Innsirkling 2 and Bipersonar by Carl Frode Tiller

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.

The book
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 fucked up.

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.

The book
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 rating down.


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.