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 NIGHT FLIGHT IN SEVENTH HEAVEN

A Thousand and One Days in the Life of Magnus Einarsson

 

Original title: NTURFLUG SJUNDA HIMNI

sund og einn dagur lfi Halldrs Gubrandssonar

 

Translated from Icelandic by the author, except the first 11 pages by Paul Richardson

Edited by Kim Bancroft, John Tierney, William Bacon and the first 20 pages by Bernard J Scudder

Cover design by the author

Published by Lfsmark 1992

 Lfsmark, Mvahl 27, Reykjavk, Iceland

 

Copyright c Gudmundur Bjorgvinsson 1985 and 1992

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted, in any form, or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the author.

 

 

Day 1

Some say life begins at conception, others at birth, and some say it begins at death. My life began on Friday 26th. August I977 at 23.30. That was when I quenched my thirst for sex for the first time.

 

2

There is, unfortunately, no apt word for this act in our language. The lame and troubled expressions that blunder between us either stink of impertinent chauvinism and sick humour or are so vague as to be understood only by the initiated. Do what? Sleeping? The metaphors are without exception inept. And what's so witty about comparing a woman to a plank?

 

3

The more I think about this ceremony the more amazed I am at its absurdity. On the one hand it is quite a hilarious performance. You push an outlandish looking proboscis, which stands out of your body, into a slit in the woman's body. You slide the proboscis back and forth for a while until a white viscous secretion spurts out.

 

4

It is, on the other hand, the only thing that matters in life.

 

5

It is impossible to describe the bliss that accompanies this ceremony for which there is no apt word in our language.

 

6

I feel like a man who has lived on boiled shoe soles all his life and is offered fillet steak with baked potatoes and Bearnaise sauce.

 

7

Congratulations, said Gudjon, baring his snow-white teeth. Welcome to maturity. To tell you the truth I was getting shit‑ scared there was something wrong with you. Seventeen and still a virgin. At your age I'd laid twenty-three.

 

8

When you look at dignified ladies sailing by like frigates, you cannot imagine anything more incongruous than them lying naked in bed, thighs gaping and legs in the air. Except of course the image of sweat-laden gentlemen struggling and puffing like fart-bags between those outstretched legs.

 

9

There are however others one could hardly envisage anywhere else than in bed heeding the call of genitalia.

 

10

With an enigmatic look, Gudjon fished a notebook out of his bag. Handed it to me. In the book was a list of all the women he had slept with from the start, a total of fifty eight items. Each entry was complete with a short evaluation of the female in question: age, looks, job, number of copulations and a grade. (Gudjon made it quite clear that the grade was no high court ruling on their sexual gymnastics and concupiscence, but above all his personal estimation.)

 

ll

Billions of nerve ends are situated on the surface of the body. Some areas have a greater concentration of nerve ends per square centimetre than others.

 

12

Sigrun always finds those body zones with the highest concentration of nerve ends.

 

13

(As this story is in the first person singular, it is not unnatural for the reader to ask himself if it is not an autobiography.

     This is not the case. It is a pack of lies. All persons in the story are fictional and no incident in the story relates to any in reality.)

 

14

A lukewarm breeze fills my head. I am like a zeppelin which I hope will never decend from the pale pink clouds.

 

15

Catalyzed by climaxes of cataclysms.

 

16

Magma surge.

 

17

Sigrun said she was two days late.

     Late for what? I asked and laughed nervously.

     You wouldnt have heard of menstruation, or periods, would you?

     Of course, I was just joking.

     I don't think it's anything to joke about.

 

18

There's nothing that underlines the absurdity of the sexual ceremony more than the fact that it should be related to conception. Can you imagine anything remoter than burning lust and an angelic infant?

 

19

To put it mildly it shows a twisted sense of humour on the part of the creator to have mixed sex with conception.

 

20

Four days late.

 

21

Proposal for sensible form of conception: Once a month, pouches containing semen pop out of the man's mouth. If the woman wishes to conceive, she takes a pouch and inserts it into a special passage under her tongue which transmits the pouch to the ovary where the pouch dissolves and the ovary is fertilized.

     This system has two advantages:

     a) There is no need for contraceptives. The woman doesn't feel any need to swallow the semen pouch unless she wants to have a baby. And the man has no urge to force the pouch into the woman.

     b) It ensures that no one will embark on having children unless a conscious decision has been made.

     Disadvantages of above-mentioned method of conception: As no feeling of pleasure accompanies the impregnation ceremony, there is a danger that for some reason or another the woman may not get round to putting the semen pouch under her tongue and mankind will become extinct.

 

22

You're a case and a half, said Gudjon with an ironic glint in his eyes. He sometimes reminded me of the devil with his jet black eyebrows and sharp eye-teeth. Screw yourself fast to the first woman you get your hands on.

 

23

Seven days late. Urine test.

 

24

The urine test confirmed our suspicions.

     What'll you do? I asked.

     What will you do? asked Sigrun.

     Me?

     Yes, you. Maybe you think it's my private affair.

     Well not exactly. But do you want to have a baby?

     Of course not. No more than you do. But that doesn't mean to say I want some executioner doctor sticking his exterminating tools into me.

 

25

Have you made her pregnant! said Gudjon and laughed like a drain. You really are the lucky type. What's it called again - beginner's luck?

 

26

After the revelations of the urine test Sigrun went through a major metamorphosis. Before, we had seldom found the need to talk much. What we did was mostly conducted in silence. But now Sigrun wants to do little more than talk.

 

27

What am I to do? she asked, twisting a lock of hair between her fingers. What on earth can I do? I don't want the baby and I don't want an abortion.

     Give it away, maybe, I said.

     It's like talking to a sheep sometimes, talking to you. Don't you understand anything?

 

28

In the fifth week a strip of tissue forms along the length of the foetus, the beginning of the nervous system. The larger end becomes the brain while the remainder developes into the spinal column. At this stage the brain is about the same size as that of a large fish-fly and the foetus like a little maggot.

 

29

What have you thought of doing if I decide to have the baby?

   You've got me there.

     Amazing how precise you can be sometimes.

 

30

That body, which was full of red-hot passion, is now like a block of ice. No reaction.

 

31

What's going on in here? asked Sigrun and knocked on my head. Any sign of life? Or are you waiting for someone else to do your thinking for you? Tell you what to do and lead you on like sheep?

 

32

Life is like a bubble in a nuclear reactor.

 

33

You're so down in the dumps, said Gudjon, and tried to hide the smirk that usually played around his lips. Is something wrong?

     No, no, I said. It's nothing. I just haven't had much sleep recently.

 

34

I have come to a decision, said Sigrun slowly and deliberately as though she were announcing a death. I'm going to have the baby. Alone. For a while I was hoping we could maybe live together and make a sort of family. But of course that was just like any other silly fantasy. I can see now that you would just be a burden. it's difficult enough looking after a baby without having a fully-grown child in tow too.

     I saw she was fighting back the tears and I wondered if I shouldn't run to her, take her in my arms and say everything would be all right. But she pulled herself together and said coldly: Go now. I never want to see you again. I'm alone in this. It's my child, just mine.

 

35

I was still smarting from getting the boot. But I did feel a certain relief. Deep down, of course, I had hoped it would turn out this way. What a relief she had taken the initiative.

 

36

Well then mate, said Gudjon, and there was a perceptible starboard list to his smirk. So you're free of the bird. Tell you the truth I was shit-scared you were going to blunder into marriage like a sheep. But now you can have a crack at all the other bits on the loose. And there's no shortage of them, believe me.

 

37

In the pubs and clubs, soldiers of lust wage war on the female race.

38

Just what kind of man are you? asked mother. Make her pregnant, then run away from it all. Don't you have an ounce of decency in you?

     She was the one that wanted to split up.

     You can never pay any heed to what pregnant girls say.

 

39

I am not much of a soldier, but I'm burning with desire. What am I to do?

 

40

You are doomed to life-long wanking, said Gudjon and uttered an enormous belly-laugh.

 

41

What do I have in common with other men?

     Sex urge?

     Everyone, regardless of language, class or intelligence, they all need to slide their penis into a woman's vagina.

 

42

It was like a slap in the face with a wet fish, the realisation that my sex urge was essentially the same as that of rapists, half-wits and misogynists.

 

43

I am ashamed of my sex urge when I am reminded of the fact that I share it with men who are more interested in screwing women than loving them.

 

44

A woman was raped downtown last night. A man in his twenties was arrested and has admitted the offence. He was released after questioning.

 

45

Three women were raped downtown last night. Five men in their twenties were arrested and have admitted the offences. They were released after questioning.

 

46

Twenty women were raped downtown last night. One women died from wounds sustained in the attack and five suffered permanent injury. Thirty five men aged eighteen to forty were arrested and they have all admitted the offences. They were released after questioning.

 

47

A thousand women were raped downtown last night. One hundred and thirty women suffered such serious burns, knife wounds and beatings that they died in the early hours of the morning. Four hundred and twenty three of the victims are paralysed from the waist down. Two thousand three hundred and fifty six men of all ages were arrested and have all admitted the offences. They were released after questioning.

 

48

Many a man is ugly and boring.

 

49

Okay mate, said Gudjon, waving a brown paper bag. Now it's high time you were taught to drink like a man. I've got two bottles of vodka here. Let's hit the town and drink till we're swimming in vomit.

 

50

We awoke on the living-room floor of a flat belonging to Halldor Hallgrimsson, the underground poet.

     Jesus, what a marvellous booze-up, slurred Gudjon, whose face had the texture of a bare arse. I don't remember a thing.

 

51

Logic: If ale is the inner man, as the proverb has it, and ale is a plague, ergo, the inner man must be a plague.

 

52

You and Gudjon were in a state on Friday, said Sigridur Arnadottir with a glint of admiration in her eyes. I have never seen such a funny sight in my life. What did you mean when you said I was the type that would have been a cult priestess if I'd lived in Ancient Greece?

     I suppose I'd have to drink a whole bottle of vodka to know what I meant.

     I've got a bottle of whisky at home. Will that do?

     We drank the bottle of whisky and I enlightened her on the cult priestesses of Ancient Greece.

 

53

That was really great when you puked on Sverrir, said Thorolfur Bjarnason with his ingratiating smirk. That's the only way to deal with flash buggers like that. Was he talking about the influence of Sartre on the existentialist movement, or the latest experiments in the development of the magnetic bottle?

     The only thing I remember him saying was: you filthy pig!

     Really, is he such a bloody expert at repartee?

 

54

Amazing how you improve your image by puking on a booze-up.

 

55

Today was a milestone in my studies. I did not open my bag before I went to school. Up to this time I had made a point of rearranging the books in it every day.

 

56

I hang in the noose of optimism.

 

57

There are two kinds of people:

a) People who follow others: sheep.

b) People whom others follow: shepherds.

 

58

But it's not that simple. Each shepherd has something of the sheep in him, which under certain circumstances can get the upper hand. And each sheep has, somewhere deep in the recesses of his soul, a hint of the shepherd. Given a certain growth environment this hint can swell and grow to a shepherd of gigantic proportions which bursts out of the sheep's clothing.

 

59

In the corridors of Hamrahlid high school, there are mainly sheep.

 

60

The sheep change overnight from hippies to punks.

 

61

The sheep cut their hair and beards to match the shepherds', dress like the shepherds, even if it damages their health.

 

62

The sheep obey orders.

 

63

The sheep shoot children and old people under the orders of psychotic shepherds.

 

64

Then there are shepherds in sheep's clothing and sheep in shepherds'guise.

 

65

Sheep in shepherds' clothing address themselves to politics.

 

66

Rain on the bus windows, the world outside distant and foreign. A couple on the pavement. She is wearing a checked parka, like Sigrun wears. He is wearing a sheepskin coat. Their features are indistinguishable through the rain on the windows, but she walks strikingly like Sigrun. Sigrun's schoolbag. I felt a clout on the back of the head. Sigrun holding hands with some creep and my baby in her womb. It was like a vacuum cleaner was going full blast inside my head. I could picture Sigrun and the creep walking hand in hand home to her place, into the bedroom, undressing each other and getting into the bed in which we had so often lain. Unbridled copulation. Orgasm. Something tightened inside me.

     What crap is this? I thought. Didn't we split up more than a month ago. I tried to laugh at myself, but in vain. A food mixer had established a permanent base inside my head. Unbridled copulation. Orgasm. It's none of my business who Sigrun screws. But this imp would not listen to reason. Carrying my baby. Inexplicable. Unbridled copulation. Orgasm. Discordant thoughts whirled in my mind and I felt like being sick.

     Best go home and sleep it off, I thought. It's bound to pass in a few minutes.

 

67

But sleep refused to come. I just lay motionless, face in the pillow, sweating. The food mixer whirled in my head. Carrying my baby. Unbridled copulation. Orgasm. All my attempts to make fun of myself had curled up and died.

 

68

As I had become incapable of thinking with my head, I sat at the desk and started to write. It is often easier to think with a pen than with one's head.

     I ask: Does this ridiculous demon running loose inside my head have some form of reasoning that could be understood with something other than the brain? For example, the pituitary gland? Thyroid? Or the liver? Or does this devil live an independent life somewhere in the upper regions of the spinal cord, with its own will, needs and desires, that I will never be able to fathom?

     I am too stubborn to accept this conclusion.

 

69

I ask: Would the food mixer have started in my head if I had begun a relationship with someone else? I have to answer in the negative, though it is painful to admit it.

 

70

But despite the revelations of the pen, the beast in me continued to disturb my sleep.

 

71

I can't stand this, I thought and conjured up an image of the beast leaping out of my mouth in the guise of a chameleon. But instead of jumping out it got stuck somewhere in my throat and I struggled for breath.

     I lay on my back in bed and tried to relax. Tried to think of cream tarts and gingerbread. Didn't work. When I had lain motionless for a time, I gradually perceived that my feeling of discomfort was directly attributable to a kind of umbilical cord which protruded from my abdomen. A quick snatch and the cord was free. Fluorescent colours gushed from the wound, red, yellow and purple, first with regular, pulsing surges and then in an even flow which gradually lessened and began to adopt complex forms, floral or arabesque patterns. Simultaneously, the food mixer drilled a hole in my skull and changed into countless white doves which flew out of my head and disappeared into a black sky. Then, at last I slept.

 

72

When I awoke a few minutes later, I had slipped out of my body and hung in mid-air, motionless, and totally vulnerable like a foetus. I looked around me and observed my body, bookshelves, the desk, the chair, stereo and walls all in their proper places. Yet there was something that was not as normal. There was really nothing there. The objects were simply part of the darkness. And I was about to dissolve and amalgamate with this all-encompassing black night.

     This is no good, I thought, and dragged myself out of bed with a quick effort. I have no intention of becoming a helpless moron in some bloody mental institution, a burden on everyone. Better to take your body with you if you're going to die.

 

73

But the incubus vanished as quickly as it came. I had wandered out to the shop, where I met Sigridur Arnadottir. She asked me back for a coffee and I was instantly cured. Between her legs my troubles evaporated like dew in the morning sun.

     Conclusion: Not only do emotions have no sense; they are also devoid of morality.

 

74

It had come. I asked myself: Who am I?

 

75

My name is Magnus Einarsson and I am 17, height 1.86 meter, weight 72.5 kilograms, I have mousy hair, blue-grey eyes and a birth mark on my neck. I got an average of 8.66 in the public exams, 10 in spelling, 9.8 for composition, 9.5 for zoology etc. In the eighth grade I got 9.7 for gymnastics, the second highest in the country after Larus Einarsson, now the reigning Icelandic national champion gymnast. I have always got 10 for drawing and handcraft. I own a blue Huffy bicycle. All my teeth have been filled, two root-filled. My favourite food is meat balls and fillet steak, dessert: sherry trifle. Favourite composers: The Beatles and Johann Sebastian Bach. I can't stand football, the reading of the announcements on the radio, revving motorcycles and politicians. My wildest dream: to enjoy worldwide respect and admiration for cultural achievements and to pull in vast amounts of money.

 

76

I have nothing in common with the youth called Magnus Einarsson of four years ago. The body is different. The mind is different. The emotions are different. The youth Magnus, is dead and burned to ashes. I arose from his ashes.

 

77

I am composed of billions of living units which on some weird whim have ganged together and vowed to stand or fall together.

 

78

The difference between my cock and a worm is that if I were to cut off my cock and place it beside a worm, the worm would crawl away but not my cock.

 

79

What I do, and have to do whether I like it or not: Eat, defecate, breathe and sleep.

 

80

What I do but don't have to do any more than I want to: Go to the cinema, eat meat, read books, travel, fornicate, covet my neighbour's wife, bear false witness against my neighbour, steal, etc.

 

81

What I don't do and may not under any circumstances do: Jump down off Hallgrimskirkja church steeple, murder children, eat arsenic, beat old people, cut my throat, rape women, etc.

 

82

What I don't do but could if I wanted: Drive a motor-bike at I40 kmph, screw men, watch football, sniff heroin etc.

83

I left the stuffy room and went to find myself.

     First I entered a wide room where there were mirrors on all the walls. I looked in the mirrors and never saw the same image. In one I was long and thin, in another short and fat, in yet another I had a huge head, no trunk and vastly elongated legs.

     I asked the maker of mirrors: Which of these mirrors shows me as I am?

     The maker of mirrors answered: All of them, each in its own way.

     I didn't like his tone, and broke all the mirrors. We shattered into a thousand pieces. Yet I was whole in each shard.

     There, you see, said the maker of mirrors.

     I saw.

 

84

Next I entered a long passage with countless doors on both sides. I opened one door and saw a huge lump of rock on the floor. I asked the caretaker: I am a lump of rock, then?

     He nodded his head.

     I opened another door. A scaly reptile slithered over the floor and hissed.

     And the reptile?

     The caretaker continued to nod his head.

     I opened a door again: A lion lay in one corner and devoured a stag's entrails.

     I didn't bother asking the caretaker.

     Fourth door: A square block of stone, black, a naked bulb reflected in its polished surface.

     Fifth door: A wine-red steel ball, poison green plastic pyramid and sky-blue wooden cylinder.

     Sixth door: A tight mesh of copper wire, silver threads and multi-coloured silk ribbons.

     Seventh door: A well. I looked into the well and saw the infinite dimensions of space mirrored in the unrippled surface of the water.

     Etc. etc.

     If I am all and nothing, I said to the caretaker, has the word "I" not lost its meaning?

     Perhaps it's more sensible to use no words, said the caretaker.

     I pretended to understand and continued.

 

85

I then entered a huge cocktail party. Thousands of guests stood with glasses in their hands and chatted. I walked through the crowd to see if I knew anyone. I knew them all. There was Hitler and Napoleon, Lenin and Jesus, Mary Stuart and John the Baptist and many more.

     I said to the host: There's a limit to what one man can swallow. If all this crowd is to fit into my body then I'm very much afraid some of them are going to suffer from lack of air.

     Take a glass, said the host bright as a bell, and stop this complaining. We're all inside your head whether you like it or not. Cheers!

 

86

I went to see my oracular Grandmother and asked: Who do people say I am?

     I give three examples, said Grandmother.

     1) The Assistant Principal Of Hamrahlid High School: Magnus Einarsson is a bone-idle, drab, equivocating misfit and an accomplished liar. Time and again, he has called to report himself sick, only to be seen, fit as a fiddle at the cinema the same evening. I have never seen any indications that suggest that Magnus might have independent thoughts though I cannot, of course, state categorically that such a thing could not be concealed somewhere in his nature. But, by Christ, he can draw.

     2) Gudjon Sveinsson: Magnus is a good friend. He listens attentively when you talk and often makes subtle comments that have more to them than you might think. But Magnus doesn't say much and his contribution is usually restricted to comments. You can confide in Magnus. But he could be a bit more decisive when it comes to women. It's a mystery to me how he lets one chance after another slip out of his grasp, for sheer lack of initiative.

     3) Sigrun Halldorsdottir: Like most men, Magnus is emotionally handicapped. In bed he can be marvellously sensitive and gentle, but otherwise he's dull and inconsiderate, incapable of concentrating on anything except the end of his own nose. It can really try your patience, having anyhting to do with men like that.

     But Grandmother, who do you say I am?

     You know you've always been my favorite grandchild. Your appearance is deceptive. There is a golden spiral in the upper part of your aura that I pin high hopes on. Your mental body is also unusually bright and strong. The solar plexus is large and powerful and it radiates most delightful threads. There is however, a single layer of chicken net on your astral body which you need to get rid of. But on the whole you have a fortunate nature and your prospects are good. You could become a priest.

 

87

The car races out of town at 90 kilometers per hour and heads north. I have no idea where we are going, and the driver hasn't a clue. This is a modernistic journey, undefined, no direction, destination unknown. I have a vague suspicion, however, that it is some kind of quest. But I hope I don't find anything. To find is the same as death.

 

88

First night: A group of houses in a crescent around a freezing plant, timber jetty, smell of rotting fish in the air. A few teenagers hang around the shop service hatch with their hands in their pockets, chewing gum. Three or four cars race up and down the village street. I wait in expectation.

     Nothing happens.

 

89

Second night: A two-storey house, painted white, a silage tower, manure heap and a tangle of barbed wire and sheep net. Two rusty tractors in front of the farm, one of them lacking tyres, a baler and a few hens. A man's legs under the tractor. The farmer's daughter has moved to Reykjavik.

     Nothing happens.

 

90

Third night: Blue-grey sky, ochre grass. The hill is open. I ask the driver to wait while I go inside. The magnificent dwelling is empty. Golden pots on the hobs, diamond toys on the floor, half-finished silver cloaks on the loom. The residents have had to leave the place quickly and without warning. The hill that once teemed with life, song and dance is now full of silence.

     Nothing happens.

 

91

Fourth night: A cone of light cuts the darkness, water pearls on a stalagmite, petrified eyes in dim crannies. The further in you go the worse the smell gets. The decomposing body of Thorgeirsboli, the guardian taurus, at the bottom of the cave. The old sagas worm-eaten under the corpse. I ask myself: Is this what's happened to Iceland's glorious past?

 

92

Fifth night: I can't find the way out. Petrified eyes begin to move their eyelids, Thorgeirsboli's corpse gets on its feet, paws the earth and snorts.

 

93

Sixth night: A man with eyes in the back of his head says: Before you get out you must answer three questions:

1) How many dozens of pins are manufactured annually in Liverpool?

2) Who discovered centrifugal force?

3) Where did Napoleon Bonaparte die?

 

94

Seventh night: The city sea of lights.

Conclusion: The past is gone. The present is moving quickly into the future.

 

95

The world is a stage, said Shakespeare, and there's something in that. Here's the question: how many people have the right parts? I have a strong feeling that I am one of a great number who is bogged down in a role they have neither the inclination nor the talent to play adequately.

 

96

I believe that my true role is somewhere to be found, and I am determined to find it some day, even though I have to travel the world to do so.

 

97

I flew to London and established myself in a fifth-rate hotel in the city's crummiest area.

 

98

I died my hair rose-red, painted my lips black, squeezed myself into skin-tight leather pants, wound a chain round my neck, put a safety pin through my nose and leapt out into the street. The city-dwellers fled in terror, into hiding.

 

99

I spared nothing, broke windows, beat up old women and stole their handbags, set fire to dustbins, shat on graves. I was promptly made an honorary member of one of the most powerful punk gangs in London for my impressive performance. I was chosen the city's most promising shit.

 

100

Conclusion: Of course I'm a beast. But these bestialities did not give me the satisfaction I craved. The beast is then only a part of me.

 

101

I flew to Paris and established myself in a first class hotel on the banks of the Seine.

 

102

I shaved and combed my well-trimmed hair. A splash of cologne on my smooth cheeks. Donned soft silk underwear, cotton shirt, tweed suit. Put on a satin tie and golden cuff-links. I combed my hair again. Adjusted the knot in my tie. Picked up my brief-case and went out.

     What a pleasure to feel the admiring eyes of passers-by upon me as I strode elegantly along the city streets. Like a man of station and not like underlings nor grocer-type capitalists.

     Lunched at Rue de la Mule among bank managers, ministers and factory owners. Made certain I sat within full view of Jacques du Point, manager of the Executive Bank.

 

103

Went for an interview with Jacques du Point concerning my application for the post of PR advisor to the Executive Bank, which had been advertised in L'conomie.

     Answered Jacques' questions with polished confidence and sang froid. Determined yet courteous while taking care always to look the bank manager directly in the eye. Used every opportunity the interview gave me to air my progressive ideas on the role of PR in the operations of a modern bank.

 

104

I was selected for the post from thirty applicants. "For exceptionally extensive and sharp insight into the nature of the job."

     The world was clearly my apple.

     But I turned the job down.

 

105

Conclusion: I undoubtedly have what it takes to become a perfect member of the bourgeoisie. But the clamps of elegance were beginning to tighten uncomfortably as early as the third day.

 

106

I flew to the Bahamas and set off barefoot into the jungle. Arrived in a little village at a bend in a river and set up home in a deserted straw hut. I buried my clothes and started scratching the natives' backs. I was immediately accepted into the society.

 

107

Lived on in a heavenly euphoria of indolence and bliss. Ate fruit from the trees, wallowed naked in lukewarm water, listened enraptured to amazing tales told by village elders.

 

108

In the light of the fire the women hummed coal-black blues to a drum accompaniment. The men danced a wild dance. Enthralled by this new experience, I surrendered myself to the rhythmical movements till I collapsed, exhausted.

 

109

Conclusion: I am certainly a savage. And savagery does give me untold pleasure. But I miss the cinemas, hi-fi, books, theatres.

     There is no turning back.

 

110

Maybe my true role is to change roles as one does socks or underpants?

 

111

Do you realise, said Gudjon in a more serious mood than I had observed before, that America means to use Iceland as a kind of buffer in the projected collisions with the Soviets? In other words, we are to be dented to absorb the blow for the Americans.

     I don't think there's much likelihood of anyone escaping with a dent in the next collision, I said.

     You don't get the point, said Gudjon impatiently. Can't you see that these bastards are using us as pawns? They stop at nothing. If it suited them, they'd scuttle the country, including the Westman Islands.

     Since when were you so aware of Iceland's geopolitical role? Have you been screwing some Trotskyite woman?

     That's got nothing to do with it, he said, and I saw my guess was right. These are simply things that every thinking man has to form an opinion on.

 

112

The body grows old and decrepit, but within it the soul of a twenty-year-old remains forever.

 

113

If, said my brother Baldur, a newly-divorced father of two, electrical processes in a man's head can organise themselves and create highly complex systems and patterns, so-called thoughts, is it not equally likely that various kinds of electrical processes between planets and solar systems form similar patterns and systems? In other words, that the universe is one enormous brain?

 

114

God is dead.

     Nietzsche.

Nietzsche is dead.

     God.

God and Nietzsche are both dead.

     Magnus Einarsson.

 

115

I, the undersigned, have discovered through an anonymous source that Jesus Christ, son of Mary, (born December 25th, 0 A.D.) never really shot up to heaven but kept to the ground and is now living in a basement apartment on Barugata here in Reykjavik. The undersigned contacted Jesus and he kindly agreed to answer a few questions put by the reporter on the weekend edition. By the way, this is the first interview of Jesus in one thousand nine hundred and forty five years.

