Read The Half Brother: A Novel Online

Authors: Lars Saabye Christensen

The Half Brother: A Novel

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Copyright © 2001, 2011 by J. W. Cappelens Forlag A/S

English-language translation copyright © 2003 Kenneth Steven

All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner without the express written consent of the publisher, except in the case of brief excerpts in critical reviews or articles. All inquiries should be addressed to Arcade Publishing, 307 West 36th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10018.

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Arcade Publishing® is a registered trademark of Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.®, a Delaware corporation.

First published in Norwegian by J. W. Cappelens Forlag, Oslo, under the title
in 2001, and in English by Arcadia Books Ltd, London

This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available on file.

ISBN: 978-1-61145-582-3


Translators Note



The Festival


The Drying Loft

The Apartment

The Dove

The Ring

The Telegraph Exchange

The Button


The Clock


The Name


The Wind

The Laughter



The Name of Silence

The Obituary

The Divine Comedy

Barnum’s Ruler

The Mole

The North Pole

Dancing School

The Tree

The Parcel


The Labyrinth

The Coffin

The Accident

Discus and Death






The Nameplate

The Half Dark

Barnum’s Divine Comedy

Yet Another Empty Table

The Last Picture

Parasol in Snow

Row 14, Seats 18, 19 and 20



The Viking

The Cormorant



Translator’s Note

All translation is a compromise; there are inevitable losses in bringing a richly woven literary text from its native tongue. It is not the thousands of words that pose the difficulty it is the single words — the tiny words that have been chosen by the author for their resonance, for their resemblance to other words in the language, their interplay with different elements of the text. And that is of supreme importance in the work of Lars Saabye Christensen, where all the strands of the narrative are drawn together and held, intricately and often imperceptibly.

To add to the fluidity of the reading of the novel, I have translated the names of certain Oslo streets. Others have been left in the Norwegian, names that haven’t been envisaged as stumbling blocks, so as to preserve the integrity of the whole “world” of the original.

A word of explanation has to be given concerning the significance of the moment of Fred’s naming, as this is something that is lost entirely in the translation of that section. The noun
means “peace” in Norwegian.

I debated long and hard over the translation of the phenomenon of the “pole” — the state-run liquor store — and finally left the word as nearly intact as possible. In Norwegian it is used as a rather euphemistic abbreviation, and I wanted a sense of this to be conveyed in English. It is also important that the connection is made between the ordinary “pole” and Boletta’s North Pole (the bar she frequents).

My sincere thanks to Lars himself for his patient cooperation in the completion of this translation, and also to my good friend John Virang in Oslo, whose guidance on the text has proved invaluable on numerous occasions.

Kenneth Steven


“Many thanks!”

I stood on tiptoe, stretched out my arm as far as I could and took back my change from Esther — twenty-five 0re from one krone. She bent out through the narrow hatch and laid her wrinkled hand in my golden curls and let it rest there for a while. Not that it was the first time either, so I was beginning to get used to it. Fred had long since turned away his bag of sugar candy stuffed down into his pocket, and I could tell by the way he was walking that he was furious about something or other. Fred was furious and nothing could have made me more ill at ease. He ground his shoes against the sidewalk and almost seemed to push his way forward, his head low between his tall, sharp shoulders, as if he were struggling against a strong headwind. Yet it was just a still afternoon in May, a Saturday at that, and the skies over Marienlyst were clear and blue and rolled slow as a giant wheel toward the woods behind town. “Has Fred begun to talk again?” whispered Esther. I nodded. “What has he said?” “Nothing.” Esther laughed a little. “Hurry up after your brother. So he doesn’t eat everything.”

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