About The Author
Tore Renberg made an instant impact on the Norwegian literary scene with his short story collection, Sleeping Tangle, which won the prestigious Tarjei Vesaas Debutant Prize. Since then two of his novels, The Man Who Loved Yngve (which won the 2008 Booksellers Prize) and Charlotte Isabel Hansen, have been adapted for film. He has also published a number of books for children. He is a noted literary critic in Norway and a host on the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporartion.
See You Tomorrow, published in Norway as Vi ses I morgen, is his first book to be translated into English. It follows the stories of locals left behind by the gentrification of Stavanger, the oil capital of Norway.
Pål is weighed down by debt, having turned to online gambling after being left to care for two teenage daughters when his wife left him. Sixteen-year-old Sandra is going out with the enigmatic and handsome Daniel William, whose history of unsuccessful foster placements stems from a dark past he refuses to discuss. Cecilie is pregnant, possibly by her garrulous boyfriend Rudi, part of a small-time gang of crooks headed by her brother, Jan Inge, an obese horror film fan who pimped her out to his friends when they were teenagers. Over three fateful September days, their lives intersect is a whirlwind of brutality, tragedy and absurdity that will change the course of their lives.
In this exclusive interview with Foyles, Tore talks about the terrifying teenage gang that inspired him, the radical changes wrought on Stanvanger by sudden wealth and how horror movies offer a similar moral philosophy to the Bible.
Questions & Answers
Your chapters switch between the points of view of ten characters. Which of them was the most interesting to write? And which was the most challenging?
You know, this is a difficult one to answer. You're basically asking me to choose between my children, which is a hard thing to do for a parent of so many wonderful individuals. Because that´s essentially what they are to me: Real individuals. I have been living with them for six years, caring for them, cheering for them, and hoping they do not get into any trouble. Rudi, the ADHD-stricken super-horny criminal. Jan Inge, the lonely and philosophical gang-leader. Cecilie, the pregnant power-ballad fan. All the lost souls, the damaged misfits, the children of this book. So I´d be hard pressed to answer this question without having doubts and bad conscience. The funniest one was for sure Rudi, I loved getting into that raw and rude and gritty Rudi-mood. The saddest one was Pål, the father of the two teenagers who´s gotten himself into such heavy trouble. The most alien to me, and probably the most challenging, was Tong. The closest I have ever come to portraying a man who wants to hurt people.
The leader of the criminal gang, Jan Inge, is a real horror movie aficionado. His philosophy is'horror is a wellspring of creativity, horror yields unity. Horror makes you see what's important'. Do you think horror moves offer a philosophy of life or are they just entertainment?
Weeeell... now, the case here is really me plunging as deep as I can into a really twisted character, ending up with a quite suprising result. A man, circa 40, who believes that the Bible and Horror movies speak about the same thing: The Good Of Mankind and The Need To Stay Alert And Prevent Evil. He is just about the loneliest man on earth, Jan Inge, with his longings, his fears, and his love for old school country music. Initially, when I started writing this novel back in 2007 I had a quite strained relationship to horror movies, believing them to be all speculative and fooling around with serious things. But I had to watch an enourmous amont of them during the research of the book, and weeeeell.. I find them, at their best, deeply and disturbingly philosophical. You know, the works of Dario Argento or Tobee Hooper, you can easily call these works disgusting, but they are asking the big questions in life, I do have to admit, even though I am a decent middle-class Norwegian boy brought up on Duran Duran and milk. Jan Inge is - in my novel - thinking about writing a book, a study, of horror movies, to be called 'It's too late - A Study of Horror Movies'. I sort of hope he one day will write it.
Your acknowledgements finish with the words: 'And thanks to the Tjensvoll Gang. You sure did frighten us back then. You wrote this.'. Who exactly were this gang?
They were a gang of young adults living in the area where I was brought up, in the outskirts of Stavanger. Kinda like suburbs. They hang around the Tjensvoll Centre, nothing to do, no Youth Clubs, no nothing. So they started having their fun stealing smokes and beer from the shop, breaking into the local video store at night, kicking wing mirrors of cars and beating up people. Slowly some of them grew into doing more severe things. They kept the house prices down for ages and they certainly frightened the hell out of me back then. But I must admit a curiousity and some sort of bizarre admiration. How can it be that they dared to do all these things? Me, I'd shit my pants just thinking about stealing a tiny little chocolate bar. They´ve been strangely inspirational.
The Stavanger region in which your characters live was transformed by the wealth that came flooding in after the discovery of North Sea oil and gas. Do its social problems stem from the fact that only some residents saw the benefits?
It is an old and simple fact that economical differences in society divide us human beings. But I am not sure that this is the reason why people are being badly treated at one way or the other. I am not sure at all. We do so much wrong to one another, we poor human beings, regardless of class or money. But the enourmous wealth of my region - the Dubai of Norway - is certainly having a go at us. I am just not sure in what fashion yet. It is happening right now as we speak. Wealth is transforming us. Into what? Monsters? Angels? My task is to watch and write.
At one point, single father Pål observes: 'Everybody in this room is holding something back'. Is this reticence at the heart of every charcter's problems in See You Tomorrow?
For sure all of the eleven main characters in this collective novel have got some secret or another, but I do find that quite a lot of them actually are taking action, trying their best to do something with their situation, even if they are - quite often I am afraid - chosing the wrong path in their search for a way out of their mess. It all eventually goes down the drain, but I´d like to think it goes down with a blast and a splash and even quite a few laughs along the way.
The popularity of television dramas such as The Killing, crime fiction by authors such as Jo Nesbø and the novels of your friend Karl Ove Knausgaard mean that the British press often describe Norwegian fiction as being characterised by 'gritty realism'? Do these sort of books dominate the Norwegian bestseller charts?
No, I do not think so. You´d find our bestseller charts fuelled with the 'Fifty Shades of Rubbish' and what-have-you-books on self-help and self-admiration. And you'd find them filled with much more drama and soft epics. To me it´s actually quite interesting that the novels you mention, and books like See You Tomorrow, are doing so well abroad with their Northern Grit.