 

116

When the undersigned alighted from his vehicle on Barugata at eighteen hundred hours on November 30, there was a brisk northeast wind and drizzle. Nevertheless, the mind of the undersigned was sky-blue. Obviously the power field of the master reached a considerable distance from his basement apartment.

     Jesus came to the door without fanfarade. He was wearing grey velvet pants, a white shirt and black mao shoes. A simple outfit but tasteful, perfectly matching his dark beard. Apart from the hair, which was shorter than one would have imagined, he looked like a cut-out from a bible illustration. A strange light emanated from Jesus and basked the walls in a golden glow.

     Please, please, he said in a soothing voice. Sit down. He indicated a crimson sofa under Picasso's Crying Woman. Tea or coffee?

     Coffee, thank you.

     I settled comfortably on the sofa, while Jesus retreated to the kichen. In a short while he brought in a steaming coffee and a dish full of doughnuts.

     Please, help yourself.

     Reporter: Tell me Jesus, for the last two thousand years there have been stories circulating that you ascended to heaven some forty days after the resurrection and have been sitting there at the right hand of the Lord Almighty, to return in due time to judge the living and the dead. Who is responsible for this nonsense?

     Jesus: Saint Paul, I guess. I have always disliked that man.

     Reporter: But Paul was your most devoted follower and spent most of his career preaching your teachings.

     Jesus: That's deception. The fact is that it was always Paul's prime goal to wipe out my followers and the teachings I presented at the time. But he soon came to realise it was impossible to stone all my disciples to death, because for each dead one, thousands sprang forth alive and kicking. So he decided to sneak into my congregation and destroy it from within. i.e., If you can't beat them, join them and corrupt them. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly he gained control of the whole congregation and how willingly these people swallowed all the bullshit he fed them. Even the apostles, who had listened to me without intermediaries, began to believe some fucking nonsense after Paul had stirred them up a little. But I must admit that these poor bastards were a bit thick. Paul, on the other hand, was a clever son-of-a-bitch, educated as well, there's no denying that.

     Reporter: Are you saying that everything that is attributed to you in the New testament is distorted if not completely fabricated?

     Jesus: Yes.      Reporter: For example?

     Jesus: Once I said: I have not come to tear down the scriptures, these are hilariously amusing thrillers which don't deserve making a fuss about, as long as people don't take them too seriously. No, I have come to give you new scriptures, scriptures that are more in line with our times." But after Paul had worked on it, it turned out like this: "I have not come to tear down the scriptures but to fulfill them." In other words: Everything has been twisted around by taking my words out of context. It's made to look as if I take these barbaric tales seriously. But it's one thing to appreciate the literary value of ancient tales, and another to take them seriously.

     Reporter: But why haven't you tried to set the record straight?

     Jesus: I tried that once but then they wanted to burn me at the stake so I decided to give up all my involvement with religion.

     Reporter: Let's turn to lighter chat. You are now one thousand nine hundred and sevety eight years old, but you don't look a day older than thirty. What's the secret?

     Jesus: Actually it's quite simple. With certain exercises which I learned in my youth I have disconnected myself from time and space. The fact is that time and space are illusions, as Einstein's theory of relativity clearly illustrates.

     Reporter: What are these exercises?

     Jesus.: It would be a little bit too complicated to go into it now. But actually, I'm planning to organize a workshop soon, in which I will give people a chance to learn these exercises. They are so simple that anyone who's interested should be capable of doing them with little effort. And it's certainly worth it because none should have to die before their thousandth birthday, and at least ten percent of the population should be able to live on Earth eternally. I would point out that back in the old days people seldom lived less than a thousand years. Noah, for example celebrated his nine hundred and fiftieth birthday, and so on.

     Reporter: Finally Jesus: Where is the halo?

     Jesus: When I was roaming around Russia five hundred years ago I gave it to an old woman and I haven't heard of it since. Stalin probably stole it. In the photographs I've seen of him, he appears to be wearing it.

     I thanked him for the interview and walked out into the December gloom. Hopefully I would be able to carry away with me some of the sunshine that filled this basement apartment. People could certainly do with a little sunshine at this time of year.

 

117

It's an insult to God to state that he exists.

     How can you insult somebody that doesn't exist?

     God is an ideal. It's an insult to the ideal to state that it exists. Just like it's an insult to communism to state that it exists.

     You can't insult a political system, for Marx's sake.

     Don't hang yourself with words. Be a little poetic.

 

118

If it is necessary to assume that somebody designed this mess which the world is, none but a psychotic lunitic could have done the job.

 

119

Yahveh moved over the face of the earth and saw that his people was scattered.

     Now the time has come to unite my people in the promised land, he thought. Because as it says in the scriptures: In due time I will lead thee again to the promised land. And I keep my word.

     And Yahveh sent Hitler to earth.

     Hitler brought fire and brimstone to the land, burned villages and cities, plagued everybody and was a total pain in the ass.

     But Yahveh had it all worked out. By letting Hitler murder seven million of the chosen he aroused a general sympathy for the ones that were left.

     And Yahveh drove the filthy Arabs out of the promised land and led his people there. And all the nations rejoiced, saying: Thank God that this long-suffering nation has at last regained its motherland.

     But the Arabs weren't convinced. They waged war upon the chosen people of Yahveh and demanded their territory back.

     Yahveh didn't appreciate this conduct and brought fire over the Arabs and struck them with burning hail in the crummy refugee-camps where they were crammed . Many were killed, others were crippled, others still contemplated revenge.

     And Yahveh ordered his nation to militarize. Because the Book says: And thee willst be the lords of the earth.

     And the chosen people of Yahveh militarized and brought fire and brimstone over the earth. And in due time they will be lords of the earth.

 

120

The day before Christmas Eve.

     The crowds filled the streets, tense with the insatiable desire to bestow delight upon their neighbours.

     It is better to give than to receive, sang Gudjon, ecstatic, drinking whiskey straight from the bottle. This is fabulous. We only need balloons and flags to make it like Independence Day.

 

121

Overeating is like any other hard labour. You lie like a beaten dog on the couch and moan. Mother in the kitchen doing the dishes.

 

122

Eat and thou shalt be eaten.

 

123

Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without smoked mutton, says Dad.

 

124

Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without Aunt Begga. I wouldn't even try to describe her. Then I would be accused of unconvincing characterization, misogyny and sick humour. Aunt Begga is a clich.

 

125

I wear size forty-four shoes.

 

126

If it was up to me, said Gudjon, I would make Jesus Christ an honorary member of the grocer's union.

     He's probably quite content with being their mascot, I said.

 

127

I wish, said Gudjon dreamily, that I'd been changed into a bird, had flown out the window and started laying eggs.

 

128

My New Year's resolutions:

     a) Double my drinking.

     b) Begin to smoke.

     Gudjons New Year's resolutions:

     Have sexual intercourse with at least fifty-two females during the year.

 

129

Happy New Year, dear friends! Happy New Year! bellowed Uncle Gunni and embraced and kissed the embarrassed family members from every angle.

     Congratulations on your new car, I said with a smirk.

     Yes, the car, said Gunni and gave a great bellylaugh. You've heard about the car. Damn good luck.

     How many lottery tickets do you buy a year, anyway? I asked.

     It's not worth mentioning. Do you think it's more than a hundred, Veiga?

     I don't know, said Veiga. Maybe two or three hundred.

     It doesn't matter in the least. Bryndis my dear! shouted Gunni and mother disappeared into his smothering embrace. Looking just as young as ever.

     Father laughed nervously. Can I offer you some Champagne?

     Champagne! roared Gunni. Grand as ever.

     How could we be otherwise in your sort of company?

     What do you mean by that? asked Gunni, looking serious.

     At that moment mother entered with the champagne glasses on a silver tray.

     Please, help yourself.

     Here's to the car! toasted father and raised his glass.

     No, no! shouted Gunni, cheers to the family and peaceful co‑ existence.

     Yes, cheers for us all! said mother.

     Cheers!

     Is it true what we have been hearing about you, said Gunni turning serious again, that you got a girl pregnant?

     Guess so, I said.

     Guess so! echoed Gunni. So what are you going to do? Marry her?

     Times have changed since we were young, Gunni, said father. Nowadays getting the girls pregnant without marrying them seems to be no big deal. They just run for an abortion.

     I can't understand it, said Gunni, getting all excited. Is getting girls pregnant the latest sport these days? Is there no sense of responsibility left? And what will happen to this poor girl?

     She's found another boyfriend, I said.

     Found another boyfriend! Gunni yelled furiously. What's this society coming to!

     Calm down, Gunni dear, said Veiga.

     I'll say precisely what I think, snapped Gunni and slammed his fist on the table.

     Perhaps we can discuss these matters without screaming at one another, said father calmly.

     I just think it's impossible to stay calm when everything seems to be going to the dogs in this society. He looked around the living room. Where's Asta? Are you divorced then, Baldur?

     It's been more than three months since we separated.

     Three months! Gunni said, astounded. What's it all about? Have you moved back here then?

     No, I rent a room, said Baldur.

     Like I told you Gunni, said father trying to look cheerful, times have changed since we were young. Back then people tortured themselves with hopeless marriages, but now people don't think twice about a divorce when everything's gone down the drain.

     Times have changed, times have changed! said Gunni. You keep on about that the times have changed. But I say it's nothing but degeneration.

     Isn't that going a bit far? said Veiga.

     Far perhaps, but true, said Gunni. I call it nothing but degeneration to leave a wife and two kids because of some minor problems. And running home to mum and dad.

     I didn't ... began Baldur but was interrupted by Gunni.

     Do you think I'd still be married to Veiga if I could have run home to mum and dad after everything had turned to shit.

     What's all this about running home to mum and dad? said father. Nobody here has run home to mum and dad as far as I know.

     But Gunni slammed his fist on the table: I'm just saying that people might have been better off when they didn't have everything brought to them on a silver platter without having to lift a finger. And it would do some people a lot of good to think about something else than their own asses.

     You tend to get worked up, don't you? said Veiga.

     I don't doubt for one minute, said Baldur, that it's much healthier for children to be brought up by a single mother than have to endure a rotten marriage.

     What fucking nonsense! said Gunni. Are you insinuating that it would have been better for my kids if I'd divorced Veiga?

     Let's go on to a more cheerful topic, said Veiga.

     Come on Gunni, said mother. Have some more champagne.

     Gunni brightened up a little.

     Baldur my boy, he said and burst into a smile. Its amazing how much you have grown since I was baby-sitting you on Egilsgata. Then you were thith thmall. He showed all present how small Baldur had been.

     Everyone made an honorable attempt to laugh.

     Did you baby-sit Baldur? father asked thoughtfully.

     Did I baby-sit Baldur? said Gunni. On Egilsgata. I certainly did.

     Yes, you maybe did two or three times, said father.

     Maybe two or three times! Screamed Gunni furiously. I was always baby-sitting him.

     Of course you know you weren't always baby-sitting him, said mother. But it happened occasionally.

     What kind of people are you anyway! thundered Gunni, out of his mind with anger. Pretend you don't remember the favours you've been done. But I've had the feeling before. No matter what I've done for you, I get nothing but ingratitude. But your memory works far better when it comes to your own favours. You don't have blackouts then.

     What are you driving at, said father getting serious.

     I'm driving at just what I'm saying! bellowed Gunni and slammed the table three times. You have always felt superior to me because I didn't blunder into that fucking university.

     I don't recall having ever treated you differently from other people, said mother. Even though you didn't always deserve it.

     No, Bryndis my dear, I know precisely what you think of me, hissed Gunni and raised his fist at mother. You've never been anything but two-faced and dishonest. You've been all smiles and honey but underneath there's been nothing but contempt and prejudice.

     Do you expect me to put up with this in my own house, said mother and was beginning to tremble.

     What kind of bloody insolence is this, you dog? I snapped at him, trying to be as calm as possible.

     Let's get going, said Veiga, terrified.

     No, I'm not finished! droned Gunni, foaming like a rabid dog. I want these fucking assholes to hear the truth once and for all. He slammed the table again and again so everything was trembling. You're nothing but a lousy pack of shits and I'm ashamed to be related to you.

     Veiga had got up and was trying to restrain him.

     He's mentally disturbed, Baldur said.

     I noticed that Bjarni Gunnarsson, seven years old, had cowered behind an easy chair and was huddled up there, trembling.

     You're maybe planning to throw me out too, shouted Gunni.

     You're not fit to be indoors when you act like this, said Veiga. Let's go.

     I won't step into this house again! shouted Gunni when he was out. He slammed his fist into the front door. And we wasted a Christmas card on them! were the last words we heard.

 

130

No, sorry, it wasn't like this. This is how it really was:

     You haven't changed at all! thundered Gunni spewing foam all over the place. You showed your true colours when mother was sick and I don't expect you to change in the near future.

     I thought we'd put this matter behind us, father said, embarrassed.

     You thought we'd put this matter behind us! snapped Gunni. Matters like this can never be behind anyone. A man who has been so preoccupied with his own ass that he dosn't have time to take care of his own father can't just fucking say: we've put the matter behind us and act as if nothing has happened.

     Are you going to fuss over that again? mother asked.

     Of course you don't want to know anything about this lovely little matter, said Gunni. Your part in it wasn't much to boast about. Nothing but dishonesty and duplicity. Your sweet tongue, always dripping butter and honey. But I've always seen through you. You are nothing but a scheming reptile.

     Einar! hissed mother, shaking with fury. Please get this man out of here. I'm not going to take this insult in my own house.

     What kind of bloody insolence is this, you lowgrade dog?! I fired at him as I sprang to my feet.

     You stay out of this, little shithead, thundered Gunni cocking his finger at me. This is none of your business.

     You don't give orders in this house, I said and grabbed him by the collar.

     Are you threatening me? Gunni screamed and punched me weakly in the chest. I wrapped my arm around his neck and flung him swiftly to the floor. My fists were like sledge hammers on his face. The blood gushed from all his pores.

     Filthy jerk off! I growled.

     Stop! they yelled from every side. Are you going to kill him?

     And I was dragged away from my blood-smeared uncle and carried dazed to my room.

 

131

For some unknown reason, the incidence of mongoloid birth began rapidly increasing after the year 2021. This evoked considerable interest among scientists but nothing in the results of extensive investigations revealed any clues about the cause. Coincidence alone seemed to be the culprit.

 

132

By the year 2034 it had reached the point that, in every country on Earth, only mongoloids were born. 

 

133

Since mongoloids are incapable of fending for themselves, the extinction of mankind seemed to be pending.

 

134

It occurred to some scientists that with certain preparation it should be possible to enable a group of mongoloids to survive on their own.

 

135

A distinguished committee was established to consider the matter carefully.

 

136

The committee presented its results five years later. They concluded that mongoloids would thrive best in some kind of a stone age environment given favourable climatic and floral conditions.

 

137

Immediately an intensive preparation program was initiated in which mongoloids around the world were taught to use simple instruments and trained in vital survival skills: gathering food, storing it, lighting fires, building shelters, etc., etc.

 

138

In the year 2125 the last intelligent people died and Stone Age II began.

     How it turned out is another story which will not be told here. But I strongly urge some science fiction author to write that story.

 

139

In the school system every effort is made to make simple things complicated, and preferably as boring as possible. Because education is not supposed to be taken lightly.

 

140

Hamrahlid High School offers to teach me everything except what I'm interested in learning.

     You've obviously stumbled into the wrong school, said my brother Baldur. Why don't you try to find a school that matches your interests?

     That school doesn't exist. Because those who run the schools have no interest whatsoever in what you want to learn.

 

141

Ninety-nine options and all bad.

 

142

You can't bloody well expect the school system to bow and scrape to the eccentricities of cranks like you.

 

143

In the beginning was the word. And the word was with God. And the word was God. And the word fell to earth. And the word sprang into man's mouth. And the word multiplied in man's mouth. And the words came out of man's mouth. And the words filled the ears of the men. And the words were the men. And the words were good. Some flew feathered, out of men's mouths. Others crawled out furry. Still others, scaled. And the words filled the air. And the earth. And the water. But no matter how many words came out of the men's mouths, the mouths were always full of words.

 

144

Outlines for a New Spelling

 

Preface

First came the language, then the spelling. The language forms in the mouth and transmits as sound-waves between people. The spelling is an attempt to catch these sound-waves and fix them to a two-dimentional surface. Unfortunately some linguistic scientists claim it is the other way around, that the language is a vain attempt to put written text into sound. They try to force the language to obey some stone-dead spelling rules which they seem to believe were sent from heaven by an almighty universal linguistic scientist.

     The new spelling doesn't accept this perversion. Neither is the egg supposed to bring up the hen, nor the fiddlebow control the violinist's arm. Nor is the spelling supposed to control the language.

 

145

If two letters are used to signify the same sound, one is to be slaughtered.

 

146

All letters which are not pronounced are to be slaughtered.

 

147

If one letter is used to signify two different sounds, a second substitute letter is to be utilized.

 

148

Criticism on the new spelling:

1) If the letter "y" will be slaughtered how can one distinguish between die and dye.

Answer: Those who cannot distinguish between die and dye from the context in which they are used are plagued by problems far more serious than linguistics and spelling. Most ordinary people know exactly when you are talking about die and dye and will continue to do so after it has been fixed to a paper.

 

149

2) Wouldn't it be a total disgrace if you were deprived of the possibility to see from the spelling what origin the word has?

Answer: To mix spelling and etymology is as ingenious as mixing sex and violence. If somebody wants to know something about the origin of words he should study unmasked etymology.

 

150

3) Doesn't the phonetic spelling lead to a total chaos, where people cease to distinguish between words and end up writing like this after a few years: Wassiss fukkinshit, (What is this fucking shit), Wattsu trynto prufe yo sonofabiss. (What are you trying to prove you son of a bitch). etc. etc.

Answer: No.

 

151

4) What ridiculous nonsense.

No answer.

 

152

The devil summoned me and asked:

     Would you like to learn in one instant all the knowledge you have to master to graduate?

     Yes, I can't deny that, I answered hesitantly, because the question struck me as unrealistic.

     But would you like to possess a complete power over every woman you fancy? he asked, and I found this question even more unrealistic than the other. To be frank, I couldn't take it quite seriously.

     Well, doesn't everybody want to be almighty when it comes to women? I answered, chuckling to show him I got the joke.

     I can grant you all this, Satan said, and I saw in his eyes that he was dead-serious.

     I suppose I have to do something in return, I said. I guess you want my soul as a payment.

     No, no, for God's sake. I want to be spared the labour of dragging your soul around. I've no use for it whatsoever.

     Well, I said and couldn't conceal that I was a little insulted. What do you want in return?

     The only thing I desire is to be allowed to rip out your right eye and nail you upside down on the front-wall of Hamrahlid High School were you have to hang for nine days without nourishment.

     I gave the proposition a serious thought. The prize wasn't bad at all. Then again the payment was pretty high.      But isn't it likely I'll be dead before these nine days are over? I asked.

     I'll see to it personally that you'll survive, said the devil and put on an honest face.

     But what garantee do I have that you'll keep your word? I asked. Honesty is not your best policy.

     Look, said the black one all hyped up, if you agree to my conditions, I shall gladly pay you in advance. With a few experiments you can test whether I granted you what I promised.

     All right, I said after some contemplation. It's a deal.

     The lord of darkness pointed his black fingers at me and I felt a stream of power and wisdom flow into my head.

     Immediatly I set off to test if the beast had kept his words. I visited Alfrun the fair (the frigid nun), the most beautiful but the most untouchable maiden of the school, with a record of 436 hearts broken. And behold, only by laying her eyes on me she flamed up in a passionate admiration and within half an hour I had stripped her of her virginity, to the great astonishment of the most accomplished studs of the school.

     The job done I hurried to my Danish class which was about to begin. My classmates were surprised speechless when I began to speak a fluent Danish with a flawless potato-accent. Up to then I had been in the frontline of the broad procession of those who were proven incapable, both physically and mentally to learn this noble language.

     Okay, said the devil smirking when I returned from my mission. Now it's your turn. And he slid the sharp claw of his right index finger under the eyelash of beforementioned eye. With a quick pull he snapped out the eye and the blood gushed all over the place. I have no idea what he did with the eye but when he had done the job he burst into uncontollable laughter. He seemed to get a big kick out of this. He didn't show less excitement when he began to nail me upside down on the high school wall. He literally trembled with pleasure. When he had inserted the last steel-nail into my palm and I screamed with pain he drooled with enthusiasm and shot up in the air with a fire column sticking out of his asshole as if he had got one hell of a satisfaction.

     On the first day the students and the teachers of the school gazed upon me in wonder as I wilted on the wall above the main entrance and they contemplated the reason for this. Many suggestions were made. For example, that this was some kind of an avant-gard art performance with a reference to the Eddas Havamal: "I know that I hung ... etc. "

 

153

After two days everybody stopped noticing me as if I had always hung there.

 

154

For nine days I hung wailing on the wall of the education-temple, tormented with an unbearable pain. Again and again I was on the verge of pleading with the devil who sat shining below to grant me death to escape this hell. But then I remembered that this suffering was buying me priceless valuables and I endured it.

 

155

On the morning of the tenth day the devil released me from the wall and bade me farewell with a handshake. To show what good sport he was, he touched the nail-wounds with his fingertips and they healed instantly. And smirking he vanished.

     But I walked into the school and began to make good impressions.

 

156

When I woke up the next day in the arms of a blue-eyed beauty, I sensed that something was not right. At first I couldn't pin it down but I suspected it was something in the goddess' eyes. The spark of admiration seemed to have disappeared from them.

     But it wasn't until I was stumped in the conjugations of irregular verbs in Danish class later that morning that it dawned on me what had happened: The devil had double-crossed me.

     I looked out the window and saw the bastard laughing so hard he rolled around on the sidewalk below.

     Bloody double-crosser. I flamed up in a fury and ran out.

     You God damned shithead! I screamed.

     The devil turned serious and hissed with a frightful determination in his voice: Look here pal, watch your language. Nobody talks to me that way. I fulfilled my part of the contract and more than that. Nobody can accuse me of dishonesty. If someone is to blame, it is yourself for being a fool in our negotiation talks. It had never crossed my mind to bestow my gifts on you for more than one day. And if you hadn't been like a sleeping sheep during the negotiations you could have gotten that straight right in the beginning of the discussions.

     You could have told me, God damn it, I said sniffling.

     I ain't the fucking Salvation Army, said the devil grinning. Business is business. You can't expect others to think for you, least of all those you are doing business with.

     I saw it was useless to push this discussion any further, and dragged myself away.

     But the devil burst into a howl of satisfaction and danced singing down to hell.

     One-eyed, limping and with a splitting headache I crawled home biting my swollen knuckles.

     He'll pay for this, that shit, I thought, full of bitterness. I'll get saved. Then I heard great belly-laughter from hell and I understood it was not the way to get even.

     I suppose there's nothing left for me to do but to hang myself, I thought. But I ruled out that possibility. I was not going to humour him with that.

     I decided to hang on, although I had become a mental and physical wreck, neurotic, impotent and numb.

     You have to keep on trucking although you're running against the wind, I thought and fell asleep.

 

157

It's clear to me that the world is full of injustice, evil, filth, disgrace, degeneration and bullshit.

 

158

Dirt.

 

159

Suffering.

 

160 And humility.

 

161

Nevertheless, the sun keeps on rising in the west and going down in the east.

 

162

I'm not sure it will do so much longer, said Gudjon with an unconvincing agony in his expression. It's enough that one psychotic shithead gets irritated and pushes a button and the sun disappears once and for all.

 

163

I have serious doubts that we will change the world the least bit by yelling slogans in the streets.

     If everybody thought like you of course nothing would change, said Gudjon and his smirk seemed to have given way to ridiculous sincerity. But if everybody rises up and demands changes, maybe something will happen.

     I'm afraid it's more likely that something will change if we put the bomb in use.

     You've got a point there, you've got a point there.

 

164

Now your drawing-skills can come in handy, said Gudjon. Tonight we're planning to paint demonstration signs for the February 19th meeting.

 

165

There is something about these meetings of the Red Pacifist Front that reminds me uncomfortably of the Christian Youth meetings in the old days, I said.

     You are obviously one of those, said Gudjon, who is plagued by the so-called meeting phobia. Irrational allergy against every meeting and movement, whether it's spewing out some stupid bullshit or discussing important matters sensibly. This is just like any other mental disease.

 

166

We shouldered our bags, grabbed our canes and set out on foot in search of utopia.

     For a long time we walked, over lava beds and desert-sand, boulders and cliffs, mountains and wastelands until we came to a city. It amazed us, that apart from precious stones, gold was the main building material in this city. The houses were constructed of gold bricks, the streets were laid with diamonds and pearls, the sidewalks decorated with topazes and sapphires.

     What a delightful paradise on earth, said Gudjon enlightened. The inhabitants here must be happy as hell.

     It surprised us considerably that everybody we met on the expensive streets were thin as broom-handles and looked quite miserable, as if they had been starving more or less for years.

     We asked one passerby what was the reason for this.

     It's a long story, said the passerby. About thirty years ago a great and powerful magician came to the city. He gathered the inhabitants on the main square and offered them a choice. They could live in undesirable shacks with plenty to eat, or they could live in extravagant palaces made of gold and precious stones but with nothing to eat. The cityfolks didn't need a long time to think it over and choose the latter option. Everybody hungered for the gold. They thought: We can always find a way to obtain food. But the food reserve was soon all gone, and when every storage bin was empty the gold bricks didn't do our hunger much good. And now we've had to survive on insects and grassroots for years.

     We realised we hadn't found what we were looking for. Nevertheless, we filled all our pockets with precious stones and left.

 

167

We entered a dark forest and walked a narrow path for a long time. Again and again we had to cut our way through dense thorn‑ bushes with our swords.

     In the middle of the forest stood a big city in which all the houses were built of sweet-bread, chocolate and butter scotch. The inhabitants swam in their own fat, rose-cheeked and content and seemed to be unquestionable stockholders of happiness.

     At least they don't suffer from malnutrition, said Gudjon.

     We noticed that nobody in the city seemed to be older than twenty years old.

     I see you've found the key to eternal youth, said Gudjon to an approaching passerby.

     Unfortunately it's not so good, said the passerby. People simply don't get older than twenty in this city. When people reach twenty, they fall dead to the ground.

     How can this be? I asked.

     It was like this: About 30 years ago a powerful magician came to the city and offered the citizens two options: On the one hand to live with hard labour and sweat and reach 200 years of age, or on the other hand, to enjoy plentitude and easy living but reach only 20 years of age. Those who had already reached their twenties would get two more years. Without hesitation the people choose the latter, said the passerby and fell dead to the ground.

 

168

When we had fought our way out of the dense forest, we came upon the sea.

 

169

We invested in a snow-white yacht and took the course on the horizon.

 

170

Uranus treated the vessel roughly, threw it about and slammed it continuously and threatened again and again to pull it down into his wet domain. But the streamlined body of the yacht slipped out of the scoundrel's grip.

 

171

On the third day an island rose from the sea. We stepped ashore and received a warm welcome by the immigration-officals of the state. We were granted a three month permit. They kindly offered us a guide and we accepted.

