The Cost of Friendship

Askildsen, Kjell: Vennskapets pris

Askildsen´s seventh collection of short stories consists of twelve tales, most of them written during the years 1998–2004. The writer explores his themes and ideas in a variety of new ways, and the stories are characterized by astute perceptions and great clarity. Kjell Askildsen lends a voice to the inner disquiet and the unresolved in the meetings between people like no other writer. The characters in these short stories often move within fixed patterns, as observers or as observed by others, caught in unendurable or unsettled situations, incomplete conversations and moments of sudden lucidity, silence or confrontation. In The Cost of Friendship we see the solidly dense style of writing and the linguistic sensitivity which are a trademark of Kjell Askildsen´s short stories – intense and luminous writing. 

Nineteen years after his previous book,the masterful collection The Dogs in Thessaloniki, the publication of The Cost of Friendship was a great event in Norwegian literature. The book received great reviews, and ended up on numerous reviewers best of 2015 lists.

Praise for The Cost of Friendship:

"In a single sentence Askildsen can tell a story so big that others would spend an entire book on it, and in his short stories, he can build an entire world, and let it collapse by the story’s ending … Askildsen’ writes with the same, shocking clarity as always"
Politiken, Denmark

"The king of short stories returns ... The sub-currents of the human mind – thoughts, passions and dreams – surface, perhaps triggered by random events. Then there are consequences for the lives lead ... Linguistically, Askildsen fortifies himself as the master of precision ... The author brings forth fragments of a life lived, without sentiment or self-sencorship. But not without compassion. He wishes his people well, even when they stumble around the absurd landscape we call life."

"Askildsen Magic ... Askildsen has presented us with this autumn's thinnest, but most likely most longed-for books. The Cost of Friendship is a magnificent show of Askildsen's ascetic method ... The old master delivers classic Askildsen prose with recognisable amounts of misanthropy, loneliness, misunderstandings, lies, small deceptions and erotica ... It's all very precise, minimalistic, tight and ruthless ... first class prose art"

"Askildsen is a master of writing in a way that makes small texts about the apparently every-day expand in the reader; the author sometimes works as a doorman, he opens the front door to the reader, who has to find their way, into an unknown house or a different world, on their own ... Few people have the necessary musicality needed to go just there, and no further, who can write so that one feels the discomfort of the unknown that lies beneath the words"
Dag og Tid

"New collection of short-stories from Askildsen is a literary event ... As a supplement to a significant authorship, The Cost of Friendship is a literary gift ... There are sentences, lines, and complete short-stories i this little book that make Torleiv Grue and Terje Holtet worthy of praise for convincing Askildsen that these short-stories are wort publishing. Because they truly are."

"Kjell Askildsen still knows how to set the standard for a good short-story. Beautiful and raw comeback ... compliments the authorship and adds nuances to central motifs ... This is hardcore and pure short-story art."

"It has been 19 years since Askildsen released a book of newly-written short-stories. That's why the publication of The Cost of Friendship is not simply the comeback of the year. It is a small piece of Norwegian literary history ... Askildsen has a truly unique ability to write out quiet interpersonal tension, razor-sharp, and often chamber play-like stories, that hit you with an unmerciful certainty."

"However, the personas appear as whole people, stripped of decorations and excuses on their behalf. This is a good thing, in and of itself. I have already implied that The Cost of Friendship is worth your time. Indeed, you're not done with the best short-stories just like that."
Norwegian Broadcasting Company

"Even though the short-stories are gloomy and serious, Askildsen writes with a well-known humour. The dialogues and plot are both tragic and funny at the same time, and a welcome reunion for both new and old readers. Even though the short-stories are not meant to be connected, they are rather the result of sporadic work over the past few years, the thematic similarities bind the texts together. Several of the short-stories hold previous standards, and The Cost of Friendship is a great supplement to one of the best post-war Norwegian authorships."

«This is yet another collection of exquisite pearls, astonishingly well articulated little stories of seemingly trivial events. But then they prove to contain such incomprehensibly large amounts of human insight … [the] concise style, the short and incredibly precise sentences, the compressed, slightly dry expression – it’s all there, and each and every story has something significant to say about the enigmatic paths of the human mind.”

“The big literary surprise this autumn. Twelve concise stories written by the undisputed champion of the short story”
Tønsbergs Blad

“These short stories show how Askildsen is the master of taciturn dialogue … As is usual in Askildsen’s writing, neither the questions posed – nor the possible answers hovering in the air – are simple. The title story is among the longer texts, at 6-8 pages. The others are shorter. Some of the longest ones, such as the investigation of the latent aggression in a marriage in “Martin Hansen’s Outing”, stand out."

“A brave final note from the grand old man of the short story … Through short paragraphs and by means of his compact prose, Askildsen evokes a doubleness which characterises our existence. His characters can be both empathetic, hateful and despicable at the same time. Askildsen shows us how these multifaceted emotions exist simultaneously and fight each other. It’s too easy to say that he is a great stylist; he is also a great judge of human nature”
Bergens Tidende

“Again the author lives up to his own definition of the genre: “The short story is like chamber music. You use few instruments, few characters, few voices”. It’s all about compressing what’s going on, striving for a precise expression, opening up for vague indications and a Hemingwayesque subtext of the unsaid, often while minor chords play beneath polished, compact sentences that seek to uncover the points of pain in our lives”
Stavanger Aftenblad

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