Study Guide

Hanne in A Hologram for the King

By Dave Eggers

Hanne

A Friend In Need

We have to say: if there's a spinoff of A Hologram For the King out there, we want it to be about Hanne. A book about a moonshine-drinking, hard-partying Danish woman who lives in the middle of the Saudi desert because she likes isolation? Yes please.

Alan meets Hanne when he's on a mission to find Karim al-Ahmad and right all the wrongs done to Reliant—starting with that crummy tent in the middle of the desert. Hanne does the payroll for the contractors working at KAEC. Her office, on the upper floors of the Black Box, is in a realm that feels secretive and privileged.

To Alan, Hanne provides access to lots of things: companionship, information, sex—and, most importantly, moonshine. While the sex part isn't of much use to him, the moonshine certainly is. She becomes the supplier of siddiqi, the forbidden grain alcohol whose name literally means "my friend."

She's like a Scandinavian elf, a "gift-bringer" whose look seems supernatural and powerful:

Her eyes were ice blue, her hair cut with slashing severity. (XIII.47.92)

Hanne stays at KAEC because it's a break from the world around her. Out in the desert, she's out of context, in hiding from the upsetting things of the world. She explains to Alan the appeal of this retreat:

"It is so strange. But it's so quiet that most of the time I love it. The utter lack of social responsibility. You have no familial responsibilities, no real friend responsibilities. I'm lucky to have one guest a month. It's monastic, which is a relief." (XXII.36.183)

Her observations here help us understand Alan's attraction to the desert city and his desire to hang on there for just a little while longer after the Reliant deal falls apart. Like Hanne, he needs a place to hide until he heals.

But for Hanne, monasticism kind of wears thin after a while.

A Friend with Needs

The loneliness and isolation of life in Saudi Arabia has been therapeutic for Hanne, but it also leaves her yearning for companionship…and sexytimes. Alan seems to be a simpatico choice for her, but she learns that his mind is not in the right place. No amount of siddiqi in the world is gonna fix what's going on with Alan.

After their bizarre make out session, Hanne offers this insight into Alan's state of mind:

"I think you're absolutely hollow."
"I told you that myself."
"Maybe not hollow. More like defeated."
Alan shrugged.
"What made you that way? There's no light in there." She leaned over to tap his temple with her finger.
(XXII.96-100.188)

While Hanne has her own issues, she's not wrong about Alan. His inability to connect with other human beings—even on the most primal level—is chilling. She may be in hiding from the world, but Alan is hiding from himself.

Oh, the Humanity

Eggers wraps up Alan and Hanne's relationship in this way:

There would be a time when the world created people stronger than them. When all of this got worked out. But until then there would be women and men like Hanne and Alan, who were imperfect and had no path toward perfection. (XXII.119.191)

It sounds like Eggers' characters have really got him down—he can hardly wait to dispose of the Hanne/Alan combo. And hey: maybe this is justified. While Hanne is fairly innocuous in her own way, she's a bit of a threat to fragile Alan. He's got a lot of baggage, and Hanne just wants to enjoy herself…even if she's a bit over the edge on that score.

But Eggers implies something important in his assessment of their doomed relationship: Hanne and Alan are garden-variety humans. Nothing more, nothing less. Their dysfunctionality is nothing remarkable because humans ain't perfect.

People might get stronger in the future (maybe?), but we're guessing that there will still be lots of Alans and Hannes around, too.

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