     Everywere a noiseless industrialization met our eyes. Lowsound vehicles shot with enormous speed through the air, smokeless factories purred so sweet and low, domestic instruments glided around the homes with a soft whisper. Nobody had to do a thing.

     At last, at last, said Gudjon. We have found the perfect paradise on earth.

     There must be some flaw here if we look closer, I said. In the long run people must get bored with the idleness.

     We approached some passersby and asked what shit plagued them. But they couldn't think of anything. The inhabitants of this utopia were in all respects, illuminated with delight and pleasure, throbbing with joy of life and satisfaction over their lucky condition.

     This is truly a utopia, I said, euphoric with joy.

     At the same instant I woke up.

 

172

Sometimes I get the feeling that all the girls in the school are in love with me. They watch me with hidden admiration in their eyes.

 

173

I weigh them up in my mind. I've some difficulty deciding who will be the lucky one. Many are strikingly beautiful. But after closer scrutiny various flaws appear.

 

174

A tall goddess with high cheek-bones, fleshy curved lips, heavenly blue eyes and dark brown shoulder-lenghth hair has caught my eye. Mysteriously she glides along the school's corridors, as if far above everyday reality. One day she bursts into laughter and all her mystique goes up in smoke. Her teeth are way too small and she is far too gummy.

 

175

I can't get rid myself of the suspicion that the spark of admiration in the girls' eyes is in fact a spark of ridicule. That as soon as I get out of sight they burst into laughter over my ridiculous appearance.

 

176

When rattle-brained popsong writers effuse about love it makes one nauseous.

     But when rattle-brained popsong writers begin to philosophize it fills one with pity.

 

177

The Story of Gudlaugur the Fair.

 

Gudlaugur was the fairest of the fair. He was so fair that every woman who laid eye on him went immediately mad with hopeless love. Hopeless because no woman was good enough for Gudlaugur. The woman that Gudlaugur had created in his mind and was going to marry wasn't even a theoretical possibility.

 

178

Every day Gudlaugur received passionate love letters from the poor women who had had the misfortune of laying eye on him. Some waited for him where they knew he would go by, in the vain hope that he would take notice of them. Others phoned him in the middle of the night, so full of desparate desire that they didn't know what they were doing. Still others became alcoholics and drug addicts. But all these turbulances left Gudlaugur unmoved. At most, they gave his vanity a little tickle.

 

179

Then one night Gudlaugur dreamt that he had the queen of his dreams naked in his arms. They caressed each other's flawless skin and chatted back and forth about their dreams and reality. While they were lying there, peculiar changes began to occur to the body of the queen. Her skin grew dry and hard and shrunk and cracked like an old potato. In few moments Gudlaugur watched the goddess of his dreams change from a twenty-year-old beauty into a ninety-year-old hag. He woke with a start, sweating.

180

The dream shocked Gudlaugur considerably and aroused some anxiety in his mind. He ran to his oracular grandmother and begged her to interpret the dream.

     The queen of your dreams is the flower of love, said the oracular grandmother, which will dry up, wither and die if you don't water it with anything but the poisonous dew of illusions.

 

181

The words of the oracular grandmother opened up Gudlaugur's eyes. Were he to continue like this, he might end up going through his whole life without having a single woman. Not at all a promishing prospect, he thought, because his sex drive was far from inactive.

 

182

Gudlaugur decided to terminate immediately his lack of female relations and hit the nightlife of Reykjavik, which was throbbing with female flesh.

     But to his astonishment no woman laid herself at his feet and begged him to take her to bed. And no woman threw herself around his neck with a frantic fire of passion in her eyes. Something was wrong here.

     He walked to the next woman and asked her to dance. But she strutted past him without giving him a second glance. He made another attempt but it turned out the same. It seemed as if a cape of invisibility had been thrown over him.

     He went home and wept bitterly.

 

183

Still the women didn't stop waiting around for him in the streets, so he decided to take to bed the first who threw herself at his feet. But no sooner had he said: Follow me, than he disappeared from the woman's sight, and she walked away weeping. It dawned on him that he was indeed nothing but an untouchable dream.

 

184

And Gudlaugur the Fair dried up and cracked like an old potato and died without the pleasures of female intercourse.

 

185

One fine day I wake up to discover that the girl who has been unnoticed before my eyes daily is the only thing I can think of. Watching the TV, I have no idea what is happening on the screen, when I read the newspapers the words glide by without meaning. She fills my mind, and there is room for nothing else. What has happened? Why did I suddenly get this girl on the brain? I can't say she is the most beautiful girl in school. I can't say she is the shapeliest girl in the school.

 

186

Still I sit every day by the window and point my binoculars at the house where I know she lives, in the feeble hope that she will appear.

 

187 What happened?

     Did this girl take over my brain because she began wearing a new broad-shouldered jacket? Or because I heard her father was one of the three richest men in the country? I don't know. Love, or whatever we want to call it, seems to be some irrational beast leading an independent life somewhere in the upper spine.

 

188

Your soft, round body stires up delightful sensations in me. Mysterious currents run through me, I burn with desire, I'm breathless with joy. Hail to you.

 

189

It doesn't disturb me to know that one day your silk-smooth body will be rough and wrinkled. That the heaps and the crevices that drive me out of my mind with pleasure will one day turn into gross meatbags.

 

190

It doesn't disturb me to know that in your intestines there is a foul smelling gruel crawling about and that there is excrement in your bowels.

 

191

You have infected my mind like a cancer.

 

192

I dream about holding you in my arms when the big one drops. We sit silently on the couch, your forehead against mine.

 

193

I dream about holding you in my arms when Iceland sinks into the sea.

 

194

I go for long walks. Try to forget. Try to walk away from you. Let the cool evening breeze blow you out of my mind. Because you don't exist anywhere but there. This girl who walks the streets and projects you onto my mind is outside my reality. Probably in the arms of the guy that led her out of the school today. I rub out your image with the eraser of forgetting.

 

195

I erase the broad-shouldered jacket. There is no body underneath. This was nothing but a jacket then, with a head and hands.

 

196

I erase the head until there is nothing left but the eyes. They refuse to disappear.

 

197

I erase the eyelashes.

 

198

And the eyelids.

 

199

At last: The pupils.

200

I erase R

 

201

I erase O

 

202

I erase S

 

203

I erase A

 

204-239

The weeks pass and nothing happens. The days walk over me without leaving a print.

 

240

I have to introduce you to an amazing character, said Gudjon all hyped up. A former church minister who was defrocked for writing articles against the military base. Very peculiar combination of a man. On the one hand, he's a hardcore commie, with sensible opinions on social issues, on the other hand he's full of some absurd religious nonsense, which, nota bene, has nothing to do with Christianity.

 

241

We walked up a creeking wooden stairway and came upon a white door. The smell of rotten wood. Gudjon was poised to knock, but before his knuckles touched the door, it opened and a middle-aged man appeared in the doorway. A scoundrel's grin played on his wet lips and there was a peculiar spark in his right eye. The left was almost closed.

     I was expecting you, he said in a whispered voice and ushered us in. Ulfur Hallsteinsson, he continued, offering me his oversized hand.

     There was a trace of a coffee smell in the air, and in the corner an old clock ticked slowly, as if out of breath. Instinctivly we began to tip-toe.

     What's new among the revolutionaries? he asked, and his right eyebrow slid high up on his forehead. Somebody farted with a machine-gun lately?

     Unfortunately not, said Gudjon, decorating himself with his most devilish smile. Unfortunately not, but we can keep hoping.

     You let me know when the action begins. An unpleasant prospect, lying in bed when the bourgeoise heads begin to roll.

     I see you are writing, said Gudjon and pointed to a stack of exercise books on the table.

     Yes, I have been working on a number of improvements to the past, in particular Icelandic history. What they are teaching in school is so painfully boring.

     But world history was never meant to be a joke, I said.

     For my part, I must say I don't believe anything I can't laugh at, said Ulfur and was serious for one moment. But then he recovered his grin and said: Life is so hilariously funny it's impossible to believe it's boring, let alone stupid.

     And what is the main change you've made to Icelandic history? asked Gudjon.      First of all I present undeniable proof that the first inhabitants of Iceland were giants. By thorough examination of sediments and rock samples, I have discovered indisputable evidence of the fossilized intestines of giants. I estimate that these giants lived in the era between 1000 BC to 1100 AD and reached a height of 20 meters. They all turned into stone because of climatic change.

     You've got some big news there, said Gudjon.

     No doubt about that, said Ulfur.

 

242

Loud outbursts of laughter and the clinking of glasses spreading onto the street and The Rolling Stones shaking the window panes. We walk up steep stairs and through a half-open door. Odours of tobacco and alcohol fill our senses. The kitchen next to the doorway and some eight people lounging about. Nobody notices us except one blond fellow who shouts: Hello there, old bastard! and slammes Ulfur's back.

     Yes, hallo, says the old bastard and swings his oversized hand against the fellow's right shoulderblade. He stumbles, coughing, into the living-room. At the same moment, Gudrun appears with her hands full of empty glasses.

     You here! Rush in and get your hands on the treat. She's obviously in good form, with fire burning in her playful eyes.

     We enter the living room. Through the blue haze a few faces can be distinguished and on closer inspection one or two bodies. Mingled with other perfumes filling the hall is a sour stink of unwashed socks and a smell of hashish. In the middle of the floor stands a bowl full of blood-red liquid. We fill our glasses. There are few seats available, but Ulfur manages to plunge into a deep sofa between two grand females. I seat myself on an old trunk by the wall.

     I look over the congregation. I recognize a few of the faces from school, all hard-core Trotskyites. Ulfur has entered into heated discussion with one of the females. He is obviously saying something she doesn't approve of because her speech is broken with gasps and she repeatedly brandishes her cigarette threatingly. He, on the other hand, sits there calmly with a sarcastic grin playing around his lips. In one corner are three overweight men and one bony girl. They seem to be very funny because they laugh continuously, especially the fattest one who bursts into an enormous belly-laugh every time somebody utters a word. Submerged in a pile of pillows on the floor are three slim girls and one bearded man, a hashish pipe moving about, great seriousness in the air.

     A blond girl enters and sits down on the floor in front of the trunk. She's followed by a stumbling bum I recognize from the teenage division of the Christian Youth. The bum descends immediately to a horizontal position and rolls back and forth on the floor. With great effort he raises himself up on two legs but falls instantly down on all fours. It seems to be his natural position. He crawls under the table and is in the process of turning it upside down when the funny girl comes to his rescue.

     Darling, he murmurs and embraces the thin girl. They fall to the floor, the darling underneath and he engulfing her like an amoeba. The darling struggles and with great effort manages to roll the weight off her body. She goes back to her place. The friend lies on the floor for a long time, contemplating his next move. Somehow he manages to set himself into motion and approaches the founts of wisdom. He spreads himself across the three girls and begins to fondle what is within reach. Without expression they throw him off.

     Then he sits on the floor in front of the trunk and puts an arm around the blond girl.

     Look darling ... The thing is ... You see, we have to stick together, don't we?

     Of course, Bodvar, the girl says with a smile of motherly understanding.

     I knew you would understand me, he says and thrusts his wet lips on her face. She pushes him away and wipes her face on the sleeve of her shirt.

     Look ... Do you hear what I'm saying ... Hmm?

     Yes I hear.

     Hmm ... don't we?

     I think you should go to bed, Bodvar.

     Yes darling, let's go to bed. Look, shall we go to my place?

     At that moment somebody calls his name from the kitchen and the girl escapes from this deathtrap.

     Wait a minute, he says and rolls into the kitchen.

     At the same instant a stocky man emerges and announces in a loud voice that according to reliable sources, the IQ of conservatives is on average 30 points lower than that of radicals. Conclusion: There you have a scientific explanation for the whole thing ha, ha, ha.

     When he has delivered his message, he heads straight back to the kitchen. Some special cultural activity seems to be going on there.

     A friendly chap appears and begins to strum the kitchen‑ maid-cords on a guitar. This is an immediate success and a powerful sing-along starts. A historical assortment from the top ten illuminates the place, arousing sentimental memories of wet camping-trips and sweaty parties. A few people come out of the kitchen and join in the revery. After a while the selection of songs turns more serious and "Onward Christian soldiers ..." is chanted with great enthusiasm. When Christianity has had its fair share, socialism is next on the agenda and the International is sung three times. Everybody raises their clenched fists and their eyes burn with red fire. The volume increases gradually and reaches a thundering climax when everybody cries in ectasy: " Deutschland, Deutschland uber alles, uber alles in der welt ... etc. " When the singing is still at its height a well-built female comes rushing out of the kitchen and cries: Stop it, you bloody imbeciles! Her cheeks are flushed and her eyes frantic. People burst into belly-laughter and continue to thunder the old favourite.

     Have you gone out of your minds! she cries, about to lose control of her emotions. What is happening here anyway? Do you realize that with this song in their ears millions of innocent Jews were slaughtered in a disgusting way?

     People calm a little when they realise that the woman is serious.

     It was just an innocent joke, someone says.

     I don't give a damn. Sing this for Jews and tell them it's just an innocent joke. She breaks down and runs wailing into the kitchen. An embarrassing silence falls upon the gathering, and people begin to leave.      It's almost four o'clock, time to get going.

 

243

So, how do you like it? said Gudjon, his face lit up, a brand new Russian shotgun in his hands.

     These instruments make me kind of scared, I said. Are you sure it's not loaded?

     He broke into laughter, opened the gun and blew through the barrel.

     The birds better watch their asses now.

 

244

May I introduce: Indridi Blondal, Magnus Einarsson.

     Indridi's hand was big and wet like the rest of him. Reminded me of a horse.

     Soon the birds will fall silent on the heaths, said Indridi, and neighed.

     Yes, the dear little birds, said Gudjon.

     A serene expression fell across Indridi's face:

     Feathered beasts die, farmers die.

     The Dalai Lama himself dies.

     But the hoarse burp of bowels

     stuck on magnetic tape

     Will never die.

     We laughed like lunatics.

     It was transpired that Indridi was in the Department of Icelandic Studies at the university.

     After a two-hour walk we sat down on a grassy tussock and ate Polish chocolate wafers and drank Coke. It was raining.

     Not even a ptarmigan's arse around here, said Indridi.

     They say it's packed with ptarmigans here, said Gudjon. My uncle caught fifteen last weekend.

     He probably killed them all, that bastard, said Indridi.

     I bet every other tussock here is a ptarmigan, I said.

     At the same moment we heard a burp and two tussocks flew away. Indridi grabbed the gun in great haste and farted ten shots at them.

     Follow them! He cried. I saw where they landed!

     We rushed off scanning in all directions. But the tussocks stood dead still. No burp.

     Our swiftness petered out, said Indridi. As in womanizing, it's the swiftness that counts.

     Swiftness in womanizing? I asked.

     Yes, fix them before they fly away.

     Then a trilingual burp rang out and the air filled with the beating of wings. Indridi and Gudjon pumped lead into the sky. Three birds fell halfdead to the ground. The hunter's faces lit up like children at a Christmas party.

     Now is's your run to cheer them up.

     I put the gun to my shoulder and aimed at a ptarmigan that stood motionless a few feet in front of me, waiting patiently for me to fill its body with lead. And the gun went off. The lead showered over the ptarmigan and injured her severely. I had to twist her neck. A strange, pleasant thrill went through me. I was truly surprised. I had expected to be filled with disgust or guilt.

     We crammed our kill into a plastic bag, sat down on a tussock and smoked cigars.      That's life, said Indridi and neighed.

     And death, said I.

     We smoked the cigars without a sound. The silence full of delightful darkness.

 

245

We fried the ptarmigans in butter and ate them with salad, cream sauce, rice, baked potatoes and raspberry jam. On the table a candle was burning and "Black magic woman ..." filled the room.

     It was perfect.

     What a pleasure, said Gudjon and sighed. I'm getting a hard on.

     We shook with repressed laughter.

 

     At the same time in another part of town:

     Some people don't seem to have any respect for the creatures that live and breath on this earth, said a middle-aged woman, filling her mouth with a piece of mutton dripping with gravy. They run around the heaths pointing their guns, shooting at everything that moves in front of them, she continued and sucked the marrow out of the thighbone. Not even the ptarmigan, that lovely and peaceful bird, is safe from these murderous devils. The woman was beginning to shed tears.

     This bestiality has to stop, said the woman's husband, stood up from a half-eaten piece of meat and wrote a long article for the reader's column of the Morning News. (As this article falls short of the required literary standard, it will not be presented here.)

 

246

Modern hunters march into supermarkets armed with wallets and come out with frozen chicken.

 

247

Nobody should be allowed to eat meat without killing at least one animal a month.

 

248

What are these sheep doing here in the backyard? asked father angrily.

     I thought it would be a good thing for us to be self‑ sufficient in meat. So I bought these sheep from an acquaintance of mine for next to nothing. They'll be giving birth in a few weeks.

     I don't want you dragging these beasts into our backyard. What does your mother say about this?

     We agreed that the backyard should easily be able to support two sheep and four lambs. Then there would be no need for fertilizers or mowing the lawn.

     I won't listen to this nonsense. You have to get rid of these animals at once.

 

249

This morning there was a soft knock on my window. Outside stood a half-naked woman, with milk-white skin, blue eyes and creamy‑ yellow hair in long waves down to her naked breasts. On her shoulders she had a shawl woven from moss and heather, an odour of thyme emanated from her.      I invited her in, but she said she preferred to stand outside.

     Do you have any business with me? I asked.

     I wanted to whisper something into your ear, she said with a mystical smile on her lips. But then you will have to stick your head out of the window.

     I laid my ear against her soft mouth and she whispered with a gentle, haunting voice: I will wait for you under the lone mountain tomorrow.

     And she glided away as in a dream.

     Where is this mountain? I shouted. But she didn't hear me. She was gone.

 

250

Trembling with anticipation I took to the heath and searched for the lone mountain. For a long time I looked around and finally found the woman sleeping on a bed of heather, naked. I woke her with a kiss and she dragged me to her bosom, embraced me. From her mouth I drank bittersweet nectar.

 

251

By the next day she had changed. Her hands were now cold and chapped, her eyes full of darkness, the taste of soil in her mouth. And she scratched my face.

 

252

But I came again.

 

253

And again.

 

254

And in her arms I enjoyed all the best and all the worst that can befall a mortal man.

 

255

She taught me mystical songs that passed through me like a warm breeze, filled my soul with mournful joy, my eyes with tears. Songs I never tired of singing.

 

256

She taught me poems which filled me with strange power, magic chants with the taste of blood and smell of sulfur.

 

257

She told me sad stories full of beastiality and repulsion. Premature death. Madness. Foul destiny. And I cried like a child, trembling like a leaf, huddling myself.

 

258

Sometimes she was silent. But her silence was not embarrassing like the silence between those who have nothing to say, her silence was filled with an unverifiable suspicion about something that words are uncapable of expressing.

 

259

I fell to my knees and worshipped her. But she slapped my face and ordered me to get on my feet.    I don't like submission or servility. I want you to look me straight in the eye when I talk to you, hold your head high and answer me like a man.

 

260

I'm disgusted by envy and jealousy, she said. And I despise possessiveness.

 

261

Some men have deceived themselves that they own me, they've smeared me with the sentimental slime of devotion, inflated with ridiculous arrogance, thought they could hang me around their necks like a decoration. These men disgust me.

 

262

If you're interested in a relationship with me you'll have to do it with sincerity and modesty. Or else keep your distance.

 

263

Outside stood Sigrun, with her milk-white complexion, red-spotted and puffed up, with her gut sticking into the air like Mount Herdubreid. I have watched her from afar all winter, seen her inflate and turn pale, hand in hand with Albert Halldorsson, literature student. Now she was standing in front of me and smiled like she had smiled when we were getting to know each other.

     I just wanted to talk to you, she said and we walked into my room. It may be stupid of me, but I wanted to know if you are interested in being present at the birth?

     I was silent for a moment.

     What about Albert?

     Grim lines appeared around her mouth and she said coldly: It's none of his business, you are the father of this child. Then her voice was gentle again and she added: I presume you will have considerable contact with this child and I thought it might be good for you both if you were present at the birth.

 

264

I'm lying on the delivery table with my thighs gaping, as I wait for the doctor. Standing around me and staring absentmindedly into the air are my brother Baldur, Sigrun and Gudjon. They look as if they don't know what they are doing there. Nobody utters a word.

     Suddenly the child slides out of me, without strain or pain, as if labor and pushing were completely irrelevant.

     Everybody waits for the doctor but the child lies silent on the table between my legs with the umbilical cord into my vagina.

     After a long silence the doctor, who turns out to be my father, comes rushing in, grabs the baby swiftly by the legs, flings it up and slaps its behind. It immediately begins to scream at full blast. With skilled movements he ties up the umbilical cord and lays the crying infant in a nearby cradle.

     I'm filled with overwhelming remorse. I'm struck by the suspicion that the child has been brain-damaged by oxygen shortage.

     Why didn't anybody do anything? I ask with tears in my eyes. Didn't anybody know you have to make the child cry? Why didn't I do anything myself? I ask myself accusingly. Why? And a dagger is twisted in my abdomen.

 

265

When you have watched a child struggle into this world, it dawns on you that this thing which seems to be so weak and fragile when it lies all powdered in its cradle is, in fact, tough as an ox‑ hide. You get the feeling that you could pick the child up, throw it to the floor and let it bounce like a ball back and forth around the room, and it wouldn't even take offense.

 

266

Children have always bored me. When children seek my company in family gatherings, I try to get them off my back as soon as possible. I have no idea how to behave in their presence. Now on the other hand I catch myself taking an unfathomable interest in one wrinkled infant.

 

267

What once sounded to me like irritating, impertinent whining is now a delightful song. What once seemed to be a random groping, is, when closely observed, a fabulous contemporary dance, charged with some indescribible power.

 

268

No doubt, I've fallen into the pit which I've so often scornfully mocked: Worshipping myself through my offspring. I feel myself inflating with ridiculous pride.

 

269

I'm beginning to doubt if it was right to let you be present at the birth, said Sigrun. It probably only makes the matter unnecessarily complicated. I guess it would have been best if you had never seen the child. Since it's mine alone anyway.

 

270

Of course, the male has nothing to do with his offspring. He only provides one invisible grain. It's the woman who makes the child in her womb. It's the woman who delivers the child into the world with sweat and bloodshed. The child spurts from the woman's flesh and thrives on the woman's flesh. Of course, it's ridiculous for me to feel that I have something to do with this child. There are probably some degenerate motives behind it.

     Systematically I try to erase these emotions from my soul.

 

271

But my mind doesn't seem to be equipped with effective enough erasers.

 

272

Albert and I have decided to move to Sweden for three years, said Sigrun. While he is studying. It's probably for the best in this situation.

 

273

In the long run you will no doubt be relieved that it turned out like this, said Gudjon trying to resrain his smirk. Just think about all the time you'd have to spend on the child if they lived here. You wouldn't have been a free man.

 

274

I feel that I could spend infinite time on my daughter without wasting time. All my time with her is time gained, not lost.

 

275

But my daughter flew out of my life at 820 kilometers per hour.

 

276

You can have a job at the Hammer this summer if you are interested, said father.

     The Hammer? I said.

     You have to be there at seven o'clock tomorrow morning and speak with the foreman, Bjarni Gunnarsson.

 

277

After scraping timber for five hours, all the movements of the ritual become automatic. The mind breaks from the body and goes wandering.

 

278

After scraping timber for one and a half days, the wandering mind begins to miss the company of the body on its travels.

 

279

After scraping timber for three days, the itinerant mind drags the body to the foreman's office to quit.

 

280

In creative art the mind and the body travel together.

 

281

What is this supposed to mean? asked father frowning. I'm running all over town to find you a job and then you quit after three days. You planning on lying on that sofa all summer, or what?

     I'm going to concentrate on painting.

     Painting! Is that your idea of making money?

     I'm planning on having an exhibition this fall.

 

282

Painting a picture is like creating the world. One is almighty.

 

283

The paintings stream forth like a crystal-clear spring in a romantic poem, effortlessly.

 

284

What I paint is sometimes a pleasant surprise to me, sometimes I'm amazed and sometimes astounded.

 

285

Are you sure nobody else has done this before? asked Gudjon.

     Not me, at least, I answered.

 

286

Something which moves about beyond thought flows into my right arm and directs the brush to the colour and about the canvas.

 

287

Yes, said a distant relative of Gudjon's thoughtfully and scratched his beard. I don't know about these pictures. A little bit tired surrealism. He grinned. It's interesting that when young people want to be original they all fall into the same worn out surrealist clichs. A little bit tired. You should stick to realism. There are some interesting things going on in realism these days.

     But isn't Concept Art number one these days? asked Gudjon.

     Of course, of course. But I don't know if your friend is the right person to take that path. One has to have contemplated a great deal on various fundamental questions about art and its essence to be able to do something worthwhile in Concept Art.

 

288

A new doughnut may not be older than one day old.

 

289

It's more difficult to pin down the word "new" when it comes to art. What is old today can be new tomorrow.

 

290

The peak of artistic low-luck is to invent a new art style and find out after two years' hard work that it had already been invented fifty years before.

 

291

What does one do when one's grandmother and four aunts have said about one's paintings: How sweet!

     Difficult to say. At least one knows what not to do.

 

292

What does one do when one has hung a urinal on the wall with the title "Fountain" and received a unanimous applause from the critics?

     One begins to play chess.

 

293

On the other hand, one can be sure that a big flock of sheep will come running and begin to "work with" this radical idea. Urinals of various kinds and colours will be hung on the walls of galleries around the world with all kinds of witty titles. The most original will hang toilets upside down on the walls with the title "Throwing shit", or "Cutting the shit" if the toilet seat has been glued down. Others will hang pissoirs on the walls and title them "Monument". Still others will give a new and surprising angle on the matter by hanging tubs and shower floors upside-down on the walls and titling them "The flood" etc., etc.

 

294

But Duchamp will smirk and continue to play chess.

 

295

Once there was a painter whose appalling lot was that all his miserable life he did nothing else than paint the same picture over and over again. When asked what the idea was, the artist answered that when he began his career, he made a vow that he would not begin another painting before he had made one perfect one.

 

296

For a long time there has been some controversy about the art of this man. Some claim it manifests a total lack of creativity, while others believe it reveals a fantastic, artistic stubbornness. Then there are those who have serious doubts that the man's activity has anything to do with art.

     Be that as it may, his paintings sell like hot pancakes, he receives art grants every year and he is a frequent guest at the collective exhibitions of the Association of Icelandic Artists.

 

297

The crystal clear spring has turned lead grey. Motionless. The canvas is empty.

 

298

It's because you haven't had any close physical encounters of the third kind with the female sex for many weeks, said Gudjon.

 

299

He wasn't right.

 

300

It doesn't satisfy me any more to copy what has been done a thousand times before. I've got this need to do something new or quit.

 

301

It's no use having such illusions, said Gudjon. Only a handful of geniuses are born each century and there's no need to fret that you are not one of them. It seems to me that most Icelandic artists are importers of foreign ideas, a kind of artistic wholesalers.

