The King Of Norway by Amos Oz, 2011
The magic trick:
Creating a character of extreme actions
This story reminds me of “A Painful Case” by James Joyce. At least a little bit. Both are character studies of solitary men who willfully sabotage their chances at relationships with women.
In “The King Of Norway,” Oz gives us a character of extreme actions in Zvi. He relentlessly seeks out the bad news of the world and shares it with his neighbors. He finds a connection with a woman, Luna Blank, but is incapable of extending the relationship into physical touch or real love. What Oz doesn’t give us is any explanation for these extreme actions. There are hints, clues, implications, sure, but no direct connections to a cause and effect. This is what engages the reader during and after. We are left asking ourselves Why? The considerations can go any number of ways, from history to human nature. And that’s quite a trick on Oz’s part.
Zvi Provizor said, “Your room is very nice,” and added, “Clean. Neat.”
Embarrassed, Luna Blank said, “Thank you. I’m glad.”
But there was no gladness in her voice, only an awkward tension.
Then they drank coffee and ate cookies and spoke of ornamental and fruit trees, of the discipline problems at school these days, when everything is permitted, of bird migration.
Zvi blinked and said, “I read in the newspaper that in Hiroshima, ten years after the bomb, there are still no birds.”
Luna told him again, “You take all the sorrow of the world on your shoulders.”
She also said, “The day before yesterday I saw a hoopoe on a low branch outside my window.”