Procol Harum

the Pale

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AWSoP in a Norwegian novel

by Jan Kjærstad

Niels-Erik Mortensen writes to 'Beyond the Pale':

Extract from: Jan Kjærstad, The Conqueror (Norwegian: Erobreren) Aschehoug Publishers 1996. Translated from the eponymous Danish version, Samleren Publishers 1998, page 226.

"In the small hours of the night, the table filled with potato peels in crumpled up tinfoil, and as Axel revealed that he finally had deciphered the meaning of the lyrics of A Whiter Shade Of Pale, the famous Procol Harum hit, which he just to be sure bawled for all the others: "We skipped the light fandango, turned cart-wheels across [sic] the floor…", Jonas, who stood on the lowest aquavit level, loudly revoiced his worries about the end-of-term exam, this essay that was waiting ahead of them by next week."

Jan Kjærstad, born 1953 in Oslo, completed his studies of divinity before becoming a full-time writer in 1980, now one of Norway's most prolific young novelists together with Leif Fosnes Hansen and Dag Solstad. The Conqueror is the sequel to his 1994-novel, Forføreren (The Seducer).

Both novels tell the story of the successful TV-producer Jonas Wergeland, a symbol of (post-) modern Norway, who ends up imprisoned for murder. The novels are revealing still unknown aspects of Jonas's life from different points of view.

In this short extract, the setting is the time shortly before Christmas 1970, where Jonas is still attending school. Here, he is seen partying with his class-mates, drinking unbelievable amounts of Norwegian Linjeakvavit and pondering upon the deeper significance of e.g. the Beach Boys-album Pet Sounds.

Procol is not mentioned elsewhere in this intricate and wonderful novel, but there might be a hidden quotation in the beginning. "In the small hours …" could of course very well refer to In The Wee Small Hours Of Sixpence … and the title, The Conqueror, could also refer to Conquistador - or better, to Martin Andersen Nexø's world-renowned novel, Pelle Erobreren (Pelle the Conqueror).

February 2001: the annual Nordic Council Literary Prize winner was announced: none other than our friend Jan Kjærstad, mentioned above: congratulations to Norway - and a bit of the glory must fall back on Brooker/Reid, mustn't it?

More about AWSoP

Another Norwegian literary link

A Danish literary link

 A story featuring a Procol Harum gig

A Swedish best-seller featuring AWSoP


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