     I despise wholesalers.

 

302

If I play for the ultimate stakes, maybe I'll do something that matters.

 

303

I have more respect for the artist who loses money on his art than the one who earns money on it.

 

304

For a whole year I have worked like a slave in a foul-smelling and dirty, fish-freezing plant, awoken at seven o'clock in the morning, had toast and coffee, dragged myself half-asleep to the bus stop, clocked in, a quarter of an hour coffee break, twenty‑ minute lunch break. Dragged myself home in the evenings, with backache, buzzing in my ears and fish offal in my nostrils. Fallen asleep in front of the TV.

 

305

In this year I have amassed, on the minimum of minimum wages, the grand total of 5.000.00 dollars.

 

306 On Independence Day I put this money into a bag and walk down town. When Omar Ragnarsson, the "comedian", has polluted the air with his jokes, I jump up on the stage, pour out the money from the bag and set fire to it in front of the nation. Set one year's slavery on fire.

 

307

What's with you anyway? asked father. Aren't you going to get anything worth while done the whole summer? It looks like your only accomplishment this summer will be to lie there on the couch and stare up at the ceiling.

     I'm preparing an exhibition, I said.

     Then how about stirring up the paint a little. It's gone untouched for two whole weeks.

 

308

In the long run no artist can thrive in a culturally hostile environment. He has to be spared nagging, have a private room and plenty of money.

 

309

I would be honoured by your presence at the opening of my show in the National Museum of Art on Saturday, July 1, 1978 at 14.00. Valid for two.

 

310

I have borrowed a list of all feasible opening guests from the Association of Icelandic Artists which contains in alphabetical order all the cultural big shots of the nation, government officials and averyone that has been caught buying a work of art, a total of 736 individuals. One by one I write these names on the back of the invitation cards. The pile is about 20 centimetres high and is barely big enough to fill the postbox on the next corner.

 

311

It is night. I sneak along the eastern wall of the National Museum with the following implements in a bag: a crowbar, a pair of scissors, a metal saw, a knife, a pair of wirecutters, a sledgehammer and a torch. With the crowbar I force open one of the basement windows and slip inside. Turn on the torch. When I have disconnected the burglar alarm I break through the door to the artwork storage room and begin to carry the objects into the exhibit hall on the second floor. I try to hang as many as possible on the walls but set the rest up on the floor along the walls.

     With the knife I carve all the paintings.

     With the scissors I cut them into small pieces.

     With the metal saw I dismantle the sculptures.

     With the sledgehammer I smash the casts and the ceramics.

     The work accomplished I lie down on the floor and fall asleep.

 

312

At one thirty I wake up and look over my night's work. It is perfect.

     The opening guests are beginning to gather outside the door, the corridor fills with chat, laughter and clearing of throats.      At two o'clock sharp I open the doors. The crowd pours in, congratulates me and begins to view the works.

     Yes, hmm ... the guests whisper and don't quite know what to think about this avant garde shit.

     I thought this kind of stuff went out of fashion a long time ago, whisper some. Then the word begins to spread among the guests that these are the masterpieces of Icelandic art lying there in shreds on the floor. Some enterprising men hurry to call the police and fling me to the floor.

     This is sick, whispers are heard here and there among the guests. The man is mentally disturbed.

     And there is no beating about the bush, a huge squad of policemen promptly arrives on the scene and arrests the artist.

 

313

The next day the media was full of detailed accounts of this unprecedented act of villainy. People were seized with fury, contempt and disgust.

     No art historian in the country could find strong enough words to express his contempt for this unspeakable destruction of the cultural heritage. They found it particularly outrageous that the evil deed was committed by an artist and in the name of art. This only shows what quicksands sterile artists could fall into in their desperate attempts to be original.

 

314

Neither did the letters page of the Morning News nor the other moral bastions of the nation stand idly by, but demanded the immediate introduction of death penalty in Iceland, so that the artist could be hanged on the main square of Reykjavik to the accompaniment of a brass band.

 

315

Writers of editorials were reluctant to go that far, but demanded that the man be subjected to electric-shock treatment in the city's mental hospital as well as all others likely to fall prey to such terroristic conduct in the near future. It is indeed clear that it is better to cover the well before the child falls in.

 

316

But then long articles began to appear in all the major newspapers in the world praising this historic event in the National Museum of Iceland. These articles were accompanied by full-page photos of the artist, of the remnants in the museum and of weeping Icelandic art historians. International authorities on art were in unanimous agreement that by this fantastic achievement, Iceland had taken the leading role in the development of world art in this decade. The artist was highly praised for his genius and courage, and for leading modern art out of the impasse of repetitive stagnation in which it had been trapped for years. With his work, the artist had produced a new and surprising view of the concept of art. Never before had the question, "What is art?" been so intrusive as in this work. The myth of art had literally been demolished, so that the world would never be the same again.

 

317

Following these writings, herds of journalists and reporters swarmed to Iceland desperate to interview the master, but they found him securely chained in a windowless isolation cell guarded by two fat-assed policemen. The foreigners thought it was a strange way to treat geniuses.

 

318

A newly graduated Icelandic art historian, wrote a fierce article in the Daily News in which he expressed his astonishment at the provincialism that had been exposed by the reaction of his countrymen to this historic event. In particular he raised his fist at the art critics who had written with arrogance and ignorance about the artist and his work, and demanded their resignation and public apologies. They had brought shame upon the Icelandic community of art historians in the eyes of the world. At the end of the article he chided the Icelandic government for not having released the artist long before.

 

319

The Icelandic government and the administration of the National Museum of Iceland held a long meeting on the matter. Following this meeting an order was issued for the artist to be released immediately. An announcement was sent to all the media that it had been decided to put the artist on a life-long honorary salary and that he would be provided with a spacious studio in the exclusive Laugaras quarters. Furthermore, it was suggested that he would be made an honarary member of the following organisations: The Kiwanis, Rotary club, Freemasons, Association of Icelandic Visual Artists and Association of Icelandic Artists.

 

320

At last! At last! Was the title of every other article written from then on about the artist. At last we have got an artist on a world scale. An artist who has dared to break free from the chains of provincialism.

 

321

And long lines of millionaires formed in front of the National Museum and everybody was eager to pay a fortune for a shred from demolished art work. In particular bits from the paintings of Kjarval reached high prices, and the smaller the bits were the more expensive they became. Consequently some unscrupulous frauds attempted to cut the pieces they had bought into smaller and smaller bits. To fend off such disgrace, art historians were assigned to oversee the sale of the works.

 

322

Soon the news began to spread that Neo-Destructivism was spreading around the world like a forest fire. A well-known Italian Neo-Painter who had before been in the vanguard of the Concept Art movement, and before that one of the major Pop Artists in Europe, had broken into the Louvre Museum and destroyed all the works with a specially designed grinder. He received unremitting praise from the critics. Other Neo-Painters followed, using either specially designed computerized termination machines or remote-controlled trash decomposition instruments. The most original contribution to the movement was from a Norwegian Neo-Expressionist who broke into the Munch museum with blood-hounds and had them munch up Munch. In America it was mainly the Abstract Expressionists who kept the torch of neo-destructivism burning. In the vanguard was de Kooning who went around the museums in California accompanied by a team of well trained karate-masters, who broke the art works into unbelievably small entities.

 

323

Elin is rounding folks up for a summerhouse trip, said Gudjon. Are you in? There'll be plenty of booze and grass.

     But of course, I said.

     Take the easels along. Who knows, maybe the spirit will fall upon you when you're out there in the green.

     I get you. It doesn't hurt to try. Try everything, keep what's good, said Saint Paul.

 

324

The mountains shake in the windshield, half-transparent and floating.

     Bloody good stuff, says Baldvin Sveinsson and embraces the smoke.

     My head has inflated and is strangely soft to the touch. The music is a warm wind which blows it back and forth. My right palm is drawn towards the voluptuous thigh of Asrun Gudjonsdottir.

 

325

The sky has settled in the water among the clouds. A tape recorder smears its rhythmic tones on the silence. Gudjon and Elin dance samba on the terrace.

 

326

What is this supposed to be? asked Asrun. To me it looks more like a female body than a mountain.

     That's because it is a female body, I said.

     What's the use of being out in the wilderness and glaring at a mountain but painting a female body?

     Mountains bore me, except on photographs taken with powerful zoom lenses.

     You could have said: I'm painting my inner landscape, she said and slid her hand under my shirt.

     It's clear that I must hire you as my press agent.

     All of a sudden we had no clothes on and were investigating the most secluded parts of each other's bodies with our fingertips. But high above a jet flew and left a white stripe on the blue background.

 

327

Okay, said Gudjon, high as a kite. Are you having any luck making a wireless connection to the spiritual remains of Van Gogh?

     Well, they're all fighting to squeeze into me, these bastards; Picasso, Van Gogh, Cezanne and others, I said. But I ward them off like a hero.

 

328

Experiment, #1

I place the easels on the edge of a canyon wall and blindfold myself. Paint with a tickling sensation in my abdomen and birdsong in my ears.

Conclusion: Birdsong does not transfer to the canvas.

 

329

Experiment, #2

The boys string me up to a washing-line post by my legs and place the easels in front of me.

Conclusion: Increased flow of blood to the brain doesn't seem to influence the flow of ideas. In the long run it's tiring to be strung up by one's legs.

 

330

Why on earth do painters always have to be acting so weird? asked Asrun.

     It's their desperate attempt to break out of the deadlock of repetition.

 

331

My misfortune is that I have an insatiable desire to do something that I am unable to do. Something which is maybe in nobody's power to do.

 

332

Others' misfortune is that they have laid to rest their desire to do anything worthwhile and are content producing futile luxury wallpaper for wealthy snobs.

 

333

Still others' misfortune is that they believe that their professional, clich production is something important.

 

334

I would rather dig ditches voluntarily for the rest of my life than betray myself and others for pockets full of money.

 

335

I guess.

 

336

Unless I turn fraud and make selling out into an art form. Not very noble but maybe the only possible way out of my deadlock.

     Anyway, isn't art a game with illusions?

 

337

I hereby advertise for a male or a female who is ready to redefine the concept of art. There is no way we can pretend nothing has happened since 1920.

 

338

You have to find somebody else besides me to go on breaking the good old traditions that have all been broken into the smallest shards.

 

339

And what are these explorations of form supposed to mean when all forms have been explored more than a thousand times before?

 

340

I'm finished with this farce.

 

341

I've put the following items in a backpack: a knife, 20 meters of rope, 3 springs, 10 candles, 4 matchboxes, waterproofs, woollen clothing and a sleeping bag.

 

342

I hang a map of Iceland on the door, take up a position 10 m away and throw a dart at the map. It hits the top crater of Hekla.

 

343

An automobile disappears in a dust cloud out of the picture.

     I step over a half collapsed fence and walk onto the solid lava-field. A scent of fresh hay in the air.

     I fall asleep to the echo of drips from the cave ceiling.

 

344

I'm alone a long way from the company of men. Alone among soil and water, sorrel and sheep, rocks and birds, insects and moon, sun and moss.

     My task is to live. For 21 days and 21 nights.

     The first day I make 3 bird-traps from birch-branches and springs. Place them where birds hang around.

     Crawl around and collect sheep's sorrel and Iceland-moss. Find, as well, scurvy-grass, cinque-foil, Alpine, lady's mantle, thyme, birch-leaf and angelica.

     But no bird gets trapped.

 

345

No bird in the traps.

 

346

No bird.

 

347

The desire for meat is becoming unbearable. Although the vegetables are good they don't do much more than excite my hunger. I make a bow and arrows.

 

348

A golden plover in one of the traps. Delightful bird, the golden plover.

 

349

Not at all easy to hit a bird with an arrow. The sheep is an easier target.

 

350

A sheep is a many-splendered thing.

 

351

On the ninth day I catch myself scratching pictures on the cave walls, circles, squares, sheep, birds, people.

 

352

I smear blood in the shallow scratches. Rub leaves in certain places, smear dirt in others.

 

353

To my amazement I discover that there is a direct connection between rubbing sheep's blood in the picture-furrows and birds falling into the traps. I ask: Does the Agricultural Production Board know about this extraordinary quality of sheep's blood?

 

354

Certain forces counter this property af the blood. To neutralize these forces it is necessary to put the remains of the birds in intestine-bags and hang them from the cave ceiling in front of the pictures.

 

355

It might also prove necessary to turn circles with your arms stretched out in front of the pictures, in the twilight.

 

356

In some strange sense Hekla is at once myself, my lover and my mother. On the surface she is solid and unmovable, maybe a little rough, graceful from a reasonable distance, even beautiful, but underneath the fathomless magma is boiling and bursts forth every now and then in spectacular calamaties, both destructive and creative.

 

357

At the bottom of the cave I make a picture of Hekla. That picture I can under no circumstances behold. I know of it and it fills me with security.

 

358

The magma bowel in my intestines is filled to the brim.

 

359

Lying in the grass, I dream about natural calamaties. The sun plays with my body, a scent of heather and thyme fills my senses and birds give me the pitch. Magma bursts out of the cracked ground and the earth trembles. I am the earth. I tremble in spasmic pleasure. The fire splits the water with a terrible rumble and melts the ground.

     I walk into the cave to scratch the circular form of the fire in the ceiling. Because the fire is a red circle.

 

360

The birds have begun to lay eggs in my hair.

 

361

On my body a thousand flowers bloom.

 

362

And my body is covered with pictures, like the cave walls. The body is the house of the soul. The cave is the house of the body.

 

363

The pictures govern life and death.

 

364

What's with you anyway? asked father frowning. Now you've been lying there on the sofa for two months without moving. Do you really expect me to support you just to squash this sofa. You have to get it into your head that if you aren't going to make this exhibition you've been going on about all summer, you'll have to get a job. Otherwise you'll have to go somewere else.

     Are you throwing me out? I asked.

     This is no hatchery for layabouts. I bought these paints and brushes because I believed you were serious about this show. But it seems like it wouldn't have made any difference if I had handed them over to some sheep.

     If you regret having spent money on these brushes I can try to sell them for you.

     There seems to be no way to talk to you like a grown man.

 

365

On the sidewalk in front of the US military Secondhand Store the family is sitting at a table. Mother and father are facing north, Baldur and I are seated opposite them. Father is going on and on about my good-for-nothing idleness.

     This is becoming totally unbearable, I say. There's not a moment's peace from this fucking nagging all day long.

     When I say these words, I see an orange glow infusing the sky on the south horizon. Enchanted, I stare at this delightful beauty and I'm amazed that the brightness of the light increases constantly. But it isn't until the surroundings illuminate in a blinding flash that the light dawns upon me. An atomic bomb has exploded over the Keflavik base.

     The family, frazzled, run into the shop. Down the stairs and into the cellar. Endless stone-gray corridors, doorless openings, no windows. I run into one of the rooms and huddle in the corner farthest from the door.

     A moment's silence and then everything trembles. The walls split apart, tumble down and squeeze the life out of my naked body.

 

366

Moving out of your parents' house is not dissimilar to birth. Difficult, even dangerous but inevitable. The longer it is postponed past the due date, the more difficult and dangerous it becomes both for the parents and the offspring.

 

367

Some inexplicable power emanates from an empty, white room. A sense of eternity or death, something pristine, unsoiled, an unpainted canvas. Virgin. Carte blanche. A whitewashed grave. Nothing.

 

368

In an empty, white room, one shuts up.

 

369

Floor space, 14 square meters, rectangular, height 2.40. Entrance from the west, a window to the east. A ball-shaped light on the ceiling, brown linoleum on the floor. By the south wall an 8 centimeter thick mattress, 2 x 1.10 meters, white bedspreads. A birch desk with two drawers. In the upper drawer: a plate, a cup, a knife, and a spoon. In the lower: gloves, a cap, a scarf, underwear, socks and a coat. On the desktop: a white reading lamp.

 

370

Is it possible to imagine a more perfect situation than sitting on an 8-centimeter thick mattress, in an empty, white room, leaning against the wall and reading Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse? When I fall asleep the book lies on the floor.

 

371

One lets the food hang out of the window in a plastic bag.

 

372

When the buttons fall off the shirt, it is an advantage to have a needle and thread.

 

373

On the seventh day I discover that canned food is tiresome in the long run. An electric stove and a pot are necessary.

 

374

Well, said Gudjon spreading his grin across his face like caramel coating. How long do you think you will hold out being a Taoist?

     When did I say I was a Taoist?

     Don't be so serious, mate. Have you lost your sense of humour?

     It just makes me feel good being in an empty room, it's as simple as that. The less junk you're surrounded with the easier it is to have it under control.

     You can kill before you overkill. You have to be pretty far gone with junk phobia to pack away a state-of-the-art stereo in order not to disrupt the harmonious look of your room.

 

375

No need to be an extremist. A stereo is of course a necessity in every cultivated home.

 

376

The cats have ripped a hole in the plastic bag which hangs out of the window and have feasted on the dairy produce. A refrigerator would probably be to my advantage.

 

377

On the twelfth day Gudjon and I carry two worn-out easy chairs into the room, a couch, a wardrope, bookshelves and a desk.

 

378

This will end up being like a human dwelling and not a tomb, said Gudjon.

 

379

A balance between order and chaos is not easy to strike.

 

380

My mind has an extraordinary facility for keeping an abundance of chaos in order.

 

381

I've seen a lot of things, said Gudjon. But I have never in my life seen such quantity of junk accumulated per square meter as in your room.

 

 

Recipe for Single Basement Dwellers

with One Stove

By Magnus Einarsson

 

382

Preface

Everyone must eat, even single basement dwellers. But for some reason it has never occurred to any author of a recipe-book that such people could be interested in cooking food. All recipe‑ books are made with the nuclear family or something even worse in mind. So it is long overdue that somebody pay attention to the needs of this silent minority.

     This book should be the first step towards enabling single basement dwellers to live a decent life.

 

 

Egg dishes

 

383

Frying

 

1. Melt a piece of margarine over a low heat.

2. Take the egg in the right hand and hit it swiftly against the edge of the pan.

3. Grab the egg with both hands and hold it approximately 4 centimeters above the pan, with the crack facing down.

4. Open the crack and allow the contents to leak slowly to the pan.

5. When the white has turned white, whip the egg off the pan with a spatula.

 

384

Boiling

 

1. Boil 2 cups of water and add a few grains of salt.

2. Submerge the egg with a spoon at a speed of aproximately 10 centimeters per second.

3. Boil for 6.0 minutes.

4. Fish out of the water with the same instrument as in step 2 and place under cold running water.

 

385

Omelette

 

     2 eggs

     3 slices of cheese

     1/2 paprika

     2 slices of ham

     1/2 tsp. saliva

     1/2 tsp. salt

     1/2 tsp. pepper

 

1. Scramble the eggs with an appropriate instrument, for example a fork. Add the spices.

2. Melt a piece of margarine over a low heat and pour the mixture into the pan.

3. Lay the slices of cheese and ham on top.

4. Fold the cake in the middle.

5. Whip the product off the pan before it burns.

 

386

French Toast

     1 egg

     2 Tsp. milk

     3 slices of bread

     1 tsp. cinnamon

     2 Tsp. jam or syrup

 

1. Scramble the egg with the milk and the cinnamon.

2. Dip the slices of bread in the mixture and fry in margarine under a low heat.

3. Smear the slices with jam.

 

 

Meat Dishes

 

387

The Basement Dweller's Special Treat

 

     200 gr. choice lamb

     2 potatoes

     1/2 tsp. salt

     1/2 tsp. pepper

     1 tsp. garlic powder

     1 tsp. onion flakes

     1 tsp rosemary

     4 slices of cheese

     2 slices of bread

     1/2 banana

     1/2 apple

     1 dl. sour cream

     1 Tsp. mayonnaise

     1 Tsp. mustard

     1 Tsp. ketchup

     2 Tsp. butter

 

1. Cut the potatoes into 2-centimeter thick slices and fry in butter with salt, pepper and rosemary. When the slices have turned light brown flip them over and put the cheese on top. Once finished frying, pile the slices in three layers at the left side of the pan.

2. Fry the meat in butter and spices on the right side of the pan.

3. Butter the bread, sprinkle with garlic powder and place on top of the heap of potatoes. Cover the pan and leave to simmer on lowest heat for two minutes.

4. Mix the sour cream with the mayonnaise, mustard and ketchup.

5. Dice fruit.

 

388

The Basement Dweller's Favorite Goulash

 

     200 gr. cutlets, (mutton, beef and pork)

     4 small potatoes

     1 small onion

     3 mushrooms

     1/2 tsp. garlic powder

     1/2 tsp. paprika powder

     1/2 tsp. salt

     1/2 tsp. pepper      1/2 tsp. soy sauce

     3 tsp. jam

     1/2 cup flour

     3 cups water

     2 tsp. sugar

     1 Tsp. milk

 

1. Roll the meat in the flour and fry in butter along with the sliced mushrooms and the spices.

2. Pour two cups of water into the pot and throw in the peeled potatoes. Leave to boil at a low heat for half an hour.

3. Dissolve reminder of the flour in a cup of water.

4. Fish out the potatoes, lower the heat and pour the flour mixture into the pot. Stir constantly.

5. Mash the potatoes and add sugar and milk to the crap.

 

389

Delightful Meatballs

 

     Meatball dough:

 

     150 gr. minced meat

     1 egg

     1 Tsp. black pepper

     1/2 tsp. salt

     1 tsp paprika powder

     1 tsp garlic powder

 

Mix everything together, preferably with a mixer.

 

     4 potatoes

     1/2 cup flour

     1/2 tsp. soy sauce

     1/2 tsp. salt

     1/2 tsp. pepper

     1/2 tsp. paprika powder

     2 Tsp. jam

     2 Tsp. milk

     1 Tsp. sugar

 

1. Dip a spoon into water and shovel the meatball dough onto the pan to form approximately 9 square-centimeter balls are formed. Add spices.

2. Pour three cups of water over the fried balls and submerge the potatoes. Leave to boil for twenty minutes.

3. Mix the flour and the water, lower the heat, fish out the potatoes and pour in the mixture.

4. Mash the potatoes adding the milk and the sugar.

 

Meatballs are a cheap and good food that nobody should feel ashamed to eat.

 

390

Icelandic-Oriental Stew

 

     200 gr. cutlets

     200 gr. brown rice

     3 mushrooms      1 small paprika

     1 small onion

     1 tomato

     1 tsp. curry

     1 tsp. garlic powder

     1 tsp. tumeric

     1 tsp. oregano

     1/2 tsp. salt

     1/2 tsp. black pepper

     1/2 banana

     1/2 apple

     1 Tsp. butter

     1 stick incense

 

1. Fry the meat in butter along with the sliced mushrooms and onion. Add spices and paprika.

2. Pour in 3 cups of water and plunge the rice in.

3. Leave to boil for 45 minutes.

4. Butter the slice of bread with a touch of garlic powder.

By boiling the rice along with the meat and the spices, it acquires an exceptionally rich flavour.

Everyone knows how closely connected the senses of taste and smell are. By burning incense while eating it is possible to endow the food with a genuine oriental touch. And by projecting slides from India on to the wall, could really give the feeling of being literally in India.

 

391

Meat Cake

 

     200 gr. minced meat

     2 eggs

     1 Tsp. flour

     1/2 tsp. garlic powder

     1/2 tsp. salt

     1/2 tsp. pepper

     1 tsp. onion flakes

     2 potatoes

     1 Tsp. jam

     1 Tsp. butter

     4 slices of cheese

 

1. Fry the sliced potatoes (see 380).

2. Mix the minced meat with the flour, spices and one egg. Make approximately 6 square-centimeter cakes from the dough.

3. Fry the cakes until they get a lovely tan.

4. Fry the other egg.

 

392

Icelandic-Arabic Meatloaf

 

     200 gr. minced meat

     1 egg

     2 Tsp. raisins

     1/4 tsp. cloves

     1/2 tsp. cinnamon

     1/2 tsp. salt

     1/2 tsp. pepper      1 small onion

     2 Tsp. mustard

     2 Tsp. ketchup

     2 Tsp. mayonnaise

     1 dl. sour cream

     1 Tsp. butter

     1 cup brown rice

     1 Tsp olive oil

 

1. Boil the rice and put aside in a bowl.

2. Put the onion into a mixer and mash it into a fine jam and mix it with the meat along with the egg, raisins and spices.

3. Form an approximately 2-centimeter thick, circular cake from the dough and fry it in the oil.

4. When the loaf has been turned over, smear it with mustard and surround it with the rice. Cover and leave to simmer at a low heat for 10 minutes.

5. Mix the sour cream, mayonnaise, ketchup and mustard.

 

393

Icelandic-Mexican Chicken

 

     1/2 chicken

     1 cup rice

     1 onion

     1 tomato

     1 dl tomato-puree

     1 Tsp. flour

     1/2 paprika

     1/2 tsp. chile

     1/2 tsp. pepper

     1/2 tsp. salt

     2 cloves

     2 Tsp. raisins

 

1. Cut the chicken into 4 pieces, slice the onion, paprika and tomato.

2. Fry the chicken pieces in butter and add spices.

3. Pile the pieces on the left side of the pan and fry the onion on the right side over a low heat.

4. Pour 3 cups of water over the pieces and throw the rice in, cloves, paprika and tomato. Leave to simmer for 45 minutes.

5. Beat the flour and tomato puree in a cup of water and mix with the rest.

6. Add the raisins and leave the whole thing to simmer for 10 minutes.

 

394

Spaghetti, Reykjavik-Bolognaise

 

     150 gr. minced beef

     1 small onion

     1 Tsp. tomato puree

     2 tomatoes

     2 Tsp. olive oil

     1/4 tsp. thyme

     1/2 garlic clove

     1/2 tsp. celery      1/2 tsp. rosemary

     1/2 tsp. salt

     1/2 tsp. pepper

     100 gr. spaghetti

     1 slice of bread

 

1. Heat the oil and fry the minced meat.

2. Fry the sliced onion.

3. Slice the tomatoes and the garlic and mix the whole lot.

4. Pour in two cups of water and lay the spaghetti sticks into the mess.

5. Spread the slice of bread with butter and garlic powder.

 

 

Fish dishes

 

395

Boiled fillets of haddock

 

200 gr. fillets of haddock

 

1. Submerge laurel leaves in water, add salt, pepper and bring to boil.

2. Boil the fillets for five minutes over a low heat.

3. Fish out with a collander spoon.

 

396

Fried fillets of haddock

 

     200 gr. fillets of haddock

     3 potatoes

     1/2 lemon

     6 slices of cheese

     1/2 paprika

     1/2 tsp. salt

     1/2 tsp. black pepper

     1 Tsp. butter

 

1. Boil the potatoes.

2. Melt the butter and fry the fish for 5 minutes on either side.

3. While it is frying on the second side, put the sliced paprika on top, squeeze the lemon, lay the slices of cheese over the whole lot. Keep the cover on the pan until the cheese is melted.

 

 

Salads

 

397

Shrimp Salad

 

     50 gr. shrimps

     1 hard boiled egg

     1 tomato

     1/2 paprika

     1 dl. sour cream

     1 Tsp. mayonnaise

     1/2 tsp. paprika powder

Slice the egg, the tomato, and the paprika and mix everything together.

