Bjorn Hansen, a respectable town treasurer, has just turned fifty and is horrified by the thought that chance has ruled his life. Eighteen years ago he left his wife and their two-year-old son for his mistress, who persuaded him to start afresh in a small, provincial town and to devote himself to an amateur theater. years of living alone Bjorn contemplates an extraordinary course of action that will change his life forever.
... seems straightforward enough, yet it moves in odd turns, leaving the reader off-balance, uncertain what Solstad is trying to do ... progresses oddly, shifting from one area of Bjørn Hansen's life to another. It does not feel incomplete, but there is an arbitrariness to much of it -- which also makes certain parts feel all the more forced. But ultimately this is a novel that wants to be perceived as such -- despite its realism, it is a thought experiment, it is artifice, it is art ... Strange, but successful in its own strange way.
... uncompromising and controversial ... Preoccupied by his usual existentialist themes, Solstad takes the idea of man controlling his own destiny to a bizarre extreme ... Solstad won the Norwegian Critics’ Prize for Literature for the second time with this stark, lugubrious tale. It might be a profound exploration of philosophical ideas but as a novel it’s an emotionless and unsettling read.
... sly and emotionally rich ... Written with a sharp eye for detail and featuring a winning cast (Turid is particularly vivid, as is the way Bjørn’s love for her ebbs as she grows older and becomes less beautiful to him; his contempt for his unpopular son is also sharp), the narrative offers much to admire, even if the second half lacks the keen emotional observation of the first and leaves the repercussions of Bjørn’s choices underexplored. Still, Solstad consistently intrigues.