Thursday, July 7, 2011

Interview with Writer Ulf Peter Hallberg, part 2

The final post in our series on Ulf Peter Hallberg and European Trash presents the second part of our video interview with Hallberg, along with a concluding excerpt from the book. I asked Hallberg if he ever imagined a conversation with his father about the book European Trash.

An excerpt from European Trash (2009):

In the evening at Eli’s in Prague when we had finished our discussion with her about art, my father expressed his thanks in a short speech with references to Eli and their common belief in Art and the importance of Prague to the citizens of Malmo. My father had a way of rising to the occasion when it came to something really important.
   After that, when we went to the bedroom with the large double bed made of oak and the old fashioned radio on the table by the window where you could look out over the roof tops in the Old City of Prague, my father could unwrap the day’s finds. He immediately sat down on the corner of the bed and took out one object after another from his canvas bag. Then he spread out books, lithographs, photographs, small statuettes, and other curiosities onto the bed—all purchased on his tight budget—which in other people’s eyes were next to worthless. As he raised each item up in his hands, he would turn my way and, with boyish excitement, describe that European Trash:
  “A Hrabal original, a little shabby, with spots here and there, but what a beautiful volume it is, and look at this lithograph! Do you see how the artist was able to catch those emotions in the facial expressions? And look here: the greatest find of all!”
   He inspected the watercolor minutely.
   “This must be by an unknown artist who was a contemporary with Nemes.  He uses the same color scheme. Do you see the similarities? You must look carefully, Peter. It looks like a human figure on its way to eternity.”
   His hands were shaking as he uttered his incantations.
   “This is totally priceless!”
   My father stretched out that European Trash towards me, in a persuasive gesture reminiscent of a person praying, with the same arms that used to hug me so often when I was a boy. I could see that he was happy. And so I believed his every word.

Translated by Erland G. Anderson

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