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Literature: Idiosyncratic: "The Hills" by Matias Faldbakken



At "The Hills" guests can feel like in the old days. In the novel of the same name, a veteran waiter describes his experiences. Everything follows its path until a young woman appears.

The new novel by the Norwegian author Matias Faldbakken is a stubborn work. "The Hills" describes an old Europe with traditions that fade away.

The novel can be read as a critique of consumption and globalization, as a camera game in which regular customers stop at a luxury restaurant in Oslo, watched closely by a waiter. Describe what you see and hear, the reader experiences the scenes exclusively from his perspective. One action of the book, which is divided into five parts, is almost nonexistent, but a peculiar tension accumulates in the almost 240 pages.

"The Hills" is a worthy establishment reminiscent of a 19th century Viennese café, with felt curtains over brass pipes, a chandelier, Art Nouveau mirrors, paneled walls adorned with portraits and drawings, a piano player home. Wine and food are stored in a labyrinthine cellar, the walls of the kitchen are black with flambéado and remind the forged a forge. These detailed descriptions make the restaurant look strange and gloomy, like an encapsulated microcosm, haunted by a hostile outside world.

The nameless waiter has to do with regular customers in particular, as does Graham, whom he calls only the pig, and other regular guests who use the restaurant as a living room. Routines and rituals begin to waver when a mysterious young woman appears whom the narrator calls "a kind of child minder". The waiter, for 13 years in "The Hills", gets confused and wants to regulate the processes. In a figurative sense, he also yearns to go back to the old days, when guests still crunched newspapers instead of leaning over smartphones. He praises his waiter jacket, its quality and longevity: "neither useless nor superfluous, like most things these days".

The narrator, who remains nameless and describes himself as highly sensitive, feels incited by the global transport of goods, a guest wearing socks imported from the US. UU "This place (…) is a condensation of things gathered." He is annoyed by internet videos, SMS and social networks are a horror for him. Political slogans such as Damascus and the "Conditions in Britain" – which means Brexit – autumn, mention the names of Balzac, Voltaire and Dürer.

Faldbakken, writer and artist born in 1973, is known for his unusual works, such as the Scandinavian trilogy Misanthrope consisting of "The Cocka Hi Company", "Macht und Rebel" and "Unfun". Apart from the minor details, his new book is well written and entertaining, the waiter's thoughts and essence are meticulously portrayed, the whims and quirks of the guests are closely watched. The text, translated from Norwegian by Maximilian Stadler, but also acts artificially and in the end the tension evaporates. In addition, the criticism of an inconsiderate and indifferent consumer society is nothing really new.

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


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