A bit like Superman and he thrives around children

My first school years in Norway were like an eternal vacation

Text to picture: NEW BOOK: Alexander Rybak is topical with a book and album. In which children can become familiar with Trolle who finds a magic fiddle. © Anne Elisabeth Næss

Source: Foreldre & Barn (Parents & Kids), published 09/25/2015. Text: Tommy Halvorsen.  Found and translated by TessaLa, revised by Anni Jowett

Alexander Rybak was somewhat outcast at school, although he did not understand it himself. Now he has written tales of being different.

Already a dozen metres away, he has that big smile planted right in the face.

– Hi!
Alexander (29) sits down behind a front post in the beer garden at one of the restaurants in Aker Brygge, a few steps from his apartment.

– I have become a little shy, he says. He touches his stomach.

– Now I’m hungry! Smiles at the waitress, before he starts to look through the book he has brought with him.
The menu is left untouched. Ten seconds later he realises the mix-up and exclaims a loud “NO!”.

No one can accuse Alexander of coming wrapped in an A4 paper ( meaning “fitting the norm”).

Autobiographical traits

It was a musical fairy tale that made him celebrity of international stature through the victory in the Eurovision Song Contest. Now the multi artist shows a new side, but fairy tale is still a key word. This month Alexander namely debuts as a writer of the children’s books “Trolle and the Magic Fiddle”, a fairy tale about being different and feeling left out.

– This is my child! I have worked on the project for three years. The plan was to write a musical, but I realised it would take a very long time. So I started to make an album. When professionals said that I should publish the story in book form, the idea was created. The result is a children’s book, as well as an album of songs.

How much of the action is derived from Alexanders own life?

29-year-old chewing on high gear. Takes time for a smile.

– There are clearly autobiographical traits here, but also many differences. The main difference is that I have had a good upbringing, unlike him, says the  book debutant.

Less demanding school

Alexander spent his first childhood years in Belarus.

– We had a small apartment in Minsk. We rented out a room to another family, and only lived in 20 square metres. It did not feel small. That was how it was. I had nothing to compare it with.

In 1991, the year the Soviet Union fell apart, his musician father Igor defected during a tour in Norway.

– It was pretty dramatic. They would rather not lose a skilled musician out of the country and therefore tried to find him. He was hiding in Norway, but I do not quite know what to believe: Every time he tells the story, he makes it in fact even a bit more dramatic. First there were KGB officers knocking on the door, later it was both boats and planes that came after him. Alexander laughs.

At first he and his mother Natalia did not receive  a residence permit and were sent back to Belarus.

A year later the residence permission was in order, and they were reunited with Igor in Norway.

– Was it difficult to start at a new school with a foreign language?

– It went just fine. I felt I was on an eternal vacation during the first years. It was so much less demanding than I was used to. I did my own homework in minutes. Afterwards I did the homework of half my class. Once I remember that I was sent out of the classroom, because I had read the books too quickly.

Are you sure your nose won’t become a little longer now, Alexander … ?

Alexander Rybak foreldre.no
Book about trolls: Alexander believes he can recognise some things in the book he has written from his own childhood when he came to Norway from Belarus. © Anne Elisabeth Næss.


Was probably a bit left out

But the social aspect was difficult.

– There was bullying at school. I felt really hurt on behalf of those  who were bullied, but I didn’t defend them. It made me sad, and I went away. Sometimes I went to those who were bullied afterwards, said they should not care about those who were mean .

Alexander twists a bit into the chair.

– I was probably a bit outcast myself. Being different from the others, coming from another country with a different culture. In addition, I spent much time practising the violin. I do not know if I should use the word bullying, that is a strong word, but I was a little left out. Eventually I found my people to hang with. I spent no more time on them, I knew I could never win anyway.

He disappears into his thoughts. Returns with the following acknowledgment:
– Actually I do not know if I understood so well back then that I was a bit left out. My parents did a very good job in giving me confidence in myself. I’ve always had quite good confidence. A little too good maybe, he says and laughs.

Thrives around children

Alexander doesn’t seem like he cares too much about what the reviewers will think about the book and the music.

– My goal is to make the moral into a beautiful story that children can enjoy, and perhaps also to open their ears to classical music.

The musician thrives around children. He has for years travelled around and taught at music schools.

– It is very fun! Earlier, I could identify with the children, but now I notice that I have a different role. I’ve gone from being a big brother to an uncle.

– Do you think it is more difficult to grow up today with the “always being successful pressure” for instance on social media?

– I think we all suffer from it. We grin and show the butter side, but I think everyone is tired of having an exterior that does not match what we feel inside us. No one is just fine all the time.

A bit superman

– What would you say to kids who feel they are different?

– They should ask themselves: Do I like this side that makes me different? If the answer is yes, you should stick to who you are. Do not be afraid of what others think.

Alexander smiles. Moves restless in the chair. He has been sitting still for too long.

– Apropos about being different, without offending you, it is allowed with one last question?

Go Ahead!

– Have you ever investigated whether you have any diagnoses?

– You mean if I have ADHD or some other funny letters? I’ve never been checked for it. If I had received a diagnosis associated with pills and stuff, I think it would prevent the development of my intellect. I wouldn’t like that to happen. I think Mom and Dad have thought the same.

Before Alexander runs away, he threw out a last message:

– You know, I was born right after the nuclear reactor accident in Chernobyl and grew up not too far away. When I found that out, I was thrilled. I thought I was Superman who had substances in me  that made me different and special.

He smiles.

– It is important not to question things that make you happy.

Alexander rybak foreldreogbarn.no
CHILDHOOD: An eight year old boy with his parents Natalia and Igor. – I had a disciplined but good upbringing. Mom and Dad have done a good job. I’m grateful for that. © Private.


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