From a three-time winner of the Norwegian Critics’ Prize for Literature, 99 "footnotes" stand in for a novel the reader is told is missing, unfolding bits of narrative and observations about the title character, a disillusioned Norwegian diplomat.
Regardless of the swirl, it’s a delight to read. Solstad’s searching, analytic prose is enthralling ... Armand V is a piece of criticism alongside being a work of fiction. In a sense, Solstad’s narrator has created a sort of anti-novel that achieves all the goals of a traditional novel while simultaneously ignoring all of the things, like the important events in a character’s life, that usually make them tick. What Solstad demonstrates most forcefully in this book is the value of the unseen, unknown, and unwritten. It is important to ask such questions, but it’s much less important to answer them.
Armand V is very definitely political, as much of Solstad’s early work apparently was, and it’s his worst mode; the book concludes with a scene in which an American diplomat’s head transforms into a pig’s head, a piece of subtlety that would make Dan Brown blush ... I was initially resistant to the trick that Armand V is written entirely in footnotes to a nonexistent novel, precisely the kind of facile experimentation still treated too reverently in criticism. But as I read on I realized that Solstad’s footnotes actually are innovative, for the way they bear out his disturbing idea that adult life is merely a succession of footnotes to youth. Those footnotes aren’t a cute trick, in other words. They deepen his themes ... All of the whispers have been right: Solstad is a vital novelist. Armand V is a lesser work than T. Singer, and neither can match the astonishment of Shyness and Dignity ... all three are riveting, restlessly searching out new shapes to confront their author’s ongoing subject of absolute existential doubt.
Solstad hints at mythology, modernizing the ancient lore of conflict ... All the while, Solstad chats merrily away with himself. Readers eavesdrop as the author toys with his emerging 'us vs. them' tale, departing at times from the storyline to mosey around on other topics. His intellectual maneuvering is often hilarious ... Already renowned in Scandinavian literature, Solstad once again brilliantly defies categories, this time in English.