Vi er fem We Are Five
On a barren plot of land three hours north of the Norwegian capital lives Tormod Blystad, his wife Siv, and their two children. Having left his wild years behind him, Tormod is now a dependable and trustworthy family man. But, as in every family, some spaces have yet to be filled. Cue the arrival of Snusken, the new family dog. When Snusken dies, she leaves behind a vacuum that must be filled. And so one night, Tormod finds himself in front of the pug mill in the garage, mixing red clay and fertilizer. Unknowing to him, his efforts will trigger powerful forces of which he does not yet know the scope.
Matias Faldbakken’s We Are Five is a sharply observant, unconventional and entertaining novel, blending adventure, horror, mythology and science fiction with a hefty dose of raw realism. As unique as Faldbakken’s art, it displays an authorship with an inimitable point of view and ability to execute it.
“Rural novel meets domestic thriller meets Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. And with a shockingly good result. A truly original piece of writing.”
“With evident pleasure, Faldbakken lets the story derail. With [Faldbakken’s] direct and contagious style and wit, he turns an unlikely story into a tale that’s beyond entertaining.”
“Faldbakken succeeds in pulling you completely into the grotesque apotheosis of We Are Five, in a clear and raw style that is a combination between Stephen King, H.P. Lovecraft and Haruki Murakami.”
“Exceptional and addictive.”
“We Are Five by Matias Faldbakken is one of those rare novels where you shouldn’t say anything at all in advance – you just have to open it and read it. /…/ We Are Five is a drama about drugs and masculinity, a provincial and marriage satire, a tragic tale that is almost impertinently neatly crafted, purring towards a real climax – and in the middle of it all there is a moment of surprise, from where on the remarkably ordinary beginning of the novel turns into a sci-fi horror art fairy tale. /…/ We cease to giggle when the ghostly element takes over, the foreboding of a catastrophe is back and our laughter about the grotesque scenes is stuck in our throats.”
- Linguistically impeccable, the author holds the characters firmly in his grasp and breathes life into a lump of clay.
- The Norwegian author leaves the beaten track and creates his own genre with a furious narrative technique. /…/ When you reach the end of Matias Faldbakken’s latest novel We Are Five, you gasp for breath. /…/ The content baffles, shocks, amuses, confuses and frightens. The Norwegian has succeeded in creating a mixture of family drama, horror fantasy and social study that is both grandiose and original in content and narrative. /…/ Faldbakken is a great observer who knows his protagonists and the locations very well. He is also a great writer who perfectly and comprehensively sums up the characters’ inner conflict, their good and bad sides, their feelings and actions. /…/ And he does not shy away from breaking with conventions.
- With great narrative skill Faldbakken builds up huge tension, almost naturally leading to disaster.
- The story about Tormod and his clay mixture is unbelievably captivating and at no time can you even guess in which direction the whole thing will go. Add to that the incredibly great narrative style, which I already admired very much in The Hills and you have a first-class novel that is one of the best I have read this year.
- An ingenious work.
- So great! /…/ Faldbakken manages to draw the reader into the world of Tormod and his family from the very beginning. It feels all the more spooky when things happen that are beyond imagination. The author celebrates this slow, steady awakening, the growing consciousness of a piece of clay in such a plausible and vivid way that all this seems almost actually possible.
- On just 250 pages he manages to build up a fable that not only targets a family, village life and the surging horror – no, he crosses borders and gives contemporary literature a whole new drive with a touch of fantasy.
“Sharp and precise, the Norwegian artist Matias Faldbakken writes an initially harmless family history that takes on Kafkaesque traits.”
- Matias Faldbakken, a successful writer and at the same time one of the most established artists in his country, has written a novel that is as quirky as it is shocking, amusing as it is breathtaking. Thriller, fantasy and fiction – all in one. /…/ Faldbakken fascinates the reader with an intelligent and excellently written mix of motifs from Stanislaw Lem, the old Jewish legend of the golem, which Rabbi Löw created from a lump of dirt, to Goethe’s Sorcerer’s Apprentice 4.0.
- We learn that provincial burlesque and sci-fi, tragedy and Frankenstein can come together in the most entertaining way. [We Are Five] by the artist from Oslo deserves even more than the Norwegian Critics’ Prize.
“Transcendent, eerie, grotesque, and entertaining. /…/ It’s a rather wonderful mixture of science fiction and hometown poetry that Faldbakken delivers. The language is laconic yet precise, the pace fast and intense all the way through. The novel is infused with plenty of raw humor and merciless character portrayals. In addition to everything else, We Are Five is also a heart-wrenching marital drama. /…/ With [We Are Five], Matias Faldbakken cements his highly original place in Norwegian contemporary literature. We Are Five undoubtedly deserves five stars!”
