Naïve. Super

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Naive. Super

Erlend Loe's cult novel Naïve. Super, about a 25-year old who is unable to find any meaning in his life, was a huge success in his native Norway, and a bestseller throughout Europe--and it isn't difficult to see why.

The narrator has given up on doing his Masters and gone to stay at his brother's house. His brother is away on business and needs his mail redirecting via fax. Aside from that there is nothing to do. So he makes lists, worries about time, befriends a small boy who lives next door, worries about his good friend and his bad friend and tries to understand what being, and being here and now, means. In mostly very short, sometimes elliptical, wry but never ironic chapters Loe works at his character's fear of the meaningless and works meaning into the slightest of material. There is a lovely moment toward the end of the novel when the narrator's brother picks up and plays with the child's toy he has previously berated the narrator for holding on to. Sometimes, we feel, imputing meaning to the simpler things may well be the only route to understanding the more complex ones.

The novel is reminiscent of "60s" writer Richard Brautigan at his best, has the knowing artlessness of Douglas Coupland and shares a love of lists with Nick Hornby but Loe has bagfuls of his own unique charm. This is a beautifully unaffected, funny book, refreshingly free of cynicism, which manages to raise serious existential questions while retaining throughout the lightest of touches and the quirkiest of observations.--Mark Thwaite

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