The Norwegian-American Literary Festival — interviews, discussions, lectures, and music — is in town for three nights, starting tonight. Guests include Rachel Kushner, James Wood, Karl Ove Knausgaard, and many more.
Because I cannot attend any of the events, all of them free, I decided to reread Tomas Espedal’s Against Nature.
Near the end of the book, the narrator, old and bedraggled with travels and petty hurts, meets a young girl. They fall in love, do things together, and need each other. It gets to a point where the narrator wants to write a short “book about happiness”.
He says, “I’d imagined that happiness would diminish, that it would vanish, that it would mutate into dullness and predictability, rows and irritations, that it would be consumed by daily life and triviality, but it was the opposite; happiness enveloped everything it met and grew like some great feline, it grew and grew — how would it end?”
It ends badly. The feline stops growing, begins to shrink and shrivel, and ends wrinkled and rubbery like an airless balloon. But it’s hard to deny that Against Nature is indeed a book about happiness. Everything about it is cold and dry and lonely until you see sentences like “I was happy in every room of the house” peeking through like a flower growing between a rock and a fast running river.
Also because I cannot attend any of the events, I decided to watch the Heavy Water War, a British-Danish-Norwegian mini-drama series about the German nuclear weapons program and Norwegian resistance and saboteurs.
Because I cannot attend any of the events, I am going to read Dag Solstad’s Shyness and Dignity. I am going to think about how unfair it is to miss the festival two years in a row and watch Max Manus. And maybe read something by Ove Knausgaard, one of his shorter pieces.
I invite all of you who cannot attend to do the same.
- HJ from The Anabanana Team