 

398

Curried Herring

 

     2 marinated fillets of herring.

     1 hardboiled egg

     1 Tsp. mayonaise

     1 Tsp. curry

     1 dl. sour cream

     1/2 tsp. garlic powder

     1/2 tsp. paprika powder

 

Same treatment as in 397: slice everything into pieces and mix.

 

399

Potatoe Salad

 

     4 boiled potatoes

     1 boiled egg

     1 Tsp. mayonnaise

     1 dl. sour cream

     1/2 messed up onion

     1/2 tsp. garlic powder

     1/2 tsp. paprika powder

     1/2 tsp. curry

 

See above.

 

 

Sweetbread

 

400

Waffles

2 of everything patent recipe

 

     2 cups flour

     2 cups milk

     2 eggs

     2 Tsp. margarine

     2 tsp. sugar

     2 drops vanilla extract

     2 knife tips baking powder

 

1. Melt the margarine.

2. Add the eggs, sugar and vanilla extract.

3. Stir fiercely and add flour and milk while stirring.

4. Heat the waffel iron and cook the waffles.

 

401

Crepes (Icelandic pancakes)

 

The same dough as in the waffles with an additional cup of milk, and lemon extract instead of vanilla extract. Bake over a high heat.

 

Drinks

 

402

Coffee

 

1. Boil 1/2 liter of water.

2. Put paper- or cotton filter in an appropriate holder.

3. Shovel 3 spoonfuls of coffee into the filter.

4. Pour the water into the filter and let it seep through.

 

403

Tea

 

1. Boil 1/2 liter of water.

2. Pour into a cup.

3. Submerge the tea bag in the water and move up and down at a speed of approximately 10 centimeters per sec. 4 times.

 

 

404

At last! At last! said Gudjon shining like an actor in a TV commercial. After all this time I've got the feeling everybody's talking about and I thought was romantic nonsense. I'm boiling with love. Tongues of flame protrude from my every pore. This is unbelievable. It's as if I'm awakening from a deep sleep. I have no idea what I was thinking before. Have you felt like this?

     Well, I said, Yes. Although I can't say that tongues of flame protruded from my every pore.

 

405

Sometimes I despise Gudjon for his childishness and stupidity. Still I envy him. And what is more absurd: I envy him for the same things I despise him for. These naive extremes that make him so ridiculous at times, they open a way for him into a world closed to me. He makes things happen in reality which I only make happen in my head.

 

406

Gudjon introduced me to his grand love: Halldora Gunnlaugsdottir. She was the absolute opposite of what I had imagined. I had imagined a self confident sex-bomb, but Halldora Gunnlaugsdottir was fleshless, rather unattractive, smiling and shy.

 

407

Sveinn Arnason on the second floor suspiciously often hangs around in the basement. What he is doing I don't know, but he is always holding a hammer and a screwdriver, though I've never caught him using these tools. I strongly suspect him of prying, even peeping. He is no doubt listening for some exciting sounds in case I have a female in my room. I have stuffed the keyhole with a ball of paper.

 

408

Sveinn Arnason is always there, walking past my door when I come out of the room in the morning.

 

409

There has been an amazing change in the smell of the garbage room since the plastic bags appeared, said Sveinn Arnason blushing like a maiden and throwing me a dubious sideways glance. Before, the food-remains rotted on the bottom of the trash cans so it took a brave man indeed to venture into the room. Now, it's almost like your own living room. No trace of stink.

 

410

It is a great burden for me to have to meet Sveinn Arnason every morning in front of my door. There may be some positive sides to him. They are completely hidden from my sight.

 

411

I have the feeling that behind the slimy smile of Sveinn Arnason and his overly polite conduct, a rotten and foul cynicism is concealed. I'm pretty sure he is itching for the opportunity to spread some filth about me around town.

 

412

To be spared the strain of meeting Sveinn Arnason more often than is necessary, I have been forced to move my daily personal hygiene, tooth brushing and urination from the bathroom and into my room. I have set up a bowl which I fill with hot water when I am certain that Sveinn is not in the basement. In the evening I wash my whole body with a cloth.

 

413

In the morning I urinate in the sewage-colored water. I have not noticed a foul smell in the room although the water has sometimes been there for twelve hours. Probably because the density of urine is greater than that of soapy water.

 

414

Halldora is a fabulous girl, said Gudjon in a poetic, alcohol ecstasy. Really a nice girl in all senses. She gets these amazing climaxes. Everything literally trembles. I can't imagine a better girl. Still. To be honest, sometimes I'm itching to be with other girls. I don't know what it is. Maybe some sick thirst for something new. I don't know. But I just can't help it. What shall I do? Shall I be unfaithful to her?

     If you are itching to sleep with other girls, I said, do it, by all means. It's just a formality. By thinking about it you have in fact already done it, the rest is just a technicality.

     I just don't want to hurt anybody, said Gudjon on the verge of tears.

 

415

I have no intention to start any kind of domestic conflict, said Sveinn Arnason, the sloppy lines around his mouth revealing that he had been drinking. Apartment house rules bore me and I have no interest in bothering with that kind of nonsense. But I think it would be fair, or more accurately, not unfair if you shoveled the snow off the doorsteps every once in a while. Not that I'm complaining. It's no problem for me to shovel the doorsteps alone. But when my back is like it is, it is maybe reasonable, or more accurately, not unreasonable if some other inhabitants of this house shoveled the doorsteps every once in a while, without me having to nag about it especially. I know you understand what I'm driving at.      I was about to tell him I was an extra-mural student and didn't leave the house much, but changed my mind and told him I would give these comments serious consideration.

 

416

A fly came walking down the wall, stopped in line with my nose and rubbed its hind legs together. I put my index finger on the fly, and yellow and white secretion spurted in all direcions. A black spot was left on the wall.

 

417

I'm lying on my back, staring up at the white ceiling. Pale pink and light crimson puffs of cloud peek through the white colour. The light stirs up the clean surface.

 

418

Nothing

 

419

is

 

420

white.

 

421

The white colour is an ideal. Or a coverup.

     Many a thing is hidden in the white colour.

 

422

I see the bloated red face of the vice-principal of Hamrahlid High School dissolve and spread like a haze across the ceiling. The mouth alone is left in the middle of the ceiling.

     If it was up to me the school system would have got rid of jackasses like you long ago. But unfortunately the system makes it possible for a broad parade of bums to guff around here at the taxpayers' expense. It's as if you think this is some kind of a kindergarten and you can behave just as you please. But you will sooner or later taste the consequences of your idleness. And lie flat in the vomit of incompetence.

 

423

At three o'clock in the night I wake up with a knock on my window. I reach for the curtains and peak out. A dark blue creature is standing in the flowerbed and gives me a sign to open. I see from the movements that this is Gudjon.

     I must talk to somebody, he said in a trembling voice. I think I'm losing my mind. He was pale as a corpse, with staring eyes and trembling lines around his mouth.

     What happened? I asked. I was shocked to see this face, usually so full of life with eyes sparkling, now petrified.

     Well, he said. I don't know how to phrase it. But I'm pretty certain that Halldora is sleeping with somebody else.

     I almost burst into laughter. He must be joking. I let a few moments pass and waited for him to drop his mask and begin to roll around the floor laughing. But no such thing happened. I realized he was dead serious. But I couldn't think of anything to say.

     I am of course aware of how laughable my reaction is, he said and made a failed attempt to smile. But I just can't help it. It's like something inside me has broken and I'm coming apart. I have a constant palpitation, perspire and shake in turns and can't sleep a wink.

     I know this feeling.

     You know this feeling? He grabbed these words like a drowning man does a life-ring.

     I had a similar experience after Sigrun and I broke up, I said, and saw this information changed his attitude towards me on the matter drastically. I was no longer a neutral listener to what he was saying but an initiated comrade in the world of suffering.

     And you survived? he asked, considerably calmer than he had been.

     At least I'm not dead yet.

 

424

I'm lying on my back gazing at the white ceiling.

 

425

Nothing

 

     426

     is

      the same

 

               427

               from one

                  moment

 

                         428

                         to the next.

 

                              429

                              Still

                                   nothing

 

                                        430

                                        changes.

 

431

Halldora and I just split up, said Gudjon and I saw from the expression on his face that he didn't care one way or the other. She was just too closed. I couldn't stand it. All the time I thought she was hiding something, but then I dicovered there was nothing behind it. I really think it would have been better if there had been something questionable behind it than nothing.

 

432

I lie on my back gazing at the white ceiling.

 

433

I see

 

434

flesh.

 

435 The woman on the floor above lies naked in her bed. Between white sheets.

     Many a thing is hidden in the white colour.

 

436

The naked body of the woman turns in the bed. Longs to be touched. Unbridled movements. A bath of perspiration.

     My naked body restless.

     Between us the white colour.

 

437

She stretches her hand down from the ceiling. I stretch my hand up. Our fingertips don't touch. Yet there is an explosion. Like genesis. In the Sistine Chapel.

 

438

My flesh is shattered. Like my mind. My arm by her hip, her breast on my leg. Our mouths. Eyes. No hair.

 

439

Strange.

 

440

How slowly the shadows crawl.

 

441

The moon is full

 

442

of suspicion.

 

443

What becomes of the last remains of the white colour when the darkness falls? Does the darkness carry it away or does it wrap it up?

 

444

The darkness is warm. Releases deep red and crimson colours. Blood and fire.

 

445

The fire burns slowly. Basks the woman's body in a mystical glow. The darkness is sucked into the black triangle between the woman's legs. Like a black hole.

 

446

The scent is a strange mixture of decay, sweat, sperm, apples and blood.

 

447

Unconfirmed suspicion about the presence of photo sensitive creeps. Hidden in the shadow under the right cheekbone of the woman.

 

448

I watch the blood stain the clear water. Blue turning to rose‑ red.

 

449

I listen.

 

450

Hear.

 

451

Moans.

 

452

Heavy rhythmic moans. The woman on the floor above has been released from the trap of the white colour and moans into my ear. We plunge into the crimson water. Warm and encompassing.

 

453

The crocodiles in the water snap at us. But we are impregnable. Dracula roaming about. His face indistinguishable from the rose‑ red water. White teeth. But we are impregnable.

 

454

In the rose-red water we sink indefinitely. Surrounded by snapping teeth. Teeth thirsty for blood. But our blood is far away.

 

455

It is hard to emerge from the rose-red water. Like birth. You are cold and wet. For a long time.

 

456

Cold and wet. And blinded by white light.

 

457

I see a newborn. I see the hair spurt forth on its body, I see him grow and change into a child, then a teenager. I see him mature and become a grown-up. And I see him age, decay and die. Thirty minutes altogether. Two frames a day from cradle to grave.

 

458

The white room both a nursery and a tomb.

 

459

Well, said Gudjon glowing like a child at a Christmas party. Now I've found the one and only. I wouldn't say tongues of flame are protruding from my every pore. But this is love, all the same. No romantic nonsense. But a tranquil interest in a close relationship.

     Congratulations, I said.

 

460

Gudjon is beginning to get seriously on my nerves. I am completely unable to concentrate on what he is saying. It's like the annoying whirring of a machine. As if it were any of my business how many hundred ones and onlys he is going to come up with.

 

461

Gudjon introduced me to the one and only, Rosa Adalsteinsdottir.

     I went weak at the knees. Perspired. Trembled. And my mouth went dry. My body inflated like an empty balloon about to burst. In front of me was the face that had disturbed my sleep for a whole winter. I had never been so close to it before. Actually I didn't expect it to be of flesh and blood. But now I could feel its warm breath and I wasn't sure if could endure the strain.

     You're speechless, said Gudjon and laughed nervously.

     Sorry, I mumbled. I've had this God damned headache today. I'd probably better go to sleep.

 

462

A threat in the air. A parade of expressionless men marching along Sudurlandsbraut. All of them hold their amputated right arms like rifles across their right shoulders. In the front line is Gudjon.

     Filled with apprehension I run down the field. Into the Laugardal sports' hall. The threat on my heels.

     On the hall floor is a wooden frame that I begin to climb up in a desparate search for shelter. I have to crawl on all fours up through the spiral-shaped frame. The farther up I get, the narrower the passage of the frame becomes and at the top I have to crawl on my stomach. At last I'm stuck and can neither move backward nor forward. I hear the enemy soldiers beginning to bang on the doors. And at the moment they burst into the hall, the Beatles sing a sentimental song, a song I've never heard since, and has probably never been sung except this one time.

 

463

24 days before Christmas. You go into a bookshop which is normally empty to buy a pencil, but you have to wait in line for an hour.

 

464

Xmas tree, Xmas decorations, Xmas lights, Xmas corals, Xmas paper, Xmas presents, Xmas book-buying spree, Xmas spirit, Xmas cocktail.

 

465

Xmas, Xmas.

 

466

Xmas boozing.

 

467

XmasXmasXmas.

 

468

XXXXXXXmmmmaaaaas!!!

 

469

Xmas linguistics.

 

470

Xmas.

 

471

Xmas antidisestablishmentarianism.

 

472

Xmas, Xmas.

 

473

Xmas toilet paper.

 

474

Xmas trash cans.

 

475 Xmas burial.

 

476

Xmas child abuse.

 

477

Xmas.

 

478

Xmas rape.

 

 

479

Xmas pornography

 

480

Xmas, Xmas, Xmas, Xmas, Xmas, Xmas, Xmas, Xmas, Xmas, Xmas, Xmas, Xmas, Xmas.

 

481

Xmas artillary bombardment.

 

482

Xmas.

 

483

Xmas, X,mas.

 

484

XmasXmasXmasXmasXmasXmasXmasXmasXmasXmasXmasXmasXmasXmasXmasXmasXmasXmasXmasXmasXmasXmasXmasXmasXmasXmasXmasXmasXmasXmasXmasXmasXmasXmasXmasXmasXmasXmasXmasXmasXmasXmasXmasXmasXmasXmasXmasXmasXmasXmasXmasXmasXmasXmasXmasXmasXmasXmasXmasXmasXmasXmasXmas.

 

485

XMAS.

 

486

The whole nation on a desparate Xmas outing between stores. You can't go anywhere without bumping into Xmasoholics. It's almost unbearable to have to witness this frenzy.

 

487

The fact that the whole nation is at this moment stuffing itself to paralysis with luxury meat gives my meatballs a unique taste.

 

488

The fact that the whole nation is dressed up at family gatherings, at various stages of boredom, gives my solitude a special depth.

 

489

Despite my sincere determination, I haven't been able to let the Xmas days go by like other days of the week. Some inexplicable atmosphere has sneaked into my solitude. Maybe it is the odour of smoked mutton, pine needles and burning candles wafting up from all directions. Maybe the multi-coloured sea of lights. Maybe the distant sound of hymns. Unless it is the elves, the giants, the guardians, Odinn and Freyr.

 

490

I can't even escape the feeling of emptiness that accompanies the days between Xmas and New Year's Day.

 

491

There was a knock on my window, probably Gudjon. Didn't answer. The thought of meeting anybody makes me nauseous. Have a need for total solitude.

 

492

To fend off the possibility of people thinking I'm dead in my room, I put a note on my door saying: I went to the grocery store.

 

493

Smell of sulfur.

 

494

If you are going to explore the cow's head, it is advisable to enter the ears. Since the trip can take a long time, it is necessary to have good shoes on, bring along extra pairs of underwear and a coat.

     The first part of the journey is easy. You walk along a wide pale pink corridor, and approach a black door. Outside the door a one-eyed doorman is posted. He says something you don't understand and you answer something you understand even less. And the doorman allows you to enter. At the instant the door closes, it dawns on you that you can never return. You are forever trapped in the cow's head.

 

495

1. wonder: A wooden box, apr. 70x40x40 centimeters On one side is a glass window. You push a button and the box reveals to you countless mysteries. You watch distant events, peep into people's private lives, witness murder and violence, love and desperation, observe the nightlife of rare animals, etc. etc.

 

496

2. wonder: Gigantic, pointed, steel tube, with two great steel plates protruding from its sides. You walk into the tube where about one hundred people are sitting. The tube rushes forth at 270 kilometers per hour and ascends to the sky. Lands after three hours in a distant continent.

 

497

3. wonder: A glass bowl is fixed to a metal base from which a pole protrudes. On the pole rests a bent tube from which tangled wires stick out and into the bowl. You put cream into the bowl and push a button. The tangled wires begin to rotate at an enormous speed. After a few minutes, the cream is whipped.

 

498

And thus you can go on forever. The cow's head is full of wonders.

 

499 Now it has reached the point where ordinary people are useless for the owners of the earth. Computerized machines are both quicker and more accurate. Furthermore, they are free of all socio-psychological problems.

 

500

I ask: What will these few thousand owners of the planet do when millions of useless people begin to roam the streets and demand unemployment benefit?

     No doubt the experience of Auschwitz will come in handy for the solution of the problem.

 

501

My wallet is like my refrigerator. And the refrigerator is empty and cold. I'm lying on my stomach with my face buried in the pillow and take sirloin steak out of the ice box of my mind. Barbecue and eat with baked potatoes. But the more I eat the hungrier I get.

 

502

To rob those who have too much is not only advisable but the moral duty of every honest man.

 

503

An honest criminal does not rob purses from old ladies, does not run lotteries, does not steal ashtrays from friends and relatives, kills no one, injures no one and does not even go near to running games arcades.

 

504

An honest criminal steals necessities from supermarkets.

 

505

An honest criminal sneaks into the extravagant dwellings of legitimate criminals when they are down and out on Mediterranean beaches, and carries away what he needs.

 

506

Unfortunately, theft does not pay well. If you want to earn a lot of money with a little effort, you practice legal criminality. Get yourself a good wholesale franchise.

 

507

The problem is: to be able to practice legal criminality you have to have your pockets full of this paper.

 

508

Conclusion:

Money is locked inside some impenetrable vicious circle into which only a fools luck can shove you.

 

509

I'm lying on a deficit. With my face buried in the pillow.

 

510

Life goes in one ear and out the other.

 

511 Society is an organized crime association, run by well dressed criminals against the nation.

 

512

The enemies of the nation are hidden in many places. They are hidden in the halls of congress, the palace of the Freemasons and in the yellow pages of the phone directory. Although it is tempting to hurt the enemies of the nation, it is useless. The nation would gain most if they were to disappear without trace.

 

513

Unfortunately, 10 new shitheads would spring forth for every one that disappeared.

 

514

A few realistic ways to punish the enemies of the nation:

a) Tie them in front of a mirror for two weeks.

b) Lock them in an isolation cell for three days and let them listen to their own speeches from a tape recorder.

c) Gather them all in a room and let them bore each other to death in a month.

 

515

Dear Dostoyevsky.

I was just finishing reading your book Crime and Punishment and I must congratulate you on the result. The book is simply great. Fantastic!

     I'm writing you because I have reason to believe that I, Magnus Einarsson, am the model for Raskolnikof. Yes, you are stunned speechless, since I wasn't even born when you wrote the book. But let me explain. I have reason to believe that in some inexplicable way you acquired knowlege about my prospective existence and used it as raw material for this fine work. But since you were completely oblivious of Iceland and Icelandic circumstances, you projected the story to Saint Petersburg and called me Raskolnikof.

     You will probably dismiss this as stupid nonsense of a supernatural nature. But then let me ask you one question: Don't you think it is a little strange that you are not dead yet, almost two hundred years old? Usually people pass away before they reach their hundreth birthday. No, you haven't thought about that.

     The fact is that the life of a literary genius like you is independent of time and space. You guys live, so to speak, in all ages simultaneously. Consequently, one can say that you have both written the book and not written the book. In other words: At this moment you are both located here in Iceland investigating my conduct in the basement room and at the same time in Russia a hundred years ago working hard on writing the book.

     I will not try to explain these wonders. But let me remind you of Einstein's theory of relativity.

 

516

It was a pleasant surprise when I discovered one day that a substantial amount of money had been put into my bank account. I didn't know of anyone dead or alive, related or unrelated who would be likely to have given me money. It was probably the bank's computer system that was so generous, probably due to some technical misunderstanding. I just hurried to spend the money without uttering a word.

 

517

But instead of suing me for spending money that was not mine, the bank informed me that an amount equivalant to ten year's wages of a manual labourer had been transferred to my account.

 

518

To my genuine amazement there was no decrease in these transfers the following days. The money piled up in my account and even though I worked hard on it I was unable to spend it all.

 

519

When I had amused myself for some years buying apartment buildings, travel agencies and airlines, a certain amount of boredom began to set in and I started to think. I asked myself: Where did the money come from?

 

520

I called my buddy, the bank manager and asked him straight out: Was it a technical misunderstanding in the bank's computer system that poured the money into my account the other year and made it possible for me to buy 40 apartment buildings, 3 travel agencies and 67 jumbo jets?

     My dear friend, said the bank manager. One doesn't ask questions like that. It doesn't matter one way or the other where the money came from. The simple fact is that some people lose money and others make money. You have encroached on the domain of the Lord Almighty if you begin to mess with these matters.

 

521

But I couldn't stand it, not knowing where the money came from.

 

522

I hired a private detective to dig up the primary cause for my sudden financial success.

 

523

The private detective's report:

Every day approximately one hundred people come to the bank and put ten percent of their monthly salaries into bank account number 76234. The people are from all walks of life, of every political and religious persuasion.

     I asked one middle-aged laundry woman why she put ten percent of her monthly salary into the aforementioned bank account.

     It's the rule, she said, but she didn't have a clue who made the rules or for what purpose.

     The answers of the bank workers I asked are as follows:

     a) This is the nature of financial transactions.

     b) This is a complicated matter which is only for specialists to understand.

     c) If this changed, society would collapse.

 

          Sincerly

 

          Gudmundur Sveinsson

          Private detective.

 

524

At midnignt I put on a black coat, turn up the collar and creep out. The snow purrs under my fur-braided boots. Down the street. Through an alley. Back building. Knock. Svenni Sweat appears wearing a vest, his breathing heavy and wheezy, a sour smell.

     Enter, my friend, says Svenni.

     I hand him my confirmation present, a gold watch, twenty-two stones, automatic winding. He scrutinizes the watch and mumbles.

     Yes, he says, Hmm ... and walks to a glass cabinet in the corner. Returns with a wad of money. Counts the notes slowly. His breathing heavier and more wheezy. Hands me the wad.

     You know the deal. Better pay on time. Coughs. Keep that in mind pal. Better pay on time.

 

 

The Model State

Ratopia

 

525

In Ratopia liberty is a defined concept, not some foam in the corners of the mouths of politicians on memorial days.

 

     Definition:

     In Ratopia your liberty ends where my liberty begins.

 

526

In Ratopia the state is owned by the people, not the other way around.

 

527

In Ratopia the difference between the highest and lowest salaries is zero, everybody pulls in vasts amounts of money, the dirty work is performed by computerized machines, camouflaged unemployment is zero, the efficiancy of organization and management is one hundred percent.

 

528

In Ratopia common sense is ranked higher than stupidity. The value of gold, precious stones and rare stamps follows the value of aluminium foil.

 

529

In Ratopia there is an abundance of state-run radio channels which meet the needs of all inhabitants of the state, regardless of IQ or walk of life.

 

530

In Ratopia there is one huge state-run newspaper, free and independent, in which each political party is provided a corner to shit in.

 

531

In Ratopia churches and banks have been changed into kindergartens, schools and cultural centers.

 

532

In ratopia works of art are not a victim of dubious speculation. Works of art are distributed among the people by the state's art distribution center.

 

533

Ratopia is sterilized of advertisements and other filth.

 

534

In Ratopia people do not pay taxes but a state management fee.

 

535

Criticism of the model state, Ratopia.

1.

If everybody earns the same salary, isn't it a forlorn hope that anybody would bother to shoulder responsibility and everybody would turn into an artist or something even worse?

     Answer:

     a) Society will only benefit if people bugger off from positions of responsibility to which only greed has dragged them.

     b) Of course, there will only be a certain number of positions available for every job, decided by the state's management committee. As soon as all positions have been filled for one job, people apply for another.

2.

Won't the result of this nonsense be that nobody does his job properly and the companies degenerate?

     Answer:

     In Ratopia the working hours are so few that there will be no scope for laziness.

3.

If advertisements are banned, will the radio, TV and newspaper subscriptions not soar to unprecedented heights?

     Answer:

     The money that is now shoveled into advertisements, and comes straight from our pockets, could not only provide sufficient revenue to finance five radio channels but four TV channels and a bulky newspaper as well.

 

536

I COMPLAIN

 

It is a rather tiresome drag that you cannot go to the National Theatre without inhaling immeasurable cubic meters of health damaging perfumes. Sometimes the situation is so critical that you nearly faint, and I am afraid that many a man has suffered permanent damage to his health from this outrage. If no measures are taken to terminate this state of affairs, I see no other way of safeguarding my health than to go to the theater wearing a gas mask. On the other hand, I hope the National Theater director and the health inspection committee will join forces to prevent people from entering the theater when the amount of perfume odour emanating from them exceeds a certain level.

 

537

This eternal conflict between good and evil bores me.

 

538

The TV news bores me, always the same sickening jibberish about the stupid conduct of some ridiculous shitheads with far too much power.

 

539

The Icelandic nation bores me, Gullfoss and Geysir, the inflation monster, the foreign trade deficit, the housing problems and the hole in the budget.

 

540

Everything bores me. My feet bore me, always stuck in the same footprints. My hands bore me, thin and weak, sticking their fingers into matters which are none of their business. My body bores me, heavy and slow. My eyes bore me, the mirrors of my soul, full of clouds. My mouth bores me, constantly blabbering the wrong things in the wrong places. But the soul bores me most of all. A bloodthirsty reptile, full of high ideals. A sensitive bluebird, afraid, arrogant, doomed to cause the ones he loves the most unbearable suffering.

 

541

Life plays with me.

 

542

Heard a strange rattle outside my door in the middle of the night. What is Sveinn Arnason up to now? Sticking a microphone on my door? He is obviously in a worse condition than I had suspected.

 

543

It is a strange feeling to die.

 

544

I took off all my clothes and sat down in front of the mirror. Looked myself in the eyes and slit open my esophagus and both carotids. The blood wiped my picture off the mirror. No sound. The dark-red colour turned black. No movement, no suffering, no joy, no thought, no contradictions, no love, no hate. Nothing. That's life after death.

 

545

But death is not always comfortable.

 

546

Exams ahead and Physics- Empirical Science- on the table. All of a sudden a small, black demon jumped out of the wall, went berserk on the book for few minutes and disappeared.

     I had better relax, I thought, and lay down on the mattress.

 

547

The demon went berserk on the book again. Hopeless to attempt reading.

 

548

I tried to examine this bastard but had some difficulties distinguishing the details, because he was moving constantly, did somersaults back and forth, with all kinds of jerks and bends. But I could see his eyes were blood-red, and every now and then an elongated tongue shot out between his fangs.      When it was clear to me that the guest was not about to leave, I took a long walk and went straight to bed. Slept for twelve hours.

 

549

Woke up rested and refreshed. But these measures didn't have any effect on the demon. No sooner had I sat down at the table than this intrusive jerk was at the scene. And not only him, now he was accompanied by reinforcements in the form of ten red worms with human faces swaying around the black one.

