‘Knots’ by Gunnhild Øyehaug – Original Comical Takes on the Relations Between Men and Women

‘Knots’ by Gunnhild Øyehaug   (2012) – 164 pages             Translated from the Norwegian by Kari Dickson

In ‘Knots’, there are 26 stories in the 164 pages which works out to an average of slightly over 6 pages per story.  I don’t need to tell you that reading ‘Knots’ is a vastly different experience from reading a 600 page novel. In ‘Knots’ we have 26 separate narratives, 26 groups of characters, and 26 different plots. And each story is quite different from the rest and by no means simple or easy to understand.  I had to read each story twice in order to fully comprehend each story, so ‘Knots’ is by no means an easy read.  However it is a fascinating read.

One must get into the spirit of each of these stories in order to get it.   A reader must expend a certain effort to fully appreciate each of these very short stories but in most cases it is well worth the effort.  One thing that stands out is the wide variety with each story vastly different from the others.  Apparently there is nothing that Øyehaug won’t try for a story.  These are not your standard issue stories by any means.  Many of the stories allude to literary figures, and they all have a distinctly Norwegian flavor.

Gunnhild Øyehaug puts her characters in comic risqué situations with a lot of humor and from a quirky woman’s point of view. The really short stories of one to four pages are cartoonish in the good sense of the word.  They are rude and sometimes crude. The longer stories are more fully developed.

In the story ‘Small Knots’, a mother gives birth to a son, a perfectly fine son.  There is just one problem.  The umbilical cord between mother and son cannot be cut by any means.  They lead as normal a life as possible, given this constraint.

In ‘Echo’ a young man Bjarte Bo idolizes another young guy Arild that he works with who is “a demon at selling encyclopedias” and thus a “success in its purest and rawest form”.  The one area where Bjarte Bo has the better of Arild is Bjarte’s girlfriend Tone.  Then Arild invites Bjarte and his girlfriend Tone to dinner at Arild’s apartment.  First Bjarte admires Arild’s Italian car which is sitting outside with an appreciative, “Damn”, and Tone responds by quoting Joyce.  This quote goes over Bjarte’s head as literary quotes are “something he didn’t know and didn’t care he didn’t know”.  Later during the dinner conversation Arild mentions that “Poetry was like the glow of a flame under glass”.  This remark resonates with Tone and soon Arild’s left hand “stole up the long split of her dress and she was more conscious of her body than she had been for a long time”.  There the story ends.

My favorite story is probably the last one, ‘Two by Two’, which is about a wife waiting for her husband to get back from a romantic tryst with his girlfriend on a snowy evening.  The wife’s attitude alternates depending on whether she is reflecting on Sylvia Plath or Ted Hughes.

Gunnhild Øyehaug is an original force as a writer.

 

 

Grade :   A

 

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3 responses to this post.

  1. It’s great the way that books from Norway and making their way into our bookiverse. For years the only writer I knew was Per Petterson – and I have to confess that this one is the first I’ve seen by a woman writer – but it seems now that there is more to choose from.

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    Reply

    • Hi Lisa,
      I didn’t reply to your comment sooner because we just got back from a wonderful vacation in Italy. We started in Rome, went to Venice (where of course we did the gondola), then a side trip to Verona, then on to Florence, then a side trip to Assisi where we saw the upper church where all the frescoes of Giotto can be seen, then finally back to Rome. No Internet for nine days which was a vacation itself. 🙂
      Yes, it is good to see a Norwegian woman writer get published, especially one so creative and different as Gunnhild Øyehaug.

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      Reply

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