Professor Andersen’s night by Dag Solstad
translator – Agnes Scott Langeland
Dag Solstad is a Norwegian writer he has published over thirty books in Norway ,from novel ,short stories and plays .His debut short story collection spiral came out in 1965. he has won a number of prizes including the prestigious Nordic council literature prize .he is also known for writing books round every world cup he has written them on the last five world cups .In his early days he was a Maoist communist this was reflected in his early fiction his more recent books have all been more to do with existentialism and philosophy ,that he has written in recent years .This is his third book to be translated to English the previous two have both made the IFFP long lists in 2009 and 2007 .Although this is translated by a different translator Agnes Scott Langeland than the earlier two .
Professor Anderson night is a short novella about an academic in his fifties ,who whilst putting his decorations for Christmas .When he looks out of his window he sees a murder by a young man on a women .Now when I saw that on the fly-leaf I like you all ,my mind jumped to the great Hitchcock film “rear window” in which James Stewart see one of his neighbours kill his wife ,well that part is the same but this story goes off on a different tangent Professor Andersen is a man in his fifties an academic ,he initially seems dazzled by the crime he is frozen about what to do and he doesn’t report it to the police.
“It is odd that I don’t call the police ” He tought it was still not too late .Even if they won’t believe me , claim that I am drunk or whatever they may say .
professor Andersen is in inactive after the murder he has seen .
so as the festive season happens we see the professor starting to unpick his and his friends lives apart as he wonders how they all got where they were .we see him at dinner parties were the concerns are what wine is served with which meat and if so is it the right wine,also the ebb and flow of academia as his friends are mostly academics like himself .This book is an insight into men in the fifties the insecurities ,lost dreams Professor Andersen is a lonely man who is how he caught the murder like James Stewart character in rear window a man driven to boredom and loneliness this made him want to glimpse into windows around him and see people living a normal life . This book is a perfect piece of existentialism like Kierkegaard said” what am I to do ” this is what happens to the professor how did he not do nothing that is the main question in his head .
They had rakfisk as a starter and the main course was grouse .beer a chaser of Aquavit were served with the rakfisk ; a spanish red , a good Rioja with the grouse .
this made my mouth water and I learnt that Rakfisk is a fermented fish
But like all good questions ,it is brought into sharp focus, when he is faced with the man he saw doing the murder in a sushi bar he happened to wander into due to boredom.They stirke up a conversation with this younger man ,maybe this is a another point from existentialism as Professor Andersen has this man’s freedom in his hand .
This book falls in the Nordic tradition of writers like Knut Hamsun and Jostein Gaarder in bring philosophy into literature .This book examines what a man is and does in later life and all that in less than 200 pages punchy dryly funny .I found this book one of those you’ll tell people about when they ask for something short but meaningful .Also those interested in why we do what we do in life ? This is another of my shadow iffp reads
Have you read this did you like it ?