Marta Eidsvåg
DOOR Eline Lund Fjæren
08-11-2016

When you write about men, you’re writing about people. When you write about women, you’re writing about women.

Aura, Lize, Rowan, Siham and myself. We’re five authors in this year’s Chronicles project, and we’re all women, young. It’s our turn now, I think, and although our backgrounds and stories differ, we have many things in common too. Lize tells us about how a review called her “a cute little thing”, says just that was the worst part of it: being objectified. I tell them about Norwegian critics’ inherent distrust of the female experience in books, which they consider self-centred; we’re unable to see beyond ourselves, are sort of stuck in our own bodies. We write niche literature, employ the problematic “I”. But that this exploration of the self, the female self, is indeed political, and universal too, nobody seems to see. As a writer, being written off in that way, so immediately, is discouraging. If we’re to talk about trends in literature, we must also talk about trends in criticism.

On the train to The Hague, I saw a young woman knitting. It’s strange, I think, that this craft has survived, in this age of mass production. Is it a preview of marriage and motherhood, or just a simple pastime, a way of keeping your hands busy?

At ten to five, I’m picked up by a driver in the lobby, he’s to take me to the airport. In the car, we talk – he tells me he’s lived in the city for the last forty years, not because he particularly likes it, but because he wants to stay close to his family, that’s all that matters, he says. We’re very different, I think, not that it’s surprising, that a professional driver in his sixties and me, a self-centred young Norwegian author, should be different, but it strikes me nonetheless: this interest in family, being together. It’s sad that I can’t relate to that, and at the same time not, things are different now. Religion is no longer important, neither is family.

Writing is important. Being a young woman who writes, insists on it, is important. As Helen Cixous said: ‘Woman must write her self: must write about women and bring women to writing, from which they have been driven away as violently as from their bodies – for the same reasons, by the same law, with the same fatal goal. Woman must put her self into the text – as into the world and into history – by her own movement.’

We put ourselves into text, place ourselves in history, insist on being part of it all, that our experiences, too, are universal. Yet again we shall experience that feeling of surprise that we’re still not quite used to: seeing a name or an image, or a text, become a being of flesh and blood.

Alle vertalingen van Marta Eidsvåg
08-11-16

When you write about men, you’re writing about people. When you write about women, you’re writing about women.

Aura, Lize, Rowan, Siham and myself. We’re five authors in this year’s Chronicles project, and we’re all women, young. It’s our turn now, I think, and although our backgrounds and stories differ, we have many things in common too. Lize tells us about how a review called her “a cute little thing”, says just that was the worst part of it: being objectified. I tell them about Norwegian critics’ inherent distrust of the female experience in books, which they consider self-centred; we’re unable to see beyond ourselves, are sort of stuck in our own bodies. We write niche literature, employ the problematic “I”. But that this exploration of the self, the female self, is indeed political, and universal too, nobody seems to see. As a writer, being written off in that way, so immediately, is discouraging. If we’re to talk about trends in literature, we must also talk about trends in criticism.

On the train to The Hague, I saw a young woman knitting. It’s strange, I think, that this craft has survived, in this age of mass production. Is it a preview of marriage and motherhood, or just a simple pastime, a way of keeping your hands busy?

At ten to five, I’m picked up by a driver in the lobby, he’s to take me to the airport. In the car, we talk – he tells me he’s lived in the city for the last forty years, not because he particularly likes it, but because he wants to stay close to his family, that’s all that matters, he says. We’re very different, I think, not that it’s surprising, that a professional driver in his sixties and me, a self-centred young Norwegian author, should be different, but it strikes me nonetheless: this interest in family, being together. It’s sad that I can’t relate to that, and at the same time not, things are different now. Religion is no longer important, neither is family.

Writing is important. Being a young woman who writes, insists on it, is important. As Helen Cixous said: ‘Woman must write her self: must write about women and bring women to writing, from which they have been driven away as violently as from their bodies – for the same reasons, by the same law, with the same fatal goal. Woman must put her self into the text – as into the world and into history – by her own movement.’

