“The clock chimed twelve. Someone was up and in the hallway, a door was opened and closed, the toilet flushed. I liked being in other people’s homes so much, I thought, I always had, although what I saw there could seem unbearable to me, perhaps because I saw things I wasn’t intended to see. The personal life that was peculiar to them. The love, the helplessness that resided in that, which was usually hidden from others’ eyes. Oh, trifles, trivialities, a family’s habits, their exchanged glances. The vulnerability in this was so immense. Not for them, they lived inside it, and then there was no vulnerability, but when it was seen by someone who didn’t belong. When I saw it I felt like an intruder, I had no right to be there. At the same time I was filled with tenderness for them.
The clock readied itself to chime again. I opened my eyes, there was no question of me being able to sleep right away. The trees outside the window were black, the darkness between them pale. It wasn’t raining anymore, but the wind was still rising and falling in the forest like billowing breakers of the air.
Hilde had become my closest confidante. Actually she was my best friend. I was in and out of the house where she lived, I got to know her parents, sometimes I stayed the night and had dinner with them. What Hilde and I did, occasionally with Eirik, occasionally on our own, was talk. Sitting cross-legged on the floor of her cellar flat, with a bottle of wine between us, the night pressing against the windows, we talked about books we had read, about political issues that interested us, about what awaited us in life, what we wanted to do and what we could do. She was very serious about life, she was the only acquaintance of my age who was, and she probably saw the same in me, while at the same time she laughed a lot and irony was never far away. There was little I liked better than being there, in their house, with her and Eirik and sometimes Lars; however, there were other things happening in my life which were irreconcilable, and this caused me to have a permanent guilty conscience: if I was out drinking at discos and trying to chat up girls I felt bad about Hilde and what I stood for when I was with her; if I was at Hilde’s place and talked about freedom or beauty or the meaning of everything I could feel pangs of guilt towards those I went out with, or towards the person I was when I was with them, because the duplicity and hypocrisy that Hilde, Eirik and I talked so much about was also present in my own heart. Politically, I was way out on the left, bordering on anarchy, I hated conformity and conventionality, and like all the other alternative young people growing up in Kristiansand, including her, I despised Christianity and all the idiots who believed in it and went to meetings with their stupid charismatic priests.
But I didn’t despise the Christian girls. No, for some strange reason it was precisely them I fell for. How could I explain that to Hilde? And although I, like her, always tried to see beneath the surface, on the basis of a fundamental yet unstated tenet that what lay beneath was the truth or the reality, and, like her, always sought meaning, even if it were only to be found in an acknowledgement of meaninglessness, it was actually on the glittering and alluring surface that I wanted to live, and the chalice of meaninglessness I wanted to drain — in short I was attracted by all the town’s discos and nightspots, where I wanted nothing more than to drink myself senseless and stagger around chasing girls I could fuck, or at least snog. How could I explain that to Hilde?
I couldn’t, and I didn’t. Instead I opened a new subdivision in my life. ‘Booze and hopes of fornication’ it was called, and it was right next to ‘insight and sincerity’, separated only by a minor garden-fence-like change of personality.
I couldn’t sleep, which I was also keen to do, to get away from all of this. Instead I went to the bathroom, undressed and had another shower. It was a way of tricking myself into believing something new was beginning. Not as good as sleeping, it was true, but better than nothing. Then, with wet hair and my shirt sticking to my back, I sat down and went on writing. I had the two ten-year-olds walking around in the forest. They were scared of meeting foxes and had cap guns in their hands to frighten them away if they showed up. Suddenly they heard a shot. They ran over to where the sound had come from and saw a rubbish dump in the middle of the forest. There were two men lying on the ground shooting at rats. Whereupon something seemed to flash through me, an arc of happiness and energy; now I couldn’t write fast enough, the text lagged slightly behind the narrative, it was a wonderful feeling, shiny and glittering.
“It was strange how all large trees had their own personalities, expressed through their unique forms and the aura created by the combined effect of the trunk and roots, the bark and branches, the light and shadow. It was as if they could speak. Not with voices, of course, but with what they were, they seemed to stretch out to whoever looked at them. And that was all they spoke about, what they were, nothing else.”
