My wife and I had tried to read Norwegian writer Erlend Loe’s Doppler together a couple of years back, before we moved to Norway, but I was in no way ready for it at the time and it was just an exercise in frustration for the both of us.
Now that my Norwegian is now good enough that I can read most things without having to reach for the dictionary every third word, I thought it was time to tackle another novel. We’ve read extracts from Loe’s earlier novel Naïve. Super. in my Norwegian class, which sounds really interesting, but then I spottedDetektor on my wife’s and I thought I’d give that a go instead.
Whilst Erlend Loe is best known for his novels and children’s books, he’s actually a screenwriting graduate from the National Film School of Denmark and Detektor turned out to be a serendipitous choice because the stripped-back form of a screenplay makes it much easier to follow what’s going on, and there is no room for the non-native speaker/ (or in this case, reader) to get bogged down in heavy prose and metaphors.
At its core, Detektor is about Daniel, a listless psychologist fast approaching 30, trying to break free of his needy mother and make something of his not unpleasant but certainly unexciting life. Out metal detecting with his hilarious verbal diarohhea-suffering best friend one day, he chances on a small locket, which sets in motion an off-beat tale, peppered with crazy revelations, as Daniel tries to track down the owner of locket, solve a mystery involving a buried dog with the rest of his metal-detecting gang, try move out without upsetting his mother and deal with his crazy clients whilst trying not to go crazy himself.
Detektor is pacy, quirky, full of dark humour and very much in the Tarantino mould; a brilliant scene with some gym gorrillas requesting a flautist to play Iron Maiden is just one of the many times I found my drawing favourable comparisons to the Pulp Fiction and True Romance screenplays. I’m looking forward to seeing the film to see how much I missed or didn’t get as a result of the language barrier and my personal interpretations of things.
Films are, of course, always very different from the book, but even still, I was surprised by how much more sinister and dark the trailer looks than I felt the book to be. Given that my Norwegian is yet 100%, I’m sure that I missed some of the subtleties of the story but I was quite proud that I was able to detect (if you’ll excuse the pun) the symbolic significance of the metal detectors, which was confirmed by Loe in this
about the ideas behind Daniel's character (warning: it’s in Norwegian).
I really want to read
next but I’ve borrowed the four
books by Ingvar Ambjørnsen from my Norwegian teacher so they’re at the top of one of the reading piles. Elling has to be one of my favourite films, in any language, so I’m looking forward to those too. (It is much better than this cheesy American trailer makes out, but I can't find an original Norwegian one.)
It feels good to be able to start building up a reading list of books in Norwegian; it’s just like finding a new whole new section in the library that I would have ordinarily would have walked right past because it was closed off to me.