Erlend Loe: Naive. Super

Naive Super - Cover Image

Author: Erlend Loe

Title: Naive. Super

ISBN: 1841956724

Pages: 208

 “My life has been strange lately. It came to a point where I lost interest in it all. It was my 25th birthday. A few weeks ago.”

Twentysomethings going through a premature mid-life crisis. Don’t you just want to slap them in the face?

Naïve. Super was the 1996 best-selling novel by Norwegian author, Erlend Loe. It’s a deceptively simple book in many ways. The plot, what little of it there is, concerns a young man in the final year of his masters degree who has lost grasp on what life is about and what his future will be. With few friends and no love life to speak of, he decides to quit university and his part time job to ‘turn down the tempo to zero’.

You may be thinking that none of this sounds promising, or particularly original. In fact, you could be forgiven for wondering if Loe spent far too long during his teenage years locked in a bedroom poring earnestly over Morrisey lyrics. Fortunately, it turns out that Loe is ‘smarter than the average bear’, or in this case, Smiths fan, as Naïve Super reveals itself to be a warm, endearing, and at the risk of sounding twee, charming book.

“I am convinced that it’s all about eagerness. That it’s missing.
I must find it. Get it back.
It’s out there.
It’s probably pointless to talk about it.
It’s a bit Zen.
I’ll never make it as long as I try to.
Only when I don’t try, will I make it.
Fucking Buddhists. They think they’re so bloody clever.”

After selling most of his possessions, Loe’s narrator, whose identity is only revealed on the final page, flat-sits for his brother whilst he is away in New York. It’s there that he finds a book about ‘life, the universe and everything’ which only serves to magnify his feelings of intimidation at the complexity of life.

“I flipped through some pages, but started sweating and had to put it down. It was too much for me.
There are limits to what I can handle right now. I walked around the flat for awhile, feeling uneasy.
To divert my thoughts, I started to look through one of my brother’s old photo albums. There are several photographs of me there. I am little. And often dressed in the strangest clothes. Corduroy. Always corduroy.
I must have had outrageous self-confidence as a child.”

It is to the naivety and comfort of childhood that the narrator turns. He purchases toys, a ball and a wooden hammer and peg set, with which he plays for hours. But it is when he befriends a young neighbourhood child, Borre, that his life starts to change, as whilst babysitting the boy he finds a girl with whom he can connect.

After much insistence, he agrees to visit his brother in New York, somewhere he is told will ‘give him perspective’. It is there that it becomes apparent that the naivety of childhood is not an escape from the complexity of adulthood, but a compliment to it. That the solutions to our problems cannot be found in the words and thoughts of others, but that we must find them ourselves. And most importantly, the realisation that the comfort we need to live life comes from our family and friends.

There is much wisdom to be found in Naïve Super, mixed with a wonderfully dry sense of humour. The short, sharp, simple sentences used, are deliberately childlike. With the narrator’s obsession for lists – reminiscent of ‘Hi-Fidelity’ which had been published the year before – seeming to mirror the fragments of experience that form all our lives.

Creating an alienated character is a risky move, as they can often end up alienated from the reader as well. But Loe is a skilful writer, and one capable of connecting to the fears we all have, and creating a book of such deceptive simplicity that it can be used as a canvas to project our own problems. Naïve? Yes. Super? Yes. Impressive novel? Definitely.

“My life has been strange lately. It came to a point where I lost interest in it all.
It was my 25th birthday. A few weeks ago.”

Twentysomethings going through premature mid-life crisis. Don’t you just want to slap them in the face? Unless they’re smart and can make you laugh. Then you might let them off.

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~ by ThatCricketBlogger on 5 November, 2007.

2 Responses to “Erlend Loe: Naive. Super”

  1. This is one of the best books I have read in a looooong time. As soon as I started reading it, I did not want to put it down. I can’t wait to read all his other books Jenny 🙂

  2. […] Amazingly simple writing about amazingly deep thoughts on a trip to self-discovery in one’s middle 20s. Sounds naive? Yes! But a very well written and smart naive story that might give you a laugh with the help of Loe’s undeniable high intelligence. And a very nice review of Naive. Super. […]

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