Gunstein Bakke, Norway
About the author:
Gunstein Bakke (b.1968) was born in Setesdal, a valley in Aust-Agder county in southern Norway. He made his authorial debut in 2000 with the novel Kontoret. All his publications have been well received, but with Maud and Aud he has finally been recognized as one of the most original and interesting voices among Norwegian authors. Bakke's thought-provoking book combines poetic language, polyphonic narrative and astute analysis in a manner that stands out in contemporary Norwegian literature, and Maud and Aud has brought him much acclaim from literary critics as well as several nominations for Norwegian literary prizes. Bakke currently lives partly in Oslo, partly in Gotland.
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Maud og Aud - ein roman om trafikk (Maud and Aud- A Novel on Traffic)
Maud and Aud consists of short chapters that alternate between narrative flashes and poetic descriptions, containing reflections on traffic and the physical aspects of human life in a society where technology has become an increasingly important part of our bodies as well as our lives.
At the centre of the plot is a family which is devastated by a car accident: the mother dies, the father can only live on supported by artificial body parts, and the twin sisters Maud and Aud survive with bodily and mental scars. As it turns out, the sister with the lesser physical injuries is the one who cannot shake off the trauma of her family's encounter with death, and she is drawn to the thrill of reckless driving, both in her job as a traffic reporter and secretly during nightly drives to scenes of recent car accidents.
From this starting point, the author creates an essayistic net of reflections on thematically connected topics. These include how the first heart transplant operation performed in Cape Town in 1967 expanded our possibilities of fighting physical death, and how Princess Diana in 1997 was chased to her death as her car crashed in the Pont de l'Alma-tunnel in Paris. Furthermore, he dwells on how cars represent one of the greatest threats to human life in modern civil society, but they are still perceived as a smaller threat to man than wild animals hunted to near extinction, arguing that evolution has not caught up with the rapid development of modern civilization.
In short, Gunstein Bakke touches on questions of existential importance in a country where oil fuels not only the cars, but also a large part of society's development - and possibly also environmental developments that may eventually pose new threats to human life.
Traduit par : Aude Pasquier
C’est une route d’asphalte qui vient d’être posée, ou plus exactement : une bande d’asphalte qui vient d’être posée et recouvre la moitié de la chaussée. L’autre, quelques centimètres plus bas, est vieille, grise. Dessus roulent de petites colonnes de voitures, comme des queues, qui se sont formées aux feux de signalisation provisoires et mobiles.
Les ouvriers sont rentrés chez eux, mais l’asphalte est frais et odorant. Sa masse épaisse est encore chaude sous la plante des pieds de la petite fille sortie marcher sur ce ruban noir, qui laisse maintenant de légères traces derrière elle. A chaque pas, ça vacille lorsque la matière collante cède et tient bon, cède et tient bon. Ça lui rappelle quand elle mange des kransekaker, avec leurs couronnes craquantes empilées. Elle a envie de manger la route.
Quand elle s’allonge pour faire une silhouette d’ange, la surface porteuse est trop grande. Elle n’accueille pas l’empreinte de son corps, et les mouvements de ses bras – les battements d’ailes – ne trouvent pas prise sur le bitume. Ce n’est que lorsqu’elle se relève que se forme un petit creux sous ses fesses. Et parmi les fils et les bandelettes déchirés dans le fin tissu du dos de sa robe, on peut, si on regarde bien, sous les signes qui montrent que la nouvelle route a connu son premier accident, deviner que l’asphalte a également reçu l’empreinte de fleurs.
Rave Media Reviews:
Praise for Maud and Aud. A Novel about Traffic:
“Maud and Aud. A Novel about Traffic is an original and unsual novel about the influence of car traffic on our lives. The car’s significance is analysed into great detail, starting with the way one family’s life is changed forever in the course of a single second … The novel contains precise essayistic parts about oil, about organ donation, about traffic surveillance, about the little movements that are part of the greater ones. Engineers construct a road, doctors construct a body, these are the consequences of car traffic. The many themes challenge the reader to think.”
- From the press release of the Brage Prize nomination committee
“one of the strangest Norwegian novels this year. But also one of the very best … its level of ambition and dizzying prose make most other Norwegian fiction look rather embarrassing … Maud and Aud has now been nominated for the Brage Prize as the best work of fiction this year. The nomination is a great victory – for the Brage Prize.”
“Already the first pages contain paragraphs that should be quoted in full, peppered as they are by pregnant and estranging images … Maud and Aud is grounded in the real, and stil it is as if we are visiting a slightly different world. Bakke succeeds in the most difficult art of all: Reveal the strangeness of the things we thought we knew better than anything else … The perhaps greatest triumph of this peculiar novel is how the text manages to weave together completely down to earth conversation themes like gas, Mercedes models and road standard, with reflections and speculations of the greatest magnitude”
“Maud and Aud should be compulsory reading for anybody who plans on getting behind the wheel … Maud and Aud has its eerie elements, but it is no thriller. On the contrary, the book can be read as a literary attempt to understand traffic … The prose is carefully crafted, the book contains so many expressive images and melodically rich paragraphs that I have difficulties deciding which to point to. Bakke writes incredibly beautifully about the painful and grotesque.”
“an impure, rich text about road infrastructure, traffic accidents and physical desire, often with a poetic and sensual undertone, with a suspense novel-ish dramatic structure, related to a mysterious black Mercedes, and at the same time full of essayistic asides, twisted reasoning, bold leaps of thought and foreign words … you’re never in doubt about the ambitious, even unique, character of the writer’s prose and project”
“A well written and original story of the role and place of traffic in our society. After reading Gunstein Bakke’s new novel, you’re left with the feeling that way too few books are written about traffic … The writer stretches the novel form; in addition to the story of the family, there are essayistic parts … Maud and Aud is a different novel, it is playful and varied, it’s trains of thought are exciting to follow … there are striking images and accurate observations … an ambitious novel”
Kontoret (The Office) - 2000
ISBN 9788299859790 - Oslo: Gyldendal Norsk Forlag
Den indre olding (The Old Man within) - 2005
ISBN 9788205347557 - Oslo: Gyldendal Norsk Forlag
Murskueteknikkane - 2012
ISBN 9788249509263 - Oslo: Forlaget Oktober
- Winner of Melsomprisen 2011
- Nominated for the Brage Prize 2011
- Nominated for the P2 Listeners' Prize 2011
- Nominated for the Sørlandet Prize of Literature 2012