Title: Naïve. Super
Author: Erlend Loe
Translator: Tor Ketil Solberg
Number of Pages: 197
The copy of Naïve. Super that I am holding has four bookmarks in it; one of them is my own, and the other three are those of friends who I have loaned my copy of the book to. More than anything else, I believe, that is the most important thing about this novel; what is the point of a good book unless you can share it with your friends and family? Every single person I loaned this book to gave me a positive response, and comments such as, "A lot of that reminded me of myself," or, "It was so good, but I don’t know why. Nothing really even happened in it."
Firstly, Naïve. Super was published in 1996 in Norway, where it stayed on the best sellers list for well over a year. Penned by Erlend Loe, who before its release was hardly known, and if at all only for his six children’s books, it marked his debut into the adult literary world. This smash hit, however, would not see a translation into English until the year 2000, and even then only in extremely limited pressings, which doesn’t make sense, seeing as how good this book really is. Now being out of print, a copy can go for as much as forty bucks at internet auction, and used book sites.
Secondly, Naïve. Super revolves around the an unnamed protagonist who is out of school and without of a job. He isn’t a bum, he isn’t a loser, he’s just a normal guy who is trying to figure out life, and what it all means. True, that sounds very run of the mill, but there is an added depth that makes it unlike most attempts at such a novel.
At the opening the main characters his brother and he play a rousing game of crocket, which results with the main character weeping uncontrollably for no particular reason, other than losing the match. His brother then offers him to stay at his house while he is off on a trip to New York, assuming that some down time will cure his brothers ailments and return him to normal. He accepts.
With his time off he begins to think about life and what is important to him. He begins to write very entertaining lists; writing down celebrities he admires, animals he’s seen in the wild, things he appreciates, things that used to excite him when he was younger, things he’s good at, et al; he tries to piece together his life and where he is heading in the world.
His good friend loans him a book about time, and the main character then becomes obsessed with finding out if time really exists or not. He goes to a toy store and buys a hammer and peg and hammers all night. He buys a ball and spends extended amounts of time throwing his ball at a brick wall.
Does all of this seem totally inane and dull to you? Of course it does, but it is done with such whimsical language it is easy and charming to digest. The style Loe uses makes Naïve. Super seem as though it were written by a seven year old, with it being very simple and to the point, but that doesn't make it lose any of its impact, which is hard to explain. We realize that there isn’t anything being kept from us, and everything that our character will know about himself we will know too.
One cannot talk about this novel without making obvious references to Catcher In The Rye, and J.D. Salinger. They both share the same themes and very similar protagonists, but where Catcher In The Rye knew that it was very profound and serious, Naïve. Super pulls off being completely serious while ridiculously hilarious, and at ease, at the same time. With ease Loe is hilarious and profound in the same breath, something Salinger never achieved.
If you can find a copy for cheap, pick it up by all means, if for no other reasons than to loan it out to a friend. All though Naïve. Super may not be life altering, it is life affirming.