Doppler by Erlend Loe is every bit the “modern fable” it promises to be. Originally publishing in Norway, it has been translated into English by Don Bartlett and Don Shaw and published by House of Anansi.
After his father dies, Andreas Doppler decides to withdraw from civilization and live in a tent in the nearby woods of Oslo. Coming to terms with having barely known his father and the transience of life, along with his growing disdain for people and their material wealth, he decides on a new rustic arrangement that includes a tag-along infant moose. Joining him at times are the likes of a WWII model builder, a lock-picking family man, a Reactionary and Doppler’s own wife and children who add their bits to the book’s theme of survival. Though each character appearing in Doppler have unique features about them, the female characters are the least explored, in fact, they are mostly avoided. Doppler’s wife and teenaged daughter represent the “others” in this case, the ones who cannot relate and do not understand his ultimate need for escape. Even the mother moose is killed off within the first few pages, leaving her son to navigate life on his own. The men however, including Doppler’s young son, are able to appreciate and even embrace his choice to eschew modern civilization and live (mostly) off the land. The crutch of the story is about men finding their place in the world – or out of it.
Since the story is a fable, it’s important to suspend any disbelief and go along with Doppler’s narrative without questioning how he manages to pull it all off. This isn’t a story about gritty survival at it’s most realistic, but rather a cultural and introspective survival – a back-to-basics approach that mixes modern thought with natural instincts. Doppler removes himself from the world in order to survive and survive he does, as explored through his eloquent and charming reflections. Doppler is a superbly fleshed out what if? that has flashed across many of our minds at one point or another. I smiled the entire way though it’s 180 pages. It’s told with a delightful voice by a loveable narrator that will immediately pull you in and nestle comfortably into the folds of your heart.
The book itself looks like it could have been plucked off your grandfather’s shelf, all the more appropriate for a contemporary fable about a man and his moose.
Doppler by Erlend Loe
House of Anansi Press 2012
Cover Image by Nicolas Cheetham