Tag Archives: books

The Nothing // The Neverending Story

>> “The Nothing is spreading,” groaned the first. “It’s growing and growing, there’s more of it every day, if it’s possible to speak of more nothing. All the others fled from Howling Forest in time, but we didn’t want to leave our home. The Nothing caught us in our sleep and this is what it did to us.”

“Is it very painful?” Atreyu asked.

“No,” said the second bark troll, the one with the hole in his chest. “You don’t feel a thing. There’s just something missing. And once it gets hold of you, something more is missing every day. Soon there won’t be anything left of us.” <<

– Michael Ende: The Neverending Story (1979)


Let us not let it happen in the real world.

“If you have never spent whole afternoons with burning ears and rumpled hair, forgetting the world around you over a book, forgetting cold and hunger–

If you have never read secretly under the bedclothes with a flashlight, because your father or mother or some other well-meaning person has switched off the lamp on the plausible ground that it was time to sleep because you had to get up so early–

If you have never wept bitter tears because a wonderful story has come to an end and you must take your leave of the characters with whom you have shared so many adventures, whom you have loved and admired, for whom you have hoped and feared, and without whose company life seems empty and meaningless–

If such things have not been part of your own experience, you probably won’t understand what Bastian did next.”

– Michael Ende: The Neverending Story (1979)

A secret life, part II

Inger and Kjartan and me were sitting on a little hill and drinking some beer. We, like, know who every one of us is, but we cannot know if we know each other for sure, said Inger. I didn’t know what I should answer to that, I think it’s uncomfortable when people say such things and I wish they wouldn’t. Kjartan suddenly remembered something he should have done that he had forgotten, it was important, he had to go. I remained sitting alone with Inger, in fear and silence. The sun hung low, it only just hid behind a cloud, but you could well see that it was there. That is what is so fascinating, said Inger.

From: “Du kan ikke svikte din beste venn og bli god til å synge samtidig” by Kim Hiorthøy. Translated by me.

A secret life, part I

Minutes, maybe hours
of your own existence
that you have forgotten
but that I remember.
You live a secret life
in someone else’s memories.

by Tor Ulven. In: Etterlatte dikt (1996)
Translated by me


[The Norwegian Original:]

Minutter, kanskje timer
av din egen eksistens
som du har glemt
men som jeg
husker. Du lever
et hemmelig liv
i en annens minne

– Concerning the translation:

I am not entirely ultimately satisfied with it.

For one, I was unsure whether I should take “live” or “are living” – on the one hand, there simply is no “are living” in Norwegian (afaik, my main Scandinavian language is Swedish) so the original could have meant either. On the other hand, it does sound like a very current “du lever”, on the other other hand, it’s more of a general, always “du lever”, so “live” might be a better translation. I went with it.

Also, the layout – I haven’t seen the original in printed form, only on the internet. So I don’t know for sure if the unusual breaks in the lines are intended; and if they are, then I’d rather turn around the English translation a bit too to fit it. It does give the whole poem a different feeling.

The word “minne” – memory – is singular in Norwegian. Yet I thought the image that “memories” creates rather than “memory” fits the feeling here better. I see a lot of glass-painted images floating around that show short instances of one’s life, like words one has written somewhere, something one has said in a conversation, the way one unconsciously looked while daydreaming.

Whenever I translate something I hope to do it justice. Any opinions / suggestions for this one?

“Humans are complex, she said.”

You are so pretty, I said. But that’s not that what is important, she said. No, of course not, I said. I don’t think you’re so pretty, but I like you very much as a person, she said. That’s nice of you to say, that, I said. Arne is pretty, she said. Do you remember him? He is really unbelievably handsome. He is one of the prettiest men I know of, she said. Yes, I said. He is quite pretty, that’s true that. Humans are complex, she said. They have different features.

From: “Du kan ikke svikte din beste venn og bli god til å synge samtidig” by Kim Hiorthøy. Translated by me.

“Disappointments, defeats. They never end.”

So when I visited some internet friends in Oslo, Norway in February this year, H. gave me this little book. It’s called “Du kan ikke svikte din beste venn og bli god til å synge samtidig” (“You can’t fail your best friend and become good at singing at the same time”) by Norwegian author Kim Hiorthøy. It is full of precious little stories, weird moments, pretty sentences, and a few minimalistic, sober drawings by the author. If you like the style and know any Norwegian at all you should definitely consider buying it.


Late one afternoon, as I was sitting and letting my thoughts drift, the doorbell rang. I opened and there stood Henriette, she was naked and looked as though she had run. Hi, I said. Hi, she said. Can I come in? Sure that, I said, do you want some coffee? I’d rather kiss you all over your entire body, she said. That’s fine with me, that, I said. After all, we could drink coffee later. But afterwards, I naturally discovered that I didn’t have any coffee. That had been something I had just proposed in the heat of the moment, you could perhaps say, without being aware of the consequences. Disappointments, defeats. They never end.

From: “Du kan ikke svikte din beste venn og bli god til å synge samtidig” by Kim Hiorthøy. Translated by me.

“… to not see life as a matter of course …”

So today I spent two hours sitting on the window-sill of our institute in the sun, finishing The Solitaire Mystery by Norwegian author Jostein Gaarder. Some of its themes link neatly to thoughts I’ve discovered lately.

You can see thousands of people down there… if just one of them experiences life as a crazy adventure — and I mean that he, or she, experiences this every single day… […] then he or she is a joker in a pack of cards.

When I walk around outside, I often try to look into peoples’ eyes – I try to see if there is a certain kind of awareness in them. Curiousity, knowledge, emotion, something. I want to see someone who walks through the world with their eyes open and curious and bewildered. A joker.


It is a great book full of beautiful little truths, sometimes funny, sometimes sad. Despite the distinction between all the usual ‘blind’ people and jokers, the book left me with a very optimistic and positive feeling about humanity, something I found pretty enjoyable amidst some other recent rather misanthropic feelings.