Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Review: The Scoundrel Days of Hobo Highbrow by Pal H. Christiansen

genre: fiction, translated
review: 4/5

Hobo Highbrow loves language. He works as an editor, is attempting to write a prize-winning novel and generally is rather particular about words. He lives in Oslo with a gang of offbeat friends and a loving girlfriend. Really, not much happens in this book. If I had to lay out a plot for you, I couldn't. What it reminds me most of is a sitcom - we follow a main character around, through a series of experiences that don't really lead us anywhere but entertain us all the same.

Hobo is an incredibly funny character - he's quirky-bordering-on-neurotic and has so many "insightful" (yes, I mean that sarcastically) thoughts about life. He's entirely self-centered and yet is under the impression that everything he does is for the common good. For example: Hobo is helping his friend out by delivering some food to his aunt. Hobo comments about this experience that:
I liked the feeling of doing something useful, of being a minuscule cog in the wheel that went by the name of CARING FOR THE ELDERLY. A mechanism that admittedly struggled from time to time, but was driven by a gang of diligent and engaging people like myself.
Ha! While you can tell that much of his writing is nonsensical drivel, he truly believes himself to be an authentic and creative author. As he explains it, he was "like a loaf of bread that had risen and was about to spill out over the baking tin, out of the oven and conquer the world!!" I loved the sections were he talks about his writing and how his world needs to be set up in order for the "real" writing to begin. And his book! Such a farce. He is curiously in love with the dictionary, the game Scrabble, and the band A-ha, whom he uses as a muse and whose lyrics are like a scriptural guide to life.

The translator (I'm guessing, based on several spellings, that someone British translated) did a great job with the language and style. Hobo is an authentic and European character, full of faults and yet he creates a soft spot for himself all the same. The quirky characters and dry humor made this one an entertaining read.

If you are interested in purchasing the book, it is currently available from the author's website.


Steve Oldner said...

Don't forget Hobo's ADVENT calender. It shows pictures of places in the book.

Serena said...

Wow, sounds like an interesting read...very entertaining.

Jontus said...

Thanks for the really positive comments. Yup, the translator grew up in the UK. I was born in Chiswick, London.

Have spent most of the last twenty years away but my high school English teacher, Mrs Hoyes, would be proud.

It was a lot of fun translating the novel. I think I have more in common with Hobo than I dare to think.

All the best,
Jon Buscall

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