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Literature / Beatles

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Our heroes, doing their own Abbey Road Crossing.

Beatles is a novel by Norwegian author Lars Saabye Christensen, published in 1983. It tells the story of four teenage boys in The '60s, Kim, Gunnar, Seb and Ola. They live in Oslo, and their sole interest is The Beatles. They spend all their formative years collecting records, and grow up and split apart, all according to the changes in the British pop group. The boys form a Four-Temperament Ensemble, where each of them takes on a name from the band. As the story progresses, the boys experience the influence of the radical sixties, and the growing use of drugs, all while they try to find a foothold in a changing Oslo society.

The Film of the Book was launched for the big screen in august 2014. A prominent Nostalgia Filter, it failed to comment on many of the darker points of the book.

The author followed suit with two sequels: Bly (lead) from 1990, and the funeral (Bisettelsen), written in 2008.



  • Activist Fundamentalist Antics: Most prominently Gunnar, but also Stig and Seb after 1968. Stig is actually calling Gunnar out on it, since the young socialists (later the Worker`s communist Party) were pro Stalin. The split between the two anti EEC movements is also lampshaded, as Gunnar was part of the most radical, and smallest fraction.
    • Truth in Television: When the debate leading up to the 1972 referendum heated up, a "public movement" was formed, gaining support from the greater part of the laymen (unions, farmers, students and so on). The radical wing formed their own fraction, called "Action Comitee against EEC and hard times" (AKMED). When Stig meets Gunnar at a regular anti rally, he states the difference at once (the radicals were totally into "comitees" of all kinds in those years...)
    • Stig gets into a more environmentalist wing, retreating to an ecological farm, which Gunnar claims is a derailing from the "main line" of the fight. As such, the antics shown are historically true, and not solely a Norwegian phenomenon.
    • Lampshaded in the second sequel: Gunnar lives alone in a flat over a factory, standing on alert for "the movement", and wonders vaguely why none of the actual factory workers ever salute him. After the death of John Lennon, Gunnar breaks off, takes up studying, and suddenly the factory workers play nice.
  • Adults Are Useless: Played straight most of the time. Kim goes through a Trauma Conga Line, and never tells his parents about it. When his father collapses in a nervous breakdown, Kim tells even less, and his mother, who worries about him, jumps to wrong conclusions most of the time. Mainly because Kim never tells anything. She is there for Kim at the end of the book, though. The other parents also count in this picture. The generational dialogue is almost non-existing.
    • Goes for teachers as well. The only "adult" of some significance is Henny, although barely a grown-up, being 21 years old at her introducion in the book. 21 years was the year for Norwegians to get full civil rights as adults at the time.
  • The Aggressive Drug Dealer: Pelle, a drug dealer who forces Kim and Seb into bad habits. Gunnar takes care of Kim, but Seb gets hooked. Later, it is revealed that someone, probably Pelle, planted weed on Kim for the Police to find. And the police follows suit by beating him hard for it.
  • Alcohol Hic: Kim can`t hold his liqour, and does incredibly stupid things while drunk. In high school, the better-off boys try to make him drunk to see what he will do. Hilarity ensues.
  • The Alcoholic: The old opera singer Jensenius, who was made a soprano because of his lack of... equipment (cough). He drinks excessively because of his plight, and is interred in a local asylum as the book progresses.
  • Angst: Goes almost without saying. Lampshaded by the fact that the picture of Edvard Munch is referred to, alongside the Scream. The fear of death is especially strong with Kim.
  • The Antagonist: More of a group than a person. The social elite of the Oslo West is not nice to Kim, and the more upper class boys bully him for his political leanings. They also bully the working class boys. As tensions rise with the tide of war in Vietnam, the two sides are more and more at odds, until the EEC referendum in 1972.
  • Author Tract: One wonders. Saabye Christensen himself grew up in the same area as Kim. The book arguably taps into the general left-wing view points on the Vietnam war, but then again, Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped. The radical movement does get some criticism for their paranoid antics.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: Seen from an underdog position, and shown in a rather brutal way. Kim really gets his ass kicked, because he supports a different political point of view. Gunnar, who is seen to use his fists at least twice, states an example when the mooks bully Fred at school, making sure nobody messes with him again.
