Elling, by Ingvar Ambjornsen

Elling is a beautiful, very funny, endearing Elling, by Ingvar Ambjørnsen and sensitive novel about two men with difficult backgrounds and strange characters living on the fringe in Norway. A very heartening novel about a pair of odd-couple bachelors discharged from a mental asylum who set up an unusual household. They are two guys that experience everyday life as orders of magnitude more complicated and difficult to handle than you and me.

Ingvar Ambjornsen - bibliography

Ingvar Ambjornsen


  • 23-salen (1981)
  • Sarons ham (roman, 1982)
  • Den siste revejakta (1983)
  • Galgenfrist (1984)
  • Stalins øye (1985)
  • Hvite niggere (1986)
  • Heksenes kors (1987)
  • Bellona – gudinna som ble vaktbikkje (1988)
  • San Sebastian Blues (1989)
  • Den mekaniske kvinnen (1990)
  • Det gyldne vakuum (1992)
  • Dukken i taket (2001)
  • Innocentia Park (2004)
  • En lang natt på jorden (2007)
  • Opp Oridongo (2009)

Collections of short stories

  • Jesus står i porten (1988)
  • Sorte mor (1994)
  • Natt til mørk morgen (1997)
  • Sorte mor (1999)
  • Dronningen sover (2000)
  • Delvis til stede (2003)
  • Djevelens fødselsdag (2006)

Books in the Elling series

  • Utsikt til paradiset (1993)
  • Fugledansen (1995)
  • Brødre i blodet (1996) Elling
  • Elsk meg i morgen (1999)

Everyday life is not at all something to float through and take for granted - in fact it is full of novelty and challenges as well as a bit scary and traumatic. At least if as Elling you're a neurotic mama’s boy in your forties who suddenly has to make it on your own out there in the big, wide open world where everybody sees you and where doing the right things and doing them right all the time is so fundamentally important.

And it is not at all easy if the only person helping you cope with the huge challenges of everyday life is a guy who is completely obsessed with sex, lacking more than a little in social grace, and very mentally confused, such as Elling’s friend Kjell Bjarne.

In Elling we follow the guys as they settle in a new apartment, gradually come out of their shells, adopt two eight-week-old kittens, and start frequenting a local restaurant. For these guys tasks such as grocery shopping, eating in a restaurant, and using a telephone are terrifying activities. And we also follow them as they rescue a drunk, pregnant woman, make new friends, and when a poem is published. It is a madcap recovery adventure.

Kjell Bjarne and Elling are the two main characters in Ingvar Ambjornsen’s novel Elling. They are as chaotic a pair as you will ever encounter. And letting us see the world as it is for these two guys - with its mounting challenges and slim opportunities - in a warm humorous and very compassionate manner, Norwegian writer Ambjornsen has written a novel that is a literary pearl. In this, as in all his novels, Ambjornsen speaks the outsiders' cause. And with his warmth and empathy, Ambjornsen has written a book that is serious, raises important issues, is very sensitive, but is at the same time among the most amusing and funny books I have ever read.

Elling is the kind of person who annoys you. He always has to elaborate everything he says, he comes four hours too early to a dinner party, and he behaves like a precocious little boy. He gets very easily offended – extremely. Despite all this, you just can't help loving Elling.

Three of the books in the series have also been adapted to the screen, and Elling, based on this book, was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2002 (see our reviews of the Elling movies on DVD). The Elling story has also been performed on stage all over the world.

Norwegian book readers love Elling. He has become a cultural icon there. There are four books in the Elling series, and all of them have been bestsellers in Norway and the author received the Norwegian literary prize "Brageprisen" for the second one. Elling is actually based on the third book in the series. It is a book you should not let pass you by!

See also Elling on DVD!
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