"The Scoundrel Days of Hobo Highbrow"
Interview with Pål H. Christiansen
Paulo Coutinho: Why a book dedicated to the genius Pal Waaktaar? What has been your motivation to write this book?
Pål: Hobo Highbrow appeared for the first time in my debut novel "Harry var ikke ved sine fulle fem" in 1989. At the same time I had some vague ideas about writing something about a-ha, an essay or something. I had liked a-ha ever since "Take on Me" in 1985, but the interest grew stronger through the years, especially after an incident very similar to the one described in the novel where Hobo spots Paul and Lauren in the street.This was in 1992. I suddenly realized that making Hobo a fan of a-ha and Paul was perfect for my story. Paul was the obvious choice of the three guys of several reasons; he is the "writer" in a-ha, he has written quite a lot about love, he has his well-known life with Lauren, he had recently become a father, and then I think he is the one I understand the best.
Vanessa Alcantara: Is the construction of Hobo in your point of view like Pal Waaktaar himself trying the success with a-ha in the early days?
Pål: Yes. Hobo finds inspiration in a-ha's and Pål's way of making their dreams come true. My opionion is that a-ha have had a great impact on the mentality in Norway. The only proper way to become a star INSIDE of Norway has always been the hard, being on the road from fjord to fjord, playing concerts for the locals, and building up an audience that way. But a-ha went to London and conquered most of the world without having played a single concert! They showed us that it is possible to achieve the impossible even for people from little Norway.
Diogo Mendonça: Has the song "Scoundrel days" been an inspiration to the book?
Pål: Actually it wasn't. The original title in Norwegian is "Drømmer om storhet". (translation:"Dreams of greatness"). The translator Jon Buscall thought "Dreams of greatness" doesn't sound good in English, so he came up with other suggestions. The title "The Scoundrel Days of Hobo Highbrow" was the one I liked from the start because it reflects the content of the book in a brilliant way. Hobo discusses "Take on me", "Hunting High and Low" and some other songs in this book, but not "Scoundrel Days".
João Pedro Lima: How has the Norwegian reaction to the book been?
Pål: There was quite a bit of attention in the Norwegian media when it came out. Paul and I made some interviews together in October 2002 for some of the major newspapers here, and I was invited to several radio channels to speak about the book and a-ha. The reviews varied a lot, which reflects that this is a kind of book that demands that you have the ability to let yourself drift away with Hobo's thinking and behavior. An interesting point is that a-ha has never really been "in" among most artists, writers and intellectuals in Norway (or they never admitted that they listened to a-ha), so as a writer I really did something "uncool"!
Christian Augusti:Do you intend to write a sequel of the book?
Pål: I have plans for a new book about Hobo, yes. The part a-ha will play there is uncertain and depends a little on the reception of "The Scoundrel Days of Hobo Highbrow". I have a couple of other novels to finish first. (Read more about this in an interview on the book's facebook group)
Lais Souza: Do you intend to release the book in Portuguese too?
Pål: Now that an English edition is available I hope some Brazilian publishers will read it and consider it for publishing. I am working with this issue, but don't know if or when it will be realised.
Dora Oliveira Sá: How and when did you start to write books?
Pål: I wanted to write ever since I was about 10 years old, but didn't really start before in my twenties. I went to the writers course in Bø in Telemark in 1985 after quitting my law studies at Oslo university in the year before. My first book was published in 1989.
Marcelo Soares: Does your book show any religious theme?
Pål: The main character Hobo Highbrow has a great longing for something. But this is not a religious feeling, it's an obsession! The cover image is a caricature of the way Hobo sees Paul Waaktaar in his most obsessed moments, not an attempt to kind of beatify the musician.
Marcelo Soares: The predominant religion in Norway is the Lutheran. Do you have any religion?
Pål: When I grew up I was not very happy with the Lutheran church in Norway. I found it hypocritical, false and strange – and left it quite early. Today I don't belong to any religion, which doesn't mean I'm without any religious feelings. Culturally I am a Christian of course, but I doubt I'll ever involve myself into any religious society.
Thiago Marques: Are you fan of a-ha and Pål Waaktaar as musicians?
Pål: Yes, I am a great admirer of both a-ha and Pål Waaktaar as musicians. I like Morten's beautiful voice and especially Paul's and Magne's talent as songwriters. All three guys are very gifted musicians and I really look forward to hear the new a-ha album next year.
(The Portuguese version of this interview has been published on the website "a-ha: through the eyes of a fan")