The true story of two friends, the author and the eccentric artist Hugo Aasjord, as they embark on a wild pursuit of the infamous Greenland Shark—whose meat contains a toxin that, when consumed, has been known to make people drunk and hallucinatory—all from a tiny rubber boat.
Strøksnes is a journalist writing a book, and the subject is, admit it, outré cool. And he doesn’t treat it like some gonzo bizarrerie, but as chromatic, investigative work, one in which you can laugh instead of feel nothing but grim ... Most of the time he is more focused with page after page of sharp vignettes...Strøksnes has dozens and dozens of these low-key noteworthies, on the family empires of lighthouse keepers, on the history of cod drying, the shock of a williwaw, the iridescence of place names .. There is the wonderful radiance of these two gents out chasing their curiosity — the we-only-regret-the-adventures-we-didn’t-take school — out chasing that romantic mingling of terror and beauty, the sublime.
Before the internet, a book like this would take months of research in a big library. Now a quick search pulls up factual nuggets and sometimes Stroksnes sounds like he’s saving us the bother of getting the computer out ... The book is stuffed with curious facts. Cod’s tongues can be as big as fishcakes! Seals sleep on the bottom of the sea! The flesh of the Greenland shark contains nerve gas, and without proper preparation renders the diner 'shark drunk,' a form of poisoning ... There’s folklore too, with tales of mermen and chatty mermaids with huge breasts, and sea monsters such as the Kraken or hafgufa, with horns as big as ship’s masts.
...respect for the past—for the isolated fishing villages of northern Norway and for the hard lives of their people—runs like a powerful current through the book. In general the tone is cheerful, almost chatty, which makes the story all the more unsettling when the friends come close to falling out, the tensions between them heightened while stuck on shore waiting for the ever-unreliable outboard engine to be repaired. It roars back just in time, and they sally forth once more to find the shark. This rich and fascinating book, translated from the Norwegian by Tiina Nunnally, reaches its climax abruptly and surprisingly, and takes its leave rapidly. Morten Strøksnes’s clever trick is to remind us for one last time that the catching of the big fish is the least important part of the story.