T Singer begins with thirty-four-year-old Singer graduating from library school and traveling by train from Oslo to the small town of Notodden, located in the mountainous Telemark region of Norway. There he plans to begin a deliberately anonymous life as a librarian. But Singer unexpectedly falls in love with the ceramicist Merete Saethre, who has a young daughter from a previous relationship. After a few years together, the couple is on the verge of separating, when a car accident prompts a dramatic change in Singer’s life.
The narrator of the novel specifically states that this is not a happy story, yet, as in all of Dag Solstad’s works, the prose is marked by an unforgettable combination of humor and darkness. Overall, T Singer marks a departure more explicitly existential than any of Solstad’s previous works.
All of the whispers have been right: Solstad is a vital novelist.
—Charles Finch, New York Times Book Review
Solstad’s growing reputation in the English-speaking world rests on just a small sliver of his oeuvre, after he “retired” the theme of communism. In the 1990s, he published four slim, disturbed novels, which Solstad said are “reasonable to view as a suite,” about men in contemporary Norwegian society who see themselves, wrongly and rightly, as drifting outside the bounds of conventional life. These novels—Novel 11, Book 18 (1992), Shyness and Dignity (1994), Professor Andersen’s Night (1996), and T. Singer (1999)—have all been translated into English. They are stripped-down, hallucinatory works, unsentimentally scrutinizing the male protagonists as they crack under the pressures of an increasingly consumerist and atomized social world.
—Matt B. Weir, Dissent
Solstad, regarded by Norwegians as arguably their finest and surely their most critically praised and influential contemporary novelist, pairs his deep political engagement with an ever-renewed formal invention. With each new novel, he startles us, his readers, yet again with something unexpected. I find him, with his spirited intelligence, a delight and an inspiration to read, whether (haltingly!) in Norwegian or, over the past few years, happily, gratefully, in English translation.
Full of dryly comic, densely existential despair.
—The Times Literary Supplement
A story at once traditional and postmodern.
Solstad’s unusual, entertaining novel of restrained humor follows its protagonist, T Singer, over a lifetime of nonengagement….The novel brilliantly shows the humor and pain of obsessiveness, and the anxious, analytic Singer emerges as an enduring creation.
With the simultaneous publication of the novel Armand V, Solstad should finally get the attention he deserves in the U.S…The novel follows Singer from his early twenties to his late forties, and this life, which hardly seems to belong to the man living it, proceeds like a jaunty, unforgettable tune played in a minor key.
Solstad has a revered role in Norway as the chronicler of his country’s changing times.
T Singer goes far beyond the typical, Camus-like portrait of existential alienation that clings to every corner of global literature like the odor of cigarette smoke in a supposedly clean hotel room. Solstad creates a truly singular character whose existence feels like nothing more than the sum of indentations left on him by the world.