‘So, Tore,’ a friend of mine said last autumn when See You Tomorrow came out in Norway, ‘what’s this then?’
He’d picked up on the relative sensation that a Norwegian writer known for his vulnerable dramas, his humorous portraits of human foolishness, his studies in relationships, his coming-of-age stories loaded with music, politics and alcohol had, all of a sudden, changed direction and written a … what?
Comedythrillerdramacrime … what?
‘Honestly speaking,’ I said and lowered my voice, as he handed me a copy of See You Tomorrow to sign, ‘I do not know what the heck it is.’
‘Okay?’ he replied a bit baffled, perhaps a bit sceptical, since I was, after all, the author of the book.
‘Yeah,’ I said, ‘it’s a bit tricky. It’s like I’ve given birth to some really strange kid.’
He laughed. I did not.
‘But what do you mean you do not know yourself?’ my friend asked.
I’d been struggling with this for years. The novel itself was not the struggle. No, in fact this novel had been a damn feast to write. Sure it had been hard work, and sure it had taken me six years and demanded bucketloads of research, but struggle? No. The opposite was the case; for once it was all fun, all energy, all fascination. Every day at work with this novel was a revelation; I sat down at my desk, eager to find out what my characters were up to, where they were headed since I left them the day before.
Tiril, are you going to punch him?
What, Rudi? Are you … is she … are you really gonna … Djeez! Look at that!
They just acted. They just breathed. They just lived.
I was their stenographer and I let it all go.
But what was it?
That was the only thing I struggled with. I wrote and I had just about the best time in my creative life, but I couldn’t seem to grasp what kind of novel it was.
Well, if the definition of a crime novel is a novel about criminals, about breaking the law, about violence and guilt, then yes. Okay: a crime novel. But still, the phrase did not seem to contain the novel I was writing. Wasn’t there too much drama, too much humour and comedy, too much romance, too many kids on the loose? Didn’t it lack the classic aspects of the crime novel? Wasn’t it all just too genre-defying? Didn’t it all just smell of something different? Or was it my rigid view of the crime genre that stopped me from labelling it as such?
After I had said this, if not in these words but in essence, I asked my friend what he thought.
‘Hm,’ he said, ‘sounds to me like you’ve written a thriller.’
I chewed on this.
Then I pulled the lid from the pen, opened the novel, flipped to the title page and wrote: ‘Dear friend, I wrote this, every day wondering what it was, but I had the best time of my life with Rudi, Jani, Chessi and the others because they are all shining, falling stars. You are ever so welcome to the dreadful and wonderful world of See You Tomorrow. PS: You could be right. From Thriller Tore.’
See You Tomorrow by Tore Renberg is published by Arcadia Books, £14.99 hardback