Читать онлайн "My Struggle: Book One" автора Knausgaard Karl Ove - RuLit - Страница 58


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I put my case down on the floor of the small concourse and looked up at the departures board. There was a plane to Stavanger at five o’clock, which I could easily make. But there was also one at six. Since I loved sitting in airports, perhaps even more than I loved sitting in taxis, I opted for the latter.

I turned around and scanned the check-in desks. Apart from the three farthest ones — where the lines seemed chaotic and stretched back a long distance, and I could see from the passengers’ apparel, which without exception was light, and the amount of luggage, which was immense, and the mood, which was as cheery as it can be after a few glasses, that they were taking a charter flight to southern Europe — there was not a lot happening. I bought a ticket, checked in, and ambled over to the phones on the other side to ring Yngve. He picked up at once.

“Hi, Karl Ove here,” I said. “Plane goes at a quarter past six. So I’ll be in Sola by a quarter to seven. Are you going to come and get me or what?”

“I can do that, no problem.”

“Have you heard any more?”

“No. . I rang Gunnar and told him we were coming. He didn’t know any more. I thought we could set off early and drop by the undertaker’s before it closes. It’s Saturday tomorrow.”

“Okay,” I said. “Sounds good. See you then.”

“Yeah, see you.”

I hung up and went upstairs to the café, bought a cup of coffee and a newspaper, located a table with a view of the concourse, hung my jacket over the back of the chair while surveying the room to see if there was anyone I knew, and sat down.

Thoughts of my father surfaced at regular intervals, as they had ever since Yngve called, but unconnected with emotions, always as a stark statement. That was probably because I had been prepared. Ever since the spring when he had left my mother, his life had been going in only one direction. We didn’t realize that then, but at some point he had crossed a line and from then on we knew anything could befall him, even the worst. Or the best, according to how you viewed things. I had long wished him dead, but from the very second I realized his life could soon be over I began to hope for it. When there was news on TV of fatal accidents in the district where he lived, whether they were fires or car accidents, corpses found in the forest or at sea, my immediate feeling was one of hope: perhaps it is Dad. However, it was never him, he coped, he survived.

Until now, I thought, observing the crowds circulating in the concourse below. In twenty-five years a third of them would be dead, in fifty years two-thirds, in a hundred all of them. And what would they leave behind, what had their lives been worth? Gaping jaws, empty eye sockets, somewhere beneath the earth.

Perhaps the Day of Judgment really would come? All these bones and skulls that had been buried for the thousands of years that man had lived on earth would gather themselves up with a rattle, and stand grinning into the sun, and God, the almighty, the all-powerful, would, with a wall of angels above and below Him, judge them from his heavenly throne. Above the earth, so green and so beautiful, trumpets would sound, and from all the fields and valleys, all the beaches and plains, all the seas and lakes, the dead would rise and go to the Lord their God, be raised to His level, judged and cast into the flames of hell, judged and elevated into the divine light. Also those walking around here, with their roller suitcases and tax-free bags, their wallets and bank cards, their perfumed armpits and their dark glasses, their dyed hair and their walking frames, would be awakened, impossible to discern any difference between them and those who died in the Middle Ages or in the Stone Age, they were the dead, and the dead are the dead, and the dead would be judged on the Last Day.

From the back of the concourse, where the luggage carousels were, came a group of perhaps twenty Japanese. I placed my smoldering cigarette in the ashtray and took a sip of coffee as I watched their progress. The foreignness of them, which resided not in their clothes or appearance but their behavior, was compelling, and to live in Japan, surrounded by all this foreignness, all the things one saw but did not understand, whose meaning one might intuit without ever being sure, was a dream I had long held. To sit in a Japanese house, furnished in simple, Spartan fashion, with sliding doors and paper partitions, created for a neatness that was alien to me and my northern European impetuosness, would be fantastic. To sit there and write a novel and see how the surroundings slowly and imperceptibly shaped the writing, for the way we think is of course as closely associated with the specific surroundings of which we form part as the people with whom we speak and the books we read. Japan, but also Argentina, where familiar European features were lent quite a different hue, shifted to quite a different place, and the USA, one of the small towns in Maine, for example, with landscape so like Norway’s southern coast, what might have sprung off the page there?

