by Janne Teller
Where It All Goes Down
A note at the end of the book tells us, "Taering is a fictional place. Its name is derived from a verb meaning to gradually consume, corrode, or eat through, for example the way rust may eat through metal." The translator, Martin Aiken, tells us that there is no direct translation of "Taering" into English, but he chose to keep the name to give the reader the "sense of being somewhere foreign." Basically, it's a small town in Denmark, with small town mentalities. That means it's the scene of the consumption and corrosion of its characters' ethics.
From the very beginning, Agnes is afraid of being totally consumed by Pierre Anthon's beliefs. When he walks out the door on the first day of school, she says, "Pierre Anthon left the door ajar like a grinning abyss that would swallow me up into the outside with him if only I let myself go." (2.12)
Then there's the corrosion of the meaning of the heap of meaning, which begins once the town becomes more connected to the outside world. In other words, once the museum offers money and the media goes away, Class 7A begins to question whether anything on the pile ever really had meaning at all. As Agnes tells us: "It was the day before the museum people were coming to pack up the heap of meaning, and the meaning—or what was left of it—was forever on its way out of Taering" (23.1).
As with a lot of other elements in this novel, the setting seems more symbolic than anything, so we don't get a lot of details or descriptions. The fact that Taering's a small town, relatively detached from the rest of the world, means that these folks all know each other really well. That also means they know how to hurt each other—they know what matters most to each and everyone else.