Cabin Book from Hell

Norwegian comedian’s book details his reluctant attempt to love the outdoors

M. Michael Brady
Asker, Norway
Cabin Book from Hell

Are Kalvø (1969- ) was born and grew up in Stranda, a municipality in the Sunn­møre region of western Norway. Stranda includes the village of Geiranger, nestled at the head of the Geirangerfjord, amid mountains, one of the most spectacular landscapes anywhere, now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. In such surroundings, he could have become an ardent outdoorsman. That’s not what happened.

He moved to the city and never lamented the loss of ready access to the great outdoors of his childhood. He became a stand-up comedian and satirist. To date, he has produced musicals, revues, and an opera. He has written 11 books on religion, politics, soccer, vacationing, and time usage. He often writes about matters he doesn’t know all that well. This book is the first he has written about a matter that he doesn’t understand.

Hyttebok frå Helvete (Cabin Book from Hell) is a pot shot at Norwegian outdoor life. Written in Nynorsk, Kalvø’s mother tongue, its vantage point is amusingly self-effacing. Why, for instance, is the outdoor vocabulary full of curious words, most from Nynorsk or its constituent dialects? The cover of the book features a trail signpost with direction arrows to four overnight accommodations. Three of these—Tåkeheimen, Gaukhei, and Fokstugu—though curious, meaning “Fog Home,” “Cuckoo Heath,” and “Drift Cottage,” are real places. The uppermost arrow reads Slaskedalsbu (Floppy Valley Hut), plausible as a dialect word, but actually a made-up name of a place that doesn’t exist. On page 239, there’s a linguistic quiz, a list of 63 place names, with a challenge to the reader to determine which are real and which are made up by author Kalvø.

Cabin Book from Hell

Photo: Are Kalvø

The outdoor experience also is parodied, as by an imaginary route signpost (page 157, and reproduced here) with five descriptions for the hiker or skier, reading with their Norwegian > English translations:

• Her kan du snu. Resten av turen er ikkje noko særlig. > “You can turn around here. The rest is nothing special”

• Flatt og kjedelig > “Flat and boring”

• Tåke > “Fog”

• Langt > “Long”

• Uansett kva alle andre seier, her må du klatre > “No matter what everyone else says, here you must climb”

In describing the book, Kalvø observes that “Norwegian politicians who want to show that they are on par with the people, often brag in interviews about going out on solitary hikes in the mountains when they are tasked with making big decisions. But is that particularly comforting? Wouldn’t it be better if they talked with someone?” Good question.

The book: Hyttebok frå Helvete (Cabin Book from Hell) by Are Kalvø, 2018, (in Nynorsk); stocked by Norwegian online bookshops including Adlibris, Haugenbok, Norli, and Tanum.

This article originally appeared in the November 16, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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