Sleep or Speak of Love

Almaas, Bjørn Esben: Sov eller snakk om kjærlighet

I gave my sister-in-law a vibrator for her birthday. A little red thing, nicely covered in matt plastic. We were alone when I gave it to her, it was a Tuesday, and when she was done unwrapping it and looked at me, I said it; that this must be the perfect gift, given how much her husband travelled. Ulla stood with one fist clenched around it, only some of the red and black bottom where the salesman had shown me how to adjust the speed, was visible.
If you like, this can be a secret, I said. Nobody needs to know, if you don't want them to.
She blushed.
Jan, she said.
Wasn't she laughing, just a little?
She looked down and drew her fingers through her hair.
This was strange, she said.

A man with no clothes on is taken care of by the police after having tried to steal a banana. He cannot remember his name or where he comes from – at least that’s what he says. None the less he is identified rather quickly; his name is Jan Olav Tområ and he has been missing for three weeks. So he goes back to his family, a wife and two young children, and starts to rediscover how he lived and who he was. But can he trust what he is told by those who know him? And can the reader trust what he says he knows about himself?

Every chapter is an independent story, a short story of sorts, in which Jan Olav Tområ appears in different situations at different times in his life. What recurs, and constitutes the protagonist, is attraction and desire, desperate passion and an ambiguous drive that almost seems to feed on itself. All of the five stories begin in one existential cul-de-sac, and ends – with a sort of triumphant malicious pleasure – in another.


”The opening of Almaas' third novel is extremely well done. The despriction of Jan's rediscovery of life is simple, stringent and persuasive (...) Almaas knows how to write. His prose is simple, pure and appetizing"

"The balance between the comic and the deeply tragic is Bjørn Esben Almaas' forte (...) everyday events are brilliantly portrayed"

"a light, entertaining novel, which is also ambiguous, sharp and challenging … well worth waiting for … an original and clear voice, cleverly and entertainingly constructed … at its best this is a vibrant text, bouncing and full of life."

”[Almaas] has a talent for drawing good characters with simple, steady lines, the dialogues work wonderfully and he extracts significant details out of the most mundane life, holding them up and letting us observe people through them … This is solid craft.”

"A well written, cryptic novel … reads easily. The descriptions and the dialogues are astonishingly well crafted."
(Dagens Næringsliv)

“Powerful and elegant … a melancholic and tender, powerful and insightful novel that takes the reader on a bildungsjourney where the outcome is far from uplifting.”

”precise prose about sex, gender and urges"

”an accomplished episodical third novel. The prose is simple and elegant (...) Almaas' strength is his ability to create consistent dialogues - they smell of lived life and linguistic fingerspitzengefühl"
(Bergens Tidende)

“Bjørn Esben Almaas has written a book where both prose and composition is powerful. The author is technically very good. There is a power in his writing that makes you remember this story.”

"a stringent stylist, a taciturn and precise story teller"
(Stavanger Aftenblad)

”one of this spring's most headstrong Norwegian novels"
(Svenska Dagbladet, Sweden)

First published: 2009, Forlaget Oktober
Bjørn Esben Almaas: Biography and bibliography

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