Written by Ingvar Ambjørnsen

Number 5 in Elling

Publisher: Cappelen Damm
Pages: 313
Genre: Norwegian, Contemporary
Published: 2019-05-27
Original Language: Norwegian

Elling 20 år etter vi forlot ham i Elsk meg i morgen, like sår og morsom som alltid. Han har flyttet inn i en sokkelleilighet hos enkefru Annelore Frimann-Clausen på Grefsen i Oslo. Dette er Ingvar Ambjørnsens femte bok om Elling. Den står ikke tilbake for noen av de andre, tvert imot er det en helt nydelig og gripende skildring av et ensomt menneske, som svært mange vil kjenne seg igjen i.

Read from 2020-05-21 to 2020-05-22
Read in Norwegian
Rating: 5/5
Review: When this sequel to the Elling series was released out of the blue 20 years after the previous book was released, I was a little nervous. Would it feel forced? Would Elling as a character still work in modern day? I needn’t have worried. It works. It works absolutely wonderfully. This book turned out to be everything I could possibly want from it — and a bit more.

In this book Elling has grown into a man in his mid-fifties, and moves into a basement-flat in Oslo. It’s not made entirely clear to the reader what happened to him in the last 20 years, but that doesn’t matter. He’s here, he’s now, and he’s very much still the same Elling.

The style of this book is entirely consistent with the previous books in the series, and all the things that make this series of books so special are still there. We still follow the inner monologue of Elling, a character who lives very much inside his own head, and who, due to various conditions such as anxiety attacks and forced thoughts, sometimes struggles to interact with the world around him. He constantly makes assumptions and makes up stories about everything that goes on around him. Through partaking in his inner monologue we see how everything makes sense to him, except when it doesn’t, and get his thoughts, reasoning, and sometimes justifications for things that must seem extremely strange to everyone around him. Elling is a reliably unreliable narrator of his own life. Occasionally, often when there is some input of any kind from the world around him, the reader is given a reason to doubt whether Elling has grossly misunderstood something that has happened, or left something important out. This adds a veil of uncertainty and tension that gives a slightly creepy edge to this mostly feel-good book. Most of the time it seems like everything is fine. Strange, but fine. However, now and then the reader is given reasons to second-guess whether everything is as fine as it seems, and there is no way of knowing the real answer.

Everything about this book seems natural and real. Everything about this book feels completely true to the character of Elling. Among other things, Elling is introduced to Facebook, in a way which is unexpected, but, knowing this character, also completely predictable. Combining the partial, constructed, “truths” of Facebook with a man like Elling, who not only fills in the gaps but then goes on to build a house of narratives on top of them, makes for a wonderful indirect commentary on social media in a way that also feels entirely original, as no one can see these things quite as Elling can.

This book is also much less sad than the previous couple of books. Everything isn’t rosy, but this book farm from delivers the kind of emotional gut-punches that occasionally appeared in the last couple of books. I don’t think this makes the book better or worse, but it certainly makes it a little more relaxing to read.

For anyone who reads Norwegian, I would highly recommend reading the Elling books from the start. I’m sure Elling wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but for anyone who has read the original Elling books, and liked them, this is absolutely a must-read. This is the first time in a long time that I’ve read a book in practically one sitting. The book doesn’t even feel like it’s written — it feels like you’re just there when things happen.