Love, by Norwegian writer Hanne Ørstavik and translated by Martin Aitken, is a strange little book. At 125 pages it should have been a very quick read but it ended up taking me a week. I’m not sure exactly why I dreaded picking it up to read except maybe I just wasn’t in the mood for such minute detail. The story is set over the course of several hours on a bitterly cold night and follows the seperate actions of a mother and her 8 year old son. They’ve recently moved to a small, isolated Norwegian town where they’ve met very few people, so far. The son sets out to sell raffle tickets in the village.
“Jon follows the old man down the stairs. They’re steep, the man takes one step at a time and there’s a thick rope he holds on to at the side like a banister. At the bottom they go through a little passage, a mat of artificial grass covering the floor. The place smells rank and strange, Jon thinks it smells of soil. The man stops at a door at the end. He turns toward Jon, his hand on the handle.”
While he’s away, the mother decides to go to the local library. Finding it closed, she wanders over to a small funfair where she meets a man. The book follows Vibeke and her experience with the man while her son, Jon, is left on his own to wander the village with not a thought for him by Vibeke. The whole situation is extremely strange augmented by the attention to every little detail of surroundings, thoughts, delusions, and physical discomforts of the protagonists. The ending comes as deceptively meandering as the story, leaving the reader to their own conclusion.
I think it’s the complete lack of thought for her son coupled with the tendancy for delusion by both mother and son that I found off-putting. It wasn’t a pleasant read but if you’re up for something different, this is your book.