Før de henter oss (Before they come for us) by Peter Franziskus Strassegger

This is my review of Før de henter oss by Peter Franziskus Strassegger.

The book
This is the second book by this author and it is a sort of weird pre-apocalyptic novel set in this desolate area. It’s about an old couple, Oskar and Alma. Oskar is senile and even if Alma is also old and probably needs help she is his primary care giver. They keep going through their normal life and they keep waiting for someone to come for them. It’s never explained who will come, or where they are going, but someone is coming.

Thoughts
So it’s a while since I read this, but let’s try anyway.

This author actually won a very prestigious award for his debut and the committee responsible for it said he had a great ability to let things be unsaid and leave things between the lines. This is very true for both his first book and for this book. He isn’t very direct and he isn’t particularly outspoken I guess. He doesn’t explain anything, he doesn’t explain where we are, why we’re there, and he doesn’t explain where we’re going. He just hints and gives little nudges and implies things, and it might sound annoying when I’m describing it now, but it isn’t. Instead of being direct and overt he creates this mood and he creates feelings and emotions. And he made me feel a bit… uncomfortable, I guess is the best word.

I feel like he’s a very Norwegian author. A lot of Norwegian fiction that I read is literary fiction, and most of it has this dark, uncomfortable, gritty mood. It might just be that I’m not good at finding different ones, but this book feels sort of particularly Norwegian. I have no idea how to explain it, but it’s fascinating. It’s hard to explain your culture, because you live inside it, and it’s incredibly difficult to step outside it. I think it’s a bit of how literary fiction writers in Norway write. They don’t write necessarily standard Norwegian, but write more like you would speak, and flip words around and everything. This is a bit convoluted, and I’m not explaining it well, but it is a bit… different I guess. It’s also very gritty, and dirty. These old couple live in an old house they seem to have always lived in, but because they’re both very old and because Oskar is senile it just gets dirtier and dirtier, and because the world outside seems to be falling apart no one else comes to do anything for them either.

The descriptions are so honest, dark and gritty and unpleasant. They’re detailed and disgusting and so icky. It’s absolutely amazing. I hope he’ll release more books so I can read more.

I love that there isn’t much explaining done and you’re never completely sure what’s happening. I don’t know what’s happened. I don’t know why the world has gone all dark and dirty and desolate. I don’t know who the people are who come to take Oskar and Alma away, and have no idea where they’re going. And I enjoy that it’s just in the background and you have to guess, or assume, and… yeah.

Finally

I don’t know how coherent that was, but I really liked it. I thought it was beautiful and dark, and sort of gross in places. And it’s just really good.