Johan Harstad //
Of course Booktunes couldn’t pass on Buzz Aldrin, What Happened to You in All the Confusion? Johan Harstad’s pop-saturated odyssey into the dark lands of alternative psychiatry may seem a somewhat depressing book, but we can assure you: it’s not.
Mattias, thirty-something and troubled by a myriad of personal and professional catastrophes, is depressed. We can safely say that. The Faroe Islands, a barren group of flecks in the ocean with only a couple of thousands brave inhabitants defying its treeless desolation, are not your regular holiday destination. We can safely say that, too. And yet, Brage Award-winning Johan Harstad will prove us wrong. With Mattias he takes us on a heroic journey to resolution and redemption, every step of the way hindered by the overpowering urge to be second and not first, to blend in and not stand out, to be like Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the moon, and not Neil Armstrong.
After his girlfriend leaves him and he’s sacked from his job, Matthias flees Norway with his friends, a bunch of pop musicians on tour. He soon finds himself in the middle of a road on one of the Faroe Islands without any memory on how he got there. He is picked up by Havstein, a strange fellow running a rather unuasal psychiatric facility in a deserted factory on the island. It is here amidst the other residents, a group of oddballs and loners, that Mattias slowly regains control of his life.
Harstad’s prose is beautifully poetic and at times as meandering as one’s own mind. You can almost touch the despair of both Mattias and the landscape that surrounds him, certainly if you play the music Harstad uses in this pop-saturated novel. You can literally feel the end of the world as we know it when Mattias falls back onto the deck of the ferry. And like R.E.M.’s apocalyptic lyrics predicted, you will feel fine.
text by Mina Witteman