  • Axe-Crazy: A anti Vietnam war picture on display outside the Norwegian parliament was destroyed by a man with an axe during the summer of 1965. Kim is a witness to that event and gets deeply disturbed by it. He later dreams that the man murders innocent children with his axe.
    • This scene is eerie for several reasons. Kim tells that the other witnesses applauds the act. And worse: It is historically accurate! It happened i august 1965, and the picture had to get police protection.
  • Babies Ever After: Ola gets a son. Kim eventually gets a daughter.
  • Bedlam House: The asylum at Gaustad, where Kim ends up, and escapes from.
  • The Bad Guys Are Cops: While not crooks as such, The Oslo police department gets it hard, dissolving the freaks in the Castle Park, and beating the crap out of Kim. In another scene, the cops pick up Kim in his underwear while bathing in a fountain. When he tells them that he actually lives in the upper class part of town, they suddenly play nice and are all smiles. No wonder the term "class cops" were used in those years.
    • By the time of writing (1983), the Oslo police were known for rather brutal methods when dealing with activists and "questionable" elements. This description can be seen as a Take That! from the author.
  • Bank Robbery: The bank run by Kim`s father is robbed, and the robber is never caught. It is later revealed that the robber was Hubert, Kim`s uncle.
  • The Beatles: Obviously. Raison d`être for the main characters, and the entire book.
  • The Beautiful Elite: Cecilie, second love interest of Kim, living in a mansion with servants and a father that lures them away from a planned demonstration against the Vietnam war. Also her friends, who later turns out to be pro EEC, while the protagonists are against it.
  • Beware of the Nice Ones: Kim uses his fists twice during the story. One of those times is for protecting Jørgen, the other is when someone insults the Salvation Army, which Kim associates with the memory of Fred Hansen. One punch is enough in both cases. Kim is also quite good at staring people down.
  • Big Bad: Richard Nixon, according to Gunnar and Kim. In this view, they also regard the Norwegian prime minister at the time (Tryggve Bratteli), as the dragon for Nixon`s Big Bad status.
  • Big Brother Mentor: Stig, big brother of Gunnar, for all the four. He is three years older and a college student, and tells them of The Vietnam War, of Bob Dylan, The Doors, and other crucial things. He leads, they follow. "Whatever he asked us to do, we would have done it on the spot".
  • Body Horror: Kim gets his index finger maimed for life. Later, he has his penis ruined during a blowjob (nearly bitten off), and loses all his teeth because of sleeping in the snow. Also Jørgen and the old singer Jensenius, who gets castrated for different reasons.
  • Book-Ends: The story begins and ends in the summer house at Nesodden.
  • Bring My Brown Pants: The Goose gets caught while trying to steal a Davy Crocket magazine. He has visibly wet himself afterwards.
  • The Bully: The kid called "Dragon". The Frogner gang, who breaks Kim`s index finger, and later attacks Jørgen.
  • Butt-Monkey: Ola is quite unlucky, getting a nasty sunburn, breaking both his arms, and dropping out of school. He is even forced to quit his exams because he impregnated his girlfriend.
    • And then there is Kim, who gets more beatings than all the others, gets his finger broken for the rest of his life, and loses his ability to have children (he thinks).
  • Cannot Tell a Lie: Gunnar always sticks to the truth, and everybody knows it.
  • Chekhov's Gun: In a way. At the beginning of the first chapter, Kim and the others nick a Mercedes logo from a car in Oslo. When they are afraid they will get busted for this, the boys throw the entire collection of car logos into the sea. Even later, Kim dives for this particular logo and hands it to Nina, who keeps it for the rest of his life. When his coffin is lowered in the funeral scene (the end of the last book), she produces the item, and the other boys throw it down in his coffin.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Gunnar, promising to help Kim out whenever he needs it. This promise is made in the first chapter, and fulfilled in the last, when he helps Kim escape from the Gaustad asylum.
  • The Chick: Nina, the girfriend of Kim.
  • Compressed Adaptation: The Film of the Book, compressing much of the plot points down to the years 1967 and 1968.
