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Cheerful and generous articles from the old man against the stream

Dag Solstad is hunting for the novel's essence.


Day Solstad: Articles 2005 – 2014. Publisher October. 538 pages.

I can never help but draw the smile band when I read texts by Dag Solstad. His lyrics are unpretentious, even when they are about serious things like genealogy and Søren Kierkegaard. Dag Solstad is in many ways the old man against the stream, and he should thank you for taking up the fight against the commercial forces in the book industry. That he can do this based on the negative criticism of his latest novel The insoluble epic element of Telemark in the period 1591 – 1896, one must carry over with. After all, he is himself the Norwegian author. But before we get an explanation of what "the insoluble epic element" really means, we get an account, among other things, of the Polish Witold Gombrowicz's significance for Solstad's writing, and a not very juicy, but very factual depiction of the author's enthusiasm for sports football and skating. .
He can do just that for football and ice skating. I do not share his enthusiasm, and do not think his statements about lap times and football goals particularly fascinating. More interesting, however, are the essays on Gombrowicz, as well as Solstad's own debut novel Irr! Green! and about what was going on in the head of the author when he wrote Professor Andersen's Night. And not least the essay on Freud and Ibsen. As well as the essay on why he doesn't care about freedom of expression.

Avantgarde. Dag Solstad is, as you know, one literary human. Many authors do not cite their literary sources, but rather pour out their so-called dramatic lives, which are often constructions. Solstad's most important experiences are fruits of one reading life. He has previously stated that life experience is overrated. Not many will agree with him, but the author certainly doesn't care.
Dag Solstad is personally responsible for bringing avant-garde views of life and literary tastes into the Norwegian public. When he was young, the avant-garde in Norway was barely born. His anti-commercial attitude, coupled with his desire for literary innovation, has caused him to occasionally conflict with public cultural life. His latest novel was, as is well known, characterized as "boring" by most reviewers. And it was after this derailment that the author made his literary defense speech. That a novel should be entertaining and not boring? The author's sober assertion that "Swedish crime writer Håkan Nesser has been called the new Dostoevsky" calls for laughter. Here I laugh with Dag Solstad – not of him.
Avant-garde's birth is almost like Venus' second birth for Dag Solstad, and he continues this tradition with moody and misanthropic pathos. He likes books better than people, he confides to us. He prefers his library over conversations in a cafe.

Ibsen. Solstad enrolls in a good Norwegian Enlightenment tradition. He can tell without being blurry, he can enlighten and teach. Personally, I have never had anything against being taught. Learn more!
Ibsen's significance for Solstad's writing is well known. In the essay The hunt for the historic Ibsen he compares two Ibsen biographies – Ivo de Figueiredos and Michael Meyers. He thanks the former for not measuring Ibsen against our own time. Solstad is also amusing – and certainly hits the nail on the head – when he complains that our time suffers from a peculiar form of arrogance, which means that everything should be considered against our own contemporary, which is obviously the most outstanding epoch in human history . (In the novel Armand V reflects the protagonist on how it is possible to create a lexicon in six volumes from the Stone Age to our time, where the last three volumes are about our own time.)
And what about the historical-biographical method, which involves ending from work to life? Solstad writes: “[Figueiredo], for example, refuses to quit the work to the man. He refuses to make the fictional Jon Gynt to Ibsen's own father Knut Ibsen, or the fictional Mother Åse to Ibsen's mother Marichen Altenburg Ibsen, thereby finding an indication of how painful Henrik Ibsen's childhood has been since it hangs in and becomes poetry with the soon-to-be 40-year-old playwright. ” Then they begin Figueiredo's deconstruction of the Ibsenian myth of alleged poverty in the family. Ibsen was definitely a child of the better bourgeoisie!

The insignificant. One of the most interesting essays in the book is "What went on in my head when I wrote Professor Andersen's Night". Yes, since I genuinely love this novel, I was very interested to know what was going on inside the author's head saying he wrote this book. But what was really going on? Yes: Slowly it became Christmas Eve in Dag Solstad's brain, after he painstakingly gathered the loose threads into what was to become a book. The book is based on the vague novel idea of ​​Professor Andersen's solitary Christmas Eve celebration, and on the idea of ​​"the inadequacy". The ideas Solstad's novels are based on are strikingly often vague and almost insignificant – they can hardly be conveyed, so insignificant and ridiculous they are. examples: Professor Andersen's night: A man who spends Christmas Eve alone. Shame and dignity: A man who can't look up his umbrella. Eleventh novel, book eighteen: A man who places himself in a wheelchair and pretends to be paralyzed.
But I won't be fooled. Solstad's "insignificant" ideas are the very creation of the "novel by the novel". And therefore far from insignificant. He has this peculiar ability to cut out everything that does not genuinely belong to the novel, an ability very few writers have. Solstad is hunting for the novel's essence. That is why the insignificance of the idea is so important. Then we return to the concept of "the insoluble epic element", a term I had never heard of before Solstad's latest novel came out, a novel I quickly decided not to read, due to a rather delicate degree of reader friendliness. But the concept fascinates!

Solstad likes books better than people, he confides to us.

Solstad writes: “It was the insoluble epic element that led the novel Professor Andersen's night to the concept of 'God'. I must emphasize here that the insoluble epic element means that in a novel that cannot be traced back to psychological ability, historical sense, sociological acumen, metaphysical bulletins and the like, but which rests solely in itself. ”
Inner cheering. Was it the metaphysical longing that caused the author Solstad to introduce the term "God" in Professor Andersen's novel? No. Notice that he is not writing about God, but about "the concept of God." Is the novel about metaphysical longing? "It's not my metaphysical yearning, but the insoluble epic element that has determined the drive that made me end that novel just as I did," Solstad writes.
I find the term extremely interesting, yes, almost annoying. So annoying that I have now decided to sit down and read The insoluble epic element of Telemark in the period 1591 – 1896 this summer. I'm going to spend all summer on this, and I'm going to push everything else aside.
The book ends with an excellent essay on Kierkegaard, the highlight of the book, previously printed in the journal Agora. But "the insoluble epic element"? Who can understand it? I believe that once I can understand it, I will be filled with inner joy. Yes, an inner cheer.
Literary composition and deconstruction. Biography and life. Most of the lyrics are exciting. But far from everyone. Not everyone fertilizes my brain and germinates it. Some disappear into the empty nothingness.
And I do not justify Solstad in his reaction to receiving his latest novel. To that he appears as too self-righteous.

Næs is a writer and writer.

Henning Næs
Henning Næss
Literary critic in MODERN TIMES.

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