     Fucking Christ! I hissed and slammed the demon with all my might. He splattered like a fly on the middle of the page. The worms got the same treatment and the first page in the third chapter was spotted with red and black stains.

     I tore out the page, crumpled it up, threw it in an ashtray and set fire to it. It flared up. The flame rose like a snake tongue from the ashtray, basking the walls in an orange glow.

     But suddenly the demon with the worms in tow shot out of the flame and these bores flew right into my left eye. Squeezed under my eyelid and, with much commotion, worked their way up the optic nerve and settled in my Corpus Callosum. I just waited for an unbearable headache. But nothing happend. My head had never felt better.

     Threw myself into reading.

 

550

Around midnight I couldn't concentrate on reading any more. It dawned on me that the demon and his entourage had eaten up my brain and were beginning to work their way down into the spine.

     Bloody drag, I thought with the thin filament of brain that they had left. It's no doubt useless to continue reading.

 

551

I looked into the mirror. Every once in a while I caught a glimpse of the demon and the worms on their untiring rush back and forth in my aching body. They seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely and laughed eerie laughter that pinched my ears like a dentist's drill.

 

552

I shot up into the ceiling and bounced between the walls with growing acceleration.

 

553

A rhythmic breeze and two birds fly through the window, stone‑ grey with iron claws and steel beaks. The house trembles when they land on the floor. They rip me apart, clean the remaining flesh from the bones and place them on the floor in a complicated design. Fix them together with copper wire. Fly away.

 

554

A rhythmic breeze and the steel-birds appear, a leather sack in their claws. In the sack a lion's heart is beating. A horse's lungs are working, a leopard's liver, a bull's stomach and a snake's tongue, an owl's eyes and a dolphin's brain. The birds attach the sack to the bones with human hair. Fly away.

 

555

A rhythmic breeze and the steel birds appear for the third time, a leather sack in their claws. From the sack they pull out bird's plumage in which they clothe the bones. I fly with them out of the window.

     For a long time we fly in a kind of spiral above the city, and land at last on the roof of an apartment building. Haunting sounds reach us from below. A door is flung open and we are kindly invited in. Crimson light.

     When we enter the hall, the highlight of the evening is just about to begin.

     My eyes wander about the audience. In the front row mother and father are seated, Baldur, the black demon dressed up in a freshly pressed tuxedo, Sigrun and Grandmother. In the next row are the teachers of Hamrahlid High School and distant relatives of mime. In the next row are my schoolmates and a faceless group of demonic origin. From the rafters Gudjon is hanging by his feet and in the corner sits Sveinn Arnason masturbating furiously.

     Well, distinguished audience, said the host and grinned with the left side of his mouth. His right eye was considerably larger than the left and his head was adorned with horns. Now we'll see the number we've all been waiting for. Here among us is Magnus Einarsson and he's going to perform a dance he just choreographed that will induce the murder of the pope.

     The audience burst into thundering applause, and I flew to the stage. Bowed before the anticipating audience. The lights in the hall went off and I stood in the spotlight. There was dead silence. All of a sudden I began to move as if controlled by some external force I had no influence over. My feathered body wound itself around the stage in rhythmic jerks and somersaults that I didn't even know were a theoretical possibility. When I had thus performed on the stage for an hour, I bowed to the astonished audience and it seemed that the applause would never end.

     We sincerly thank Magnus for an exellent number, said the horned one, illuminated, and now I saw it was Ulfur Hallsteinsson. If he keeps up the good work he could get very far. Let's give him another round of applause!

     He came to me and whispered into my ear: If you ever get into trouble, whisper my name: Strutsli.

     And I flew away with the steel birds.

 

556

For twelve hours we flew above the black desert, upholstered with fog, silent and cold. Landed on the barren sand.

     Now all your strength will be challenged, said one of the steel birds. Alone and unsupported you will have to fight the frightful fog monster which reigns in the desert, that merciless bastard which spares nothing and has destruction as his only objective.

     The birds flew away and I was left alone on the black sand. Waited. Now I realized that I wasn't really a fowl, but some kind of a crossbreed between a horse and a knight with wings. Sword in hand, armoured with steel, I was ready for anything.

     A heavy rumbling started and the earth moved under my horseshoes. In the light-grey wall of fog, a dark shadow was moving slowly. Approached. Never had I seen a more disgusting beast. Rotting intestines hung from its slimy body, leftover food dripped out of its wounds, garbage bags and defecation and fire burned in its eyes. A living garbage dump armed with a syringe full of general anesthetic.

     Immediately I realized that traditional methods of fighting would be useless in this case. Somehow I would have to trick the beast, lure it into a trap of deception that would turn the weapon around in its hands and make it destroy itself. But as I was standing there and contemplating these matters, the beast raised the syringe and aimed it at my body. I was barely able to escape the blow. Ascended and circled around the furious animal.

     Strutsli, I whispered and the syringe needle hit my armour with an eerie noise. The needle broke and the foul medicine clouded the shining armour. Now I saw that the monster was really neither a dragon nor a garbage dump but a nurse, beautiful with friendly eyes and from her face shone an honest desire to be of blessing to me. And I was a newborn baby, slippery as an eel, slipped out of the nurse's grip and to the floor. And the floor was soft like a swamp and I sank down, down. And I was an embryo, blind, enclosed in the security of the egg's shelter. But I was still armed with a silver sword, I cracked the shell and broke out. The sun was rising in the east, the dragon sleeping in the disguise of a beautiful nurse, I'm at her naked bosom.

 

557

When you change yourself into a bird, you take off all your clothes, smear your body with two egg whites, lay down on a feather-mattress and relax all your muscles. When the body has become as heavy as lead, you make the hands disappear, then the feet, then the arms, then the buttocks and the groin, the chest and the back, until nothing is left but the head. You make wings grow out of the cheeks, tail from the throat and feet from the chin. Then there is nothing left but to pull the nose and the mouth together into a pointed protrusion.

 

558

There are many advantages to changing yourself into a bird. Not only can you view the world from a completely new angle, the air, but you can visit various beings not so easily accessible under normal circumstances. For example, the gods. The birds speak the language of the gods.

 

559

I changed myself into a raven and flew out the window. My wings flickered with a silvery glow in the white blue moonlight. I took a course to the east and saw Hekla at the horizon. A greenish light played around the top crater and multicoloured rays shot like spikes in all directions, yellow, violet, pink and rose. I became curious and decided to fly down into the crater. When I came closer to the mountain I realized I had lost control over my flight. It was as if something had pulled me. And without being able to do anything about it, I was sucked with enormous force into the crater, upside down. At a great speed I was pulled through a long tunnel, cold and dark and so narrow that now and then I bumped into the hard walls. The speed accelerated, and I found it increasingly hard to catch my breath. But once the speed reached the point of being unbearable I shot with great force through of a tight aperture. I glided weightlessly into an infinite, dark-blue space, seemingly disconnected from the laws of physics and material science. My body was gone. I realized that I had entered the blueness of unlimited possibilities.      Some absurd ideas popped up in my limitless mind and I was taxed to the full beating them off. At last I decided to stretch time so thoroughly that hours would pass like decades, years like centuries etc. etc. Sceptical of life after death, I thought this was an excellent way to stretch life as far as possible into eternity.

     It would surely be informative to live, say, one lifespan in the ancient empire of the Incas, I thought.

     At the same instant, I was seated in an elaborate sedan‑ chair, moving gently along the cobblestone road out of Cuzco city. Behind rose the city in all its splendour, golden temples against the sky, as if the sun had descended to earth and left its golden fingerprints on the bricks. Ahead stretched the endless road in carefully arranged curves on the steep slopes of the mountains and the ravines, and where the slopes were steepest, steps had been chiseled into the rock.

     The sedan was carried by eight well-built men who made their way along the road at a steady, even pace, whether they went up long and steep hills or down easy slopes, always at the same speed, as if the law of gravity had no effect on them.

     Now and then they would lay the throne down at the roadside and take short rests. They were young and noisy, told dubious jokes and laughed like drains. But as soon as the time of rest was over they would rise swiftly and continue their work without hesitation.

     I glided along as in a dream and had the sensation of floating through the air. At times the road would cut through deep, verdant valleys where high corn-plants grew in endless fields, at other times through barren mountain areas, stripped of all fertile soil. Occasionally, we would cross long and narrow bridges, masterfully intertwined dry twigs stretched between straight ravine walls, hundreds of meters high. And everywhere the mountain-peaks rose like stone giants trying to fondle the sky.

     As the day passed the memory of my life in Iceland began to fade and grow more distant in my mind. At times I even doubted that I had ever set foot in that country.

 

560

When I woke up in an ornate inn at the roadside, I was certain that this blurry life in a hostile land somewhere in the outskirts of the habitable world had just been a dream.

 

561

On the third day of the journey we came upon a group of musicians who sat in the shadow of a big tree playing melancholy tunes on flutes and drums. I asked the carriers to halt and we walked to a big group gathering around the musicians and listened as if in a trance to the haunting tones. Never before had I heard anything remotely similar to the tones that these men conjured from their primitive instruments. The music took so strong a hold on me that it was as if my body were a string in their instrument.

     As I stand there hypnotized by this effective playing, the surrounding suddenly suffuses with light and I'm blinded by it.

     What the hell is happening? I think. Then there is a big blast and I fall to the ground. It is as if I have been beaten by a backhoe and at any moment I will be crushed to pieces and splattered like strawberry mash all over the place. But just as my intestines are about to burst, I am pulled with enormous force and hurled into the air. Then I begin to fall down in spasmodic rhythm back and forth, like a leaf falling from a tree. Down, down. Land on the floor in the basement room with a piercing pain in my stomach. Try to rise up but can't move. Instead, vomit spurts from my mouth and begins to crawl on the floor like a gigantic amoeba. I am not amused. I see from the corner of my eyes that two jelly-like sprouts shoot from the vomit, red eyeballs perched on their ends. Alien garble, heavy and dark like an ocean wave. The toothless mouth wet and dark. A bottomless void. The vomit jumps at me and I feel my body dissolve in its digestive system. 562. At the instant when the last link between head and body breaks, 563 it rolls across the floor, 564 565 566 567 but the vomit changes into a seagull and flies out of the window. 568 569 570 571 572 573 My head is grabbed forcefully and thrown to the floor. 574 575 576. My head bounces back and forth around the room like a ball. 578 579 580 581 582. This must be a dream, thinks my bouncing head. I must wake up. 583 584 585 586 587 588 589 590 591 592 593 594 595 596 597 I wake up on the basement room floor, in a cold sweat, shaking violently and dying of thirst. Jump to my feet and head for the toilet. Can't find the door. On closer inspection I discover there are no doors to the room, no windows either. The bed is also gone and the cupboard. Sit down in the middle of the floor huddling myself. The size of the room is somewhat flexible. Sometimes the walls tighten around me, cold and hard as if they had been constructed around me, then they are so far apart I'm not even sure there are any walls at all, 598 599 600 just white infinity. 601 602 603 604 605 606 607 608. Trapped in the deadlock of the dream.

 

609.

I went to my oracular Grandmother and asked: What went wrong?

     For a long time she stared into the air, as if she were far away, then said: You simply didn't eat enough before you took off. If you are going to fly into the blueness of infinite possibilities you have to eat a good meal before you take off.

 

610

I took off all my clothes, smeared my body with butter and lay down on the floor. When I had lain there motionless for three hours my body broke apart like an egg shell and out of the pieces crawled a snake. I hissed and shot out my forked tongue. Crawled out the window. Wound through the grass, silently. Approached an open window. Light inside. On the bed a beautiful woman was sleeping, her half-open mouth like a rose, a scent of honey. I crawled under the cover and wound myself around her left thigh. The woman sighed. I felt her hot body warming my blood. Laid my head at her groin. She groaned. I shot out my forked tongue. Crawled cautiously into the woman's vagina, soft, warm and all encompassing. It was enlightning to see the insides of the vagina. Until then I had only experienced this mystical place through my sense of touch. The world of my experience expanded. I crawled all the way up to the vulva and peeked into the fallopian tubes, in a distance I saw the uterus. It was as if I was being initiated into a secret society.

     Before dawn I slithered back to my room.

 

611

The snake can crawl into various previously inaccessible dark corners. He can see in the dark and sleuth through the underworlds.

 

612

I brought you some fruits and tomatoes, said mother placing a stuffed plastic bag on the floor. She didn't quite know how to pose among the wobbly furniture, dusty, and by no means worthy of her new coat.

     You look awful, boy. Have you stopped eating?

     No, no, I said. I eat quite often, especially when I'm hungry.

     I don't know how this will end, she said and looked at me with a mixture of fear and worry in her eyes.

     Although I thought this woman was both awkward and pathetic in her embarrassing insecurity, I couldn't help being fond of her. I felt that under the makeup and the petrified surface a real affection was hidden.

     I noticed from the wrinkles on her forehead that something was on her mind which she had difficulty bringing up. Finally she got a grip on herself and said hesitantly: Your father and I have been talking and we came to the conclusion that it would be best for you to consult a psychiatrist. Nobody has to be ashamed of consulting a psyciatrist and many people who have run into temporary difficulties have recovered fully by seeking professional help, instead of locking themselves up with their problems.

     What unfathomable stupidity! I thought. What an immeasurable lack of understanding. But of course you couldn't expect anything else. Why should this poor, neat woman have any notion of what I was doing? She came from a world which is as remote from me as you could possibly imagine.

     I listened to what she was saying with fatherly tolerance.

 

613

When I had lain motionless for three hours, with the full moon in my eyes, dark-brown hair began to sprout forth on my body. The moon disappeared and I growled. Jumped out of bed and snapped at the curtains. The room was too small. Much too small and stuffy. I was suffocating and my whole body itched. My breath was rapid and my tongue hung out of my mouth.

     I must get out, I thought and scratched with my sharp claws at the wall. Out! and jumped out of the window. What a relief. Ran down the road and enjoyed the feeling of boiling blood streaming through my strong body.

     There were few people around down-town. The green phosphosphorant eyes in the darkness of the alley followed every move. Burning interest. Hunger. Thirst. She had dark-yellow hair falling straight down to her fragile back. His hand on her shoulder. I crept out of the alley and hid behind a green trashcan. They approached, laughing. Then they noticed me. They stopped laughing and I leapt out. I locked my sharp claws into her voluptuous chest. Bit her throat. She sighed. Taste of blood. Satisfaction.

     Wolf, wolf! Screamed the young man and ran away in a frenzy.

     I grinned. Let him run for a while. As he was about to vanish around the corner of the post office, I took off. There was an eerie squeak when I bit his throat. The clock tolled twelve.

     The derelicts fled. Better to be nowhere in sight when the police show up.

     I placed the lifeless bodies of the lovers side by side in front of the Fisheries Bank, their heads pointing towards the east. The moon basked the astonished faces in a hell-blue glow. Death had taken them by surprise. I tore out their hearts, ate and sneaked away.

     Near the top of Laugavegur I met a young tall woman, dark. Her jet-black hair fell in long curves down to her broad shoulders. Flying ravens in her eyes. I crouched and was ready to bite her throat.

     Come here, old boy, she whispered in a dark voice. Come here, old boy.

     I growled, irritated. It got on my nerves that she didn't scream: Wolf, wolf! and run away squeaking.

     Come on, old boy, she whispered and her face lit up in a charming smile. Her teeth like unwritten pages. I got a hard on. She ran her long, slender fingers through my thick hair.

     How awfully thin you are, poor bastard, she said in her deep, haunting voice. You need something decent to eat. And a bath.

     I drooled and followed her like a puppy.

 

614

When I awoke in the arms of the woman, the ravens had flown out of her eyes and had been replaced by fishflies. They buzzed constantly.

 

615

She cut my nails, trimmed my hair, dressed me up in black clothes and told me all about South American literature.

 

616

Fed me.

 

617 Enlightened me on all the secrets of carnal pleasures.

 

618

Kolbrun.

 

619

I gained weight and began to read the newspapers.

 

620

In the orange glow of candlelight we dined on lamb fillet marinated in white wine. Dressed in black. Macbeth for desert. Danced all night.

 

621

We went on a bicycle ride to Heidmork with a basket full of fruits and vegetables. Made love in the grass.

 

622

Made love on the floor.

 

623

Made love.

 

624

Every once in a while the ravens flew into Kolbrun's eyes and she had to go out. Didn't return the whole night.

 

625

I didn't say anything but a black spider took up permanent residence in my abdomen and disturbed my sleep. I felt constantly nauseous.

 

626

The fishflies disappeared from Kolbrun's eyes and I saw infinite darkness.

 

627

Upon closer inspection there were stars in the darkness. They flickered in the black void: blue, green, yellow, red.

 

628

I'm sucked into the darkness and glide among the stars.

 

629

I'm going to Copenhagen this summer, said Kolbrun. Are you in?

     Of course, I said.

 

630

Sometimes I am amazed that Kolbrun bothers to associate with me.

 

631

It's because I have this weakness for sheep in wolves' clothing, said Kolbrun.

 

632

When the hundreds of tons left the asphalt at the speed of 270 km. per hour, Kolbrun squeezed my hand. I looked into her eyes and saw two scared bluebirds. I was overwhelmed with deep joy.

633

All of a sudden I discover that there are no trees in Iceland. What I had believed to be trees were bushes.

 

634

In the woods I'm filled with mysterious contentment. The leafy crowns are cathedral domes, their trunks powerful pillars of temples. The silence is mixed with an unpleasant suspicion.

 

635

In the woods it's as if something extraordinary is always just about to happen. In the woods mysterious excitement is in the air, secrets prowling about, and threats. In the woods the wolf waits for Little Red Riding-Hood. It is crowded with dubious hags, sorcerers, demons and dwarfs. In the woods Robin Hood lives. Tarzan. Cannibals. In the woods mushrooms grow. Poisonous plants. In the woods, a bear shits.

 

636

I'm walking along the dry path through the woods and enjoying the delightful scent of the leaves. I'm feeling as good as possible, all my senses are wide-awake and ready to receive new currents.

     The farther I walk the denser and darker the woods become, the distant sounds more alien, the silence more mystifying.

     I come upon an old hag. She is wearing a red hood and holding a basket. In the basket is a loaf of bread, wine and fruits.

     Good afternoon, young man, says the hag, displaying yellow‑ brown charred ruins in her mouth. Where are you heading?

     I'm taking in the woods, I say.

     Taking in the woods, says the hag and explodes into a laugh that vibrates in the tree trunks. Don't you know that anything can happen in the woods? And not all of it so pleasant.

     You have to take the chance, I say and all of a sudden I'm seized with a strong urge to beat up the hag, even kill her. If you don't take any chances, life is likely to be pretty boring.

     Sensible lad, says the hag and pulls a wine bottle out of the basket. Would you like a sip?

     I take the bottle and drink. At the same instant I'm filled with unknown Herculean strength, turn somersaults backwards and forwards, break branches from the trees and thunder a frightful howl.

     This is how men should be, says the hag.

     She is seriously beginning to get on my nerves. I jump on her and start to molest her in a disgusting manner. She screeches like a beaten dog. When I think she is dead, I stop the beating and continue to gobble the drink. But the hag isn't finished yet. Fit as a fiddle she rises up and seems to have cheered up with the beating. I'm filled with fury and tear off her head, hands and feet, and scatter them randomly around the woods. But she crawls together again and has never been more alive and kicking. I'm amazed that while she grows more and more ugly and disgusting the more cheerful she gets.

     Well, dear chap, says the hag, blushing like a maiden and pulling an apple from the basket. Don't you want a bite?

     Yes, thank you, I say, beginning to like the hag. In a way she reminds me a little of Kolbrun. But the apple bite gets stuck in my throat and I fall paralyzed to the ground. I can only move my eyelids.

     The hag chuckles. I hear that she is moving something about behind me. There is a rattle of cutlery, dishes and glasses, and I see out of the corner of my eyes that she has set a table for one. Darkness is setting in and she lights a candle.

     Well young man, says the hag and cuts a big slice from my thigh. I've always liked high school lads the most. She chuckles like a little schoolgirl and begins to dine.

 

637

She eats my right foot.

 

638

And my left arm.

 

639

My back.

 

640

Until nothing is left except my white bones.

 

641

And the hag and I become one.

 

642

Aren't you getting bored with this aimless wandering around the city? said Kolbrun looking at me as if from a great distance. I'd be crazy. Shouldn't I get you a job at the hospital?

     Maybe you should.

 

643

In the hospital's corridors the gods walk around in unbuttoned smocks with their stethoscopes hanging out of their pockets. The mortals have their smocks buttoned and wear white trousers.

 

644

Strange experience when I met Kolbrun in an unbuttoned smock with her stethoscope hanging out of her pocket. This woman was a total stranger. But she acted as if everything was normal. But between us were 30 levels of pay.

 

645

In the hospital Kolbrun lives on a level of existence which I can't even get close to. Except today we were colleagues. I assisted her on an autopsy. The presence of death made us clown around like schoolkids. We fooled around with the corpse and chuckled.

 

646

Socio-Psychological Exploration of Pornography

 

I bought a porno magazine. Placed it in front of Kolbrun and asked what effects it had on her.

     She leafed through the magazine, with obvious disgust.

     This is revolting. Why in the world are you showing me this? It makes me nauseous. Take this filth out of my sight, for heaven's sake.      Wait. Why does this disgust you? Actually these are only pictures of people copulating. We do all this and more every night.

     She thought for a moment.

     I cannot separate sex and feelings. These photographs are totally void of emotions and warmth. That's why it can't be compared to what we are doing at night.

     Can photographs show emotions?

     If people respect their subject matter. And do their work with sincerity.

     But why should these kind of pictures arouse more disgust than other poor pictures? For example, the pictures in Home Interior?

     These picures are soiling something more sacred than furniture and kitchen fittings.

 

647

Conclusion:

Nothing which the human body does disgusts me except violence. No matter what ridiculous positions people force their bodies into, I'm not offended. No matter what absurd methods people use to satisfy their sexual desires, I am not filled with contempt. Poor photographs of people copulating can at worst make me feel sorry for the spiritual cripples who made the product.

 

648

Kolbrun seems to know every other man in Christiania.

     We sit at a round twig-table, the pipe circulates, smoke fills the room. A lot of laughter and words. But what is said goes more or less beyond or below me. I'm not sure if it is because some chapters are missing from my sense of humour or because what the people are saying is not funny. Or because our worlds don't overlap. I sit as if I'm on the outside watching the people from a great distance. I scrutinize Kolbrun. She's glowing with joy. I've never seen her like this before. She never glows like this when we are together. There she seems to be in appropriate company. And I'm outside of the whole thing. I'm filled with remorse.

 

649

The picture of Kolbrun's glowing face at the party yesterday is vivid in my mind. I feel my inferiority when I discover that I am unable to create this glow.

 

650

The thought gnaws at me that I'm not good enough for Kolbrun.

 

651

I was summoned by the head nurse and kindly asked to quit my job at the hospital.

 

652

Kolbrun never been more distant.

 

653

I suppose it's for the best that we terminate our relationship, I said to Kolbrun, meaning the opposite, hoping she would say: What are you saying, how could this nonsense even cross your mind? But she said: Yes, I suppose so, and I could feel that she had herself been thinking about bringing our relationship to an end. I felt sick.

 

654

I wander back and forth on the most crowded streets of the city. I'm filled with anguish when I'm not surrounded by thousands. Walk endlessly.

 

655

The woods I enjoyed so much when I first arrived now only make me uneasy. Can't even bear the thought of being near them.

 

656

I bob around in the sea of people like a cork, thousands of shining youngsters on all sides. I yearn for contact. But between me and these people is a transparent wall which I can't penetrate.

 

657

I have a boundless need to give delight to somebody. But I have nobody to give it to.

 

658

We're on the way to Switzerland, said a long-haired, bearded face with sunglasses. Coming?

     It came as a pleasant surprise to me that somebody would address me, and although the man wasn't very attractive, I was pervaded with unspeakable joy.

     Yeh, why not, I said. I've never been to Switzerland.

     Really! said a long-haired woman wearing sandals, lighting up in amusement. How enchanting.

     And we sped out of Copenhagen in a half-decomposed Renault, poison-green.

 

659

What is your sign? asked the woman, full of burning interest.

     Leo, I said.

     I knew it! bellowed the woman. I saw it immediately.

     It's obvious, said Beard-face.

 

660

Beard-face strums the guitar-strings, the glow of the fire in his beard. Bird on a wire, we sing trembling with melancholy. The darkness is a soft embrace.

 

661

We drive through a mountain village. Nobody around except a few cows and hens. The woman jumps out and caresses the animals.

 

662

The Alps fall upon us like a shadow. I had never suspected that anything like this existed. What overwhelming grandeur.

     Delightful! said the woman. I love these mountains.

 

663

Dangling from steel wires, we glide up the slopes. Step out at 4000 meters above sea level. Below unfathomable valleys, above sky-high peaks. You shrink and become nothing.

     My speed down the slope equals the speed of the sun down the sky. When I reach the valley, the last patch of sun disappears from the highest mountain peak. The clock shows I've been four hours going down. Still, an eternity has passed.

     The remains of the Renault nowhere in sight. I walk all the streets of the town. The couple have come to the conclusion that they've had enough of my company.

     I go to sleep in a haystack.

 

664

Paralyzed with hunger. My wallet empty.

     Found a cabbage grove.

 

665

Swam in an ice cold river beneath a cliff. The sun dried my body on the rock. Fell asleep in a sheep pen.

 

666

Dirty and tattered I made my way along a remote mountain road, drained by fatigue and hunger. Then a newly-polished, black Rolls Royce approached and came to a halt in front of me. A middle-aged count stuck his head out of the window.

     Please allow me to provide you with a ride, he said in a mellow voice, polished by a thousand generations of aristocracy.

     Yes, I said.

     Please.

     He opened the door for me. I sank into the soft seat.

     When we had driven a short while he said: It is apparent that you are in need of nourishment. Will you join me for dinner?

     Yes, thank you. I said.

     He made a turn off the asphalt and onto a narrow dirt road which wound through a dense pine forest, up a steep slope. On the mountain-top the chateau perched, adorned with towers, as if we had driven into an old fairy-tale.

     Dinner awaited us on the table: pheasant with mushrooms and fruits. I had never tasted more delicious food. Fell asleep happy and content.

 

667

When I had eaten breakfast, and was clean and rested after a delightful sleep in the guest suite of the palace, the count dropped his mask. To my considerable amazement, Ulfur Hallsteinsson, amateur historian and clergical dropout, was hidden under the well designed mask of the count.

     You didn't expect this, said Ulfur hissing with repressed laughter. I can see you are astounded.

     I can't deny that, I said thoughtfully.

     You probably think this is some kind of a castle in the sky that I have dragged you into. Well, we can of course argue forever about what is a castle and what is a castle in the sky. He knocked at the wall. One thing is sure, this one is as solid as any other castle.

     What are you doing here? I asked

     This summer I've been working on extensive improvements to the European past. I discovered that world history is by no means less boring than the history of Iceland, in fact even more boring. I don't have time to elaborate on that now. I have to go away for a few days and you just take it easy while I'm gone. Make yourself at home, the palace is all yours. When I return we can sit down and chat at our leisure.

