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In an Ex-Pat’s Literary Crime Novel, Norwegian and Jewish-American Sensibilities Collide

The cranky anti-hero of ‘Norwegian by Night’ may be demented, but he’s no fool when it comes to patriotism, identity, and time

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(Illustration Tablet Magazine; figure adapted from Shutterstock)
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Sheldon Horowitz is a retired watch repairman and wise-cracker from New York City and a Korean War veteran relocated to Oslo, where he lives with his granddaughter and her Norwegian husband. In mourning over the recent death of his wife, Sheldon is in near constant anguish too over the loss years before of his only son—killed in Vietnam. That loss causes him to question continually the virtue of the patriotism and sense of civic responsibility that defined him and that he imparted to his child. When his Serbian immigrant neighbor is killed, Sheldon is forced to confront what is going on around him in the present and takes it upon himself to ferry his neighbor’s young child to safety. But what safety is and how to get there is unclear.

Derek B. Miller’s debut novel Norwegian by Night is a literary thriller that explores grief, memory, aging, and identity as it follows Horowitz and the boy from Oslo to the countryside. Though heady, the novel is also funny, laced with sardonic wit. Based in Oslo, where he directs the Policy Lab and works as a specialist in international affairs, Miller speaks with Vox Tablet host Sara Ivry about his affection for Sheldon and the “greatest generation,” about Norway’s small Jewish population, and about why his crime novel is not really, or only, a crime novel. [Running time: 19:42.] 

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In an Ex-Pat’s Literary Crime Novel, Norwegian and Jewish-American Sensibilities Collide

The cranky anti-hero of ‘Norwegian by Night’ may be demented, but he’s no fool when it comes to patriotism, identity, and time

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