Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Tor Ulven (1953-95), author from Oslo was one of the most peculiar and influential authors [in the Norwegian] in the late 80s and early 90s. Ulven's poetry and prose are both characterized by an extreme realism of detail. His texts are uneventful, but are rather careful descriptions of sense-perceptions and reflections on what is percieved. Ulven is clearly influenced by the French neo-novel, particularly the author Claude Simon.

Translation of Ulven's work by Siri Hustvedt is available in _Writ_ #18.

The only interview given by Ulven is available (in the Norwegian) from his publisher.




Tor Ulven:

Intermission V
(the joys of reading)

It's arduous, it's dangerous, it demands considerable ingenuity and practical ability, and a willful resilience, but it can always be done, and it survives under extreme conditions, on a desert island, on plains of permanent frost, under a stinging tropical sun, possibly among cannibals, one hunts in order not to starve to death, one rubs one's nose incessantly to avoid frost-bites while being pulled by a willing dog team deeper into the darkness, snow and frost of a polar landscape, where gold might be waiting, or the fur animals that are laid down so that diamond-shining madams with stupenduously wealthy husbands may dress fashionably for their charity balls, and you indulge them with a smile, since you know better, you know that life is a struggle with harsh and concrete realities, and you continue fighting criminal corporations and mad professors and poker-faced, gentlemanly thieves, until one day (the specificity of which is unknown), they have lost their luster, and the challenge consists, rather, of conquering (as it's called) women, that is, first dreaming of them, of all the wonderful things sex drive will, in the correct dual combination, or perhaps more coincidentally, more multiply, make of your life, and, moreover, the working life's possibilities of various quirky careers, which are either pushed into the vaguely sensational, or find their place specified in the smallest of detail, details that only serve to allow your uniqe talent to shine, and not to forget the equally fantastic as pointless travels you will venture, not to fight cold or heat or wild animals or bandits, this time, but to greedily slurp the exotic, because you're certain that in some other, more wonderful corner of the world the wonderful will also happen to you, and, not in the least, you'll find for yourself wonderful opportunities which will allow your inner miracle to stand out in its glory, if you only have the courage and will. And you conquer (as it's called) woman, and you step in through the gate of working life, and you also make certain travels, where you, as expected, are exposed to pick-pockets, and you must still struggle to survive, but the brawls are somehow peculiarly small, and they decrease in proportion to the goals, after a while, it's reminiscent of a house-wife's endless stuggle against dust and dirt, which, always ingloriously and unexcitingly, must start from the beginning, and it all has an increasingly unsurprising tendency of repeating itself, return on return, like your paper falls on your doormat with the same slap every morning, as if an outsider counted your days by slapping a palm impatiently on a table, and the print rubs off on your fingers, and you run the risk of dying like this, to succumb over the breakfast table, with your forehead planted in a half-eaten egg or an open sandwich with strawberry jam, and this time the dangers were miniscule, but the risks real, and you lie there, a finished chapter, so to speak, while the trivial letters continue their tale of a struggle against all the dangers people must fight, of ship-wrecks, fires, wars, only rarely of gentlemanly thieves, of fights against criminal corporations, as it were, but more often of the fight against simple street violence and arbitrary murders, and there are heroes, a few, but victims are more numerous, and most of the so-called struggle for existence (according to the print you can no longer read) are carried out with filthy, grotesque,sickening and cynical methods, and the print from all of this is left on your hand as if you were about to submit a fingerprint.

Translation by Torgeir Fjeld.

[Translation of Tor Ulven, "Mellomspill V (lesningens gleder)",
Stein og Speil: Mixtum Compositum, Oslo: 1995, p. 21-23.]