Written by Lars Saabye Christensen

Number 3 in Byens Spor

Publisher: Capellen Damm
Pages: 544
Genre: Contemporary
Published: 2019-08-05
Original Language: Norwegian

Hva hører vi når vi lytter til byens lyder? Hvilke spor etterlater den i oss? Hvem er det i andre enden når det ringer? Sentralt i Byens spor står Maj Kristoffersen, hennes skjebne er tett vevd sammen med byen og gatene hun lever i: Men like mye menneskene hun deler byen med, først og fremst barna, Jesper og Stine. Kvinnene i Røde Kors som utgjorde Fagerborgs usynlige sosiale ryggrad. Barna er blitt voksne og tidene forandrer seg. Håp og drømmer får brynt seg på en verden som ikke lenger går på skinner. Voksesmertene preger dem alle når nye dører åpner seg og de gamle lukker seg. Lars Saabye Christensen har lagt øret inntil byens konkylie og lyttet til dens spor. Med finstemt følsomhet avlytter han hver enkelt rille. Han ser lyset kaste skygger den ene veien når solen går ned over byen som en gang var, og den andre veien når solen står opp over en by som våkner til en ny tid. Uvegerlig reiser spørsmålet seg: Hvem er vi som bor i denne byen, dette landet og denne tiden – og hvem vi vil være? Medrivende, storslått og tankevekkende avslutning på trilogien Byens spor.

Read from 2019-08-23 to 2019-09-06
Read in Norwegian
Rating: 5/5
Review: It’s been a very, very, long time since I last looked forward to the release of a book as much as I looked forward to this one. It’s also been a very long time since the last time I actively stopped myself from reading a book, as reading it meant that I’d be closer to the end. After postponing reading the last quarter of this book for three days, I finally gave in and let myself experience the end. Wow.

I had no doubts that I would love this book, and I did. I really, really loved this book. There is no way I’m going to be able to be in any way objective about it, so the following review will consist of me gushing about this series, and this book. That said, I don’t think any amount of gushing can properly convey how much I liked this book, so I’ll call it even.

Byens Spor very much feels like a coherent story that happens to be divided into three parts. What fascinated me about the first book, which also continued fascinating me in the second book, and all the way through the third, is the way Lars Saabye Christensen makes the language feel like art. The way in which he uses the language, even when writing about mundane things, is at times breathtaking. The way he can twist a phrase into something that makes you stop and just appreciate the beauty of it is wonderful. It seems effortless, and it felt like I was being immersed into a bath of language in which I could just lean back in and close my eyes. With that in mind, it feels almost vulgar to discuss things like atmosphere and characters. The places feel as real as anything, so do the characters. For me the immersion in these books has been almost complete. When I picked up the book, whether I was reading for five minutes or an hour, it took me no time at all to be part of what was happening.

Though, if these books have felt like being immersed in a warm bath, this last book was a scolding one. The characters are put through their paces, and this book delivers some of the hardest, most emotional gut-punches I have ever read. While the punches are slow and gentle, they are firm. There is little drama, nothing extreme, nothing that even feels too much out of the ordinary. It’s just the lives of these characters, humans being, going about their business. We partake in their moments of happiness, their moments of sadness, and we’re just part of their journey through life. It really feels that natural.

This book also adds another literal dimension to the story by having the author break the fourth wall throughout. I’m going to be careful with what I write here, as, while the personal circumstances of the author has been widely covered in the news, the details would still constitute a spoiler. Suffice to say, he received some personal news which one can imagine would give him a new perspective on many things in life. Throughout this book he shares those perspectives with the reader. At times it becomes autobiographical, at times he talks about his writing process, or about what he thinks about what he is writing. There are some places where, within the same sentence, he switches between the story and the author analysing the words he just wrote. The concept of doing this is about as bizzare as it sounds, and I’ve never read anything like it before. But it works. It really, really, works. Sure, the author takes the reader out of the story, but in doing that he takes the reader into his head. Through reading about his personal thoughts, and some times events in his life, I got a feeling of understanding where he was coming from with what he wrote. His investment in, and emotions connected to, the story he was writing became all the more apparent. It was as if he was telling the story to the reader, rather than the reader just reading it. There’s a feeling of intimacy that almost feels too intimate at times. Never mind feeling sympathy with the characters when they suffer, through this connection with the author the reader also feels sympathy with the writer for what he has to put his characters through.

Based on what I’ve read so far in my life, Byens Spor is a truly unique series, and Skyggeboken makes for a great end to the series, as well as being unique in its own right. There is no way I can recommend this series enough to anyone who reads Norwegian. The language is beautiful, the story is immersive, and the characters are amazing. The majority of what I’ve been reading the past few years has been in English, and though it sounds like hyperbole, I’m being entirely serious in saying that Lars Saabye Christensen has rekindled my faith in the Norwegian as a language for long-form novels. I’ve always known that it was well suited for gritty crime, and… however you would define the wonderful style Erlend Loe employs, but with Byens Spor Lars Saabye Christensen has proved to me beyond any doubt that Norwegian can be crafted in wonderful ways in which reveling in the language itself is part of the experience of reading. I now feel stupid for ever doubting it. Thanks to these books I’m definitely going to check out more of his earlier works, along with those of other Norwegian authors.