Buzz Aldrin, What Happened to You in All the Confusion?: A Novel
Translated by Deborah Dawkin
In Buzz Aldrin, What Happened to You in All the Confusion?, readers follow a man who wished not to be followed, a man who, after a series of personal and professional disasters, finds himself lying on a rain-soaked road in the desolate, treeless Faroe Islands, population only a few thousand, a wad of bills in his pocket and no memory of how he had come to be there. From there, Brage-Award-winning author and playwright Johan Harstad's debut novel—previously published to great success in eleven countries with its first English-language appearance in June 2011—tells the story of Mattias, a thirty-something gardener living in Stavanger, Norway, whose idol is Buzz Aldrin, second man on the moon: the man who was willing to stand in Neil Armstrong's shadow in order to work, diligently and humbly, for the success of the Apollo 11 mission.
Through Harstad's "delectably light but nonetheless impactful prose … [t]he novel's finest moments wrap you up in communion with Mattias, as if you are spending a quiet afternoon with an old friend, chatting but mostly thinking" (Three Percent ). Surrounded by a vivid and memorable cast of characters—aspiring pop musicians, Caribbean-obsessed psychologists, death-haunted photographers, girls who dream of anonymous men falling in love with them on bus trips, and even Buzz Aldrin himself—"Harstad combines formal play and linguistic ferocity with a searing emotional directness" (Dedi Felman, Words Without Borders ) to bring Mattias to the realization that he cannot always blend into the background.
"The long-awaited Great Faroese Novel: a splendid confusion about life, love and intrigues in the land of the midnight sun … Harstad's poetic narrative, half-dramatic and half-comic … takes on memorable turns with every page … A modern saga of rocketships, ice floes, and dreams of the Caribbean, and great fun to read." —Kirkus Reviews
"In a voice and vision that alternately channels Ignatius J. Reilly, Holden Caulfield, Dave Eggers, and the Little Prince, Mattias unwraps his psyche while unwrapping an unknown landscape … Harstad's language is rife with trickery, pop-culture, and formal derring-do. It's as if, with every crafted word and considered detail, Harstad is announcing, pleading: Trust me folks, there is more to this place than Stieg Larsson." —Cleveland Plain Dealer"This paradoxical desire to be seen without being heralded sets Harstad's hero apart from other tormented young men of contemporary literature … [an] ambitious debut." —Publishers Weekly
"The style of narration is exquisite, so vulnerable and rambling at points and concise at others … [Harstad] describes with fervor the in-the-moment scenery that you make faces and places come alive in your head while you read instantaneously." —Penciltwister