We put ourselves into text, place ourselves in history, insist on being part of it all, that our experiences, too, are universal. Yet again we shall experience that feeling of surprise that we’re still not quite used to: seeing a name or an image, or a text, become a being of flesh and blood.

05-11-16

The fifty-five-year-old Australian author – award-winning, the kind of writer that really looks like one, in scruffy clothes, like he just rolled out of bed and put on yesterday’s more or less dirty rags, and cloaked in an aroma of booze and rolling tobacco –  tells us about his own journey to authorship. Half-reclining on the stage in front of us, he tells us, in a dark, deeply vibrating voice also marked by rough living, about his childhood, his move from great privilege to poverty and substance abuse; he offers his story without much pathos, as if he has already, long ago, distanced himself from his origins. His legs crossed at the ankles, knees slightly apart, he exudes a kind of darkness, proportional to the intensity of the light he’s exposed to here in the Blue Room.

He’s altogether quite predictable, the author, like when he repeatedly refers to late colleagues: Bukowski, Hemingway. It bores me – one of those older writers claiming, seemingly without an ounce of self-awareness, that they do their best writing with a prostitute between their legs, or clutching their own testicles. This author nonetheless seems more likeable, despite the fact that his displayed humility seems somewhat false, contrived; he’s clearly interested in us, the young authors, listens attentively. Still, we serve mostly as mirrors, reflecting all he’s trying not to be.

His intermittent hemming, totally calm and collected and contained, is in sharp contrast to the life he relates, apparently chaotic and drug-ridden.

Aura and I meet for dinner at Koorenhuis. Bulgur, hummus and tomatoes. Beer. We’re nervous about our upcoming reading, but not enough for it to dampen the mood. The Artists’ catering is afternoon-warm, after five minutes, people start streaming in: musicians, writers, translators. And, slowly, our attention shifts upwards, breaks through the noise of the room; we get up and walk to the accreditation office, where we receive information about the reading. We’re performing at Humanity house, a big venue in Prinsegracht, housing exhibitions, a museum, and events. As always when reading from the book, I’m tempted to leave several sentences out, skip parts I no longer consider good literature, but the results of a young person trying to find her bearings in a literary landscape, exposing both herself and others, trying too hard.

Later, on the dance floor in Club Seven: I’m surrounded by heads and bodies. I think I come across as neutral, maybe even nice, even though I’m tired and have had too much beer, even though I’d rather be neutral. My boyfriend, who is a musician, complains about the music. I twist my back slightly, up against the wall, centre my own weight. My chest thumps, like shoes in a washing machine. We go home, it’s raining, we buy four beers in a fast food place and drink them in bed. Later we fall asleep, but I can’t remember it now, as I’m attempting to recreate it: the moment we fell asleep.

 

04-11-16

It’s early – my alarm wakes me at 04:15. I’m hungover or still drunk, do I attempt to properly assess my condition, no, best not. The house, my parents’ house, is frozen through. The lights outside, lining the street, are still off, sad, the sky is grey. The cars and lorries on the highway, all headed towards the Swedish border, are the only sources of light.

The bus leaves at five; I turn on the rice cooker, as I always do in the morning, so I’ll know I’ve got food for the day, food I can trust. Food, the unpredictability of it, is the hardest thing about travelling. Ever since I was a child, that’s been hard, as if I was born with some inherent distrust of nourishment, I won’t have it. At times, when I think about my relationship with food, it feels like I’m in a room where the floor has been removed, pulled away from under me, everything is spinning. Sometimes it’s all I can think about: my fascination with self-deprivation and control on one hand, indulgence and leniency on the other.

I call my boyfriend from the bus, he’s going with me to The Hague. He’s not answering, and I’m convinced he’s overslept, as he often does. For a few seconds I’m relieved, reconciled to the idea of him not coming, and actually there’s not much reconciliation needed, I like travelling alone.