  • Consummate Liar: Kim gets away with almost anything. In this case, he is an inversion of Gunnar, who never lies. At the end of the third book, Gunnar ends up preferring Kim`s version of reality over the actual truth, giving Kim the benefit of doubt.
    • Justified in the case of Kim: He grew up with lies all around him, concerning his true father, his background, his dead sister. Lying is an inherited trait, it seems. Lampshaded when Kim admits that lying has a limit, even for him.
  • Cowardly Lion: Kim Karlsen.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Kim Karlsen, the narrator. He ends up in an asylum at the end of the first book, then escapes. It is mentioned in passing that he was in and out of the asylum for the rest of his life, always telling tall tales of where he really went.
  • Coming-of-Age Story: Starting at the age of 13, the boys are 21 when the story ends.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: Gunnar gets a hang of this after joining the "Socialist youth" movement.
  • Crapsack World: Oslo in The '60s according to Kim. Upper class boys bullying working class boys, and even middle class boys with a different attitude? Check. Lying and deceit? Check. Brutal manhandling for nothing? Check. Is there a war going on? Yep. People go crazy, gets hooked on drugs, trying to make a meaningful existence through some sort of religion or ideology? Oh yes. Everything adds to the increasing Nightmare Fuel that slips Kim into insanity.
    • When it comes to social layers, the book clearly states that there is no solidarity at all. The upper class does not mix with the lower classes unless they are forced to. The middle class, where Kim and his friends belong, strive to climb even higher (Kim`s father being a prominent example), but rebuffs the working class in the east. Even for the workers, the goal is to get a proper education and to get away from their lot. The point that the four protagonists actually make friends with the working class boy seems to be a breach of the social rules.
  • Creator Cameo: The author makes a short appearance in the first sequel.
  • Dance Party Ending: The night after the EEC referendum - with Kim escaped from the asylum. The core four drives down town to Oslo University Square, where a lot of people, students and radicals alike, revel at their unexpected victory.
    "We were happy, we were crazy, we were the victors of the world".
  • Darker and Edgier: For anyone thinking The '60s was all about flowers and happiness. Not as such.
  • Demoted to Extra: The trailer, and also the poster for The Film of the Book, hints that Cecilie will have a more important role than Nina.
  • Disabled Character, Disabled Actor: In-universe example with Eleanor, daughter of Nina and Kim. She is born without hearing, and eventually becomes an actor anyway.
  • Disappeared Dad: Fred Hansen lives with his mother, a working class woman who earns her living by washing. He never knew his father.
  • Distant Finale: The Funeral, taking place in 2001, relating the death of Kim Karlsen, and tells the life of the others up to that date. The remaining characters assemble to bury Kim.
  • The Doors: Seb gets a hangup on the Doors from 1967 and onwards.
  • Double Entendre: A Day in the life`s famous orchestral ending, played on a movable record player. As the batteries fade, Kim gets the record going with his finger, until Nina suddenly tilts her head back...
  • Drugs Are Bad:
    • Seb gets hooked and is lost in Amsterdam. When the others find him on a Parisian underground station, Gunnar sobers him up rather violently, throwing away all he can find on him. Also Kim`s experience with marihuana and amphetamin. Subverted with the weed references.
    • Nina ends up in an even worse state than Seb, found and brought back for rehab through the embassy in Afghanistan. She never recovers fully.
  • Eagle Land: The way every other person sees the USA. The most zealous defenders of the US intervention in Vietnam see the US as flavor 1, while the others go for 2 or 3. The debate heats up because the pro US guys actually think Norway is a part of the US (because of the NATO membership and for other historical reasons). Hence the argument in a heated debate on the Vietnam war at school: "It is war. We defend ourselves". This baffles even Kim, who splurts in answer: "We! We... defend ...ourselves?" As coming from a completely different country that is kept out of the actual war, this feels absurd, but again: a lot of Norwegians saw it that way.
    • This gets fatal for Kim. The mooks that attack him at night and beat him, does it because of his lack of support for the US intervention.
    "Ain`t you a communist rat? One that rallies for the gooks?"
  • Eternal Love: Nina and Kim. By the third book, it is revealed that she always was there for him in some way or another. He likewise, although they never were in the same place. Justified because of their daughter. Nina also arranged Kim`s funeral.
