Raining Words Festival – part 2
In the fjord outside my window the seagulls are affronted by deep-sea divers who are calling it a day. Or calling it a night. Here you can call a night a day and no one will protest. Only the gulls, and they protest no matter what you do. They look so soft and white, have such elegant curves, soar with such grace… but what demonic voices gurgle in their throats.
Vigdis Hjort told this story: Two little old ladies getting off the tram in Oslo stop to listen to the birds. “Have you ever heard such beautiful birdsong?” says the first. “It’s all just sex!” says the other.
If birdsong is all about sex then the seagulls aren’t getting any. They are the very voice of cranky irritability.
In 1989, which was the last time I was in Reine, there were dead seagulls stuck on poles over the racks of drying cod. Bloody, ravaged seagull corpses to frighten the other gulls away from the fish. Today when I drove from Hamnøy to Reine there were rows of gulls sitting on the rows of fish. I wonder if it has become illegal to hang dead seagulls in your backyard. Maybe it’s just become politically incorrect.
I said I drove to Reine today but that’s inaccurate. I was driven. By a taxi charging exponential holiday rates of something like 30 kroner a minute. I had no choice if I was going to get to the actual opening of the literary festival, as all the people I had thought I could get a ride with dematerialized. Agatha in the reception. Lillian in the cultural center. Agatha’s husband in the reception. The mystery guest in room 4 who checked out early.
Suddenly I was on my own in a recap of yesterday’s transportation dilemma, only in reverse. Sort of like the theory that if you pass through a black hole you get to a parallel universe where everything that is happening here is happening there, in a mirror image. As the opposite. You see, unlike yesterday at the airport when I had to fight for my right to walk a kilometer, today when I asked about transportation to Reine, hoping I could bum a ride since the buses aren’t running, three different people were quick to suggest I walk. It’s a nice walk. Oh about 5 kilometers. You can do it in under an hour and a half. Maybe an hour and a quarter.
An hour and a what? Even half an hour would have been out of the question: in the rain on a narrow road with cars speeding by on one side, rack after rack of smelly dead fish on the other, seagulls threatening overhead… I called a taxi.
At the Reine kultursenter who is the first person I see? Jørgen Mathiasen. He’s here as a volunteer. And there’s Hege, who is here on an excursion with her entire book group. Yes, they bought their festival passes and booked their hotel a year ago. It turns out that is the way to do it. Tickets to Lars Saabye Christiansen were not available. I did get to hear Jan Erik Vold rapping Bob Dylan. Sat in the front row and got him to sign my copy of 12 Meditations. He is a very young older man who along with Ibsen and Vinje was my portal into Norwegian language and literature. It was quite amazing, a privilege, to sit literally at his feet and witness his masterful translations performed with Kåre Virud, the blues singer who has made it a point to never sing in English. Applause for that.
Today Vigdis Hjort said find your core issue and write about that. My core issue here is language. And all that language entails of culture, identity, self. She read my text to the class and said, “when it gets tightened it will do what Knausgård has done, put words on the relationship the writer has to his language.” I don’t know about the literary quality of my text, but it was nice even to be thematically connected to Knausgård!
Here it is, still full of errors no doubt:
Damene kommer inn i rommet i par,
som om de allerede kjenner hverandre,
som om de er valgt ut to og to, og bedehuset
hvor Vigdis Hjort holder skrivekurs er Noahs Ark.
Jeg kan ikke dette språket de snakker:
kvinnens uendelige ordflom.
Da jeg var fire år sa min søster til meg —
Du, vet du hva? Nei? sa jeg (jeg husker vi var
på badet, hvit porselen, flis, sommer i vinduet).
Du bør holde opp med å snakke så mye, sa hun,
ellers blir du snart fri for ord. Du får bare utdelt
så og så mange ord, skjønner du, og hvis du
bruker dem opp nå, blir du stående igjen senere
uten ord. Jeg så for meg de lange ordtomme årene
som var mitt framtidige liv. De var som rør av en
ekkel farge jeg ikke hadde ord for. Ikke da og ikke nå
heller. Nå har jeg bare følelsen av et rør
hvor språket skulle være.
Der fikk jeg en SMS. Fra noen som vil snakke med meg?
Det er fra Telenor: Delta i vår lille dekningsquiz —
er du like suveren som oss kan du vinne en iPad 2 32GB.
Lykke til! Lykke til? Til lykke? Tli ikke? Ly ketil? Kykli te?
Hva vil de at jeg skal gjøre? Jeg sitter igjen med bare biter
av ord. Små ordbiter jeg samler opp og prøver å sette sammen,
mens damene rundt meg prater og prater. Som om de aldri
blir tomme. Som om de aldri har mistet ei søster, et språk.