The Red Handler


by Johan Harstad

March 26, 2024
novel | pb | 173 pgs.
5" x 8"

A riotous metafictional dissection of a "famous" Norwegian detective writer

Frode Brandeggen (1970–2014), an unknown voice to most readers, made his debut in 1992 with the experimental 2,000+ page novel Conglomerate Breath. It was never reviewed and soon forgotten. After that, he created a new genre, writing fifteen micro-novels about "Red Handler," a protest-oriented crime fiction project aimed at confronting the genre’s weakness—and often unnecessary length.

As his weapon, he developed a private investigator who is already at the scene or in the immediate vicinity when foul play takes place, so that the perp can be caught red handed and the case quickly solved, thus offering crime fiction to people who don’t have the time to read long books, or who simply hate to read, but love crime. 

This book brings together all fifteen micro-novels Brandeggen wrote about Red Handler for the first time, and is also equipped with a comprehensive amount of enthusiastic, explanatory, complementary, and sometimes strangely digressive endnotes, written in the pen of Brandeggen’s closest literary confidant in the final years, German professional annotator Bruno Aigner (1934–).

This novel about the fiction Red Handler, Frode Brandeggen, and Bruno Aigner is Johan Harstad’s wildest, most hysterical project to date.

Translated from the Norwegian by David Smith


About the Author:

Johan Harstad (b. 1979 in Stavanger) is a Norwegian author and playwright. He made his debut in 2001 with the short prose collection Herfra blir du bare eldre (From Here on in You Just Get Older) and have since published collections of short stories, plays, the YA novel 172 Hours on The Moon (2008) as well as the novels Buzz Aldrin, What Happened to You in All the Confusion? (2005), Hässelby (2007) and Max, Mischa & The Tet Offensive (2015). He was the in-house playwright at the National Theater in Oslo in 2009 and both his own plays and plays based on his books have been produced in several European countries. For the production of Osv. (Etc.) at the National Theatre, Harstad was awarded the Ibsen Prize. In 2017, he received the Hunger Prize for his "younger, eminent" literary work, and the following year, he was awarded the Dutch Europese Literatuurprijs for his 1,100-page novel Max, Mischa & the Tet Offensive, which has received overwhelming acclaim in Norway, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands. In 2019 Harstad was awarded the prestigious Svenska Akademiens Dobloug Award for his authorship. His books have been published in over 30 countries. Harstad lives in Oslo. 

About the Translator:

David Smith translates Norwegian fiction and has an MFA in literary translation from the University of Iowa.

Praise for Johan Harstad:

"Like Jonathan Safran Foer, Harstad combines formal play and linguistic ferocity with a searing emotional directness."—Dedi Felman, Words Without Borders

"The fact is that Johan Harstad has a wholly unique voice, simultaneously both concrete and soaring . . . to be able to write in this way, to conjure a situation and construct space and time around it with such linguistic fluency, cannot be learned. You are born with it. Harstad’s fellow countryman Knut Hamsun, who was able to do the same, must be rejoicing in his heaven or wherever he might be."—Jakob Levinsen, Jyllands-Posten review