January 21, 2011
From Jenny Johannessen at Penciltwister:
For me Harstad’s character, Mattias, is a central contemporary voice of those in-between’s. He is also the One in the book – the individual, the center of causality. But even so, it is not an egomaniac who fills the pages. You feel like slapping him for his apathetic and apologetic nature, and yet you sympathize and identify with him. The novel centers around a person who is dislodged and alienated from himself, his family, his girlfriend and society so much, and just wants to fizzle out in the great vast ocean of people, to not attract attention or make a fuzz, that he ‘flees’ from Norway to the Faroe Islands. A place where no one knows him and he knows no one. In this postmodern, fast-paced lifestyle he is one person who does not feel or doesn’t want to feel the drive of a winner, a top-competitor, someone who strives to be the best, at one point it states that he wanted to be the best second-best or runner up. He just wants to get by, to fill some service void, and get on with it. At the same time he is caught between two places, because he is aware of the fact that he doesn’t want to disappoint those who are close to him – he is scared to oblivion of being useless, of being in the way. He creates a buffer around his person and all around him. But on the Faroes he discovers a group of people (or rather they discover him) who take him in – at a psychiatric half-way house – and he connects with them. They are in a way embodiments of his own fears, and at the same time mirrors of his situation. Together they form a society of in-betweens.
It’s not very often someone from outside the Faroe Islands sits down with a pen and starts writing a novel using the islands as a backdrop. And in a way it feels very strange reading this without giving way too much attention to the scenery when you know Klaksvík, stood freezing in a bus shelter on Hvítanesvegur and drove too many times around the islands in a car because there is little else to do when you are uninspired. And if I am not much mistaken, the photo on the cover is of the road to Gomlurætt – a symbol of a halfway place between modern city and quiet home town. Always covered in fog – timeless. Very symbolic! But then again, it is not a story of the Faroes but of Mattias and all the people.
The style of narration is exquisite, so vulnerable and rambling at points and concise at others. Some parts of the book have sentences that go on for 2-3 pages without a punctuation, and you find yourself running along with this fast pace, this ‘have-to-get-it-out-no-matter-how-it-sounds’ pace. He describes with fervor the in-the-moment scenery that you make faces and places come alive in your head while you read instantaneously. I think it is also this in-the-moment moments that Mattias lives by and can cope with. The world is so big, there are so many people, all the people everywhere, that he chooses to focus on one person or one feeling at a time.
Read the rest of the review here.