I read these a while ago, and I don’t think I have much to say about
either book, because, well it was a while ago and I didn’t write anything down.
But I made a New Year’s resolution and by God I will stand by it, for a while.
I don’t believe in God though, so I don’t know that saying by God is very
significant. Also I’m blabbing somehow. Both books are written in Norwegian, I
don’t think they’re translated to English, Norwegian books rarely are, unless
it’s crime. I’m not bitter.
Innsirkling is a Norwegian word that means to circle something in, like
with a pen. It also means to sort of circle closer to a solution. Yes. Anyway.
It’s a very acclaimed trilogy about a man named David who has lost his memory,
and has put an article in the paper and asked people to send him letters to
tell David about his life. So there are three different people who write
letters in this book. We get to see David’s childhood and youth through their
letters, and we get to see their actual lives now.
Tiller writes quite often about “losers”. They aren’t necessarily
straight up losers, but they live sort of in the sadder parts of society.
There’s Ole, who is a farmer, and who is actually doing pretty well, but he’s
in this relationship where he sees himself as a saviour to his girlfriend, and
sees her as a victim of her ex, and doesn’t let her just be a person, which
makes her frustrated, rightly so. And he also feels that she is constantly attacking
him. And oh my god he’s a fucking prick. He’s obviously kind. He is a
successful farmer, he is nice to his girlfriend, he loves his son, he looks
after his parents and he tries to do his best to his stepson. Yes. He’s also a
passive, passive-aggressive, whiny piece of shit. He has all these
preconceptions about people and he doesn’t let anyone just be themselves. He
sort of forces them into his own narrative, and acts so hurt and shitty if they
don’t. OH GOD! He wants everyone to get along, and I just wanted to shout; you
can’t get everyone to get along all the time! So yeah.
There’s Tom, who is Ole’s girlfriend’s ex. He is a violent, abusive ass.
He has a very young girlfriend, and he is a body builder and a criminal, I
guess, sort of small time stuff. What Tiller does is he made me sort of
identify with and sympathize with him, when he’s actually an abusive shit, and
that made me so annoyed. It makes you feel complicit in what he does. Which is
uncomfortable. And Tom’s story shows how nature and nurture affects you, and
how your parents make you who you are, and how they can make you so awful and
The last person is Paula, who is in an old folk’s home. She was friend’s
with David’s mother, and she was a nurse, I think. Or she was the midwife. But
she was there when David was born, and she did something to David, and another
boy, which has changed everything. That sounds really creepy, but I don’t want
to spoil what the thing is. She doesn’t do anything abusive (I guess), but she
changes their lives. Paula is, she’s a lonely old lady, her son rarely visits
her, and when he does it often ends badly because her son is angry with her.
Rightly so. She’s been doing awful, neglectful things for a long time. Thank
God she was a health care professional.
It’s fascinating to see how different Tiller can make their voices. They
speak and think and act in such different ways. They’re very distinct and
fascinating. I love how he writes unlikeable people. I love that he can make me
actually sympathize with a man who beats his girlfriend. I obviously hate that,
but it is incredible skill.
Biperson means side character, and the book is about a man named Thomas,
but his story is told through side characters in his life, and through the
story of the author writing Thomas’ story. Which is interesting. So it’s from
the perspectives of his sons and his brother, and the perspective of Arnt, the
writer. This isn’t very well explained, but it’s a bit complicated.
I liked it. It’s like the other book in that it tells the story of
people in the lower classes and on the fringes of society. Thomas is a
musician, and he’s sort of on the verge of making it, I guess. His wife is in a
nursing home, forgetting him and their son, Kjell. Thomas starts seeing a new
woman, which makes Kjell sort of freak out, because to him it feels like a betrayal.
So he disappears.
Another perspective is Thomas’ brother. He’s a deeply religious man who
hopes to get Thomas back to the way of God, basically using Thomas’ tragedy to
get him to like Jesus again. He’s very fundamentalist, but he is a kind man and
father, but jeesh I hated him. He’s so self-righteous.
Thomas’ other son also has a story. He’s had a tough upbringing it
seems. He seems to have some sort of mental illness, I am not sure what, but he
is not taking meds. He’s trying to get a job, but he’s also violent, and sort
of goes off the deep end, and tries to use his dad to get out of the trouble.
The last perspective is Arnt, the writer, writing Thomas’ story. He’s a
passive aggressive, whiny asshole. I seriously hated him more than anyone else
in the story.
I think it’s a very interesting way to tell the story. You usually get
the main characters perspective, and you hear their thoughts, and their
interpretation of the other characters. And this book has turned that whole
concept on its head. (I’ve rewritten this paragraph a million times, I can’t
write when I’m tired.) I’m not sure how well I thought the whole inserting the
author into the text-thing worked, and it kind of annoyed me, which dragged my
It has all the hallmarks of a Tiller book. The distinct and different
voices, characters sort of on the fringes of society, fairly unlikeable people,
and it’s dark and sad and infuriating. So I liked it. It was okay.