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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Professor Andersen's Night

Dag Solstad

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To purchase rofessor Andersen's Night

Title: Professor Andersen's Night
Author: Dag Solstad
Genre: Novel
Written: 1996 (Eng. 2011)
Length: 142 pages
Original in: Norwegian
Availability: Professor Andersen's Night - US
Professor Andersen's Night - UK
Professor Andersen's Night - Canada
Professor Andersen's Night - India
Professor Andersens Nacht - Deutschland
  • Norwegian title: Professor Andersens natt
  • Translated by Scott Langeland

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Our Assessment:

A- : cleverly and well-turned novel of personal crisis

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Dagbladet A 8/11/1996 Linn Ullmann
Evening Standard A+ 8/11/2012 William Leith
The Guardian . 30/12/2011 Laura Wilson
The Independent . 23/12/2011 Paul Binding
Irish Times . 19/11/2011 Eileen Battersby
Neue Zürcher Zeitung . 22/11/2005 Aldo Keel
TLS . 20/4/2012 Catharine Morris
Trouw . 18/12/2004 Hester Eymers

  From the Reviews:
  • "Boka handler om nettopp dette, om denne opprinnelige, helt nødvendige, livsviktige menneskelige egenskap: Evnen til å rystes. (...) Det som er så merkverdig med Professor Andersens natt er at den ut fra et svært enkelt litterært grep utvikler seg og vokser, slik at den etter hvert, nesten uten at leseren er forberedt, handler om helt grunnleggende menneskelige vilkår. Om tidsånden som trollbinder oss: At mennesket sitter fast i sin tid, eller at tida sitter fast i mennesket, slik at den forbrytelsen professor Andersen er vitne til aldri kan omgjøres, og at hans egen unnlatelsessynd aldri kan gjøres godt igjen." - Linn Ullmann, Dagbladet

  • "Superb." - William Leith, Evening Standard

  • "(A) clever psychological inaction thriller, which uses the witnessing of a crime as the catalyst for a midlife crisis. (...) Professor Andersen's Night is an unsettling and accurate account of a middle-aged egotist whose barely digested youthful radicalism has given way to lifestyle snobbery and who is unable to empathise with others except through the medium of literature." - Laura Wilson, The Guardian

  • "Despite murder's centrality and the vivid Oslo setting, this novel is no piece of Nordic noir. Its progenitors are French existentialism, the nouveau roman with its subtle play of time on space, and Austria's Thomas Bernhard with its long sentences following the contortions of a mind defying rational intentions. Dag Solstad is an unflinching explorer of the plight of educated humankind in the face of the inexplicable, whose artistry matches his ambitious theme." - Paul Binding, The Independent

  • "Solstad creates a convincing portrait of an individual who is so consummately lonely that he no longer even recognises the state. Prof Andersen is barely alive; his complacency and cerebral approach to existence sustain him. (...) This is a subversive little novel in which morality becomes a football. Whereas Novel 11, Book 18 pivots on a decision that defies everything, Professor Andersenís Night confronts morality, justice and compromise. Dag Solstad, who is frequently compared, with some justification, to Chekhov, has written a moral, almost allegorical novel in which he is far less interested in heroics than he is in humanity." - Eileen Battersby, Irish Times

  • "Solstad has an outstanding ability to portray mental processes accurately; here, the bleakness of Andersen's outlook is offset by the lightness of the prose, nimbly translated by Agnes Scott Langeland, and by the wry humour at play in it. There is also the incidental pleasure of Andersen's quaint habits and social observations" - Catharine Morris, Times Literary Supplement

  • "Deze drie thema's, de moord, het verlies van idealen, de literatuur, wisselt Solstad telkens behendig af. Na een uiteenzetting over de waarde van literatuur voor het nageslacht volgt bijvoorbeeld een toevallige ontmoeting van de professor met de moordenaar waarna professor Andersen zich wanhopig afvraagt waarom hij niet direct aangifte van de moord heeft gedaan. De toon is urgent en beklemmend, niet alleen als het over de moord gaat maar minstens zozeer in de meer beschouwende passages." - Hester Eymers, Trouw

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Although Professor Andersens natt begins with its protagonist Pål Andersen sitting down to his Christmas eve dinner all alone the tone is almost jolly: Pål Andersen is happy in his own skin, and happy with his situation, and perfectly content to go through the Christmas eve ritual by his lonesome. A fifty-year-old professor of literature (specializing in Ibsen, of course (a Solstad specialty)), he's been divorced for ten years (and never even seen his wife again over that whole decade) and has no children; the two wrapped books under his Christmas tree (yes, he goes in for one of those as well) are gifts from his nephews.
       The evening proceeds pleasantly enough, with good food and good drink. Eventually he takes to gazing into the apartments across the way, where four families each go through their own happy Christmas rituals. Andersen is content to watch; he doesn't have to be part of these or other lives.
       In best Rear Window-fashion Andersen then witnesses something else in one of the other windows: a man choking a woman until she collapses to the ground. He's certain he's seen a murder -- and he wants to but can't bring himself to call the police.
       He finds all sorts of excuses for not taking any action, including that they wouldn't believe him. And soon enough it seems too late to do anything about it, as he'd have to explain his delay in contacting them as well. So he does nothing.
       He reminds himself that a day later he's invited for dinner at an old friend's house, and vows to get their early to discuss it, and how to proceed, with him -- but when he does can't get himself to broach the subject. Soon enough all the other guests have arrived, and he can't raise it at the dinner table either.
       He flees, suddenly, to Trondheim, then equally abruptly changes plans to return home, able to put the murder out of his mind briefly before obsessing over it again. And matters get more complicated when he encounters that man he saw .....
       Professor Andersens natt has the trappings of a thriller, but for Solstad murder is only one more reason for introspection, a moral and philosophical dilemma that blends with all the others Andersen realizes he faces, the final drop that threatens to bring his cup to overflow. The dinner party of the fifty-somethings, all who have made something of their lives, leads to thoughts about what they have made of their lives; and he begins to question Ibsen and literature, too: what can be considered lasting ? What is valued for its true inherent worth, and not because it has been put on some pedestal ? Can classic literature still move us ? or is our day already done ?
       Solstad spins these unlikely threads together very well, resisting artifice -- there are no neat resolutions, or a convenient overlap or mirroring of themes -- and instead presenting a convincingly real scenario, the different scenes, from a meal at a sushi restaurant to a day cross-country skiing (and discussions over coffee at a ski lodge) well-executed small miniatures.
       Professor Andersens natt is a different sort of intellectual thriller, but Solstad again proves himself one of the most thoughtful and clever writers addressing the human (intellectual) condition in the late twentieth century. A very fine little novel.

- M.A.Orthofer, 23 December 2009

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Professor Andersen's Night: Reviews: Other books by Dag Solstad under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Norwegian author Dag Solstad was born in 1941.

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