Literature: Idiosyncratic: Matias Faldbakken & # 39; s "The Hills"

In "The Hills" guests can feel in the old times. In the eponymous novel, an experienced waiter describes his experiences. Everything goes its way until a young woman appears.

The new novel by the Norwegian author Matias Faldbakken is an idiosyncratic work. "The Hills" describes an old Europe with disappearing traditions.

The novel can be read as a critique of consumption and globalization, as a chamber music game in which regulars stop at a renowned restaurant in Oslo, closely watched by a waiter. He describes what he sees and hears, the reader experiences the scenes exclusively from his perspective. An action of the book, which is divided into five parts, is almost non-existent, yet a curious tension builds on the nearly 240 pages.

"The Hills" is a worthy establishment that is reminiscent of a 19th century Viennese café, with felt curtains over brass pipes, a chandelier, Art Nouveau mirrors, paneling decorated with portraits and drawings, a house pianist. Wine and food are kept in a labyrinthine cellar, the walls of the kitchen are black with flambé and the waiter reminds them of a smithy. These detailed descriptions make the restaurant creepy and gloomy, like an encapsulated microcosm, strewn by a hostile outside world.

The nameless waiter has to deal with regular customers in particular, like Graham, whom he calls only the pig, and other regular guests who use the restaurant as their living room. Routines and rituals start to falter when a mysterious young lady appears who is the narrator & # 39; a kind of childminder & # 39; calls. The waiter, for 13 years in "The Hills", gets confused and wants to regulate processes. In a figurative sense, he also longs to go back to the old days, when guests still smoked newspapers instead of leaning over smartphones. He praises his waiter's coat, the quality and longevity: "not useless nor superfluous, like most things nowadays".

The narrator, who remains nameless and describes himself as very sensitive, is urged by the worldwide transport of goods, a guest wearing socks imported from the USA – "this place (…) is a combination of collected things". He is annoyed by video's of internet, texting and social media are an abomination to him. Political slogans such as Damascus and the & # 39; Conditions in Britain & # 39; – what Brexit means – to fall, the names Balzac, Voltaire and Dürer are mentioned.

Faldbakken, a writer and artist born in 1973, is known for his unusual works, such as the Scandinavian misanthrope trilogy consisting of "The Cocka Hola Company", "Macht und Rebel" and "Unfun". Apart from small details, his new book is well written and entertaining, the thoughts and the essence of the waiter are carefully portrayed, the peculiarities and peculiarities of the guests closely monitored. The text – translated from Norwegian by Maximilian Stadler – but also works artificially and eventually the tension evaporates. Moreover, criticism of an unthinking and indifferent consumer society is nothing new.

– Matias Faldbakken: The Hills. Wilhelm Heyne Verlag Munich, 238 pages, 22 euros, ISBN 978-3-453-27190-6.

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