The Faster I Walk, The Smaller I Am

Book Review: The Faster I Walk, The Smaller I Am by Kjersti A. Skomsvold (Translated by Kerri A. Pierce)

“Hamsun said that nothing is like being breathed on by a life, and I wish someone would ring my doorbell, even if they just ran away.”

Norwegian novelist Kjersti A. Skomsvold’s award winning debut centers on Mathea Martinsen, an old woman dealing with the inevitability of death. She examines her life in full and decides that she has not lived enough. The narrative is a detailed account of her actions following this grim discovery.

Mathea begins by making a time capsule, which she self-consciously buries outside her apartment complex. She wants to be remembered: “Wouldn’t it be nice if someone remembered how pretty and smart and funny I was, maybe if I’d had children they would’ve inherited my talents, whatever those are, and my wisdom could have passed on to the next generation.”

The narrator often refers to her late husband Epsilon as if he is still alive. His presence in her life is paramount as he is the first and, seemingly, the only one who has ever noticed her.

She often feels invisible – she recalls even the teacher forgetting to call her name out at the beginning of class – and goes out of her way to justify her existence to others. Oftentimes you get the feeling that maybe she is invisible, as her constant need for reassurance leads to lighter anecdotes in the novel:

Mathea scours the phonebook for her own number, and then to make herself feel better rings her national information services and requests it: “I call and ask for my number until the evening news comes on, and I use a different voice every time.”

In 147 pages we see someone desperately trying to live as dangerously as she can.

Mathea Martinsen is a woman we can empathise with. Her loneliness is unashamedly obvious. So too, is her dark wit. Some of the moments are odd; others are truly poignant. It is a simple novel, covering complex issues such as isolation, longing, paranoia, fear and self-deprecation, which manages to keep the reader engaged and entertained.

The Faster I Walk, The Smaller I Am officially launches in Hodges and Figgis on Dawson Street on the 7th of November at 6.30pm.

Aileen Donegan

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