 

668

There is something strange happening in the palace. In the middle of the night I'm awakened by frightful shrieks. Eerie shrieks of a female in pain.

 

669

Or on heat.

 

670

Thumps.

 

671

Midnight.

     The moon hangs grinning in the tree outside the window, full of irony.

     I sneak out of the suite with a lit candle in my hand. My breath echoes like a soft breeze in the wide halls. Walk towards the sound. It seems to come out of one of the walls. A secret room?

 

672

Loosen one of the stones from the wall.

 

673

A painstaking job.

 

674

Pull the stone out of the wall and peek inside. See a white female leg chained to a rusty iron fence.

     What's happening here?

     I squeeze into the hole. See another leg. Squeeze further. See a pink night gown. Further. See the whole woman. I can't believe my own eyes. She's got a horse head.

     Thank god, whispered the woman when she saw me. I had given up all hope of help.

     What's happening here? I asked and couldn't hide my amazement. What's this horse's head all about?

     I'll tell you everything, she said frantically. But hurry up and release me.

     I began to file down the chain.

     It's Ulfur Hallsteinsson who's behind this, the woman began. He lured me here under the pretext that he was a film director searching for a lead actress for his next movie. But he must have laced my drink because, I can't remember anything until I woke up with this bloody horse head on my shoulders. My head is over there.

     She indicated a glass jar in one of the corners, in which a beautiful female head was floating in formaldehide.

     But why? I asked

     He is going to prove his theory that centaurs were common in medieval Euroupe. I'm supposed to be the main evidence.

     There were footsteps in the distance.

     Shh, she whispered. Go away quickly. The butlers are keeping a close eye on everything. Come back tomorrow night.

 

675

When the chains fell from the woman's body she burst into crazy laughter and dropped her mask. Under the horse's head was hidden the hag that had eaten me earlier in the summer.

     You again, I said irritatedly, in fact I was beginning to get tired of this mask play. I thought I was rid of you.

     You can't rid yourself of me so easily, she said teasingly and giggled. Remember, we are one. You are a part of my body and I of yours.

     Maybe you are going to eat me again?

     Repetition bores me, she said. Let's go on a trip.

     She pushed a button on the wall and I felt the room moving. I couldn't tell whether it was going up or down.

 

676

The elevator stopped and the doors opened. We stepped out and floated like balloons into a hell-blue haze.

     I get the feeling I've been here before, I said.

     Is that so? asked the hag, full of interest.

     Now I remember. The blueness of infinite possibilities.

     Well now, said the hag and dropped her mask. It was Ulfur Hallsteinsson.

     No, not again, I said. You don't tell the same joke three times. To say the least I'm getting pretty tired of this conjuring tricks.

     I see, said Ulfur. I was just showing you how deceptive it is to count on the senses.

     While he was talking I noticed that he had no body. His head hung like a cloud in the blueness.

     You have no body, I said.

     The body is useless. So is the head for that matter. I just keep it while I'm talking to you. Anyway there are one or two things I'd like to tell you. The essence is this: In the blueness of infinite possibilities you are almighty. If you cared to, you could play god, create a new universe, make creatures that follow unthinkable laws, etc. etc. But I can tell you it's a very tiresome activity. I suggest that you do something nobody has thought of before, even as a remote possibility.

     But isn't this what they call dreams in the vocabulary of psychology, manifested as low-power brainwaves of high frequency accompanied by rapid eye movement? I asked.

     The word dream doesn't exist in my vocabulary, since I've not read much psychology. I prefer to call it a conscious elimination of unconciousness.

 

677

He led me to a keyhole nearby and told me to peep in. Inside there were piles of unwritten poems and novels lying around. Unpainted works of art. Uncomposed music.

     Nothing

     is not here, said Ulfur. If you are interested you could take some of this junk with you to Iceland and become a respected artist. But I tell you it's as boring as being god.

 

678

Ulfur's head gone except his left eye.

 

679

The eye drilled with lightning speed into my forehead.

 

680

____8=#!&%   _

------------------------ = ----

:^@=__V_)@_=&_K.0/[S  

 

 

         684 685               695 696

      683       686         694       697

   682             687   693             696

  681                 688                 695

   711             706   689             694

      710       707         690       693

         709 708               691 692

 

731

After three months abroad some changes have ocurred in Iceland.

a) Mount Esja has shrunk to half its original size.

b) Most vegetation has disappeared.

c) The hot water has begun to stink like shit.

 

732

All my possessions have been carried out of the basement and they are sitting on the garage floor in my parent's residence stuffed into three cardboard boxes. I feel like my soul has been trampled on with dirty shoes.

 

733

You are of course always welcome to live here with us, said mother. There are eight empty rooms in the house.

     Thanks, but no thanks, I said. You could as well invite me to crawl back into your womb. There is no turning back.

 

734

In a four-square-meter attic room on the fifth floor you have the sky in the window.

 

735

You go to sleep with your eyes full of stars.

 

736

And clouds.

 

737

When you stick your head up through the window, you are in the company of birds.

 

738

On the down-town square the Icelandic nation has gathered and sings with joy: "Here stood a farmhouse with four roofs ..." The text appears on a neon sign above the main entrance of the Fisheries Bank so that nobody will have to stumble through the words. A stream of transcendental companionship flows through me where I stand in the middle of the human ocean and chant the song. I have never experienced anything like this before. It dawns on me that singing is the only way to make contact with other people.

 

739

I join the Hamrahlid High School choir.

 

740

Met Gudjon for the first time in a year. It's as if time had been standing still, he hasn't changed the least bit.

     So you joined the Hamrahlid High School choir, he said and decorated himself with his old scoundrel's grin. I understand there is a truckload of willing girls there.

 

741

Halldor Laxness came into my existence like alcohol. The end of that booze-up is not in sight.

 

742

A good book extends one's life by a lifetime.

 

743

In general it is easier to read a book than to write it.

 

744

Trapping your thoughts in the right chain of words is like changing water into wine.

 

745

But then. Jesus could change water into wine. Yet, I doubt he could have written "One Hundred Years of Solitude".

 

746

Maybe it is more accurate to say: Trapping your thoughts in the right chain of words is like fermenting the words.

 

747

The words strum some strings inside my head and fill it with mysterious sounds. Difficult to pin down this magic.

 

748

When I'm illuminated in the middle of a masterpiece I'm filled with an insatiable desire to put my fingers into the nation's brain and stir it up fiercely.

 

749

There is a complete novel stumbling about in my head.

 

750

On the first day I write one sentence.

 

751

The second day I strike out two words and put in others instead.

 

752

The third day I strike out three more words.

 

753

On the fourth day nothing is left of the original sentence but above the struck-out sentence a new sentence has emerged.

754

And I begin to strike it out word by word.

 

755

And thus new sentences form in between each other and grow constantly smaller until they are barely visible to the naked eye.

 

756

And I begin the next sentence.

 

757

And the sentences crawl together into paragraphs.

 

758

Which pile up into chapters.

 

759

And turn into a novel, if the trashcan hasn't swallowed it before.

 

760

A few beginnings of novels:

a)

On the concrete square by the bus terminal a group of people have gathered. Long and thin shadows spring forth from beneath their feet and cut the square into irregular stripes which break at the kerbs and disappear into the grass. The thumping of a machine in the distance underlines the deep silence. This is one of those illuminated Sunday mornings which are longer than other mornings and come automatically to mind when one looks at old photographs in which the sun never ceases to shine and everything is supernaturally motionless.

     John is sitting on the sidewalk leaning against the wall. In his shadow is a half emptied bottle of Coca-Cola and every now and then he sucks out the gaseous liquid which according to various scientific studies turns the teeth brown and sharp.

 

761

b)

A ray of sunshine squeezed between the drapes and shot through the room crawling with dust particles. Gunnar awoke suffocating.

     Fucking sun, he thought and rearranged the drapes so that no reys of sun were admitted to the room. Always in the wrong place at the wrong moment.

     For a short while he lay in bed and tried to get himself together to a one point. It was difficult because the heat in the room was overwhelming and he itched all over his body. He sat up at the edge of his bed and scratched himself. But the more he scratched the more intrusive the itch became. So he threw on his clothes and left the stuffy room.

 

762

c)

Shortly after the end of World War Two a boy was born west of the old cemetery in Reykjavik. He was pulled out with tongs and slapped forcefully on the rear end when he showed no intention of crying. As a result of the struggle he developed an abdominal hernia on both sides and cried almost continously for two years.

 

763

Then he was operated on and wasn't heard crying since.

 

764

For a long time his parents couldn't agree on whether their son should be named after his paternal or maternal grandfather. For this reason his baptism dragged way into his third year and for a long time it was not clear how this would end. At last the mother's father gained the upper hand and the son was named Ulfur.

 

765

Ulfur was solitary in his youth and was inclined to play by himself in the cemetery. He imagined that the tombstones were houses, villas, apartment buildings or palaces and he had given the paths between the graves peculiar names. Like Police Street, Fireman's Avenue, Hospital Road etc. etc. Indeed there were many fires, accidents and other catastrophes in the cemetery. It delighted Ulfur most of all to lead the actions of the firemen and consequently all the houses of the yard had been burned, some twice. When the grown-ups asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up, he responded without hesitation: a fire chief.

 

766

One of the tombstones had a special place in the Ulfur's mind. It was the tombstone of the poet Thorsteinn Erlingsson. Not because under this stone rested a celebrated poet, for at this point Ulfur had not started school and had consequently never heard of Thorsteinn or learned "When the farm was full of joy ..." by heart, but because the stone was different from all the other stones. There was something about this stone that gave Ulfur an uncanny feeling. He heard the distant sound of haunting music in its presence. He imagined the stone to be a royal palace and sometimes he would sit for hours in front of it and observe the exciting activity of the royal family who lived there, wearing colourful clothes, crimson or purple and ornate with expensive jewelery. Everything the people in this stone did was very important and elevated above boring day to day drudgery. For example he could not imagine these people shitting or peeing and they never ate distasteful food like salted fish but only all kinds of delicacies: liver pat, bloodsausage, sugar candy and cream tarts.

 

767

For a long time the tombstone of Thorsteinn Erlingsson was the only house in the cemetery that hadn't burned down. But shortly after Ulfur began to attend school, and reading, writing and arithmetic had forced their way into his life, there was an unexpected incident in the cemetery: the tombstone of Thorsteinn Erlingsson burned to ashes. The day had been difficult at school. The teacher had scolded him for not paying attention to what was going on in the classroom and three bastards had attacked him during recess and called him a misfit. He had hurried homewards as soon as he escaped from the last lesson and went straight to the cemetery. It had always been a comfort for him to sit in front of the tombstone of Thorsteinn Erlingsson when the world turned against him. When he watched the royal life it was as if nothing outside the walls of the cemetery mattered one way or another, the world outside evaporated like a long-forgotten nightmare. But to Ulfur's horror the palace was all on fire. And Ulfur Hallsteinsson, prospective fire chief, watched the impressive royal palace burn to ashes without being able to do anything about it. It was already too late to take any measures against the fire.

 

768

From that day on Ulfur never came to the cemetery but kept mostly indoors and read books.

 

769

The title is 90 percent of a literary work. No wonder that publishers no longer talk about publishing books but titles.

 

770

The titles flow out of fountains of my soul like a clear-blue creek in a romantic poem, without obstacle. Maybe I will end up publishing a book called "3689 Titles" or "Titles for All Occasions".

 

771

Marrowless Matter

 

772

The Lost Fly-Foot

 

773

Gone to heel

 

774

A Conscious Elimination of Unconciousness

 

775

The Art of Fading Away

 

776

The Tablecloth of Destiny

 

777

Yawning on a Green Light

 

778

Realism Exposed

 

779

Flirting with Death

 

780

Head Full of Asteroids

 

781

A Sleepless Dream

 

782 Outside and Above

 

783

Struggling With the Bread

 

784

Talking Machine

 

785

My Father the Bird

 

786

Vein of gold in the Asshole of Civilization

 

787

Well!

 

788

Romantic Dissection

 

789

The Other Side to the Master

 

I step out of my luke-warm car, turn up my coat-collar and walk slowly towards the elegant house, white-painted. In a sense this house is like a glacial-cap against the sky in its transcendental sympathy with the clouds.

     Halldor, the Nobel Laurete himself, comes to the door, encompassed by a homely cigarcloud, and says with his world‑ famous grin: God bless curiosity. Good afternoon and walk inside please.

     Right away I could sense this would be a successful interview.

     We made ourselves comfortable on the sofa and Halldor shouted: Audur! Coffee!

     Tell me Halldor, you have now written some 30 books, many of which are considerably thick. Allow me to ask: What for? What drives you to these endeavors?

     Well, as it says in the ... what is it called again, In the Backyard something, in my youth I was turned off by physical labour, to put it mildly. Allergic to it. So it's not so wide of the mark to say that laziness and incompetence led me into the field of literature. Ha, ha, ha.

     But now you've been quoted over and over on saying that novel writing is like bloody ditch-digging. How can you equate ditch-digging with laziness?

     Hmm, did I say ditch-digging? What a delightful heap of lies.

     Are you insinuating that you were lying? Do you make a habit of lying?

     Dearest friend, I'm a professional liar, like other writers. It would never occur to me to believe a single word that drips out of the writer's pen, or out of his mouth for that matter. But people just yearn to be lied to and worship the greatest liars. Anyway, what would this world be without the lie? Painstakingly boring. Nothing but a common, tiresome pounding on the pavement.

     Let's make a U-turn: What advice do you have up your sleeve for upcoming writers today?

     You're throwing some big shit there, said Halldor, and you've sent me completely off track. Well. I could probably sincerely advise them to eat healthy and nourishing food, breath fresh air regularly and not to beat their wives.

     At the same instant Audur came along with a tray loaded with doughnuts, crepes, pancakes and steaming coffee.

     Well, said Halldor, and got all hyped up. How about cutting this crap and turn to something more constructive? For example these doughnuts there.

     We sat around late into the night and discussed sweetbread.

 

789

Hello, she said, one minute to three.

     Yes, greetings, I said.

     A teasing smile played on her lips, a glint in her eyes.

     There is a party on Grundarstig 8. Coming?

     Why not.

     Tranquillity and a thousand people on the streets.

     Why don't we skip this party, she said after a three-minute walk. I've got half a Baileys at home.      We drank ice cold Baileys.

 

790

Heaven is considerably different from what I had imagined.

 

791

The walls are white and covered with paintings by Johanna Bogadottir and Alfred Floki. The windowsills full of cacti. On the floor two children, a three-year-old girl and a five-year-old boy. Leonard Cohen on the turntable. The bed is old. It creaks the whole evening and into the night.

 

792

Her hands on my flesh, my hands on her flesh. My flesh in her flesh. Our breath. The movements of all joints. Tongues everywhere. Sweat. Tears. Sweet juice.

 

793

I could drown you in words.

 

794

I could say: I love you.

 

795

I could say: You are the only one I desire.

 

796

I could even say: Life is worthless without you.

 

797

But I don't.

 

798

I would much rather drown you.

 

799

Drown you.

 

800

Drown you.

 

801

In my saliva.

 

802

I can tell you more with the tip of my tongue than with words.

 

803

I can tell you more with my fingertips than with poems.

 

804

My breath tells you everything you have to know.

 

805

Sometimes you watch me with so mysterious a glint in your eyes that it frightens me, said Steinunn and ran her fingers through my hair. I wish I could read your thoughts.

     Are you really telling me that you can't!? I asked. Do you really not see this insane admiration that is written all over my face?

     Of course, she said and snuggled against me. Of course. But sometimes I think it's just my wishful thinking.

 

806

It was soon apparent that Ulfur Hallsteinsson was a good scholar. Or as his maternal grandmother phrased it: It's obvious that Ulfur got his head from his mother's family, bright as a bell and industrious. It wouldn't surprise me if he became a doctor.

 

807

Indeed, at an early age high hopes were pinned on Ulfur Hallsteinsson. And he soon came to realize that good grades are what is most desirable in this life. So he did everything in his power to lift these fateful numbers as high as he could. And the grades soared to high heaven.

 

808

Ulfur Hallsteinsson's Lutheran confirmation coincided with the invasion of Poland by the Nazis. From then on he began to frequent sports' stadiums and before long he was putting the shot, flinging the javelin and other displaced objects farther than was common for boys his age. And he jumped above all highest hopes and ran ahead of all expectations. There seemed to be no limit to Ulfur's achievements.

 

809

But one fine day, when Ulfur Hallsteinsson is just halfway through high school and it is more important than ever to get high grades, he discovers much to everybody's consternation that he no longer can produce these delightful numbers. No matter how he tries, it's impossible for him to concentrate on his studies. Instead he is constantly preoccupied with trivial matters like literature, a voluptuous red-haired girl and the question: What is the meaning of life? It's as if some spell had been cast upon him and the more he struggles against it, the deeper he's sucked into the cursed quicksand.

 

810

Furthermore he's unable to run and throw because an unbearable pain seizes his heart at the smallest strain.

 

811

And to complete the picture he is depressed and tired all the time, drained of all energy.

 

812

So it happened that Ulfur Hallsteinsson flunked his high school final exams.

 

813

The principal of his school called him a few days before the graduation ceremony and told him in carefully chosen words that he had unfortunately not met the minimum requirements made for high school graduation.

     Five minutes later there was a report on the radio that the Americans had dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima and two hundred thousand people had been killed, mostly women and children.

 

814

This came as a blow to Ulfur's family, especially his grandmother, who had been fighting a chronic disease and lived on powerful pills. When she heard the news, her health deteriorated rapidly and she was rushed to intensive care at the nearest hospital. It was beyond everybody's understanding that the son who had brought promises of achievements and nothing but achievements should at a critical moment fall down to the level of misfits and idlers and join the community of the thickest.

 

815

Ulfur Hallsteinsson locked himself in his room and made an effort not to meet a single person for the whole summer, the sunniest summer ever recorded. He had lost all interest in literature and lay most of the time in a deep trance, unable to do a thing. It was a full-time job for him to keep himself in mental equlibrium.

 

816

When Ulfur Hallsteinsson showed no sign of improvement and his ventures out of his room had reached the nadir of approximately five minutes a day, his father sat down with him and told him that it couldn't go on like this much longer. He would either have to get himself a job or consult a neurologist. It's not the end of the world to flunk high school even though an atomic bomb was dropped at the same time. As far as I know Halldor Kiljan Laxness flunked high school, but he has still managed to write some ten books, many of which are pretty thick. If he continues like this it wouldn't surprise me if he got the Nobel prize. So, dear Ulfur, I can't keep on feeding you without a fee unless you produce testimony from a specialist that you are unfit for work. You just have to accept the fact that life is no farce or romantic love story, and definitely not a Hollywood flick. Whether you like it or not you have to swallow the fact that neither bananas nor oranges thrive in Iceland, consequently it's difficult to obtain food except for money. And as you probably suspect people have to work to get hold of money, except factory owners and wholesalers. Can I offer you a cigar?

     Hallsteinn Bjarnason, truck driver, took a box of cigars out of his left breast pocket and offered it to Ulfur.

     No thank you, I don't smoke, said Ulfur.

     Well, my friend, said Hallsteinn. Think about it. Try to pull yourself together before it becomes the talk of the town.

     Hallsteinn looked at his watch, walked out, started the engine of a Swedish Volvo truck and drove away.

     But Ulfur retreated to his room and fell asleep.

 

817

Two days later he took off with a freighter heading for the East Fjords. He had decided to make a fresh start in a place where nobody recognized him. Where nobody had the faintest idea that he had been a bright and talented young man with a promising future who flunked high school.

     The sea trip went well. The sea was smooth as a mirror and the sun had never been brighter. Except outside Stokksnes a boom swung into his head and he was dazed for the rest of the trip.

818

And thus Ulfur began the struggle for survival called living. He got himself a job in the fish-freezing plant and began to behead cod in large quantities. That was when his headaches made their appearance. They started pretty innocently with short fits every two or three days.

 

819

But soon he had a splitting headache round the clock and could hardly sleep a wink.

 

820

Gradually he became immune to all pills and couldn't see any way out of this shit.

 

821

Until he discovered alcohol. This blessed liquid, which he had neglected completly all his life, brought him the salvation from his suffering that medical science had failed to produce. The headache evaporated like dew in the morning sun when he swallowed this flammable liquid. From then on the bottle was Ulfur Hallsteinsson's best girlfriend and they had an intimate and loving relationship.

 

822

There was only one drawback: he constantly needed more and more to chase the headache away. In the worst cases the bloody ache didn't retreat until he lost consciousness.

 

823

In the evning Ulfur loitered drunk in the streets doing questionable deeds: Breaking windows, chanting rude verses, pissing on graves etc. etc. He was given the nickname Ulli the Drunk and had the esteem of a dog among responsible citizens.

 

824

In the spring it had reached the point where he didn't do any work except to earn money for alcohol, and slept in sheep pens. At times he even failed to earn enough money to buy the good old liquid and the ache hit his head more fiercely than ever before.

 

825

And thus he was lured onto the path of crime. One night he was caught in the pharmacy with a two-liter bottle of iodine under his arm which he had mistaken for alcohol. He was locked up for two days.

 

826

One fine day Thuridur Larusdottir, fish-fillet beautician, caught Ulfur's eyes. And soon he flamed up in such a frenzy of love that even alcohol wasn't effective enough to ease the pain. Still he didn't dare to approach the divine maiden who had a plump, round body and milk-white complexion.

 

827

Eventually he steeled himself to enough courage to sit next to her in the cafeteria. Ulfur tried to start a conversation and asked: Were you born in this village?      Yes, she said.

     The conversation didn't progress any further. Ulfur had a feeling his head was full of gruesome ooze, sticking to his thoughts and gluing them together so that nothing came to his mind. Before he knew it the lunch break was over. But when they were getting ready to return the dishes he managed to blunder out one question: Where do you live? I mean, is it okay if I visit you one evening?

     She was obviously shocked when she heard the question and said, blushing: You don't expect me to let a drunken bum into my house, do you?

     And she sailed away like a frigate.

     Ulfur looked around and saw grinning faces on the surrounding tables.

 

828

From this day on the headache didn't go away unless he drank himself out of the world. And the days passed unconsciously until the middle of summer.

 

829

Then one fine day the message circulated in the village that everybody was expected to show up in the community center after dinner. The director of the Adventist Congregation was in town, accompanied by heavenly regiments, determined to save the place with music and howling of hallelujahs.

     Ulfur Hallsteinsson, who was never far away when revelry was in progress, was of course the first to show up at the community center and sat down in the front row. As soon as the musicians got ready to sing the first hymn, he rose up and challenged the messenger of the Lord to rid him of the headache promptly, and they would have his soul in payment.

     The director turned his face towards heaven and raised his blessing hands. Thus he stood motionless for a long time. All of a sudden his thundering voice broke forth and his whole body trembled as he shouted: Oh Lord! let your blessed grace stream into our filthy souls. Yes, Lord! here is a man with a headache. Oh, yes, a young unfortunate man with a headache. With his sly cunning the devil has cursed this lovely lad with an unbearable headache. Have mercy on him, oh, Lord, hallelujah.

     At the same time he laid his hands upon Ulfur Hallsteinsson and chanted at length in a language of some obscure origin. But his companions, a few pale and skinny women, howled continuously: Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

     Suddenly the director grabbed Ulfur's head with both hands and began to shake it fiercely while he screamed: Depart from him, Satan! get thee behind him, Satan! The shaking made Ulfur dizzy and he expected to lose consciousness at any moment. Then the director screamed through the howling of hallelujah: Are you saved? Are you saved? And Ulfur saw no other way out of this tangle but to say yes, whereupon such an intense howling of hallelujah burst out that Ulfur had never heard its like before. At the same time a jolly singing began, with guitar playing and clapping. In that fashion the evening passed and ended with one hell of a hallelujah, in the name of Jesus, amen.

 

830

The morning after, Ulfur discovered that his headache was gone. But so was the director of the Adventist Congregation. At dawn he had rushed off in his new, black, limousine with the regiments of the Lord at his heels. There would be another salvation festival that evening in the next village and there was no time to waste.

 

831

Ulfur headed straight for the bookshop and asked for a Bible. The girl at the counter didn't recall having seen that book in the store since she had begun to serve there seven years ago. But after a thorough search she found a New Testament someone had returned four and a half years ago with the first pages loose.

     Ulfur began to read this book with more enthusiasm than he had read any other book.

 

 

832

Along with the headache, Ulfur's craving for alcohol disappeared and his life became normal again. He used every opportunity to testify to his salvation and soon his presence became intolerable at gatherings. But a few old women grew very fond of Ulfur and he became a frequent guest at the village's cream-tart parties. His miracle story was always a great success at these parties.

 

833

Following intensive reading of the Bible, Ulfur moved to Reykjavik and began studying theology. His relatives saw this as a new and surprising direction in his progressive mental disturbance.

 

834

When I'm this close to you you've got three eyes and two noses, I said.

     Is it an improvement? asked Steinunn and I saw she had two mouths.

     At least it's intriguing. Reminds me of Picasso's heads.

 

835

Your body is like the grassy bank of a brook on a sunny, summer evening. No, excuse me. The grassy bank of a brook on a sunny, summer evening is like your body. I'm lying in the soft grass and listening to the easy play of the water.

 

836

Index finger on its way down the throat, Mass in A-minor by Johann Sebastian Bach, the palm cups around the shoulders, silence, and the breasts. One, two, three ribs, four, five, idoltry, around the navel, pubic hair, voodoo, down, spell, down, runes. The thighs, Egyptian temple pillars, between satin sheets, silk soft, knee-caps, calves, toes, the citizens of Calais.

 

837

The mysterious darkness between your legs draws me to it as if I were a helpless vapour.

 

838

I lick my lips when I see your mouth.

 

839 There are some small things which you seem to be completly oblivious of, said Steinunn with her cheek on my shoulder. For example, do you realize that the apartment must be dusted every week?

     Dusted? What do you mean?

     You've got a long way to go.

     I hope I'm not too old to learn.

 

840

One fall Ulfur attended a Christian gathering in a clearing in a forest not far from Reykjavik. There he met a bow-legged schoolmistress who had received a calling to become a missionary among savages in Africa: Gunnhildur, daughter of Beinteinn Bjarnason, vicar at Rangarvallasysla. Ulfur thought this was very interesting and they had extended discussions in peaceful clearings. These discussions ended with an engagement and eventually marriage.

 

841

This marriage came as a surprise to many beause Gunnhildur was not exactly a beauty queen; Ulfur on the other hand was a handsome man. Some pointed out that this was an unquestionable sign that carnal lust had not been the force behind their union and urged all young people to follow their example.

 

842

In connection with his theology studies Ulfur Hallsteinsson read the Old Testament for the first time. He had had some taste of this book in elementary school but always placed its stories in the category of ghost stories and fairy tales. Ulfur was unable to see the connection between the Old Testament and Cristianity and he was constantly arguing with the professors of the faculty on the matter. He never tired of expressing his amazement that a faculty which called itself Christian should waste considerable time rolling around in the filth of savage religion in which God is a mentally disturbed criminal and the ideology of Nazism is honoured.