“We Are Five can be read straight off as an entertaining, gruesome and, a quarter in, grim story. It is also possible to reflect on how fragile the normality is, and how easy it is to go from an uncomplicated everyday-life into the completely uncontrollable. /…/ [Matias Faldbakken] is a master at slowly building the tension. /…/ The analytic [reader] will find pleasure in studying how seamlessly and elegantly the author moves between rural realism and familiar Norwegian family dynamics, into a set of completely different genres. It’s so good it hurts.”
“Matias Faldbakken’s new novel is a completely mind-boggling experience, in the best possible way. /…/ It is an observant narrator who tells the story, [We Are Five] is almost free from dialogue, yet the narrative is permeated by a unique sense of intimacy and warmth. Faldbakken becomes intimately familiar with his characters, often finding that one word or phrase that says it all. He also manages to capture the desperate loneliness that exists in many relationships. /…/ There is plenty of room for both warm humor, caricatured village fools, the dark and the at times rather grotesque. Faldbakken narrows it down, twists and turns the mundane – he even breathes new life into the clichés. /…/ It has been a long time since the undersigned has hummed, nodded and gasped throughout a book in this way. We Are Five is reminiscent of its predecessor in that it seems light and casual in its tone, but in truth is carefully thought-through and deeply unsettling. And just like The Hills, it’s a book you can’t really wrap your head around, but that you can’t wait to tell everyone you know about – before you start over again.”
“We Are Five opens with a depiction of adolescence and family life in a small village, but soon unfolds into something much darker and more unsettling, something mystical and darkly comical. All of it told in a sober and low-key manner, with the author’s sense for spot-on characterizations and razor-sharp wit. /…/ The heat rises in the novel, but not dramatically. Nevertheless, it does get gruesome, owing to hints of something surrealistic and dystopian. Not to disclose any of the events that suddenly occur in the village, but perhaps it is the mythical village monster in modern form. Or, it could be read as a kind of science fiction adventure: It gets scary, but here are also situations and elements that bring on much laughter. The author of the fashionable The Hills from 2017 is recognizable, despite the choice of scenery and theme. The observing narrator, the dark humor and the story’s surprising turn of events are present also in We Are Five. /…/ The portrayal of Tormod Blystad may be one of the most tender portraits of a man that this reader has seen in a Norwegian novel in a rather long time. /…/ There is a lot to enjoy in a novel that offers both adventure and science fiction, centered on the wizard’s workshop and on completely trivial family life where the flame of passion is running low. Altogether sharply and humorously conveyed by an author who is a master of language. ”
“This is a novel that is entirely its own and, well, crisp. Rarely have I read a new Norwegian book that to such degree succeeds in playfully building a universe filled with comedy, gravity and adventure. /…/ We Are Five [is] a wild and eventful feast for the reader. For the first time in his authorship, Matias Faldbakken’s ties to the Hamar area shines through in his language, and it is as perfect as it can be. For here, [Faldbakken] writes racy action with an originality otherwise found only with Thure Erik Lund. Faldbakken masterfully uses his solid craftsmanship in design to create a fun and refreshingly sharp and perhaps contemporary moral fable with traces of both Faust and Daidalos/Ikaros. The ending is abrupt and brutal, like in folk tales, and true to how it often unfolds when humanity tries to transcend its given conditions.”
“Matias Faldbakken has crafted a universe that steadily evades both definition and control. Which opens the door to all the more interpretations. Because the lump of clay from the pug mill can bring life to so much. And it says a lot about people as they encounter the mysterious, the indescribable. Thus, it is the turmoil and the uncertainty that give pushes the reader onwards, and make We Are Five an equally mysterious and unsettling story. /…/ To a certain point, it is a novel with room for both humor and wonder. But only to a certain point – then the crucial events take place. And that is when Matias Faldbakken proves his skills, and demonstrates the intensity of the material. From that on it is lethally serious.”
“Reading Matias Faldbakken is like reading the Dag Solstad’s Bjørn Hansen novels. /…/ The horror in the plot development creates a tension throughout that more than anything is characterized by literary and imaginative abundance.”
“Faldbakken has written an intelligent novel that adapts a number of classic motifs in a form that is trustworthy, jovial and entertaining. The simplistic style and genre and the subdued tone come close to the reality that many of us recognize. It is precisely this restrained technique which transforms the novel itself into a kind of clay – a narrative one – when as strong ideas like Faust, the myth of the artist, negotiation problems in modernism, and the Frankenstein figure constantly influence, knead, the story. For this is a novel where normality itself becomes a way of thinking through ideas that break with the norm. It struck me a few days after reading, that this way of discussing creativity is not only deeply original, but also sets a standard for how “big” questions can be discussed without resorting to clichés.”
