At the risk of being accused that my blog is saturated with texts about Erlend Loe’s work, I have to write down my experiences with “Volvo Trucks”, because, sadly, that was the only novel by Erlend Loe translated into Serbian that I hadn’t read. Until two weeks ago.
All I can hope for now is that the author keeps writing a book a year, which is something a Serbian publishing house, “Geopoetika” (which has exclusive rights to his work here in Serbia) promised me. They promised he’d do that, and that already sounds fishy, doesn’t it? But in this case I’ll overlook the implications of what it means for a writer to have that kind of pressure and whether that makes him a little less of a writer, because if anyone asked me, I’d make him write at least three books a year. Threaten him with his life, if that’s what it takes. And now, while I’m writing this, I wonder if I should have put some kind of disclaimer on my blog about not being serious about things like “threatening with life”, etc.?
In “Volvo Trucks” we follow Doppler where he left off in the novel “Doppler”: on an exciting journey to the unknown, on a quest to make this world a better place, joined by a young moose, Bongo, and his son, Gregus (not sure how his name is spelled in Norwegian). While most of the previous novel was set in the woods, allowing us to experience nature as freedom and an escape, “Volvo Trucks” is set in two Swedish households and centers around two seemingly totally different characters who lure Doppler into their strange webs.
The first is Maj Brit, over ninety years old woman who smokes hashish, dances and walks barefoot on the grass around a tree to forget her deceased husband and her parrots that were taken away from her. The second is Anton fon Boring whose strict discipline of a scout and bird-watcher, sleeping outside most of his life and strange eating habits make him a healthy, self-satisfied man. Falling for the charismatic, destructive powers of Maj Brit, and then becoming paralyzed by seductive authority of fon Boring, Doppler will continue to struggle to find meaning in his life.
What I like about this novel that wasn’t there in “Doppler”, I think, is the continual appearance of the author who freely talks about his narrative structures in his usual, humorous/mocking manner. Though this book is as unpretentious as all his others and doesn’t seem to want to educate or enlighten, I found it very educational for a constantly learning writer such as myself, and very freeing, for that matter.
First he showed me that we are on the same page about what a piece of literary work should do: “… because it is not the most important what is happening in a book, but how, and what’s especially important here is the language that describes this how.” And then he showed me a playful way to engage with the reader, or, on a broader level, he showed me that I can get away with anything as long as it is interesting: “…this is something you can always easily resort to when writing. You can jump through time. Back and forth. It’s been done before and it will be done again, and so now it’s been done here, right under your nose.”
Erlend Loe comes in and out of the novel, which doesn’t prevent us from being completely involved with the characters and what happens to them, and he does it confidently, not afraid that his silly intermissions might undermine his authority or the structure of the story. For me, it is definitely something to admire and maybe steal a little.
So, in expectation of his next novel, I’ll go now and see how my own stories are coming along and if I should poke my nose in any of them.