But then he calls anyway, half an hour later, he’s at the airport, I’ll see him in an hour. It almost surprises me: how happy I am that he’s coming. When we meet up, in a café at Oslo airport, he’s grumpy, as he tends to be when he’s tired, and I overcompensate by sitting on his lap, caressing his face, kissing him: that’s how secure I feel in this relationship, but should I?

We land in Amsterdam at ten, find a train from Schiphol to The Hague, a two-story train; we sit upstairs and share my packed lunch of rice, tomatoes and soy sauce. He’s not full; I get full in a way he can’t and won’t ever understand, one not really about fullness but rather a breaking point, the point where I can feel the food sitting in my stomach, which instantly makes me anxious. But then I forget about it, because he’s there, there are other things to think about.

We arrive in The Hague; it’s raining. On the pavement outside the station the travellers are grumpy, pushy cab drivers are trying to talk tourists into their black cars. After scanning the city for places to eat, we find our hotel and check in. I fall asleep after an hour. At seven I’m to meet other young authors and translators for dinner; I throw some clothes on in an attempt to look at least halfway decent, but I’m not quite successful, I look unexceptional.

The restaurant: a dark, living room-like space. I order beer and receive a glass bigger than my head. Menus are handed out; I think about tomorrow’s reading, whether I’m ready. I’m unprepared, don’t know what to expect, what will be expected of me, but at the same time it’s like something has been suppressed, I can’t access my own anxiety. Tonight, more than any other night, I feel like experiencing the city. With my hands, my eyes, my mouth, I don’t know how, but I will.

24-10-16

I’ve not travelled very much. Mostly I’ve stayed within Scandinavia. I went to Paris once, didn’t understand the language, couldn’t make myself understood. The women there were surly, the men on the metro stared at my feet. One stroked my hair at Stalingrad. I was staying in the Oberkampf district, on rue Jean Pierre Timbaud to be precise, a bustling neighbourhood with a halal shop down every alley. There was music in the evenings; there were fat pigeons living in the stairwell. I remember a bath, lying in it, thinking about nothing in particular. I’d walk the streets eating a baguette and crying, and then it would pass. There was turbulence on the flight home. I drank Coke, felt the fizz jitter in my throat. Staying in Norway was easier.

I’ve always been more comfortable at home, where I can eat the same things every day and have my own routine. But now I’ll soon be going to The Hague, and the Crossing Border festival, on the North Sea. I’m catching a plane from Oslo to Amsterdam and then a train to The Hague. I’ve never been to Holland, I don’t have a single connection to this country of more than sixteen million inhabitants, our minds don’t meet. I know nothing about the climate, about whether I’ll be too cold or find I’ve packed too many clothes. It’s never just right. But then perhaps in Holland, it is. I don’t like flying, so I’ll be a bit tipsy when I land, but tired too. I imagine I might be less affable than my usual self. Perhaps I’ll be distant and unreceptive until the next day, when things reset, so to speak, and my body has already adapted to a new place. Travelling gives me the sense of having escaped the laws of space: I’m no longer in Bergen, nor in Paris, I’m nowhere. But my fascination with this, too, is fleeting.  Eventually I’ll be walking around The Hague feeling quite at home, no longer an alien but a natural part of it all, like someone who lives there, one of the people who make up the place.

When I google pictures of The Hague my first impression is simply that it’s majestic, imposing yet beautiful; it’s a city that takes itself seriously. Although I don’t know what to expect from the town, it seems the perfect destination for someone like me, interested in art and culture though not particularly knowledgeable. I’m pleased to read about the Royal Library built in 1798, the Royal Conservatory built 1826, and the renowned museums and theatres. On the outskirts of Scheveningen, facing the English Channel, is Madurodam, a model of a typically Dutch town built to a scale of 1:25. Scheveningen is one of Europe’s foremost seaside resorts, I’ve read, and although I don’t swim, especially not in November, it looks exotic and modern, unlike the historical buildings of The Hague.

I’ve never liked travelling, have hardly done any, I’ve barely seen anything except the familiar mountains and forests of home. This time I’m excited, though, it feels right, to escape the laws of space, escape routine, to see something new again.