Lördag (Saturday), 10:00-10:30, H135b
Affiliering (affiliation): University of Genoa, ITA
About Writing on Nordic Neighbours While Staging Oneself
Erlend Loe’s Naïve Humour in a Liquid World
Erlend Loe (b. 1969) debuted as a novelist in 1993 and, according to some critics, marked a distance from the seriousness and realism of the Norwegian literary panorama, contributing to a “generational” writing, whose unconventional approach accounts for a general sense of ineptitude. His style has been regularly described as “naïve” and “humorous”, as well as “comical” and “bizarre”, and these features are usually highlighted in the presentations of his works abroad. But in what sense is Loe a humorous writer? What kind of humour has he staged in his stories?
My paper will focus on Fakta om Finland (2001, Facts about Finland), a novel about a man in his thirties who is charged by the Finnish Embassy with the task of writing a brochure on Finland for Norwegians (yet, he omits to say he has never been there!); his life is in many ways influenced by this job, while water plays a metaphorically relevant role as a constant threat for him, from the very first lines. His awkwardness and instability, expressed in a peculiar style (no chapters, long sentences and chains of thoughts), lead him to problematize every single aspect of existence and daily life, often in an extemporaneous way and in a struggle with his own instincts, fears, dreams, but also with daily life objects and natural elements. At the same time, his story offers the chance to display several stereotypes about the Nordic countries, mainly Finland, as expected, but even Norway and Denmark. On the whole, this novel may be also seen as a bildungsroman, where a much more realistic (and adventurous) life is waiting in lie for the protagonist after his meeting with a woman and her teenage son. Fun and humour are here essentially triggered by the protagonist’s anxious meditations on the world and on ancient and modern phenomena, from nature to human society, and by his overdeveloped skill to find out contradictions nearly everywhere.
In addition, I will refer to Loe’s bestseller Naiv. Super (1996, Naïve. Super), which, in 2006, featured in the Dagbladet’s list of the best Norwegian novels since 1981. Naiv. Super is a minimalist and amusing confession of the protagonist’s own confusion as well as a report of his attempts to work it out, trying to order life things and recurring to lists, if necessary. Here, some mechanisms of Loe’s humour are displayed, though in an explicitly ordered and likely less impressive manner, while the fame of this work, translated into over thirty languages, makes the book a sort of manifesto of his (and Norwegian?) fin-de-siècle humour in the world.
My analysis of both novels, through the selection of several suitable passages, has the aim of investigating the author’s wit and funniness against the backdrop of theoretical stances on written humour mechanisms, in order to highlight the typical features of the celebrated Loe’s humour.
Previously (2011-2020) Research Fellow and Assistant Professor, currently (since 2020) Associate Professor in Scandinavian Studies at the University of Genoa, I have taught modules in Scandinavian literature and culture since 2009.
In 2005 I defended a thesis in German literature focused on Jens Peter Jacobsen’s influence on Rainer Maria Rilke’s The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge (1910). My doctoral thesis (2010) investigated children’s literature in Scandinavia and Italy in the 20th century.
I published a monograph (2010) on the Swedish socialist children’s writer Sven Wernström and, among others, essays on Rilke’s relationship with Scandinavian literature (2009; 2010; 2016; 2020); August Strindberg’s Sagor (2013) and Fabler (2019); Lennart Hellsing and Gianni Rodari (2014); Emil Bønnelycke’s Spartanerne (2015); Hamsun’s and Rilke’s Russian experience (2016); Danish Avant-garde poetry (2017); Jan Sonnergaard’s representation of Copenhagen in Radiator (2017); the Italian reception of Scandinavian poetry in the early 20th century (2018); Bibi by Karin Michaëlis and hygge-lifestyle (2019); the representation of Sweden in Italian cinema (2021).
I contributed to a history of Scandinavian literature in Italian (Storia delle letterature scandinave. Dalle origini a oggi, 2019). I was a visiting researcher at the Swedish Institute for Children’s Books in Stockholm (2009) and at the University of Strasbourg (2019) and an invited speaker at the University of Lund (2018).
My current lines of research are:
- Mythemes of the North in the contemporary – mainly Scandinavian – culture (in an international project led by the University of Strasbourg);
- Nordic World Literature;
- The Italian reception of Scandinavian literature in the 20th century;
- The relationship between multilingualism and writing (an interdisciplinary project by Polyphonie, a research centre at the University of Genoa and University of Catania).
I participate in a national project on university teaching methodologies and learning techniques.