Manny's Reviews > Beatles

Beatles by Lars Saabye Christensen
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's review
Sep 12, 12

bookshelves: older-women-younger-men, swedish-norwegian-and-danish, too-sexy-for-maiden-aunts, well-i-think-its-funny, translation-is-impossible
Recommended to Manny by: Flaneurette
Recommended for: Hamsun fans
Read from August 29 to September 12, 2012

You know it ain't easy

What is this book about? I can see why most of the reviewers are having trouble. It's got laugh-out-loud slapstick, heartbreaking tragedy, unforgettable characters, ridiculous stereotypes, breathtaking lyricism, flat ultrarealist prose... you see the problem. But one thing's clear. There's a whole lot about the Beatles.

So let me introduce to you

Kim Karlsen is 11 when Love me do comes out. He and his three friends are immediate converts, and identify with John, Paul, George and Ringo. (He's Paul). They see the world through Beatles-shaped glasses. The novel traces their varying fortunes from 1965 to 1972.

Norwegian wood

Like Jan Kjærstad, who's clearly paying homage to Christensen at times, the book is both quintessentially Norwegian and completely universal. Kim is Everyman - to be exact, Everyfuckedupteen - but he also happens to be an Everyman who lives in a specific part of Oslo and assumes you have an intimate knowledge of its geography, history and social structure. You know it makes sense. I mean, look at Dante, right?

Living is easy with eyes closed

Did I say fucked up? I had forgotten quite how fucked up people were in the 60s. So unbelievably blind to what was going on around them, to the most obvious and elementary facts of life. But, at the same time, occasionally so in touch with the most profound things.

Carrying pictures of Chairman Mao

The left-wing politics. Comrades, I warn you that this part is toe-curlingly embarrassing, but he just delivers it with a straight face. You actually can't tell whether he's being ironic or not. An impressive piece of historical reconstruction.

Man, you've been a naughty girl

Love makes you stupid. Kim's in love with both Nina and Cecilie and he can't decide between them. I guess that makes him twice as stupid as most people? Or maybe he's just more upfront about it.

Very strange

There's magical realism too.

All the lonely people

Life is hard. Terrible things happen all the time, when we least expect them. The book is full of helpless, lost people: Dragen, Fred, Uncle Hubert, Jørgen, Kim himself. If you like Hamsun, Christensen is surely his greatest and most faithful disciple.

These are words that go together well

He has a wonderful feeling for the poetry of everyday language. It's like the Beatles (duh) or Huck Finn.

Yeah, yeah, yeah

I know, I say this too often, but the book is untranslatable. Looking at the other reviews, nearly all the Norwegians love it and nearly all the foreigners wonder what the fuss is about. Turning it around, would you expect Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds to be any good in Norwegian? But if you have even a passing acquaintance with the language (my own Norwegian isn't great), consider putting it on your list.
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Reading Progress

