Everything Like Before

Kjell Askildsen

translated from the Norwegian by Seán Kinsella
Archipelago Books 2021
A book review by Danny Yee © 2021 https://dannyreviews.com/
The larger part of Everything Like Before consists of twenty-five stories from a collection with the same name (Alt som før, 2005). These have a recurring theme of estrangement and communication failure, most often between husbands and wives or between sons and fathers, with interior monologue and dialogue used to contrast subjective reality and objective illusion. The overall effect is slightly depressing — if this is, as seems likely, at least partly autobiographical, one doesn't picture Askildsen having had a terribly happy life — but the spare, minimalist style makes for easy reading.

Supplementing this collection is Thomas F's Last Notes to the Public (Thomas F's siste nedtegnelser til almenheten, 1983). This consists of the novella "Carl Lange", a noir thriller about a psychological duel between a suspect and a detective, unreliably narrated by the suspect, and the eponymous "Thomas F's Last Notes to the Public". In ten brief notes Thomas documents his interactions with other people, most of which involve failures of understanding or communication. This is surprisingly upbeat: the cantankerous Thomas, in his eighties and failing, doesn't want to be taken to a nursing home but has otherwise come to terms with his fate and doesn't give a hoot; and those interactions that are positive still bring joy.

June 2021

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%T Everything Like Before
%A Askildsen, Kjell
%M Norwegian
%F Kinsella, Seán
%I Archipelago Books
%D 2021
%O paperback
%G ISBN-13 9781939810946
%P 318pp