Order for £7.59 (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030
Doppler, By Erlend Loe. Head of Zeus, £7.99
Tuesday 08 January 2013
Will the Marmite test (love or loathe) apply in the UK to this extremely quirky novel? Over 100,000 Norwegians have chosen the first option and made the book a barnstorming success. Erlend Loe is a bestselling novelist in Norway, celebrated for his sardonic and unsparing take on modern society. His satirical point-of-view is the starting point for this strange and humorous book. Although some of the targets are less à propos in 2013 (the book has taken eight years to reach English readers, in a translation by Don Bartlett and Don Shaw), there are still some cogent points made. If, that is, you can accept the whimsy of a man conversing with a baby moose.
Doppler regards himself as a failed man of his time – although prepared to accept that the times themselves may be at fault. He has sustained a typical bourgeois Oslo existence with a successful career and family, but a tumble from his mountain bike results in a seismic mental shift. He decides to adopt a solitary life in the forest in the manner of Thoreau's Walden, attempting to strip from his soul every aspect of his previous way of living.
Short of food, Doppler shoots a moose. But the animal he kills is a female, and he finds himself adopting the calf, which he names Bongo. Lengthy conversations ensue between the two (or, more precisely, monologues – Bongo is a good listener). But this set-up is inevitably threatened. Doppler's wife tells him she's pregnant and that it is his duty to come home for the birth. More pressingly, he has a new neighbour – of markedly Right-wing views – so his philosophical calm once again begins to be replaced by desperation.
The naive style and humour here will not be to every taste, yet as a picture of a misanthrope struggling to lead a solitary life, Loe's narrative begins to establish an insidious grip. When one realises that the whimsicality is sugaring a rather bitter pill, reading the book becomes more complex. Readers able to cope with these absurdities may find themselves enjoying a darkly comic fable which makes, en passant, some astringent points about the way we live.
TVJamie's Sugar Rush reveal's campaigning chef's new foe
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 President Obama leaves touching comment on Humans of New York photo from Iran
- 2 If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
- 3 The Chinese city where men have 'three girlfriends because there are so many women'
- 4 German police forced to ask public to stop bringing donations for refugees arriving by train
- 5 Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
First Look at Bryan Cranston transformed into LBJ for HBO’s ‘All the Way’ film
The real reason Eddie Redmayne was cast as a trans woman in The Danish Girl
Star Wars: New action dolls launched on Force Friday ahead of The Force Awakens release
Ricki And The Flash, film review: Meryl Streep's rock'n'roll creation steals the show
Photographer captures the beauty and intensity of his girlfriend giving birth at home
Britain to take more refugees as Cameron bows to pressure after more than 250,000 back our campaign
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up