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Buzz Aldrin, What Happened to You in All the Confusion?: A Novel
     

Buzz Aldrin, What Happened to You in All the Confusion?: A Novel

by Johan Harstad
 

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Buzz Aldrin, What Happened to You in All the Confusion? opens with the line: "The person you love is 72.8% water, and it hasn’t rained for weeks." From there, Brage Award–winning author and playwright Johan Harstad’s debut—previously published to great success in eleven countries and now making its first English-language appearance—tells

Overview

Buzz Aldrin, What Happened to You in All the Confusion? opens with the line: "The person you love is 72.8% water, and it hasn’t rained for weeks." From there, Brage Award–winning author and playwright Johan Harstad’s debut—previously published to great success in eleven countries and now making its first English-language appearance—tells the story of Mattias, a thirty-something gardener living in Stavanger, Norway, whose idol is Buzz Aldrin, second man on the moon: the man who was willing to stand in Neil Armstrong’s shadow in order to work, diligently and humbly, for the success of the Apollo 11 mission. Following a series of personal and professional disasters, Mattias finds himself lying on a rain-soaked road in the desolate, treeless Faroe Islands, population only a few thousand, a wad of bills in his pocket and no memory of how he had come to be there—that’s when a truck approaches him, driven by a troubled, fantastic man with an offer that will shortly change Mattias’s life. And so, surrounded by a vivid and memorable cast of characters—aspiring pop musicians, Caribbean-obsessed psychologists, death-haunted photographers, girls who dream of anonymous men falling in love with them on bus trips, and even Buzz Aldrin himself—launches Buzz Aldrin, What Happened To You In All The Confusion?, the epic story of Mattias’s pop-saturated odyssey through the world of unconventional psychiatry, souvenir sheep-making, the Cardigans, and space: the space between himself and other people, a journey maybe as remote and personally dangerous as the trip to the moon itself.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This paradoxical desire to be seen without being heralded sets Harstad's hero apart from other tormented young men of contemporary literature . . . [an] ambitious debut."
—Publisher's Weekly

"The austere landscape and people of the Faeroes become players in Harstad’s poetic narrative, half-dramatic and half-comic, which takes on memorable turns with every page as Mattias realizes just how not in control of his destiny he really is.  A modern saga of rocketships, ice floes and dreams of the Caribbean, and great fun to read."
 —Kirkus Reviews
   
"Like Jonathan Safran Foer, Harstad combines formal play and linguistic ferocity with a searing emotional directness."
—Dedi Felman, Words Without Borders

"The fact is that Johan Harstad has a wholly unique voice, simultaneously both concrete and soaring . . . to be able to write in this way, to conjure a situation and construct space and time around it with such linguistic fluency, cannot be learned. You are born with it. Harstad’s fellow countryman Knut Hamsun, who was able to do the same, must be rejoicing in his heaven or wherever he might be."
—Jakob Levinsen, Jyllands-Posten review

"It doesn’t always have to be crime novels that come from Scandinavia. What 27 year-old Johan Harstad has written is quite plainly a work of genius. Buzz Aldrin, What Happened to You in All the Confusion? is as poetic as it is alive."
—Bucherwelt review

Library Journal
This courageous, deeply moving, and extraordinary novel is the first of acclaimed Norwegian writer Harstad's books to be translated into English. At the center of the story is a troubled young man named Mattias who, over the course of a few months, suffers a series of catastrophic losses and plunges into suicidal depression. Readers are taken on a harrowing journey into the world of mental illness and then on to tentative, precarious recovery as Mattias, surrounded by a small group of equally fragile friends, struggles to cobble together a new life for himself. This terrifying and inspiring book is about love and friendship, madness and sanity, and making our way in a difficult world. Harstad engages these themes masterfully. VERDICT An expertly crafted and emotionally complex novel—a work of considerable power and beauty. Essential for fans of literary fiction.—Patrick Sullivan, Manchester Community Coll., CT
Kirkus Reviews

Or, the long-awaited Great Faroese Novel: a splendid confusion about life, love and intrigues in the land of the midnight sun.

Thirty-something Norwegian writer/musician/all-around pop icon Harstad has been making quite a splash—or, perhaps, splashdown—with his debut novel of 2005, which was published in 11 countries before making its way to these shores and is now a feature film in the making. The story is perhaps uneasily fitted to the silver screen, for it's big and sprawling, and most of what happens does so in the interiors of its characters. The protagonist is a lovelorn gardener named Mattias, a young man of simple pleasures and absolutely no ambition: "Here in the garden, and I wanted to be nowhere else in the world" apart—perhaps, from hanging out with his friend Jørn. Mattias finds backing for his contentment in his station in the fate of Buzz Aldrin, the astronaut, who, though in command of the Apollo mission, had all his thunder stolen by Neil Armstrong, whom history remembers as the first man on the Moon, even though Aldrin was "a more experienced pilot in just about every way." Given the choice, Jørn, naturally enough, would want to be Armstrong, and so the twain diverges—and presto, Mattias, coming into adulthood at just about the time Olof Palme is shot dead in Sweden and the age of Scandinavian innocence dissolves, finds himself in the remote Faeroe Islands. For a man who wants nothing more than for nothing to change, the new venue would seem to be ideal. But, of course, the world intrudes even on the Far North, and Mattias finds himself caught up in weird cabals and improbable plots about which he keeps suitably mum ("Didn't mention any catastrophes, bloodied hands or envelopes that appeared from nowhere filled with large amounts of money"). The austere landscape and people of the Faeroes become players in Harstad's poetic narrative, half-dramatic and half-comic, which takes on memorable turns with every page as Mattias realizes just how not in control of his destiny he really is.

A modern saga of rocketships, ice floes and dreams of the Caribbean, and great fun to read.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781609803339
Publisher:
Seven Stories Press
Publication date:
06/07/2011
Sold by:
Penguin Random House Publisher Services
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
3 MB

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Meet the Author

JOHAN HARSTAD, winner of the 2008 Brage Award (previously won by Per Petterson), is a Norwegian author, playwright, graphic designer, drummer, and international sensation, with books published in eleven countries. His first novel, Buzz Aldrin, What Happened To You In All The Confusion?, was in 2009 made into a TV series starring The Wire’s Chad Coleman. Harstad lives in Oslo. DEBORAH DAWKIN is a literary translator based in London.

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