July 12, 2011
Scandinavian authors have long been respected for their harrowing noirs. Most recently, the late Swedish author Stieg Larsson has kept bookstore stockpersons hapless and herniated with his shelf-emptying Millennium trilogy. Lesser known, and equally worthy of acclaim, is the Scandinavian humor genre, in which Norwegian author Johan Harstad has emerged the undisputed leader with Buzz Aldrin, What Happened to You in All the Confusion?
First published in Norwegian in 2005, and later turned into a television series in 2009, Seven Stories Press has finally and graciously published an English translation. In the novel, Mattias, a thirty-something year old gardener who has been likened to A Confederacy of Dunces’ Ignatius J. Reilly, has become obsessed and glorified the idea of being “second best.” He bases his often puzzling decisions on what his hero, second man on the moon Buzz Aldrin, might do in any given situation. Mattias’ ancillary philosophy eventually leads him to the remote Faroe Islands and a bizarre psychiatric halfway house full of like-minded subordinates. Harstad’s memorable characters and exotic Faroe Island backdrop are sure to make this book best-seller here in the States, as English-speaking readers are sure to enjoy learning just what sweet music a second-fiddle can make.