters, he is a stinging defeat.
Reviewed in Ny Tid
The first and biggest defeat is already hitting him as a 12-year-old. The six-year-old friend Vera, who Alf adores, takes an overdose of pills and dies while Alf stands outside the locked cabin door in vain trying to solve the cryptic code he overheard Vera and her father referring to in a conversation about where the extranet was hidden. Had he only known more about Big Ben and Corinthian columns, he could have saved her.
After this, Alf becomes a collector. Of information, information, bits and pieces of knowledge that may, sometime in the future, prove to be crucial. Lifesaving. But how does it all come together? How to create system in an overwhelming chaos of information?
Alf tries. First in book form, an overwhelmingly failed project, thoroughly slaughtered in every large and small newspaper, worst of all in Ny Tid, where the headline read: Air, wind, nothing. Then as proofreader and registry registrar for a new Norwegian encyclopedia. He will soon be fired, after registering links and links that the average reader and lexicon editors would never have dreamed of. Finally, he tries with the internet portal "euroway", which aims to collect and systematize a demanding selection of cultural, intellectual and significant information about Europe. But here too he fails, as euroway will soon be acquired and turned into norway, a norwegian portal where national costumes, the royal family and naked Norwegian actors quickly become the most popular links.
Enthusiasm and objection
The information chaos is about to suffocate Alf. The hernias, the pieces, the associations, the unclear connections, it becomes too much to relate to. Too difficult to systematize.
Appropriately enough, this is also what stimulates my biggest objection to – but also partly my enthusiasm for – The King of Europe as a novel. What pulls up pulls down at the same time.
The novel's 511 pages are suspiciously reminiscent of Alf's own thoughts, here are layer upon layer, digression upon digression, association upon association, information upon information. As a reader, it is difficult to relate to all the bits and pieces of knowledge we gain about Alf, his thoughts and opinions, his life. The information chaos is complete, both for Alf and for the reader.
At the same time, this is a move that makes the novel something more than a story about success and disappointments, about emptiness and abundance, about saving and being saved. The form of the novel confirms its content, and vice versa. So also with the language. Here is an abundance of words, of lyrics, of associations, of fragments and bits and small and large leaps of thought. In a concise, fast language, precise and fluent, wordy and economical at the same time.
Jan Kjærstad himself draws Laurence Sternes Tristram Shandy into the picture, and it can be tempting to continue the line the author himself has drawn. Like Tristram Shandy, the King of Europe bombards the reader with information, and one wonders if Jan Kjærstad, like Laurence Sterne, has gotten a little lost in all the information. At least it's done quickly for the reader to do so. Especially when after reading close to 300 pages, you still have the feeling of reading the introduction.
Perhaps it can be compared to the moon Jupiter's moon. In Alf's childhood, it has four moons, one of which is Europe. Alf's own kingdom. But as Alf gets older, more and more moons are discovered. Finally, Jupiter does not have four, but a full 63 moons. Everything is getting more and more complicated. More extensive. More. With the consequence that Alf's kingdom shrinks, it becomes smaller, less significant.
The moon Europe is drowning in ever new discoveries. The King of Europe drowning in ever new information. Both had been served with a little less information. Too much of the good is still too much.
Marit O. Bromark