  • Even the Guys Want Him: Kim. He is more popular with the girls than he imagined. And then there is Jørgen. Gets a lampshade in Kim`s funeral when Henny breaks down, saying: "Now I never get to tell how much I loved him", and Gunnar responds by turning away from her, apparently saying she is not the only one who never got to say it.
  • Everyone Meets Everyone: Almost all the remaining characters meet for Kim`s funeral. Even the old school teacher joins in.
  • Evil Reactionary: The man destroying the Vietnam picture. Kim wonders why he did it, and Henny explains to him that the man didn`t agree with the picture. On the question why not, the answer is: "Because he was a reactionary, a fascist". Kim does only understand that he supports the murdering of children in Vietnam.
  • Facial Horror: The Dragon blows away his mouth with a middle sized firecracker. While drunk.
  • Fat Best Friend: Ola. He gains even more weight as the years go by, until he "is almost longer sideways".
  • Fingore: Kim`s index finger is broken by the Frogner Gang in the winter of 1966. Because he chooses not to mention the attack, he never goes to a doctor with it, and it never heals. Hence, Kim goes the rest of his life with a damaged finger, sticking out like a "weird question mark" from his hand.
  • First-Person Perspective: Kim is the narrator, and all is seen and remembered through him. We hope he got it all right.
  • Forbidden Fruit: Cecilie, second love interest of Kim. Although she returns his feelings, she is also far above him, and does not hesitate to show it. When her father sees him, he is thrown out on his ear or chased off the property.
    • On a more literal note, and according to the rule of symbolism, Kim steals an apple on his first date with Nina.
  • Framing Device: The frame story, told in present tense, is Kim writing his own back story, actually the book he is a part of. This story begins on the last page, with Kim escaping the asylum on September 25 1972, and carries him through the winter until may 1973, when he finishes the writing.
  • Gay Panic: The mother of Jørgen, presented in one scene, is scared out of her wits, carrying the secret with her as if it were a disease of some kind.
  • Ghost Amnesia: Kim wakes up in his hotel room bed, not remembering a thing. It turns out he is dead, and has to find his way back to his memories, conceiled in the manuscript he wrote many years before. This happens at the start of the second sequel.
  • Goal in Life: discussed and subverted in most cases. At the start of Beatles, the boys are asked to write of their goals in life in a homework assignment. At Kim`s funeral, the old teacher calls the remaining boys out on this, and they tell them what happened to them. The only one with a close call on this, is Ola, who ended up as a hair dresser like his father. Kim "became whatever he wanted", as Gunnar puts it. But none of the original goals were realized.
    • The boys dreamed of starting a band, but that fell apart rather quickly.
    • The saddest example is Kim`s mother, who wished to become an actor before she married Kim`s father. Eleanor, her granddaugher, finally made it, and fulfilled the dream of becoming one.
    • Another tragic example: Fred Hansen, who carried with him the dreams of his mother, and hence the dream of an entire social class: To make a better life. Compared to this, Kim muses that Fred`s lot is heavier than his own. Made even more tragic when Fred dies, leaving his mother behind to dream of what he could have achieved.
  • Godwin's Law: Does not apply in the same way, since this is The '60s, and the distance to the Second World War is far shorter. The idea of "fascism" was still placed on the far right of the political spectre, and the leftists had the power of definition.
  • Gone Swimming, Clothes Stolen: Happens to Ola in the third book. In January. He dived for the Mercedes logo Kim found year before. Nina gives to him at the funeral.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Played straight with Nina for Kim and Kirsten for Ola. Guri, on and off girlfriend of Seb, is another matter. She conceives and has to take an abortion, being only fourteen years at the time, and this nearly breaks her. Her only true friend in this matter is Nina, but the word spreads, and Guri is slandered. In The '60s, this was serious business for any girl getting "unlucky", as Norwegians called it. And it takes some time before she gets over it. Seb also freaks out.
    • Seb was not the father, by the way. The irresponsible jerkass was an older boy from another school, which is only seen in passing and never mentioned again. Ever.
  • Gorn: Kim awakes after a heavy beating, finding Jørgen unconscious in the grass, blood flowing from between his legs. Implied upon as he passed out the moment the bullies drew the knife.
