Lydia Davis taught herself Norwegian in order to read his books. Haruki Murakami translated him into Japanese. Karl Ove Knausgaard reveres him. Awarded the Norwegian Critics Prize for Literature an unprecedented three times, Dag Solstad has amassed quite the following at home and abroad. Five of his eighteen novels have now been translated into English, with Shyness and Dignity sure to become a classic in the European existentialist tradition. The garlanded latest, T Singer, returns to the psychological landscape familiar from the previously translated volumes. A portrait of self-inflicted loneliness and paralytic embarrassment, T Singer traces the contours of shame, dignity and autonomy, and explores the recurring problem of other people’s minds. Much like Solstad’s elliptical prose, each return reveals something new, extending the landscape’s horizon.
Intensely self-reflective, existentially dissatisfied and struggling with a society they never feel at home in, Solstad’s male protagonists are variations on a rich theme. The eponymous Singer fits comfortably within this tradition. It is the only place he is really comfortable. Singer arrives, aged thirty-four, in the small,