Thursday, June 30, 2011

Interview with Ulf Peter Hallberg, part 1

Watch part 1 of our interview with Swedish writer Ulf Peter Hallberg and read an excerpt from European Trash below:

An excerpt from Hallberg’s European Trash (2009):
I open the door and walk into my father’s empty apartment. Already in the hall I get the feeling that he is still in the kitchen making coffee, quickly turning around to look in my direction. In that unfamiliar silence, visions and memories are released: how he walked toward me with that gleam in his eye, how he pronounced my name, how he inspected me to check my level of fatigue. It’s been a lifelong relationship from childhood to adulthood, the naturalness of his slow movements, my impatience and joy. All that is overshadowed now by irretrievable silence and total darkness.  All paintings and objects speak to me of him, of his sense of order, of his tender dedication as a collector. I know everything will soon be scattered about, but his objects are still resisting; they are still attached to him, even though he vanished and left them in the apartment. I stand by the rarely-used fireplace, which once smoked up the room so badly right next to his priceless Endre Nemes watercolor, which he sold against his will because we needed the money to a teacher at the Mellanhed School, who really didn’t appreciate it enough. That four-edged Human Machine set my imagination working because it didn’t look like anything I’d seen before. My father’s directorial hands made sure that Beauty had a place in our home in a miniature exhibit of everything created, like a mirror image of a grander scheme.  That way he could love the universe and give it its own meaning.  My glance meets the writing desk he always sat at. In front of that large oak desk, he held vigils long into the night, stooped over his books and clippings. He always had classical music playing directly from the radio, or from cassette tapes in frightfully bad condition, which he got off the P1 radio station’s classical recordings, filling two closets. And these things helped him rally his energy during the twelve years following my mother’s death.

   His place in front of his desk had become the axis my world revolved around; his glance had filled my life with meaning. His black notebooks lay there on the desk stacked neatly together as if ready for mailing, some with beautiful elastic bands wrapped around certain important pages. I still don’t dare to touch them, even though he often picked one up and read to me. One of the books is open right in the middle of a note. A foreign word translated: “Erato= the Muse of Love.” I know that he jotted down his own and others’ thoughts without bothering to differentiate whose they were. Everything became immersed in his grand scheme, the collection that was his life’s energy, and unusual defense against the world’s entropy. Night after night he was making notes, his threadlike handwriting going from one context to another, from one commentary to another fancy, from one fact into larger fictions. That was his encyclopedia—the words he had made his own, the energy he had mustered against the void.  I peer at random inside one of the books: “Birds who are larger than wind itself don’t know where to rest their wings.” The words pull me toward him. I still feel his breath, though I just closed his eyes. I keep turning the pages, quickly and nervously: “The novel is usually the combination of two absolutes—absolute individuality and absolute universality.” I am alone with his gift. There is no real message, just an obvious stack of notebooks, a scribbled pad from the Local Swedish Agrarian Society in Hoerby with the birth and death dates of my grandparents, Victor Hallberg 1885-1951, Hertha Hallberg 1890-1971, as well as a pink-dotted notebook with foreign words and a catalog of all the paintings stored in the kitchen cabinets. My glance falls on a note that, unusually enough, has been attributed to its source, Romans 8:20 “All creatures subject to emptiness.”  The first words in the pink-dotted notebook are “redundance= superfluous, excess information (which can be eliminated without any loss).”
                                                                         Translated by Erland G. Anderson

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