07/23/2012 page 13
2.0% "Detailed instructions on how to rip the hood ornament off a Mercedes 220 S, in case you've ever wondered what the trick is."
07/26/2012 page 30
6.0% "The 15 year old goalie is just about to leave the soccer field when he miraculously sees a member of the national team walk by. He asks the guy if he can take a shot at him, and then he even more miraculously manages to save it. But when he tries to impress a girl later the same evening, she's never heard of Per Pettersson. Such is life."
09/01/2012 page 55
10.0% "Enter Death, stage left. And about time too... pretty late for a bildungsroman, if you ask me."
09/01/2012 page 85
16.0% "This book is picking up the pace... now he's seen a beautiful woman naked. Only for a second and a half, but that was plenty."
09/02/2012 page 133
25.0% "Attention everyone who's read the Kjærstad trilogy: I discover to my surprise that the Rubber Soul sequence is clearly a reference to this book. It's beyond dispute: he's 13, his girlfriend leaves because her family is moving overseas in connection with her father's work at the embassy, her last present to him is the Rubber Soul LP. How many similar references have I missed?!"
09/03/2012 page 180
33.0% "They've all been dumped by their respective girlfriends. "Fucking bitches!" "Can't trust women!" "Never going there again!""
09/03/2012 page 210
39.0% "Magical realism alert!"
09/03/2012 page 235
44.0% "He's appalled to learn that his thoughtless prank has somehow resulted in the idiotic Gåsen finding Jesus, and resolves to be more careful in future."
09/05/2012 page 265
49.0% "All together now! "It's Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"... and some lonely hearts are indeed touched."
09/05/2012 page 290
53.0% ""Satt till seint på kvelden og prata om tekstene, det var det største som var skrevet siden Bibelen og sagaerne""
09/05/2012 page 315
58.0% "His rival spikes his drink, which results in him doing some really crazy stuff at the Junior Prom and getting thrown out. He's just finished throwing up in the snow when the girl comes out, full of indignation over this low trick, and kisses him full on the mouth."
09/07/2012 page 340
62.0% "It's 1968, and the Beatles have just released Revolution. They're shocked. "Revisionist crap!"" 8 comments
09/08/2012 page 370
68.0% "July 20, 1969. The Eagle is just about to land in the Sea of Tranquility. His girlfriend is glued to the radio, but he goes off to try and find the packet of condoms that has mysteriously disappeared from his pocket."
09/09/2012 page 458
84.0% "He wakes up in the bathtub, very hung over. The girl comes in, naked, and says he owes her three things: a bottle of gin, a lipstick, and she won't tell him what the third one is."
09/10/2012 page 490
90.0% "He reasonably refuses to pay a tithe to Gåsen's evangelical church - they predict that the world will end in about a month, making the daily cost far too high."
09/11/2012 page 500
92.0% "He's on Iceland, and she takes him to see a volcano. He unzips his flies and relieves himself into the crater. She looks annoyed and says all the male tourists do that. He looks more annoyed at having been caught behaving like an American. I sense True Love in the air, or is it just sulphur dioxide?"

Comments (showing 1-17 of 17) (17 new)

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notgettingenough Maybe not so much lack of enthusiasm due to its untranslatability as to its Norwegianess, which is a different thing altogether. I can see that the Seducer trilogy would also be quite different for somebody immersed in Norwegian culture, whereas Hunger, in my opinion, does not have the same cultural specificity.

Sarah (Presto agitato) It's a dirty story of a dirty man?

:-) Fun review, Manny!

Manny With a little help from my friends

Thank you Sarah! Glad to see other people enjoy playing this game too :)

message 4: by Ian (new) - added it

Ian Klappenskoff You're Making Me Feel Like I've Never Been Born

When I was a boy everything was right

Manny She don't care

I see that Not is being as contrarian as ever... just an intelligent, thoughtful comment, without a smartass boldface title in sight. Not, what's wrong with you?

message 6: by Ian (new) - added it

Ian Klappenskoff I couldn't concentrate any more when she mentioned the Norwegianess.

Manny Gently weeps

Not, now see what you've done! It'll be days before Ian's back to normal!

message 8: by Ian (new) - added it

Ian Klappenskoff Manny wrote: "Gently weeps

Not, now see what you've done! It'll be days before Ian's back to normal!"

Not paints a picture of a Norwegianess, and I react like any Norwegian Wood.

message 9: by notgettingenough (last edited Sep 17, 2012 02:59AM) (new)

notgettingenough Have I mispelt Norwegianess?

Maybe Norwegianity is better. Norwegianess, however it might be spelt is horrible. I apologise to Ian.

Manny She said she said

It looks like it can be spelled either way...

message 11: by Ian (new) - added it

Ian Klappenskoff Mispelt or misspelt

message 12: by MJ (new)

MJ Nicholls Miss Pelt is that dominatrix off Oxford Road. Charges extra for stigmatas.

message 13: by Ian (new) - added it

Ian Klappenskoff How much for astigmatism?

Sarah (Presto agitato) This thread is going Nowhere, Man.

Manny He knew it couldn't last

Well, it was fun for a while...

message 16: by MJ (new)

MJ Nicholls I have that Sun King feeling, better Get Back to reality.

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