We are five
de Matias Faldbakken
Translated from Norwegian by Marie-Pierre Fiquet
Fayard, 256 p. 20 €
In a village in Norway, Tormod, a handsome carpenter, lives with his wife Siv and their two children. He experienced the excesses of alcohol and drugs in his youth but has since given up. Their existence passes peacefully, even if the couple becomes numb. With the pregnancies, Siv has become thicker, and her magnificent blonde hair, which had seduced Tormod in high school, looks like “more like a pile of hay now”. The disappearance of a beloved dog will suddenly destabilize the little family. The father, withdrawn into his workshop, begins to make with earth and fertilizer, a dynamic clay with astonishing superpowers, which soon fascinates the children and then his wife…
The evil inclinations of an ordinary hero
Son of the Norwegian writer Knut Faldbakken, Matias Faldbakken, a renowned novelist and visual artist – he represented Norway at the Venice Biennale in 2005 – embroiders here a fantastic fable around the myth of the golem. Imagined in the 16th century by a Talmudist from Prague, this clay creature, at first useful and protective then increasingly autonomous and threatening, inspired the story of Frankenstein, among multiple avatars in literature, cinema or video games. This Norwegian version, masterfully narrated, seduces with the gentle madness, the evil attraction, the taste for exploring limits, which takes hold of an ordinary demiurge, so similar to each of us.
An artificial intelligence ogre?
Gifted with an astonishing scientific mind, which had impressed his computer science teacher at high school, Tormod gradually turns into a Faustian scientist. While next to him, a poisonous comrade, Espen, plays Mephistopheles. Despite the rural backdrop of the plot, the virtuality of a booming digital world, the accelerated developments of artificial intelligence – never named in the novel – could well be the real threat smoldering under the lukewarm mass of ‘a clay ogre, doped with Wi-Fi waves. Isn’t Tormod’s own son already caught up in everyday life, devoured by his own games console?
Faced with the drift of his male characters, Matias Faldbakken, always drawing from the crucible of myths and popular tales, spins the metaphor of women whose beauty, like their vital force, seems to be concentrated in their hair. Siv, who once knew how to pull her husband from a fatal descent and tame his crazy inclinations, works as a hairdresser. Her daughter Hélène inherited her attractive and possibly fatal blondness… Even if we will be careful not to reveal the outcome of this contemporary fable in the land of trolls and elves.
#golem #norwegian #soil