Every so often, a book comes quietly out of the blue and catches the world on its hook. This summer, the UK is set to fall, line and sinker, for the unlikely charms of a volume of quixotic reportage about fishing. Shark Drunk: The Art Of Catching A Large Shark From A Tiny Rubber Dinghy In A Big Ocean, has won five awards in Norway, its native country. Now Mr Morten Strøksnes’ true-life tale is being published in English, with rights sold in 21 countries. If the ongoing mindfulness trend and recent buzz about hygge are anything to go by, this fishy non-fiction is going to be catch of the day.
Shark Drunk is a book in which nothing happens several times over, while two old pals drink boxes of red wine in a small boat. Ostensibly, it’s about the quest embarked on by writer Mr Strøksnes and painter Mr Hugo Aasjord to catch a Greenland shark – a giant beast of almost mythical proportions – in the icy waters of Norway’s remote Lofoten Islands. Really, it’s about the wonders of nature we seldom take time to appreciate, and the warmth of true friendship that we need space, and sometimes silence, to feel.
The writing is worth savouring for its own sake. Wry humour gives way to vivid description. From the water, the world “seems cleansed and full of mirrors”. Mr Strøksnes allows his thoughts to slip their moorings. He reads rare books about ancient sea monsters. He researches plankton. He attacks the shortsightedness of trawling, which destroys coral forests. He reflects that man is really just a “rebuilt fish”, and wonders whether seals dream.