“Тропа у людей одна: мы все уйдем из жизни. Вчера я, двадцатилетний, бегал по улице Горького — и вот уже завтра умирать. Без аллегорий. Страшно ли мне? Страшно. Дело ведь небывалое. Но интересно очень! Там же Господь, Вечность. Не готов. Пушкин нам ответил: «Я с отвращением листаю жизнь свою, но строк позорных не смываю». Мой ответ такой же, как у него. Сидим мы как-то с Ванечкой Охлобыстиным на съемках фильма «Царь», гримируемся и разговариваем о том, кто что читал и слышал о вечной жизни. Гример говорит: «Ой, какие вы смешные!» Я ему: «А когда предстанем перед Творцом, вообще обхохочешься». Ведь с нашими совестями такими-сякими, с нашей жизнью такой-сякой надо будет глядеть в глаза Богу, который за нас отдал жизнь свою на кресте…Не надо обольщаться, что после смерти от нас один прах останется. Все крупные ученые — верующие. Все мои знакомые врачи, которые имеют дело с жизнью и смертью, — веруют.О клинической смерти оставлены тысячи свидетельств, доказывающих, что конца нет. Эйнштейн в существовании Бога не сомневался, и Пушкин, и Ломоносов, и Менделеев. А какая-нибудь Леночка семнадцати лет заявляет: «Что-то я сомневаюсь, что ваш Бог есть…» А ты почитай сначала, изучи вопрос, тогда и скажешь. Это как в метро вошел, увидел схему — кольцо какое- то, разноцветные точки. Махнул рукой: «А, фигня, поеду сам». Так и будешь по Кольцевой всю жизнь ездить. Богу не важны наши поступки, ему нужен мотив: зачем мы это делаем, зачем мы живем. Смерть грешника люта. В том ужасном состоянии, в каком погибнешь, и застынешь, дружок, в вечности таким и будешь. Там изменения нет, потому что нет воли, нет тела. Тело и есть наша воля к изменению.На съемках «Острова» я должен был ложиться в гроб. Три раза из него выскакивал — не выдерживал. Строгая вещь — гроб: лежишь, стеночки узенькие — и ничего больше нет. Даже Евангелия, чтобы почитать. Что собрал в душе, с тем и лежишь.. . В вечность мы возьмем то, что потрогать нельзя, — то, что уступили, простили, отдали. Блаженнее же отдавать, чем брать.”
“If the book we are reading does not wake us, as with a fist hammering on our skulls, then why do we read it? Good God, we also would be happy if we had no books and such books that make us happy we could, if need be, write ourselves. What we must have are those books that come on us like ill fortune, like the death of one we love better than ourselves, like suicide. A book must be an axe that breaks the frozen sea inside us.”
“Intellectual freedom is essential — freedom to obtain and distribute information, freedom for open-minded and unfearing debate and freedom from pressure by officialdom and prejudices. Such freedom of thought is the only guarantee against an infection of people by mass myths, which, in the hands of treacherous hypocrites and demagogues, can be transformed into bloody dictatorship.”
“Человеческому обществу необходима интеллектуальная свобода – свобода получения и распространения информации, свобода непредвзятого и бесстрашного обсуждения, свобода от давления авторитета и предрассудков.Свобода мысли – единственная гарантия от заражения народа массовыми мифами, которые в руках коварных лицемеров-демагогов легко превращаются в кровавую диктатуру.”
The sheer amount of time you spend with your children, which is immense. So many hours, so many days, such an infinite number of situations that crop up and are lived through. From my childhood I remember only a handful of incidents, all of which I regarded as momentous, but which I now understand were a few events among many, which completely expunges their meaning, for how can I know that those particular episodes that lodged themselves in my mind were decisive, and not all the others of which I remember nothing?
When I discuss such topics with Geir, with whom I talk on the telephone for an hour every day, he is wont to quote Sven Stolpe, who has written somewhere about Bergman claiming that he would have been Bergman irrespective of where he had grown up, implying, in other words, that you are who you are whatever your surroundings. What shapes you is the way you are towards your family rather than the family itself. When I was growing up I was taught to look for the explanation of all human qualities, actions and phenomena in the environment in which they originated. Biological or genetic determinants, the givens, that is, barely existed as an option, and when they did they were viewed with suspicion. Such an attitude can at first sight appear humanistic, inasmuch as it is intimately bound up with the notion that all people are equal, but upon closer examination it could just as well be an expression of a mechanistic attitude to man, who, born empty, allows his life to be shaped by his surroundings.
