First published as Modellen by Cappelen in Norwegian in Norway in 2005. English language translation by Don Bartlett published by Arcadia Books in 2007.
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How I got this book:
Swapped for on a charity shop book exchange table
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The Painter Peter Wihl - a celebrated success early in his career - is about to turn fifty. The prospect is stifling his creativity and jeopardising his preparations for a major new exhibition intended to revive his reputation. In a cruel twist of fate, his concerns about his forthcoming birthday are rendered meaningless when he discovers that he has an incurable eye condition and will be completely blind within six months. What is a painter without his eyes? A chance encounter with an old classmate leads a vulnerable Peter into a sinister world which will haunt him for as long as he lives. The novel poses the question: How far is the artist willing to go in pursuit of his art?
Early in The Model, Peter's wife, Helene, bluntly states that 'self-centred middle-aged men must be the most loathsome beings in existence.' She is referring to the playwright Ibsen in the context of his play The Wild Duck, but I was frequently reminded of her comment as I continued reading this book. It is a perfectly apt description of Peter! I think The Model should have been a chilling psychological thriller, but it just didn't have the atmosphere to grip me and I cannot quite put my finger on why. The book is nicely written and I liked Christensen descriptions of locations and his evocation of an artist's world view. The storyline is an interesting portrayal of a man driven to panic measures by the thought of losing himself to disease. Peter wholly identifies himself as an artist so he believes potential blindness will mean not just a loss of his sight, but his complete raison d'etre. Perhaps it was this single-mindedness that prevented me from fully accepting Peter. He is very much the centre of the novel and other characters, the female ones in particular, didn't seem as fleshed out in comparison so I found it difficult to believe in their actions. Instead their functions seem to revolve around Peter's desires which in turn revolve entirely around himself! I really did not like this man at all - perhaps you've already guessed that?
Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Lars Saabye Christensen / Contemporary fiction / Books from Norway