Book review: See You Tomorrow, by Tore Renberg

17 09 2017

Tore Renberg is a Norwegian author (and, for a short time, vocalist in a band, Lemen, which also included fellow author Karl Over Knausgård on drums) perhaps best known for his 2003 novel Mannen som elsket Yngve (translated as The Man Who Loved Yngve) which was adapted in 2011 into a well-received Norwegian-language film. Of the dozen books he’s written to date, most are probably best categorised as mainstream or literary fiction; his excursion into crime fiction (or, to be more accurate, fiction about criminals, which isn’t necessarily the same thing) is comparatively recent, and opens with the book reviewed here.

SeeYouTomorrow

See You Tomorrow (Vi Ses i Morgen, 2013, translated by Seàn Kinsella) entangles the lives of Pål Fagerlund, divorced (and dangerously indebted) father of two; ‘Rudi’ (Rune Dingervold), petty criminal and speed addict; Sandra, a fifteen-year-old rebelling against her straitlaced Christian upbringing by falling in with shady Daniel William Moi; and a dozen other figures. In pacing and in intensity of characterisation, it’s somewhat reminiscent of Mervyn Peake’s gothic-fantasy Gormenghast trilogy, though it scarcely shares the latter’s fascination with architectural grotesquerie. As with Peake’s masterwork, the action advances with almost glacial slowness (the book takes around five hundred and fifty pages to encompass three days’ quite brisk activity) and with a sequentially close focus on its several disparate characters, several of whom are drawn with an affectionately caricaturish exaggeration rather in the style of John Kennedy Toole’s blackly comic A Confederacy of Dunces. The core of the book is concerned with the plan by jobbing crook Rudi and his mentor Jan Inge (‘Jani’) to burglarise and assault the online-gambling addict Pål so as to solve, through the subsequent bogus home-insurance claim, his million-kroner debt problem; a methodology which Jani proudly commends to Pål as ‘a time-honoured classic’. Jani takes considerable pride, almost an evangelical zeal, in his team’s workmanlike criminality, but is his confidence in their professionalism justified? The drug use, the double dealing, and the attentions of the local rozzers might suggest otherwise …

There’s a lot else happening in the book besides the insurance job: Sandra’s doomed relationship with Daniel; Rudi’s girlfriend Cecilie’s worries over the paternity of the new life burgeoning in her womb; Pål’s emo daughter Tiril’s run-ins with the hopelessly gauche Shaun and his psychotic big brother Kenny; and the graunch of a hundred moving parts as everyone’s hidden agenda gets in the way of everybody else’s.

The prose shines with a kaleidoscopic immediacy that is, in places, almost painful to read, as lives end, lives begin, and life goes on. I don’t think I’ve read anything quite like it … and I quite like it.

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