For a long time I took a purely theological standpoint on the issue, which is actually so fundamental that it can be used as a springboard for any debate – if environment is the operative factor, for example, if man at the outset is both equal and shapeable and the good man can be shaped by engineering his surroundings, hence my parents’ generation’s belief in the state, the education system and politics, hence their desire to reject everything that had been and hence their new truth, which is not found within man’s inner being, in his detached uniqueness, but on the contrary in areas external to his intrinsic self, in the universal and collective, perhaps expressed in its clearest form by Dag Solstad, who has always been the chronicler of his age, in a text from 1969 containing his famous statement “We won’t give the coffee pot wings”: out with spirituality, out with feeling, in with the new materialism, but it never struck them that the same attitude could lie behind the demolition of old parts of town to make way for roads and parking lots, which naturally the intellectual Left opposed, and perhaps it has not been possible to be aware of this until now when the link between the idea of equality and capitalism, the welfare state and liberalism, Marxist materialism and the consumer society is obvious because the biggest equality creator of all is money, it levels all differences, and if your character and your fate are entities that can be shaped, money is the most natural shaper, and this gives rise to the fascinating phenomena whereby crowds of people assert their individuality and originality by shopping in an identical way while those who ushered all this in with their affirmation of equality, their emphasis on material values and belief in change, are now inveighing against their own handiwork, which they believed the enemy created, but like all simple reasoning this is not wholly true either, life is not a mathematical quantity, it has no theory, only practice, and though it is tempting to understand a generation’s radical rethink of society as being based on its view of the relationship between heredity and environment, this temptation is literary and consists more in the pleasure of speculating, that is, of weaving one’s thoughts through the most disparate areas of human activity, than in the pleasure of proclaiming the truth.
“In recent years the feeling that the world was small and that I grasped everything in it had grown stronger and stronger in me, and that despite my common sense telling me that actually the reverse was true: the world was boundless and unfathomable, the number of events infinite, the present time an open door that flapped in the wind of history. But that is not how it felt. It felt as if the world were known, fully explored and charted, that it could no longer move in unpredicted directions, that nothing new or surprising could happen. I understood myself, I understood my surroundings, I understood society around me, and if any phenomenon should appear mysterious I knew how to deal with it.
Understanding must not be confused with knowledge for I knew next to nothing — but should there be, for example, skirmishes in the borderlands of an ex-Soviet republic somewhere in Asia, whose towns I had never heard of, with inhabitants alien in everything from dress and language to everyday life and religion, it turned out that this conflict had deep historical roots that went back to events that took place a thousand years ago, my total ignorance and lack of knowledge would not prevent me from understanding what happened, for the mind has the capacity to deal with the most alien of thoughts. This applied to everything. If I saw an insect I hadn’t come across, I know that someone must have seen it before and categorized it. If I saw a shinty object in the sky I knew that it was either a rare meteorological phenomenon or a place of some kind, perhaps a weather balloon, and if it was important it would be in the newspaper the following day. If I had forgotten something that happened in my childhood it was probably due to repression; if I became really furious about something it was probably due to projection, and the fact that I always tried to please people had something to do with my father and my relationship with him. There is no one who does not understand their own world. Someone who understands very little, a child, for example, simply moves in a more restricted world than someone who understands a lot. However, an insight into the limits of understanding has always been part of understanding a lot: the recognition that the world outside, all those things we don’t understand, not only exists but is also always greater than the world inside. From time to time I thought that what had happened, at least to me, was that the children’s world, where everything was known, and where with regard to the things that were not known, you leaned on others, those who had knowledge and ability, that this children’s world had never actually ceased to exist, it had just expanded over all these years. When I, as a nineteen-year-old, was confronted with the contention that the world is linguistically structured I rejected it with what I called sound common sense, for it was obviously meaningless, the pen I held, was that supposed to be language? The window gleaming in the sun? The yard beneath me with students crossing it dressed in their autumn clothes? The lecturer’s ears, his hands? The faint smell of earth and leaves on the clothes of the woman who had just come in the door and was now sitting next to me? The sound of pneumatic drills used by the road workers who had set up their tent on the other side of St. Johannes’ Church, the regular drone of the transformer? The rumble from the town below — was that supposed to be a linguistic rumble? My cough, is it a linguistic cough? No, that was a ridiculous idea. The world was the world, which I touched and leaned on, breathed and spat in, ate and drank, bled, and vomited. It was only many years later that I began to view this differently. In a book I read about art and anatomy Nietzsche was quoted as saying that “physics too is an interpretation of the world and an arrangement of the world, and not an explanation of the world,” and that “we have measured the value of the world with categories that refer to a purely fabricated world.”