Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Norwegian weltschmertz

7. Doppler by Erlend Loe

If you are at all interested in Loe, you should read Naive. Super first. It will prepare you for the following books, that seem to all be dealing with the same issues and styles: some privileged white dude in Norway becomes disenchanted with his life, and decides to get back to simple, cave-man like living in order to find the true meaning of life. The main characters are kind of like Scandinavian Holden Caulfields.

I don't know if I'm reading these books wrong (shush! an impossibility!, says the lit. prof.), but I imagine they are written with a ton of black humor instead of attempts at being critical at societies at large. In Doppler's case, we have a Norwegian family man called Doppler, whose father has died and this has thrown him off the track. To deal with his sorrow (and the existence of his massive, massive man-part), he escapes into the Norwegian forests, kills a moose and adopts its calf, onto which he projects a variety of human-qualities. He crafts a manifesto for living a better life: no life with obligations, children's repetitious TV shows, fast food. His ultimate enemy is Intelligence. To him, intelligence has brought nothing but sorrow as his main concern in life has become "What kind of tiles should we get in our bathroom?". Thus, kids should be taken out of school, too.

Funnily enough, even with this manifesto, he is unable to completely disengage himself from the world he so loathes: his wife says she is pregnant, and if he does not return from the forest they are going to divorce. Instead of agreeing to this, Doppler simply avoids making any ultimate decisions. He wants to live "freely", with a safety net waiting for him at home. One of his main agendas is to go back to economy based on the exchange of goods - he would be fine (as per his opinion) hunting and gathering, but he needs the Best Thing that Human Has Created: low-fat milk. To obtain this, he needs to visit the store every now and then and convince the storekeep that it's a great idea to exchange some milk to his moose meat. He even visits his daughter's school to inform them about this. Still, his dream of exchange economy is naive at best: he exchanges moose meat for fruit. That was bought by some other guy with money. The man did not grow or harvest the fruit himself. In other words, Doppler believes he is living his dream when in actuality, other people are simply enabling his unrealistic approach to life by entertaining his obsession.

His ranting of the World Gone Wrong-theory gets some followers in the form of a former enemy (the man he calls "the right winger") and his small son - and as soon as they move into the forest Doppler feels uncomfortable. Sure, everyone should be free to do whatever they want - but not on his backyard! It becomes evident that when Doppler says that humans should be free, he is mainly describing himself and his plight.

In the end, the book is about obsession: Doppler is obsessed with this new world order he has dreamed up after his father died; his son is obsessed with children's TV shows; his daughter is obsessed with Tolkien and speaks in Elvish. Other characters have their obsessions and one-track-minds, too. What connects all these people is the thought that if only their obsession was not just understood, but partaken, by everyone, the world would be a better place.

No comments:

Post a Comment