Dag Solstad - Novel 11, Book 18 (3 stars)

Dag Solstad - Novel 11, Book 18

The only three-time winner of the Norwegian Literary Critics Award, Dag Solstad follows up 2006's much praised Shyness and Dignity with this sophisticated, sometimes claustrophobic, representation of a mid-life crisis coming to an extreme end. The plot of Novel 11, Book 18 is often as uncompromisingly opaque as its title, but through the course of 200 pages of existential soul-searching, we're introduced to Bjorn Hansen, an Oslo bureaucrat who leaves home in pursuit of his lover and, 14 years later, is forced to confront his ambivalent attitude towards life once their relationship ends.

Bjorn's middle-aged musings are laid bare in detailed, suffocating prose that is drained of emotional stimulus, so it's hard to empathise with his actions. Novel 11, Book 18 may be a skilful exploration of one man's u-turn from indifference to determination, but it's also a book that fades from memory soon after the last page has been turned.

Novel 11, Book 18 is published by Harvill Secker.


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