Last year I was enchanted by Norwegian novelist Erlend Loe’s English language debut, Doppler. This year I am equally impressed by Lazy Days (Anansi), a bestseller in Norway as Stille dager i Mixing Part when it was published in 2009.
Bror Telemann is obsessed with celebrity chef Nigella Lawson. An obsession which comes to a head when Bror takes his family on a holiday to the Alpen spot that he believes spawned the birth of the Nazi movement. Bror is in love with everything British. Nina, his wife, loves everything German. So their Alpen vacation is bound to tension-filled… especially when Bror spends all his time virtually stalking the delectable Nigella.
Lazy Days is told primarily in unadorned dialogue between husband and wife. On the surface of things, not very much at all is happening, but it is Erland’s skill that he can move things along so forcefully without much apparent motion. This scene from early in the book:
Did you buy any red wine?
It’s on the worktop in the kitchen.
But, darling, this is German wine.
I don’t like it when you call me “darling.”
I thought we loved each other.
Of course we do.
So what’s the problem?
You say “darling” when you’re annoyed, imagining that your on-the-surface friendly tone will give the impression that your aggression is subdued and under control. But the effect is quite the opposite. It has nothing to do with your love for me, even though you may think so.
I want wine, Nina, not a discussion about you and me.
The wine’s on the worktop.
As with Doppler, there is something darkly charming about Lazy Days, but also unexpected. It observes post-modern family life and the effects of celebrity culture and asks you to draw your own conclusions. Is it brilliant? It may be brilliant. But it is also funny as hell. Don’t miss it. ◊
Jones Atwater is a regular contributor to January Magazine.