The End of Raining Words
First, a clarification. The Reine Ord Festival has nothing to do with Rain; it is held in Reine, Lofoten, which must be one of the most impractical places on the planet to hold a serious literary festival that sports readings by local and national writers of high repute, as well as international names such as this year’s André Brink. The only place more out of the way that I can think of to hold a festival would be Tasmania. Met a gentleman from there today who told me that every two years Tasmania holds an “island arts” festival with representation within theater and art from all the island communities of the world… except, so far, Lofoten. I gave him my card with the promise that I could round up some Norwegian poets for the next festival. We’ll see what comes of that. In the meantime, Reine Ord Festival, in the tiny Hamlet of Reine, population less than 400, has got to be one of the most ambitious projects undertaken in the name of literature anywhere.
The name Reine sounds like “ren” which means clean or pure in Norwegian. So the name carries associations of just words or pure words and even clean words although that is my least favorite English rendition. I called it Raining Words because of the near rhyme with the Norwegian, and the fact that it has been pouring rain all week, and it usually does. The literary bigwigs who held readings and panel discussions were not handed roses or even bottles of wine as tokens of the festival’s appreciation. They were given yellow fishermen’s rain hats.
|Norway’s greatest living poet Jon Erik Vold and blues singer Kåre Virud
after performing Vold’s translations of Bob Dylan
The same hats were worn by a number of ladies from the Fredrikstad Reading Circle who were out taking early morning walks today. Fredrikstad, if you check your map of Norway, is way south of Oslo, somewhere near Denmark in fact. 37 of these ladies, average age 69, traveled up here by plane, ferry, bus and mini-bus to attend the festival. They might not have spent more than the 14 hours I spent getting here on Wednesday, but they certainly covered more ground. Now I’m sitting in the lounge of Eliasen’s fishermen’s cabins, waiting for the bus to Leknes. There were two buses today. One at noon that the Tasmanian gentleman was scheduled to take, and the one I am waiting for at six thirty. With the only plane out of here at 9 p.m., the options were wait for 8+ hours at the airport or wait for 8+ hours at the fishermen’s cabin. Been there done that at the airport, so I opted to wait at the cabin. Besides, here is a kitchen where I can toast my last few slices of bread and brew my last few cups of Constant Comment tea.
I have managed to eat most of my provisions that were causing my suitcase to weigh in at 23 kilo on the trip over. However two cans of pepper mackerel and a package of hard tack remain, most likely because I did indeed eat out twice. Both times were social dinners related to the festival, so they will be covered by my travel stipend from the writer’s union which has so nicely sponsored my trip. I also saw it as a unique opportunity to eat local fare that is just not going to ever show up in the kitchen at home. On Friday it was fried cod tongues and on Saturday it was fresh loin of whale.
Delicious, both, in each their own exotic way. If I were stranded on a desert island with one of them to eat it would be the whale. Sorry Moby Dick, I’m a savage.
|murder scene after Brazen’s disappearance
Speaking of Moby, I had a dream the other night that Moby, the goldfish, had grown to huge dimensions and had a flowing angel-fish tale. I am looking forward to getting home and seeing the little critters and proving the dream to be only a dream. Otherwise it was quite creepy. They four new little goldfish, which started out about the length of my thumb, have grown, but not that fast. They are replacements for the 4 year old koi fish Coy and Brazen who had grown to dinner plate size and were similarly consumed by respectively a crow and a cat.
Besides seeing the family and menagerie, what I am really looking forward to after five days of submersion in literary edification, unhindered time to write, solitude and blissful natural surroundings is to get on the exercise bike and lose myself in a double episode of Veronica Mars season 2 reruns. Yes! Civilization here I come!
Just have to get my suitcase closed around the (top secret and unnamed) number of books I got. Hmm, come to think of it they weigh a lot more than the food I had with me. Hope that little plane back to Bodø is flying nearly empty again so my extra heavy bag won’t matter. Come to think of it, chances are they will be glad for some ballast!