Snakker Ikke Norsk

A Norwegian teen show struggles to find the right tone.

On the international teen show Snakker Ikke Norsk ("I don't speak the lingo") on Radio Nova 99.3FM in Oslo (Sundays, 10am), listeners
are calling in to express their appreciation for Jens Stoltenberg, whose popularity - always immense - has climbed to Churchillian levels in recent weeks. "Jens was just so kind to the ducks yesterday," 17-year-old Amy says, sweetly neglecting, as an enraptured girlfriend might, to specify where the ducks were. "Oh, Amy," giggles the host, the twentysomething Jan. "I've never heard anyone who's so into a politician on a personal level!"

“For those of you who are, like, dead," continues Amy, fiercely, "Jens Stoltenberg is the babe who governs Norway and he's smokin'. I love his hair, I love his bicycle, I love his tight bum." Jan moves in for the kill. "Is he the hottest politician of the lot?" Amy replies: "Politicians aren't usually sexy, you know? I mean, Sarah Palin is kind of hot . . . but only if you take away her mouth and, like, brain. I just love Jens. He is thousands of times better than the two English prime ministers. Can you even name them?"

And on it goes, until someone plays an impressively early Talking Heads number. When we come back, however, Amy sounds quite desolate. How to start a relationship with Jens? Poke him on Facebook, suggests the producer Philipp. A modest person who usually makes it clear that he finds all attempts to bring him into proceedings fairly disconcerting, Philipp, when he does speak, tends to offer a path to compromise. Extremes are not his bag. He is, one feels, a man who, even when pushed to the absolute limit, would only shout, "Oh . . . fiddlesticks!" But Jens, Jens. "Well, we just love him all the more since . . . Utøya," admits Jan, and there follows a long pause.

In Oslo, in cafés and restaurants, everyone talks about the shootings all the time - a constant, low-level murmur - but nobody has quite settled yet on what language to apply to the incident. The atmosphere here remains phenomenally tender, like the inner membrane of an egg.
They are readers following a story who suddenly look up and say: "Where next?"

Antonia Quirke is an author and journalist. She is a presenter on The Film Programme and Pick of the Week (Radio 4) and Film 2015 and The One Show (BBC 1). She writes a column on radio for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 26 September 2011 issue of the New Statesman, The fifty people who matter