  • Great Offscreen War: The one in Vietnam, of course. But it has a serious influence on the characters.
  • Happy Ending: The book ends with the spontaneous feast after the NO result of the 1972 referendum against the EEC. The feeling of victory reverberates through the last pages, as Kim goes down to take the ferry out to his refuge on Nesodden. Furthermore, he reveals that Nina (impregnated at Gaustad), soon will deliver their child.
  • Heroic BSoD: Gunnar, and then Seb, gets one when they learn that Kim is dead. Both of them do a radical change in their ways in process. Nina, on the other hand, stiffens herself up, knowing that she is the one who has to take responsibility.
    • The boys get the same reaction after the death of John Lennon.
  • Homoerotic Subtext: Kim and Gunnar. Especially strong in one scene, where Gunnar lets Kim read a Love Letter he received from a girlfriend in Valdres, while Gunnar is working out, sweating.
  • Homophobic Hate Crime: Jørgen, a homosexual boy, is attacked, and violently castrated. The attackers get away with it, presumably because homosexuals were outlawed in Norway up to 1972.
  • Hope Spot: "The summer of love", 1967. A rare moment of happiness in Kim`s life. Later remembered with fondness by Nina as well.
  • Humiliation Conga: For Kim`s father, who breaks completely when his bank is robbed. Revealed to be even worse in the third book of the series, as Kim possibly is the son of his brother Hubert.
  • I Never Got Any Letters: Ola is enraged when Kim dies, because he was the one who never received letters from Kim, while both Seb and Gunnar got postcards from him. Gunnar reportedly from Rongbuk near Mount Everest, and Seb from the Dakota Building where John Lennon died. Nina consoles him by revealing that Kim died in an effort to bring him evidence for the journey he and Ola did to Northern Norway in 1974, and then produces the Mercedes Logo. Ola is finally at peace with Kim, and holds the last eulogy for him.
  • The Lancer: Gunnar.
  • La Résistance: The activist radicals act more and more like this. In the summer of 71, Kim and a nameless redhead are out at night displaying anti EEC posters in Oslo (not very legal), and they split the moment the cops turn up. Kim takes refuge in an old war bunker. The secret meetings of the young socialists also count.
    • In 1970, Gunnar is seen smuggling flyers inside of album sheets, newspapers, or whatever. It is apparent noone are meant to see what he is really carrying. This also applies for a new radical newspaper, camouflaged inside a more conservative one. This shtick was actually used prominently by resistance members during World War II (to underline the point). As Kim later states, "there is always a war going on".
  • Lighter and Softer: Expect The Film of the Book to avoid the most gory and violent points of the book.
  • Love Interest: Nina, and Cecilie. Kim goes back and forth between them. Also Guri for Seb, Sidsel and Merete for Gunnar, and Kirsten for Ola.
  • Loose Ends: Tied up in the sequel Lead from 1990.
  • Meaningful Funeral: Kim is buried with all his friends and lovers present.
  • Meaningful Name: Gunnar, recalling the name of a warrior. Also the area Skillebekk (meaning a "dividing brook") in Oslo. Kim lampshades this by telling another activist that people in that area are unsure whether they are on the eastern or western side (or upper/middle class). The name gives meaning to the inner turmoil of Kim. And yes, it is a real place in Oslo.
  • The Mole: Pelle the drug dealer. Gunnar calls him out on it, calling him a "reactionary prick". The dealing of drugs seemingly tips the counter culture movement off momentum and into chaos. On the other hand, when the police force shows up, it is implied that he almost got killed by the baton that hit him.
  • Mooks: The Frogner gang, attacking Kim at least twice. They are described in terms that gives them a "Sturm Abteilung" quality, as they beat Kim because of his political statements (Anti US intervention in Vietnam), and later takes on Jørgen because of his homosexuality. It is implied that they are on terms with the "dog boys" of the politician Anders Lange (founder of the later Progress Party).
    • When a police patrol beats him up even worse, it is no wonder Kim gives up on society afterwards.
  • The Muse: Henny. Also Nina. This is played Up to Eleven in The Film of the Book, where Nina is The Muse and almost nothing else.
