Читать онлайн "My Struggle: Book One" автора Knausgaard Karl Ove - RuLit - Страница 55


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It is in this light we have to see the strangely ambiguous role death has assumed. On the one hand, it is all around us, we are inundated by news of deaths, pictures of dead people; for death, in that respect, there are no limits, it is massive, ubiquitous, inexhaustible. But this is death as an idea, death without a body, death as thought and image, death as an intellectual concept. This death is the same as the word “death,” the bodiless entity referred to when a dead person’s name is used. For while the person is alive the name refers to the body, to where it resides, to what it does; the name becomes detached from the body when it dies and remains with the living, who, when they use the name, always mean the person he was, never the person he is now, a body which lies rotting somewhere. This aspect of death, that which belongs to the body and is concrete, physical and material, this death is hidden with such great care that it borders on a frenzy, and it works, just listen to how people who have been involuntary witnesses to fatal accidents or murders tend to express themselves. They always say the same, it was absolutely unreal, even though what they mean is the opposite. It was so real. But we no longer live in that reality. For us everything has been turned on its head, for us the real is unreal, the unreal real. And death, death is the last great beyond. That is why it has to be kept hidden. Because death might be beyond the term and beyond life, but it is not beyond the world.

I was almost thirty years old when I saw a dead body for the first time. It was the summer of 1998, a July afternoon, in a chapel in Kristiansand. My father had died. He was laid out on a table in the middle of the room, the sky was overcast, the light in the room dull, outside the window a lawn mower was slowly circling around a lawn. I was there with my brother. The funeral director had left the room so that we could be alone with the deceased, at whom we were staring from a distance of some meters. The eyes and mouth were closed, the upper body dressed in a white shirt, the lower half in black trousers. The idea that I could scrutinize this face unhindered for the first time was almost unbearable. It felt like an act of violation. At the same time I sensed a hunger, an insatiability that demanded I keep looking at him, at this dead body that a few days earlier had been my father. I was familiar with the facial features, I had grown up with this face, and although I hadn’t seen it as often over recent years hardly a night had passed without my dreaming about it. I was familiar with the features, but not the expression they had assumed. The dark, yellowy complexion, along with the lost elasticity of the skin, made his face seem as if it had been carved out of wood. The woodenness forbade any feelings of intimacy. I was no longer looking at a person but something that resembled a person. He had been taken from us, and what he had been still existed in me, it lay like a veil of life over death.

Yngve walked slowly to the other side of the table. I didn’t look at him, just registered the movement as I raised my head and looked outside. The gardener who was riding the lawn mower kept turning in his seat to check if he was following the line of the previous cut. The short blades of grass the bag didn’t catch whirled through the air above him. Some must have gotten stuck to the underside of the machine because it regularly left behind damp clumps of compressed grass, darker than the lawn from which they came. On the gravel path behind him there was a small cortège of three persons, all with bowed heads, one in a red cloak, resplendent against the green grass and gray sky. Behind them cars streamed past toward the town center.

Then the roar of the lawn-mower engine reverberated against the chapel wall. The expectation the sudden noise created, that it would make Dad open his eyes, was so strong that I involuntarily recoiled.

Yngve glanced across at me with a little smile on his lips. Did I believe the dead could wake? Did I believe wood could become human again?

It was a terrible moment. But when it was over and he, despite all the noise and commotion, remained inert, I understood that he did not exist. The feeling of freedom that rose in my breast then was as difficult to control as the earlier waves of grief, and it found the same outlet, a sob that, quite against my will, escaped the very next moment.



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