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Shyness and Dignityby Dag Solstad
Synopses & Reviews
An Ibsen scholar falls desperately out of society--publication coinciding with Ibsen's 100th anniversary celebrations
In front of him, twenty-nine young men and women about the age of eighteen who looked at him and returned his greeting. He asked them to take out their school edition of The Wild Duck. He was once more struck by their hostile attitude toward him. But it couldn't be helped, he had a task to perform and was going through with it. It was from them as a group that he sensed that massive dislike sent forth by their bodies. Individually they could be very pleasant, but together, positioned like now, at their desks, they constituted a structural enmity, directed at him and all that he stood for.
Elias Rukla begins yet another day under the leaden Oslo sky. At the high school where he teaches, a novel insight into Ibsen's The Wild Duck grips him with a passion so intense that he barely notices the disinterest of his students. After the lesson, when a broken umbrella provokes an unpredictable rage, he barely notices
the students' intense curiosity. He soon realizes, however, that this day will be the decisive day of his life.
Dag Solstad, praised in Norway as one of the most innovative novelists of his generation, offers an intricate and richly drawn portrait of a man who feels irrevocably alienated from contemporary culture, politics, and, ultimately, humanity.
"An Oslo academic who came of age in the way-out '60s shrinks back from the glaring modern age in Norwegian novelist and playwright Solstad's remarkably nuanced novel, his first to be translated into English. Elias Rukla, described in this stiff translation as 'a rather sottish senior master in his fifties with a wife who had spread out a bit too much,' is fed up after 25 years of teaching Ibsen's Wild Duck to increasingly apathetic 19-year-olds at Oslo's Fagerborg Secondary School. A breakdown following an incident with an umbrella and verbally abusing a student makes Elias recognize he has become obsolete. Accompanied by rueful thoughts of his aging but once beautiful wife, Eva Linde, the drama of Elias's life unfolds, from the memory of his friendship with Eva's first husband, the intellectual dynamo and Marxist Johan Corneliussen. Inseparable mates at university, the men engaged in vigorous discussions about philosophy and literature that stretched over days and numerous parties. But Johan inexplicably left for New York to join the capitalist quagmire he always railed against, abandoning Eva and their young child, a betrayal from which Elias never recovers. With sublime restraint and subtle modulation, Solstad conveys an entire age of sorrow and loss." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
Dag Solstad, a novelist and playwright, has won numerous prizes for his writing throughout Europe, including the prestigious Nordic Prize for Literature. This is the first English translation of his work. Solstad lives in both Oslo, Norway, and Berlin, Germany.
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