  • Mysterious Waif: Iris, a woman the boys encounter in the northern woods. She seems to be a non human entity (a hulder), and fair enough: Kim meets her again after his death. She is referred to as "an angel", by another strange being in the forest, and it is stated that when she appears, someone dies. It is later discovered that Fred Hansen died the same day. Kim also meets her in the Castle Park in Oslo, during a marihuana trip.
  • Named After Somebody Famous: Each of the boys choose a beatle to identify with:
    • Kim - Paul McCartney
    • Gunnar - John Lennon
    • Seb - George Harrison
    • Ola - Ringo Starr.
    • Their personal traits also reflect their favorite beatle. Seb is a mystic, Gunnar is an idealist, and Kim is the pretty boy, while Ola is the tagalong. The start of the book presents them with their beatle names, rather than their real ones. Their Norwegian names are mentioned later, when Kim`s parents are introduced
    • In book three, it is revealed that Kim and Nina had a daugher, and her name is Eleanor, after that Beatles song.
  • Nightmare Fuel: In-universe for Kim himself, who gets more and more distressed by the way things are going. The starting point is the tales of Napalm, and it all increases from there. When he enters an exhibition about over-population, he lampshades it: "Even more pictures to my inner cabinet of horrors..."
  • No Holds Barred Beat Down: Kim gets this first from the Frogner gang, later from the police. The last description is particularly gory.
  • Odd Friendship: Kim and Gunnar, the liar and the truth-seeker.
  • One Last Field Trip: The boys go fishing the summer of 1966. It is implied that this is a Rite of Passage for them. We also learn that they have the habit of ritual listening through the new Beatles albums, but that tradition is broken after 1967. The last time they do it is for the Let it be album, but they never get around to do it, they just... let it be.
  • Police Brutality: Beating up the slackers, and then Kim. They start out with a groin attack to make sure he is a boy, before cutting his hair by force, and then smash him down. Four of them.
    • Implied but not shown: The aftermath of a demostration shows Seb and Stig. Seb is obviously bruised from unwanted close contact with the police force. A rally seemingly got out of hand, and the police tried to "clean the streets". Seb has a breakdown in the bathtub.
  • The Power of Friendship: Played straight all of the way between the four. The clearest example of this trope is Gunnar`s unquestionable loyalty to his friends. He is the one who suggests they shall go on a search for Seb when he is reported missing. The three others work for a moving bureau all spring, to get money for the trip, and then hitch hike to Paris, where they walk the town from end to end, searching for Seb. When they eventually find him in a pretty bad shape, they do what they can to put him back together, and Gunnar forces a "cold turkey" on him, probably saving his life. The whole sequence verges on awesome. The book could arguably have this trope as a secondary title.
    • Earlier, Kim shows off on the ferry from Denmark to Norway after a football match. He almost falls off the ship, and is violently manhandled by Gunnar, who throws him to the ground, yelling "bastard" and hits him hard, to get Kim to his senses. It is not clear whether Gunnar cried under the whole incident.
  • Putting the Band Back Together: Several times over the three books. The idea of a rock band remains with them, and the boys constantly look out for one another. Ola muses at the death of Kim, that Kim managed to do what John Lennon failed to do: gather the three remaining ones.
  • Principles Zealot: Gunnar, joining the "Socialist youth" movement. Seb gets into anarchism, and Kim tries to follow suit. Gunnar is the only one who really gets his priorities straight.
  • Properly Paranoid: The Socialist organization, constantly on alert for surveillance, pretty much Truth in Television. Kim at times.
  • Rich Bitch: Cecilie, high School love interest of Kim. She seems to tease him with her upper class friends, and Kim calls her eventually out on it: "I am not your plaything!"
  • Rising Conflict: The struggles of The '60s, and the simmering class warfare in Oslo. It culminates in 1968 (the chapter is named Revolution, of course), and it gets worse from there. The plot is solved through the EEC referendum, which pretty much gives the leftists the backing they need. For the time being.
  • Shout-Out: Plenty to the sixties and the subcultures contained therein. Apart from The Beatles and The Doors, The Rolling Stones feature almost in person, having a concert in Oslo in 1965. A lot of other bands are mentioned in passing, along with astronauts, historical events, American presidents and Norwegian politicians.
