Red Handler


by Sara Mesa

December 5, 2023
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 is a Norwegian author, graphic designer, playwright, drummer, and international sensation. He is the winner of the 2008 Brage Award (Brageprisen), previously won by Per Petterson, and his books have been published in over eleven countries. In 2009, he was named the first ever in-house playwright at the National Theatre in Oslo. His first novel Buzz Aldrin, What Happened To You In All The Confusion, originally published in Norway by Gyldendal in 2005, was made into a TV series in 2009 starring The Wire’s Chad Coleman. Harstad lives in Oslo.

About the Translator:

David Smith grew up outside of Atlanta and studied English and philosophy at the University of Georgia. He then earned a Master’s Degree in the Humanities from the University of Chicago. After Chicago, a lifelong interest in his family’s Nordic heritage brought him to Norway. He took language classes at the University of Oslo, before settling in Bergen and starting to work as a commercial translator. In 2014, he earned a National Translator Accreditation from the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research. He is a PhD student at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

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