“Faldbakken’s novels always have a conceptual touch, as if the author is playing with us. This playfulness is first and foremost expressed through the language. In We Are Five, [Faldbakken] casually moves between a fairytale-like narrative and clever østland-expressions, original comparisons […] and adventurous remarks. The narrative voice appears aloof and often satirical, but at the same time unpredictable – yes, in fact inspiringly inventive. The composition prepares you already from the beginning of the novel to follow Faldbakken from the rugged countryside of the East, and info far stranger universes. /…/ But [We Are Five] would not be one of the most sensational [novels] of the year, were it only a wild spin on inventions and rural satire. That the main characters in We Are Five appear so exceptionally vivid, is not only due to them being accompanied by a lump of clay that was supposed to be dead, but to [Faldbakken]’s joy of storytelling. /…/ The depiction of Tormod and Siv’s two vastly different children […] and the parents’ sometimes tender, sometimes unfair view of them, makes We Are Five a uniquely intimate and energetic experience. Faldbakken allows himself to be both witty and touching in his mixture of authentic realism, underlying unrest, and feisty imagination.”
“The most delightful Norwegian novel I’ve read this year is We Are Five by Matias Faldbakken. /…/ The story is unassuming, the language dazzles. As social commentary and poetry, its impact is monumental. ”
“In classic Faldbakken manner, [We Are Five] is limitless and humorous, unsettling and nihilistic, full of references, drugs and violence. We Are Five is entertaining, but raises painful questions about family and how we treat those we look down on. Faldbakken still writes fiction with a hammer, but his blows hit harder and harder. /…/ The boundless imagination, the humor and the nihilism – Faldbakken continues to push boundaries.”
“[We Are Five] starts off great and it only gets better and better from there on. /…/ Madly entertaining.”
“The narrative is rather superbly constructed and creates a lot of comedy. /…/ It’s a narrator who really enjoys himself, who has fun. /… / It’s easy to see within these passages that Faldbakken is a visual artist, as his sense and fondness for physical material are reflected in the text. /…/ It’s macabre and funny, it’s weird or simply science fiction, it’s a Frankenstein made of clay, it’s a kind of rural novel on speed. In other words, it’s Faldbakken at his best. /…/ [W]ildly entertaining and wonderfully bizarre.”
“Few people in this country are as capable of painting the picture of the slow collapse, and in such a delicate way, as Faldbakken. /…/ [There is] a twist here that instantly brings to mind (…) Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and clever intoxication metaphors. /…/ One reads [Faldbakken] because of his spot-on ability to bring forth marginalized voices and recognized fringe phenomena; narrowing them down to their most clean-cut forms without diminishing their distinctive characters, and to show that it is there, in these life forms, that the prevailing tendencies in modern culture can potentially find their most authentic expression. Faldbakken’s eccentrics, as always, take the shape of idiosyncratic language and lots of humor.”
“As a reader one is completely enthralled from the first sentences. /…/ We Are Five hits the literary spirit of the age just right. It’s playful, funny and uncanny. /…/ A truly great book from one of Scandinavia’s most interesting authorships.”
“A peculiar, entertaining and provocative hybrid novel, where classic father-mother-and-child realism mixes well and thoroughly with the mythical alchemy that we in literature particularly know from Golem.”
“Faldbakken (…) has complete control over his story and portions out information perfectly. /…/ The seemingly unbalanced priorities endows the novel with a pleasant uncertainty, for you never know what turn the story will take. I can only promise that the reading is more than worth the ride.”
“The narrator is amusing and comments on the story from time to time with a wry smile. The prose has a pleasant flow and you quickly plow through the first part of this fast-paced novel.”
“Faldbakken displays his very unique literary originality in this supreme tale. An elegant and unpredictable contemporary tall tale filled with humoristic ease and disturbing depth. /…/ An uncommonly tender and warm portrait of a man, depicting him with exalted calm and charming indeterminacy. /…/ It’s storytelling at its best.”
“A fantastic novel. /…/ A wild and wildly fascinating tale of youth, family life, and a tremendous amount of clay and fertilizer.”
“A stroke of genius. /…/ A marvelously diabolic but also philosophical tale – and amusing as well.”
- Matias Faldbakken
- Reading material
- Rights sold
Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sarajevo Publishing
Czech Republic, Zlin
Italy, Mondadori Libri
Netherlands, Uitgeverij Oevers
Sweden, Albert Bonniers