    • Also prominently to older Norwegian literature. The premise of the book seems to be related to an older Coming of Age story, Grenseland (Borderland), relating the tale of a boy growing up between the wars in a crossroad environment, not quite working class and not quite upper class. This boy also joins with the socialist movement, and nearly falls to pieces during World War II. This story relates the Norwegian class conflict during The Great Depression.
  • Strawman Political: Seemingly both the right and the left. Arguably Gunnar, and sometimes Kim. This trait is taken Up to Eleven in the movie, presenting Stig as an annoying Soapbox Sadie.
  • The Salvation Army: After the death of Fred Hansen, Kim associates the Salvation Army with Fred, because of his clothes, purchased through the Army`s charity. This spills over to a berserk button on Fred`s behalf, if anyone as much as chracks a joke on the subject. The Leonard Cohen line "rags and feathers from the salvation army" also gets to him because of Fred.
  • Traumatic Hair Cut: Ola has his hair cut while sleeping (his father is a hair dresser), and refuses to take his cap off for weeks. Years later, the police arrest Kim, and forcefully cuts his hair with a cutting machine, because they can. In the end of the first book, Kim wakes up at the asylum, his head clean shaven.
    • Truth in Television: That boys in the sixties grew longer hair led to public debate in Norway. Some parents actually took steps to prevent it by cutting hair while the boys slept. In one case, a boy took it so hard that he killed himself.
  • Sanity Slippage: All the way. The slope gets steeper in the summer of 1972, and the entire debate leading up to the EEC referendum is related from inside the asylum. One wonders if the whole country is off the slippery slope here.
    • Kim`s father cracks completely after the bank robbery. Even Kim feels pity for him, and he doesn`t recover fully until the death of Hubert.
    • Then there is the Goose, trying to show off by stealing a magazine, getting caught, and then entering a crisis that nearly breaks him. Kim intervenes to help him, and Christian/the Goose becomes really christian, to the point of hilarity. The shop keeper who caught him seems to go insane as well.
    • The old opera singer living in the floor above Kim is also going crazy. He and Kim meet again in the asylum.
  • The '60s: from 1965 to 1972. Overlapping with The '70s.
  • School Teachers: More than one of them. The first one, Lue, is a well meaning, but tragic figure, who is unable to keep up with the change of the time. Later, a string of teachers are presented, mostly in the role of bullying the working class boy and his dialect. The first one shows up again for Kim`s funeral, making a meaningful book end to the story.
  • The Scream: The picture of Munch gets symbolical. Kim thinks the figure on the picture is the mother of the injured Vietnamese girl he has seen in the newspapers. Later, Henny gets beaten by the French police during the 1968 uprising, and Kim sees her holding her hands around her head (like the picture), screaming.
  • Slobs vs. Snobs: The western part of Oslo set against the eastern part, presented by Fred Hansen, a working class boy who got into the right school, and is pestered by the west end boys. The main characters protect him, however.
  • Smug Snake: The upper class boys, Peder, Slimy Leif and Kåre. Kåre also runs the school paper. Kim meets them again later, handing out pro EEC flyers ("Do you say no to the community?")
  • Social Climber: Kim`s father. Mentioning the possibility of moving to the working class area gives him some serious willies, and he orders his son never to mention it again. He is a banker, while his father was a railroad worker. This is lampshaded by Gunnar later on, as the Marxist principles calls for a return to the working class.
  • Spiteful Spit: The cops humiliate Kim by cutting his hair, which has grown quite long at the time. He reacts by spitting one of them in the face. They answer this by beating him pretty hard and throwing him off in a forest somewhere.
  • Stepford Smiler: Kim`s mother. Her lot in life as a housewife is not what she had intended in youth.
  • Rule of Three: Actually rule of four. Four is a holy number for the boys, and if one is missing, the circle is incomplete. Played straight after the death of John Lennon, and of course, Kim Karlsen.
    "It takes four for east, west, north and south. It takes four for drums, vocals, bass and guitar..."
  • Tagalong Kid: Ola, but well integrated. Christian, called "the Goose", even more.
  • Take a Third Option: A political example of the trope, and quite historically correct. The Norwegian socialist movement chose to fight both superpowers, stating an independent line (because the USSR showed itself as a People's Republic of Tyranny). Lampshaded by Stig:
    Remember, lads: we fight both superpowers. Never forget the dialectics.
