My goldfish memory often allows me to experience a new book by a certain author as “even better” than the previous one that I totally loved. For example, I thought that it couldn’t get better than Doppler for Erlend Loe (and his thankful readers), and I actually didn’t change my mind after reading its sequel, Volvo Trucks (though it was also great), but as soon as I finished The End of the World As We Know It yesterday, I thought it should be put on the throne, to rule all Mr. Loe’s novels.
Doppler 3 is written in Erlend Loe’s recognizable humorous style, and the first part of the book I was mostly laughing. But I don’t recall humor coming with so much heaviness in the earlier novels from the series. In The End of the World, first we see Doppler thinking about the way our world functions, how upside-down it seems to him, and then we follow him on his unsuccessful quest to make sense of it while he’s sinking deeper and deeper in the mud that his actions have made of his life. And though I can hardly find a sentence in the whole book that’s not either brilliantly hilarious or just amazingly interesting, revealing something from our world or psyche in a new way, it’s with unease that I finished reading. The truth that rings from these entertaining pages is difficult to process.
The way Erlend Loe criticizes today’s society is through parodying accepted norms of behavior and lifestyles. For example, when Doppler gets into a phase of watching too many butts on the Internet and one day follows a woman because of her butt, he feels shame after the incident and apologizes to her. We don’t see any parody in that, right? But the actual words he uses to apologize, saying that he fell into a trend of objectifying women, and that he objectified her too, right then and there… to me that sounds like subtle mocking of the politically correct and advocates of political correctness. Suddenly we’re “objectifying” if we’re fantasizing about someone’s body, and that’s an absolute no-no? Our escape from nature brought about too many unnatural states for humans that many of them, surprisingly, adjusted to very well. However, there are people like Doppler. People who will be outcast for not wanting to spend the majority of their life in an office, preparing “strategies”, having “brainstorming sessions”, planning “budgets” etc., only to be able to buy lots and lots of stuff until there’s almost nothing left to buy.
Though Doppler’s crazy action’s are described in such comic fashion that we can’t take him seriously, what he manages to do in the end is what we can seriously envy him for. (But there is some sort of a “clifhanger” in the form of a subtle mention of “things” that Doppler is piling up in his new “home”… making us wonder if Doppler will follow the same pattern that he so painstakingly worked on abandoning.)