EUROPE

Translated from the Norwegian by Alison McCullough

Restless is a novella, first published in 2015, and published in 2019 in smooth English translation in a beautiful edition by the small press Nordisk Books, which focuses on Nordic books that offer an alternative to the ‘Scandi noir’ stereotype.

This debut work of fiction comes with the endorsement of Norwegian literary heavyweight Karl Ove Knausgaard, whose publishing company printed the original edition, and who edited the book. Restless is written as a series of notes to a woman, known only as “you”, with whom the nameless writer is obsessed, and who does not return his desire, although there have been teasing moments of connection.

From the outside, the reader has the impression that the author is taciturn, controlled and reasonable, but inside he is riven with insecurities, crippling health anxiety, loneliness and insatiable lust, and he pours his sometimes disturbingly personal and most intimate feelings out onto the page, amid an exploration of the consolations and otherwise of literature. He lives in a dark flat, sleeping too much, losing the distinction between night and day, overweight and supported by a student loan for a course he’s no longer taking.

Imagine that I were capable of stalking you on the street, of throwing stones at your window at night; of shoving threats and the hearts of animals, psychotic mix tapes and home-knit scarves through your letterbox; of killing and ending up in prison for you – because what else constitutes trying hard enough? Is it ever time to give up on love?

The swirling, internal, obsessive nature of the prose reminded me a bit of a male-perspective Loop by Mexican writer Brenda Lozano, which has been much praised, and which I reviewed back in March. However, here the overwhelming feeling is of enveloping despair, frustration and self-loathing, and I found its evocation of crushing depression almost unbearable to witness.

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