  • Tastes Like Diabetes: In-universe, the feeling Kim gets when he is forced through a viewing of The Sound of Music with Cecilie. It promptly cures him of cinema-going for a long time.
  • Team Mom: By the third book, Nina has developed to this. She arranges the funeral, comforts the others, and consoles Ola the right way.
  • The Ophelia: Kim seems to be a male variety of this trope. His ability to "see" overpowers him and leaves him unable to function normally.
  • Titled After the Song: Every single chapter is named after a Beatles song, mostly written in the timeslot the chapter is set in.
  • Truth in Television: Played upon all the time. The book gets a lot of historical events straight, and Kim is a witness to a number of them:
    • The incident with the Kjartan Slettemark "Vietnam" picture in 1965.
    • The Rolling Stones having a concert in Oslo the same year, although none of the boys went to the gig.
    • The 1968 uprising in Paris, seen on television and commented upon.
    • The invasion of Czheckoslovakia the same year.
    • The EEC referendum and the immediate sense of relief afterwards.
  • Unfinished Business: Kim is on an errand to Sortland, Northern Norway, for the sake of Ola when he dies. Nina solves it for both of them.
  • Unlucky Everydude: Kim.
  • Unreliable Narrator: The storyteller, Kim Karlsen.
  • Unsportsmanlike Gloating / Evil Gloating: The upper class boys when the USSR invades Czheckoslovakia in august 1968. Gunnar comments on it: "They revel in it, because that is exactly what they wanted." Gunnar, having read his theories, does not defend it at all, and the smug snakes huddle away, beaten.
    • Justified by the fact that the Vietnam war had taken a nasty turn at the same time, and even the most zealous eagle land supporters had to be cautious. When the Soviets screwed up, they saw it as a way to kick back.
  • Unstoppable Rage: Ola, when he learns of the death of Kim. He suffers a heart attack in the process.
  • Uptown Girl: Cecilie. One of the reasons why the relationship with Kim doesn`t last.
  • The Vietnam War: An important plot point, as it spins the main characters into awareness of politics and radicalism. Kim gets beaten for it.
  • War Is Hell: Kim is a sensitive kid, who reacts strongly to the news from Vietnam. His feeling that the war is upon him, escalates during the course of the book.
  • Was It Really Worth It?: Kim starts to ask himself this question even before any real fight is lost or won. This makes him doubt the motives of the more idealistic people around him, as if their fight is sincere. Gunnar holds him out of the serious business because of this.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Guri, former girlfriend of Seb, is never seen nor heard from again after 1970.
  • Working-Class Hero: Kim`s grandfather, the railroad worker, an old man who never seems to die in-universe.
    • Fred Hansen, in a way. His view of the Beatles comes down to this. "Regular worker boys who made it". Later, the song of John Lennon is used as a title to describe Gunnar.
    • A bit of historical fridge logic occurs when Fred proudly shows bullet holes from the Second World War in the cellar of the compartment he lives in. That is where they shot a nazi, a collaborator (The labor unions were staunch opponents of the German occupation at the time, and the communists had their own restistance fraction. No wonder a collaborator could get shot in a working class part of town).
  • Working-Class People Are Morons: The way Fred is treated by the upper class boy seems to imply they mean this. Up to and including his teachers. To make references worse, the even refer to him as "nigger".
  • World War III: Referenced as a possible scenario of escalation during the Vietnam War. Stig hands out a piece of information stating that a naval carrier did arrive at the coast of Vietnam equipped with nuclear warheads. "That should mean number III, guys. The Big Bad!" Of course, nobody could ratify that information in 1966, but recently this piece of information has been verified to some extent: A couple of trigger happy generals really proposed to use those weapons in Vietnam, albeit behind the president´s back.
  • Would Hurt a Child: The US Army in Vietnam. Proof is given by a war picture of an injured girl hoddling away from her village. This picture starts to haunt Kim, and is the main reason he chooses sides. His argument boils down to this: "So you support people who bomb children with napalm?"
    • The man who attacked the anti war picture also gets that. Kim dreams of him using his axe on children.


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