As your perspective of the world increases not only is the pain it inflicts on you less but also its meaning. Understanding the world requires you to take a certain distance from it. Things that are too small to see with the naked eye, such as molecules and atoms, we magnify. Things that are too large, such as cloud formations, river deltas, constellations, we reduce. At length we bring it within the scope of our senses and we stabilize it with fixer. When it has been fixed we call it knowledge. Throughout our childhood and teenage years, we strive to attain the correct distance to objects and phenomena. We read, we learn, we experience, we make adjustments. Then one day we reach the point where all the necessary distances have been set, all the necessary systems have been put in place. That is when time begins to pick up speed. It no longer meets any obstacles, everything is set, time races through our lives, the days pass by in a flash and before we know what is happening we are forty, fifty, sixty . . .
I do not want anyone to get close to me, I do not want anyone to see me, and this is the way things have developed: no one gets close and no one sees me.
They even squeeze out the most recent past: ask me what I did three days ago and I can’t remember.
Here I have to find other goals and come to terms with them. The art of living is what I am talking about.
I have always had a great need for solitude. I require huge swathes of loneliness and when I do not have it, which has been the case for the last five years, my frustration can sometimes become almost panicked, or aggressive.
When Vanja was around eight months old she began to have violent outbursts, like fits at times, and for a while it was impossible to reach her, she just screamed and screamed. All we could do was hold her until it had subsided. It is not easy to say what caused it, but it often occurred when she had had a great many impressions to absorb, such as when we had driven to her grandmother’s in the country outside Stockholm, when she had spent too much time with other children, or we had been in town all day. Then, inconsolable and completely beside herself, she could scream at the top of her voice. Sensitivity and strength of will are not a simple combination.
Perhaps even, at certain moments, joy. And isn’t that enough? Isn’t it enough? Yes, if joy had been the goal it would have been enough. But joy is not my goal, never has been, what good is joy to me? The family is not my goal either. If it had been, and I could have devoted all my energy to it, we would have had a fantastic time, of that I am sure.
I know I can change all this, I know we too can become that kind of family, but then I would have to want it and in which case life would have to revolve around nothing else. And that is not what I want. I do everything I have to do for the family; that is my duty. The only thing I have learned from life is to endure it, never to question it, and to burn up the longing generated by this in writing.
That does not mean I do not love them, because I do, with all my heart, it simply means that the meaning they produce is not sufficient to fulfill a whole life.
She had a liberating, gentle smile that I admired and found endlessly appealing, both because it did not embrace me or others like me, it belonged to the very essence of her being, to which only she herself and her friends had recourse, and also because her top lip was slightly twisted.
We were utterly hopeless, completely out of our depth, there was not a snowball’s chance in hell of anything coming of this, we wouldn’t even be good enough to perform at a school party, but although this was the reality we never experienced it as such. On the contrary, this was what gave our lives meaning.
But my pleasure was partly due to my father always perking up for such events. He became more friendly towards me, took me into his confidence, so to speak, and regarded me as someone to be considered, but this was not the most important thing, for this friendliness he showed to his son was merely one aspect of a greater magnanimity that infused him on such occasions: he became charming, witty, knowledgeable, and entertaining, which in a way justified the fact that I had such mixed emotions about him and was so preoccupied with them.
I was not exactly invulnerable, my weaknesses were there for all to see and exploit, and the fact that they didn’t, because they didn’t have enough insight to be able to see them, was surely not my problem.
They had been drinking before I arrived, and although he was kindness itself, it was threatening nonetheless; not directly, of course, because, sitting there, I didn’t fear him, but indirectly because I could no longer read him. It was as if all the knowledge I had acquired about him through my childhood, and which enabled me to prepare for any eventuality, was, in one fell swoop, invalid. So what was valid?
I could remember all the places I had been, all the rooms I had been in. Just not what happened there.
You know too little and it doesn’t exist. You know too much and it doesn’t exist. Writing is drawing the essence of what we know out of the shadows. That is what writing is about. Not what happens there, not what actions are played out there, but the there itself.
What I ought to do was affirm what existed, affirm the state of things as they are, in other words, revel in the world outside instead of searching for a way out, for in that way I would undoubtedly have a better life, but I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t, something had congealed inside me, a conviction was rooted inside me, and although it was essentialist, that is, outmoded and, furthermore, romantic, I could not get past it, for the simple reason that it had not only been thought but also experienced, in these sudden states of clearsightedness that everyone must know, where for a few seconds you catch sight of another world from the one you were in only a moment earlier, where the world seems to step forward and show itself for a brief glimpse before reverting and leaving everything as before . . .
The box of Kleenex was a sign that here weeping and death had undergone inflation.
The zone that had come into existence when we first left the undertaker’s, and that seemed to make everything around me dead, or meaningless, had grown in size and strength.
We laughed, Tonje ran inside for her camera, and when she came out she put one arm around me and took a photo with the other hand outstretched.
We were two children.
The fact that he could be more malicious to me than anyone else changed nothing, it was part and parcel of it, and in the context we lived, the hatred I felt for him was no more than a brook is to an ocean, a lamp to the night.
The sole difference, which is the difference between a child’s reality and an adult’s, was that they were no longer laden with meaning.
I didn’t care anymore anyway. But there had been days when I had cared, days when I had been on the outside and had suffered. Now I was only on the outside.
My father was an idiot, I wanted nothing to do with him, and it cost me nothing to keep well away from him. It wasn’t a question of keeping away from something, it was a question of the something not existing; nothing about him touched me.