Niels Fredrik Dahl - Selected Title Author

We are happy to present our selected title author Niels Fredrik Dahl. He has written Walking Man (original title: Fars rygg). The book is one of NORLA’s Selected Titles of the spring 2024.

Niels fredrik dahl 2023 fartein rudjord
Niels Fredrik Dahl. Photo: Fartein Rudjord

What is your book about?

In 1926, at the age of five, my father moves to Egypt, where his father – my grandfather – will be working as a judge. My father is the only child in the loveless marriage between the Judge and Ellen, and he grows up between his father’s thundering severity and his mother’s despondent wanderings back and forth along the sea. Then, at thirteen, he is sent to a strange family in Norway, and two years later to a boarding school in the middle of a Europe that will soon ignite. In 1938, the Judge finds a new woman, and a deeply depressed and ashamed Ellen must return to Norway, where she and my father – a restless and insecure seventeen-year-old in a restless and insecure time – attempt to live a life together. I wanted to portray the loneliness and sense of alienation of this little boy and young man, but also the era he grew up in. I envisioned him walking toward me through the years and the events he lived through, from the last phase of colonialism in Egypt marked by brutal racism and deep class divisions, to 1930s Norway, and onward to Switzerland in the midst of an embroiled Europe, before returning to Norway and the German occupation.

What inspired you to write this book?

The longing for my father, simply put. Or rather, the tension between the intense longing and what little I actually knew about his life. Who was my father? I knew he grew up terribly lonely and I could see that in many ways, he lived a life standing on the outskirts of life, peering in. But when he died in 2008, there was so much I hadn’t had the chance to ask him about, so much I didn’t know. I wanted to imagine his life and the lives of those around him – restless people in a restless time – and to do that, I had to approach the task with passion, placing small clues side by side, looking for links, connecting the dots, and adding more and more dots until it was possible to imagine a life. This is truly the strength of the novel form: that it’s allowed – intended, even – to fill in the blank spaces, the ones that can’t be documented.

Read more

See full presentation of the book here

Read more about the author here

See all NORLA’s Selected Titles for the spring 2024 here