Books on Monday: Norwegian author Johan Harstad

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

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

by Johan Harstad 

In Buzz Aldrin, What Happened to You in All the Confusion?, readers follow a man who wishes not to be followed, a man who, after a series of personal and professional disasters, 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. From there, Brage Award-winning author and playwright Johan Harstad’s debut novel–previously published to great success in eleven countries with its first English-language appearance in June 2011–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.

Through Harstad’s “delectably light but nonetheless impactful prose . . . the novel’s finest moments wrap you up in communion with Mattias, as if you are spending a quiet afternoon with an old friend, chatting but mostly thinking” (Three Percent). 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–“Harstad combines formal play and linguistic ferocity with a searing emotional directness” (Dedi Felman, Words Without Borders) to bring Mattias to the realization that he cannot always blend into the background.

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