Lars Amund Vaage has a long and varied publishing history behind him. Since his debut in 1979, he has written short stories, poems, children’s books, essays, and novels. With Det uferdige huset (‘The unfinished house’, not translated into English), it seems as if he has set out to combine many of his skills and experiences – both in writing and in life itself. In this sense, Det uferdige huset stands out as something of a pinnacled reversal in his authorship – “pinnacled” in that Det uferdige huset is one of Vaage’s finest publications, and “reversal” in that the novel emerges as an incomparable work, despite the unmistakability of the author’s attentive style and many familiar basic motifs, which are clearly present.
With his new novel, Vaage’s authorship advances several steps. On the one hand, although he develops the clear, detailed, and personal writing we know from his earlier work, Det uferdige huset is also a broad-based narrative in which the author combines, and makes comparisons with, elements from a raft of traditional literary forms and arrangements. Vaage both hints at and openly uses a myriad of genre components and forms that we should know from ancient fables, depictions of growing up, village tales, and artist portraits, to name just a few of the connecting lines that the author is clearly aware of. Yet at the same time, Vaage is an experienced author who knows how to sidestep the openings for whimsy offered by pastiche. He is first and foremost an exploratory and inquisitive writer of novels who steers clear of the simple sanctuaries of nostalgia and sentimentality, even when tackling the distinct elements of historical novels, for example.
Det uferdige huset is a rich, considered work of prose; an essayistic thread runs through the novel, so clear in fact that you could call it both novel poetics and art poetics.
“Everyone changes, even the dead,” thinks the protagonist, Gabriel, at one point, and perhaps this very statement is the backbone of Vaage’s novel. The art of the work lies in Vaage’s ability to combine both ethical self-examination and aesthetic reflection in a novel that undulates towards unexpected realisations.