I put down my cup and resumed smoking, swiveled in my chair, and looked over at the gate where there were already quite a number of passengers, even though it was only a few minutes to five.

But now it was Bergen’s turn.

A chill wind blew through me.

Dad is dead.

For the first time since Yngve had called I could see him in my mind’s eye. Not the man he had been in recent years, but the man he was when I was growing up, when, in winter, we went fishing with him, off the island of Tromøya, with the wind howling round our ears and the spray high in the air from the huge, gray breakers that smashed against the rocks below us, and he stood there, rod in hand, reeling in, laughing in our direction. Thick black hair, a black beard, slightly asymmetrical face, covered with small drops of water. Blue oilskins, green rubber boots.

That was the image.

Typical that I would conjure up one of the times when he was good. That my subconscious would select a situation where I had warm feelings for him. It was an attempt at manipulation, obviously intended to smooth the path for irrational sentimentality, which, once the floodgates were open, would brim up without constraint and take possession of me. That was how the subconscious worked, it clearly saw itself as a kind of corrective force on thoughts and desires, and undermined everything that might be considered antagonistic to the prevailing common sense. But Dad had got what was coming to him, it was good that he was dead, anything in me that said otherwise was lying. And that went not only for the man he had been when I was growing up, but also the man he became when in midlife he broke off all the old connections and started afresh. Because he had changed, also in his attitude to me, but it didn’t help, I didn’t want to know anything about what he became either. In the spring when he left he had started drinking and that went on right through the summer, that was what they did, Unni and Dad, they sat in the sun drinking, wonderful long drunken days, and when school started the drinking continued, but just in the afternoons and evenings, and on weekends. They moved to northern Norway and both worked in a school there, and that was where we got the first inkling of the state he was in, because we flew there once to visit him, Yngve, his girlfriend, and I. Dad picked us up, he was pale and his hands were shaking, he hardly said a word, and when we got to his flat he knocked back three beers in quick succession in the kitchen, then seemed to come to life, stopped shaking, became aware of us, started talking, and went on drinking. Over these few days, it was a winter holiday, he drank nonstop, kept emphasizing that he was on holiday, you can allow yourself one then, especially up here, where it was so dark all winter. Unni was pregnant at the time, so now he drank alone. In the spring he worked as an external examiner at a school in the Kristiansand district and had invited Yngve, his girlfriend, and me to lunch at the Hotel Caledonien, but when we arrived at the reception where we were supposed to meet, he wasn’t there, we waited for half an hour, then asked the receptionist, he was in his room, we went upstairs, knocked on the door, no one answered, he must have been asleep, we knocked harder and called his name, but no reaction, and we left none the wiser. Two days later the Hotel Caledonien burned to the ground, twelve people died, I drove down with Bassen in the lunch break, I was in the second class at gymnas then, and watched the firemen extinguishing the fire. If my father had been there, he would have been one of the victims, no question given the state he was in, I said to Bassen, but still neither I nor Yngve understood what was happening to him, we had no experience with alcoholics, there were none in the family, and even though we understood he was drinking, for soon we had experienced a lot of boozy nights culminating in tears, arguments, and jealousy, with every scrap of dignity cast to the four winds, but not for long, the next morning it was back in place, he always did his job properly, and he was proud of that, didn’t we understand that he couldn’t stop, and maybe he didn’t want to. This was his life now, this was what he did, even though he had just had a child. He took a hair of the dog some mornings when he had to work, but was never drunk at school, a few beers during the course of the day had no effect, look at the Danes, they drink at lunch, and they’re managing pretty well in Denmark, aren’t they?



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