Faldbakken, Knut


Faldbakken, Knut
(1941-)
   A Norwegian novelist, short story writer, and dramatist, Faldbakken has had five of his novels translated into English. A practitioner of psychological realism, Faldbakken studied psychology for two years; his interest in deviant sexuality, a thematic staple in his works, may be a result of these studies.
   Faldbakken's first novel, Den gra regnbuen (1967; The Gray Rainbow), is set in Paris and illustrates the old idea that a literary artist has to sacrifice human relationships in order to create. The narrator is a young man who abandons his girlfriend because he realizes that marriage is incompatible with his artistic aspirations. Sin mors hus (1969; His Mother's House) treats mother-son incest; not even a sexual relationship with an attractive and passionate woman his own age is able to pull the male protagonist away from his mother, who seduces him by appealing to his infantile curiosity about her body. M ude d nser (1971; tr. The Sleeping Prince, 1988) offers a portrait of a woman who, at age 47, is still a virgin, and who appears to have been emotionally arrested by the experience of finding a dead man in the grass when she was a girl. At first she carries on an imaginary relationship with one of the residents of the boardinghouse in which she lives. After his death, she is pursued sexually by the boarder who replaces him, whom she murders, thus duplicating her girlhood experience of being close to a dead body.
   Faldbakken's familiarity with the Norwegian literary tradition shows up in Insektsommer (1972; tr. Insect Summer, 1991), which evokes some motifs in Knut Hamsun's Pan. It is a story about a young man's first encounter with the erotic, including the relationship between eroticism and power. Later Faldbakken offered a retelling of Hamsun's story in his book Glahn (1985), in which he changed the setting from rural northern Norway in the 1850s to Oslo in the 1980s.
   Two ecological novels from the mid-1970s attracted much interest and favorable critical attention, culminating in a nomination for the Nordic Literary Prize in 1977. In Uar: Aftenlandet (1974; tr. Twilight Country, 1993) Faldbakken portrays a dystopian urban society where runaway capitalism and wanton exploitation of natural resources force his characters to move to the city dump in order to survive as scavengers. In Uar: Sweetwater (1976; tr. Sweetwater, 1994) there is a complete socioeconomic collapse, after which some of the residents of the former metropolis band together to establish an ecologically responsible society guided by socialist principles.
   After the Uar novels Faldbakken returned to male-female relationship issues. Adams dagbok (1978; tr. Adam's Diary, 1988) is a narrative triptych of sorts, as the same story is narrated from the perspectives of three different characters called the Thief, the Dog, and the Prisoner. Bryllupsreisen (1982; tr. The Honeymoon, 1987) mixes violence with marriage difficulties, and the author was criticized for appearing to condone physical abuse. But Bryllupsreisen also explores the intricacies of literary creativity, for the protagonist believes that striking his wife in her face has freed him to write. Creativity is a core issue in Bad Boy (1988), where the middle section of the book is part of a first-person novel that the protagonist in the rest of the book is trying to write, and in which he offers a highly fictionalized version of the reality that is presented in the first and last section. A willingness to experiment with behavior that is not normally part of one's repertoire, for example, cross-dressing, is presented as a means to unleashing one's creativity. Ormens ar (1993; The Year of the Serpent) represents a return to Faldbakken's earlier focus on pathological sexuality; the protagonist is an outpatient at a mental hospital who creates elaborate mythic structures in order to cope with the fact that he killed his father for sexually abusing his sister.
   Three novels from the second half of the 1990s form a kind of trilogy. Nar jeg ser deg (1996; When I See You), Eksil (1997; Exile), and Alt hva hjertet begjærer (1999; All That the Heart Desires) are freestanding narratives that are related thematically and share many of the characters. At their center is the question of how it is possible to form and maintain love relationships; all too often personal choice seems to give way to coincidence in the way relationships are formed and how they end.
   Faldbakken's most insightful, and also most frightening, novel about sexual abuse is Frøken Snehvit (2000; Miss Snow White), in which some young teenagers are preyed on by a woman who claims to be a teacher. The narrator, one of the teens who tells the story as an adult many years later, shows how lives are lost and futures are destroyed by pedophiles. The luridness of the theme is balanced by the author's moral earnestness.
   Faldbakken has also written short stories and plays, as well as a book-length essay on literary creativity, Tør du være kreativ? Et personlig essay om kreativitet (1994; Dare You Be Creative? A Personal Essay on Creativity), and some additional novels of minor significance, including two mystery stories.

Historical Dictionary of Scandinavian Literature and Theater. . 2006.

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  • Knut Faldbakken — (born Hamar, 31 August 1941) is a Norwegian novelist. BiographyFaldbakken studied psychology at Oslo University, and then worked as a journalist. He visited a number of countries, working variously as a bookkeeper, sailor, and factory worker, and …   Wikipedia

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