Winner of Riksmålsforbundet’s Literature Prize 2012
An author is invited to a gentleman’s club, The Dandy Dilettantes, where he meets the dapper Oskar Muri Jnr. As if in a mirror, he sees himself in the man’s smooth face. The story that follows is an account of Oskar Muri Jnr.’s upbringing in his parents’ pompous upstart house and of his adult existence in his aunt’s huge downtown flat, of the grandeur and downfall of his ancestors, and of his life in the shadow of his little brother, who died in what everybody took to be a tragic accident. Everybody but Oskar himself.
A tragic family saga, an understated comedy, an enigmatic, inverted self-portrait –The Dilettante is a fascinating, inventive and hugely enjoyable novel.
“The contract with the reader is torn to pieces, put on your helmet, this book is not aiming to calm you down … Muri’s story is a shocking document of emotional chill, hidden violence, subduing dominance, threatening silence and more … Holtet Larsen plays his cards in a steady, unshakeable rhythm … The critique of the falseness of bourgeois values is biting and runs through the entire novel … in this book, one of the greatest of all themes and taboos is to be found even closer to the onion’s core, like the worm in the apple, like the jack in the box that can’t be opened, but which still poisons everything and everyone who comes close.”
“Another masterpiece by Terje Holtet Larsen … Only a select few, like Terje Holtet Larsen, can transform their material (and thereby their lives) to infatuating art … Brilliant … Holtat Larsen has created a homely world of unviable pretense, in a novel full of allusions, bright phrases and cynical claims, in a prose that is distinguished in every way”
“Below the perfectly shaped, melodic prose, there is wounded passion and distanced presence … A shockingly good novel, quite simply”
6/6 stars, VG
“Terje Holtet Larsen writes a rich and impressively nuanced prose, which despite its abundance of subordinate clauses, flows astonishingly well … using such a caricature of lack of human warmth to say something insightful about human relationships is a trick that in every way calls for a great writer … Norwegian contemporary literature of the very finest quality”
“The Dilettante has an hypnotic effect on the reader … Through 400 pages he creates a life and a mirrored destiny so tragic, so fascinating – and together with the clever ending, The Dilettante has caused me to break into spontaneous chuckle and sudden shivers for days afterwards”
“With The Dilettante, Terje Holtet Larsen continues his elegant literary acts of disappearance … Holtet Larsen’s prose is a pleasure to read. He places the reader in a sort of literary-aesthetic state of intoxication, where the style reinforces the theme. And there is also an existential weight to the book. A shapeless sorrow, if you will. That makes this drawn out novel into a book you wish would never end.”
“a great writer … he writes extremely well … this is an extremely interesting book”
“I try to comfort myself by saying that nobody has read everything, but Terje Holtet Larsen is a writer I wish I had followed since the debut in 1991 … a distinctive style, also here related to Oscar Wilde. The prose is old fashioned, and sometimes elaborate … but it fits the story like the expensive tuxedo on Muri’s body. Furthermore Larsen balances on the border between the sad and the sarcastic in an often entertaining way … this tastes of real Bildung.”
Dag og Tid
“Beautiful … Painful and riveting”