     He made an attempt to found an association whose main objective would be to fight for the removal of the Old Testament from all churches in Iceland. Nothing came of this association and the Old Testament continued to lay on the altars of Icelandic churches.

 

843

One evening, when Ulfur Hallsteinsson had testified to the miracle at a Christian gathering, a young man led him into a corner and invited him to tell this impressive story at the next meeting of the Psychic Research Society. Ulfur accepted the invitation in the hope that some ghost chasers might be saved.

 

844

This meeting of the Psychic Research Society had profound consequences in the religious life of Ulfur Hallsteinsson. He became convinced at this meeting that the aforementioned cure of a chronic headache accompanied by an abnormal longing for alcoholic beverages had been activated by the direct intervention of deceased doctors from the beyond. An old, thin-haired woman, with a face blemished by suffering, claimed to see obvious signs of Sigurvin Abrahamsson's fingerprints in the upper part of Ulfur's aura. Sigurvin had been a practicing doctor in the eastern provinces since his death 1897. Three bony-faced hulks with wiry fingers claimed to have investigated the radiation of the director of the Adventist Congregation and observed an unusual amount of radiation emanating from his hands and feet. They concluded that he was in an unconscious contact with spirits in the other world which he took for Jesus Christ and the Lord Almighty.

     All the arguments at this meeting struck Ulfur as both logical and solid and before it was over he was convinced that Jesus Christ was the greatest clairvoyant in history.

 

845

From that day on Ulfur became a frequent guest at the clairvoyant gatherings in town and was more or less in contact with the deceased twenty four hours a day.

 

846

This volte-face of Ulfur Hallsteinsson's view of life caused Gunnhildur Beinsteinsdottir considerable anguish. She made a few attempts to make him come to his senses with the only result that their relationship turned sour and from then on brawls became the main feature of their daily routine.

 

847

It had always been their intention to go straight to the mission field as soon as Ulfur graduated. But now he didn't open his mouth except to announce that the Christian mission was the worst plague that had beset mankind, including epidemics and natural calamaties. He pointed out numerous examples from history in which one civilization after another had been mercilessly trod into the dirt in the name of Jesus. He thought it was about time to cut out this nonsense. He for one was not going to contribute to the disgrace.

     What has come over you, anyway? said Gunnhildur. I don't recognize you as the same man. It's as if you are possessed by evil spirits.

     On the contrary, said Ulfur. Now, at last, all the evil spirits who took hold of my outer aura when I was under the power of Bacchus have retreated. The last one was smoked out last Saturday with bone-white rays and the help of two recently deceased doctors.

 

848

Everything pointed in the same direction: A divorce was inevitable.

 

849

When nothing was left but to confirm the divorce with signatures in the presence of witnesses, Gunnhildur Beinteinsdottir discovered she was pregnant. This complicated matters. They sat down and discussed the situation as two responsible individuals. And they concluded that, with the welfare of the child in mind, it was their moral duty to keep the marriage together. Or as Gunnhildur phrased it on a cream-tart evening of Christian schoolmistresses: The Lord has placed this heavy cross on my shoulders and I will carry the burden trusting in His help and guidance. The mistresses joined in a prayer to Him to lead Ulfur Hallsteinsson back from the obscure paths that the Devil had tricked him onto.

 

850

Ulfur Hallsteinsson read all the books about death and the afterlife he could get his hands on, as he found life on this side of little interest in comparison to the life on the other side. He frequented second-hand bookstores and buried himself in heaps of dusty books in the hope something was hidden there about death. In one of these heaps he came across a book of Indian origin about reincarnation and the circulation of the soul in time and space. This seemed to him a sensible theory, putting many things into a logical context that had been unclear or senseless in the clockwork of being.

 

851

He presented the theory at a meeting of the Psychic Research Society, to the little amusement of those present. The director of the society pointed out that this theory had been proved wrong a long time ago and quoted deceased men in support. Generally those present thought the theory was a joke and were amazed that an intelligent man like Ulfur should embrace that kind of absurdity. Ulfur, on the other hand, emphasized his conviction that the theory was good and condemned those present as prejudiced and narrow-minded.

     Then the gathering laughed.

     Before Ulfur left the hall he announced that he didn't want to have anything further to do with a society of this sort and from that day on he didn't associate with the deceased.

 

852

The dark glasses of Kristjan Ulfsson, bank manager, hung over me like a dark cloud. He didn't say much, offered me more pork, but his glasses were full of disapproval, even accusations. Please help yourself. Have some more pudding, he said. But the glasses said: My daughter deserves something better than a bum like this.

 

853

Your father doesn't seem to like me very much, I said.

     Not easy to say, said Steinunn. He's one of those people who don't know how to express fondness except by throwing shit at you. But it doesn't neccessarily mean that he dislikes you, even if he didn't throw shit at you.

 

854

On the other hand, Ulfur had all the more relationships with books, particularly of Indian origin, exploring the reincarnation theory thoroughly from all angles. Many items came with the package. For example, universal masterology and yoga.

 

855

Which led Ulfur to the Theological Society.

 

856

In the Theological Society Ulfur met some bearded men who were well read in unintelligable sciences and had advanced the skill of standing on their heads to exceptional lenghts. These men made a habit of meeting once a week to drink jasmine tea and burn incense. Ulfur began to grow a beard and was invited to participate in these tea gatherings.

 

857

The conversations of the bearded ones tended to revolve around silence. Frequently, they had great difficulty terminating these discussions because the more they talked about silence, the more they had left unsaid about it. The cashier of the Theological Society had especially many things to say on the subject for he was a specialist on the matters of silence. He never grew weary of emphasizing the fact that to be able to connect to silence one had to stand on one's head more or less for years and breathe immeasurable cubic meters of incense fumes.

 

858

Soon Ulfur was able to stand on his head uninterrupted for longer than even the most accomplished head-standers in the Society. The reason for this was traced to the aforementioned headache that without warning had taken hold of his head when he was beheading cod on the East Fjords. All the symptoms of this headache indicated that, in fact, it had been the eruption of the serpent fire, kundalini, which springs from the tail bone and winds itself up along the spinal cord if one or more of the following causal factors have come into effect: advanced spiritual development, a bump on the head or spiritual overexertion. Since a bump on the head following spiritual overexertion had recently befallen Ulfur when the headache appeared, there was unanimous agreement among those who had plunged deepest into unintelligible sciences that kundalini had invaded Ulfur's head, unbridled, and instead of going straight out of the temple ray-hole, the fire had got trapped, causing increasing pressure on the inside of the skull. Or until the director of the Adventist Congregation, who, according to spiritual radiation measurements, has the maturity of an average horse, shook Ulfur's head, accidentally jerking kundalini into its right channel and out of the ray-hole. If this correction of the flow of the fire hadn't occurred, the pressure would have increased gradually and finally burned up the brain.

     If that had been the case, I'm afraid Ulfur wouldn't be standing on his head in the house of the Theological Society, said the vice president of the society, and grinned through his beard.

 

859

Cheers! said Gudjon and raised his glass of champagne. Any New Year's resolutions this time?

     Asdis Hauksdottir: I'm not going to quit smoking.

     Steinunn Kristjansdottir: It's better to use words sparingly.

     Gudjon: Cheers!

 

860

In the Theological Society Ulfur became acquainted with many amusing activities besides standing on the head. For example, sliding out of the body. For a long time his soul didn't stay much in his body but was constantly engaged in spiritual acrobatics beyond the gravity of the earth.

861

The day Halldor Laxness fetched the Nobel prize in Sweden, Beinteinn Bjarnason, Gunnhildur's father, vicar at Karastadir in East Rangarvallasysla, had a stoke and died. At the funeral Ulfur held up the left-front corner of the coffin and wore a dark suit for the occasion.

     On the way home from the funeral Gunnhildur insinuated that she wanted to settle down at Karastadir so that her childhood home wouldn't fall into the hands of strangers.

     I can't see any reason why you shouldn't become a minister there, she said. Even though you disagree with the Bible in all basic respects. Anyway, people have long since stopped going to church so it doesn't matter one way or the other whether the ministers are spiritualists, atheists or misfits.

     Ulfur showed a muted response to this idea and said he had little inclination to be ordained into the clergy, thereby swearing in front of witnesses that nothing was more likely than some heavenly vapours had impregnated Mary the Virgin, Jesus Christ had leaped to heaven with all his clothes on and is hanging there in league with Yahveh with nothing more constructive to do than to kick enlightened people to hell where they have to rot for eternity among foul-breathed demons.

     Gunnhildur said she didn't appreciate that kind of talk about God's holy word.

     Ulfur said little in reply and they dropped the issue.

 

862

But after some contemplation Ulfur came to the conclusion that it was maybe not entirely absurd to become the vicar of Karastadir. This would bring him a stable income without having to do a thing, thereby enabling him to read books and stand on his head uninterrupted.

 

863

And so it happened that seven months after the Reverend Beinteinn Bjarnason dropped dead in the pastures at Karastadir, Ulfur Hallsteinsson sat down at his desk and began to write sermons that were never delivered.

 

864

Never before had Ulfur Hallsteinsson had more time or peace to read books than after he settled at Karastadir with his wife and three-year-old daughter. Still he spent a considerable time standing on his head and on the average sat for half an hour a week in the vicar's study writing sermons.

 

865

Ulfur held one book in greater esteem than others. This was one of twelve copies of a limited edition of the literary work Ars Transmutationis, hand-written in Latin in the year 1246. The work delt with the art form that beyond dispute is the most profitable of all art forms: the art of making gold, and its last pages contained detailed drawings of all the tools and equipment neccessary for the task.

 

866

Ulfur read the book over and over again and learned some of the chapters by heart.

867

On the rare occasions when he took a break from reading, he strolled around the neigbourhood picking up rusted parts from a broken-down tractor, which once upon a time had been standing in front of the farmhouse but was now scattered randomly around an undefined area. Furthermore he picked up various containers, glasses, jars, bowls and tin cans, etc, with priority given to copper and lead. All this he carried down into the basement to a big room in which the Reverend Beinteinn Bjarnason had kept his collection of stones, the most extensive in Iceland according to an article in the Church News. Ulfur had carried all the stones, some of which were rare, into a ditch next to the cattle sheds and when Gunnhildur commented on this movement, he said he was used to seeing rubble kept outdoors.

 

868

When Ulfur had installed most of the tractor and innumerable other objects in the basement room he began to rummage in them and perform complicated operations on each item. For that purpose he used truckloads of sandpaper, an iron saw and a sledgehammer.

 

869

After two years of strenuous work Ulfur Hallsteinsson had constructed a perfect alchemy laboratory and holed up there twenty-four hours a day. He slept on an old couch which he had placed in the corner and cooked his food in the alchemy equipment.

 

870

Ulfur's beard grew steadily and reached his chest. For this reason people gazed at him in wonder on the rare occasions when he appeared in public. Some concluded that he had lost his senses. The result was that people began to attend the service at Karastadir and at times the church was full. Ulfur had a good stock of sermons so he didn't have to waste much time from his alchemy art to attend to his clerical duties.

 

871

This development didn't please Gunnhildur in the least. She didn't think Ulfur's sermons belonged in churches and made frequent attempts to persuade him to mention Jesus or the Lord Almighty at least once in each. Finally she managed to persuade him to abandon his own sermons and deliver instead the sermons of the Reverend Beinteinn Bjarnason which were gathering dust in the attic. From that day on the church attendance began to diminish and in a few weeks it had reached its normal state again: nobody came to the sevice.

 

872

One summer, close to the solstice, a newly graduated theologian visited Karastadir. He had been sent by the bishop to investigate if there was any basis for the rumour that the Reverend Ulfur Hallsteinsson was keeping state-of-the-art distillery equipment in his basement.

     When Ulfur heard about the mission he chuckled into his beard saying he had never suspected the bishop had such a sophisticated sense of humour. Or why should a man who never drinks alcohol waste his time brewing such liquid?

     It's possible to do many things with alcohol besides drinking it. For example selling it.

     Ulfur: So he wants to buy alcohol from me, the old fart. But I must disappoint him by not having a single drop. On the other hand there are some rare substances in the basement, many of which are fatal. They are unfortunately not for sale, but I can give you all the formulas. Anyway, you can get all these substances in the pharmacy.

     How about if we look into the basement then. I myself have no small interest in chemistry, made nine point eight on the high school exam and was rewarded with the book The Molecule.

     They went down into the basement and the theologian glanced over the equipment. He commented that it was very much different from the equipment they had used in high school. Amazing how rapid developments are in the world of science.

     Ulfur suggested they do one experiment together for fun and the theologian liked the idea. They heated a green liquid up to eighty point five degrees celcius and poured a colourless essence into it. This caused chemical reaction with foul vapours rising from the container and dark brown crystals depositing on the bottom. A bitter smell of shit filled the laboratory. The result of the experiment came as a big surprise to both of them and they were filled with enthusiasm about investigating the matter further. But the smell of shit was getting worse and they fled.

     They sat down in the kitchen and had coffee, doughnuts and crepes, which Gunnhildur had been baking during the experiment. The theologian appreciated this treat, and left contented.

 

873

For a long time after the theologian's visit there was pervasive smell of shit lingering in the alchemy laboratory. Nevertheless Ulfur stayed there at all times and moved closer and closer to the alchemist's goal: To forge the stone Lapis philosophorum which possesses the rare quality of turning everything it touches into gold.

 

874

But when the long-awaited moment came at last and Ulfur Hallsteinsson held the precious stone in his hand, ready to turn everything around him into shining gold, his interest had evaporated. He wasn't even interested in knowing if the stone worked. Now he thought it was absurd that it should enter anybody's mind to make gold. So he threw the stone into boiling water where it dissolved immediately and eventually mingled with the atmosphere in the form of an odourless vapour.

 

875

The next day the headlines on the front page of the Morning News announced that John F. Kennedy, president of the United States, had been murdered in Dallas, Texas.

 

876

Everything of importance is missing from this story, said Steinunn and caressed my face which lay at her naked breast. This is nothing but a tedious theoretical porridge which is impossible to concentrate on. And what kind of figure is this Ulfur? Judging from the story he's not a human being with good and bad qualities, to say nothing of emotions, but a fossilized spokesman for worn-out nonsensical ideas.

     What about the style? I asked and struggled to make it look as if I could take hard criticism without losing my equlibrium.

     There are some flashes, but unfortunately the material isn't conducive to a fertile style.

     But isn't that only some fucking prejudice of yours? I asked close to showing a little emotion. You've latched into the notion that every book is trash if it isn't full of social problem shit and common kitchen realism.

     Maybe, Steinunn said in a slightly gentler tone. But it doesn't change the fact that this composition of yours is not good enough. I suggest you begin right from the start again and try to breath some life into these people. Emphasize the people, not this dead theoretical trash.

     I listened to these words of my lover and I was simultaneously, hurt, angry and sulky. There I lay at the breast of the woman I loved more than anything else, the woman to whom I had given the very best of myself and the only thing she did was to demolish my creation mercilessly. I had a sneaking fear that this could poison our relationship. I could feel myself inflating with some ridiculous need to get back at her. Do something to her that would hurt as much as what she had said to me. But I struggled to shove these feelings away. This was a despicable reaction, naive vanity which wasn't worthy of me. If I was going to make writing my profession I would have to be man enough to take merciless criticism. But ... But still. The very least you can demand is that the critique is fair and supported with sensible arguments. Maybe I thought this was lacking in my lover's cruel judgement. She was the last one I expected such treatment from.

     Do you realize that in these pages lies five months' hard labour, I said sulking. Should I throw it away just like that?

     Publish it, for heaven's sake, if you're so upset about seeing it going to the trashcan, said Steinunn irritably. But then you shouldn't expect thundering applause, if anybody wants to publish it, that is. Then again, how about if we stop talking about this story and turn to something more amusing. She stroked my belly.

     I felt a tight wire mesh wrap around my emotions and disturb the flow of the passionate fire which normally burst out of my fingertips when I touched Steinunn's naked skin. But I tried to act as if everything were normal.

 

877

There is constant singing. There is singing on the bus. There is singing on the frozen lake. There is singing in the sauna. There is singing in the swimming pool. There is singing in the church. There is singing in the rooms. Everywhere, where two or three people are gathered there is singing.

     There is singing on the concert trip of the Hamrahlid High School Choir.

878

And drinking.

 

879

And prowling in the dark.

 

880

So, did something exciting happen on this trip? asked Steinunn.

     Well, we sung at Laugarvatn and Skalholt.

     How many girls did you sleep with?

     Not many.

     Seriously, if you've been fooling around with some girls, I want to know it right now instead of finding out later via some slanderous reporters.

     What do you think I am, anyway, I said putting on an insulted expression. I don't even see these girls. Don't utter a word to them. Balli was the only one I talked to the whole trip.

 

881

When I came home I could sense something was different. A silence I didn't recognize. When I saw Steinunn's face I was shocked. The expression that met me could have frozen a hundred-yard runner.

     I seem to have miscalculated your honesty somewhat, she said and a chill ran up my back.

     And, I said.

     Naturally you haven't got a clue what I'm driving at. Innocent as a newborn baby. But I met your friend Balli and he told me off his own bat that you were glued to Gudrun Arna for the whole trip.

     I cleared my throat embarrassedly.

     What was this heap of lies supposed to mean? I don't quite understand. As if I cared one way or the other who you talk to. But I do care whether you lie to me or not.

     I knew if I told you the truth, you would have drawn the wrong conclusions. But it never occured to me to lay a finger on that girl. We just had so much to talk about.

     How do you expect me to believe a single word you say when you have lied like this without batting an eyelid? How did it enter your head in the first place? I could sense she was beginning to soften up a little.

     It was just some bloody nonsense. Lack of judgement. Forgive me, I said, full of repentance.

 

882

I'm constantly getting more news about your adventures with Gudrun, said Steinunn. And I can't say your credibility has increased. It's obvious you don't seem to be able to stop lying once you've started. But I have no patience for this kind of nonsense. I feel as if I'm getting all sticky with filth.

     Isn't it better to take gossip with a pinch of salt?

     I really don't care any more what you were brewing up on this trip. And it wouldn't even enter my head to interrogate you. But I'll never forgive you for lying to me. Twice.

     I was silent.

     I can't see any grounds for keeping this relationship of ours going. If there is anything I hate, it is this kind of dishonesty. Get out right now and take all your belongings with you. I never want to see you again.

     Is it that serious?

     Yes.

 

883

I took endless walks around town. Walked back and forth the same streets. Walked. Saw nothing, heard nothing. Walked. Chanted all the most melancholy songs I knew. Walked.

 

884

Walked. Shores. Sang. Sat on a stone by the waterline and listened to the rhythmical beat of the ocean. Suddenly uncontrollable spasms ran through my body. And without warning I was beginning to hiss like a reptile. Salty drops trickled down my cheeks.

     Probably that what is called crying.

 

885

I sang so much it was beginning to hurt.

 

886

Woke up in the middle of the night, singing.

 

887

Wherever I glance

I look through the void

you left in my soul.

Everything seems at a great distance

because your absence

is the absence of everything that matters to me.

I fill the void with melancholy songs.

Make them sound for a long time in this musical dome of remorse,

so the darkness, the cold and the silence

may retreat for a moment.

But when the last notes die out,

the light disappears and the warmth retreats.

And this silent void fills with sharp shards

from all the hopeless dreams I had about life with you.

It's tempting to try to forget.

Make the sedative of unconsciousness erase my suffering.

But I prefer painful life

to pleasant death.

 

888

What raving blunder, said Gudjon. You might as well have lied to her about what you ate on that trip.

 

889

Just go and visit her. I'm dead sure she is anxiously waiting for you to contact her. You don't know women. They are more simple than you imagine. Think in straight lines. If you beg humbly for forgiveness and tell her you want to start over from the beginning again, I'll eat my hat if she doesn't love you more passionately than ever before.

     You don't know Steinunn.

 

890

Every day I ride my bicycle a few circles around her house, from a due distance. It calms me.

 

891

From my navel a silvercord protrudes that leads to her house. I swing around it like a pendulum.

 

892

Don't dare to visit.

 

893

Accidentally I ran into Steinunn downtown. We went to a caf and chatted like old acquaintances, for a long time. But I sensed we would never get together again.

 

894

Unbearable certainty is better than uncertainty. You're emptied. Purified. Begin again at square one.

 

895

1

 

896

Gudjon is dead.

     Dead?

     He jumped from Hallgrim's Church steeple.

     Dead. Hallgrim's Church steeple. What's this bullshit? How can Gudjon be dead? That's not a theoretical possibility. If anybody is alive it's Gudjon. Gudjon is life. Death and Gudjon don't mix. It's like mixing water and oil.

     He's dead all the same.

 

897

Dead. What does the word mean? A body which before was perpetually mobile is now motionless. A face that once held a million expressions is now fixed with one unalterable wan expression. The laughter silenced. Dead. Doesn't it mean gone? There is nothing left.

 

898

I don't believe Gudjon jumped of his own free will from the steeple. Someone must have pushed him.

     He jumped all the same.

 

899

I'm driven by an uncontollable force to investigate the reason for Gudjon's death. There is something fishy about it. Many unanswered questions. I can't rest until the case has been solved.

 

900

Have you the slightest idea why he did it? I asked Asdis. Did you notice anything abnormal in his conduct lately? Something that could explain the reason for this desperate act?

     No ... nothing ... choked Asdis, having obvious difficulty talking about the matter. Still, I could sense she had much need to do so.

     He seemed to be perfectly content with everything and everybody. Always in a good mood and full of interest in enjoying our life together.

     Nothing nasty between you two?

     Far from it. The relationship couldn't have been better. We had even talked about having a baby. I just can't understand it. He just must have gone out of his mind.

     Out of his mind. Was he on the brink?

     Not at all. At least not as far as I could tell. But I know he once talked to a psychologist. Although it doesn't mean anything, of course.

 

901

Submerged in a leather sofa, Sigurbjorn Thorolfsson, psychologist, gazed thoughtfully into the air and chewed on his pipe.

     Yes, I remember this boy, he said in a composed, purring voice. He came to see me two or three times, then I didn't see him any more. Didn't come to the last appointment I assigned to him. He seemed to be a very lively and normal boy. Never really could understand why he consulted me. Probably he did it more out of curiosity than need for help. He had already told me his personal history, more or less, though we hadn't reached the point of delving deep. But it really seemed to me from what he said that he was an example of an especially complex-free individual, a good example in most respects. It was my intention to delve into his relationship with his parents as the next stage in our conversations. Not that anything had appeared which indicated any complications there, but there's often a thing or two hidden under an unruffled surface.

 

902

As I sit on the roccoco sofa in Gudjon's parents living room it strikes me that although I had known Gudjon for four years, at times meeting him every day for weeks, I had never met these people. They are easy going, respectable, polished; paintings by recognized painters hanging on the walls, cigar smoke in the air.

     I really don't believe we will come to any better understanding of this tragedy by staring into the past, says Bjarnveig Bjarnadottir. Our relationship with Gudjon was just the way those things always are, sometimes good and sometimes impossible. Like life is. Of course it would be possible to wallow in the impossible part forever and inflate yourself with guilt. But I don't see the purpose in that. Actually I think this tendency of problemologists to be constantly poking their noses into the past is going too far. Some of them never get their noses out of the past.

     So there was nothing in your relationship that could explain this end?

     No, unless treating your son as an equal and bringing him up to be an independent individual leads to suicide.

 

903

This is completely unintelligible, I thought. Suicide without any reason. Everything is going well, bright prospects, no complexes. It doesn't make sense. Murder? Who could have had a motive for murdering Gudjon? Someone he cuckolded?

     But this was suicide.

     Is it possible he committed suicide out of curiousity?

904

I'm standing in the steeple of Hallgrim's Church and looking down. It would be enlightning enough to try. I jump. For a long time I glide like a bird, released from all bounds. Down. The seconds stretch into eternity. Touch down on the ground. Very intriguing. Like an atomic bomb. The play of colours like nothing I've seen before. The music indescribable.

     It would be enlightning enough to try.

 

905

I went to my oracular grandmother and said: You who know death better than life, can you tell me why Gudjon jumped to the other side?

     Grandmother was silent for a long time as if she were contemplating the matter. Then she said: It's best to ask Gudjon himself about this.

     She turned off the lights, lit a candle and began to chant haunting riddles in a language that was definitely not of Indo‑ European origin. Suddenly her eyes rolled back and her face swelled up.

     Hello there, mate, she said in a dark voice strikingy similar to Gudjon's. You ask why I jumped. I jumped because evil spirits got hold of my soul and dragged me by foul trechery into this desperate act. And desperate it was. And I'll have to take out my punishment here on the astral plane for following the advice of those sly devils. For seven years I'll have to roam the obscure wastelands on the outskirts of the astral plane before I will be admitted into the light.

     After she had spoken these words, a severe trembling seized my grandmother followed by an unintelligible outburst of words, sounding like the Bible being read at a great speed, backwards. Gradually she calmed down and she returned to her normal self, but she was so exhausted she had to lie down.

 

906

The phone rang and I answered. Gudjon was on the phone and needed to contact me urgently.

     I must correct that bullshit out of your grandmother. That was some bloody spiritualist crap which I can't let go by without comment. There is no afterlife. I'm forever erased from this existence. When I jumped I felt an overwhelming joy at first. I was in seventh heaven, perfectly free. But it was way too short. Way too short. Very soon I lost consciousness, everything disappeared, became neither black nor white, neither good nor evil, neither beautiful nor ugly, nothing, and I disappeared forever.

     But how can you speak to me on the phone if there is no afterlife?

     It's too complicated for me to explain in a few words over the phone. But it has something to do with the relativity of time and space.

     You still havn't told me why you jumped.

     You're eager to know why I jumped. I'm not sure if you'll ever understand the reason, even though I tell it to you.

     Try.

     I jumped because life shattered me to pieces. I was so full of life that my body couldn't contain it any more. This inflated thing struggled inside me like a wild animal in a cage, or magma, or a thousand-degree geothermal steam which had to get out but I didn't have a clue how to uncork it. Sometimes I managed to release a small fraction of this abundance with unrestrained drinking and womanizing, but it didn't do much good. This thing didn't leave me in peace and I felt I would sizzle up if I didn't take drastic measures. Finally I only saw one way: to jump.

 

907

Read the beginning of a few obituaries about Gudjon. Was revolted.

 

908

How can you be known for not going to your best friend's funeral? said mother.

     I'm not interested in participating in clowning around a stiff.

     What kind of a man are you, anyway?

 

909

Instruction:

When I'm dead my corpse is to be burned immediately. All unnecessary transportation of the corpse is unappreciated. I especially advise against it being carried into a church or a cemetery. I strictly forbid friends or relatives to be offered to gaze at the corpse. I prefer to be remembered alive not dead. I don't care what happens to the ashes as long as they are not holed up in a cemetery. And for god's sake: No obituaries. I repeat and double underline: No obituaries.

 

910

Get your ass up, boy. You're coming with us to the station.

     I opened my eyes and through the bleariness I saw four bulky police officers standing around the bed.

     What's going on? I mumbled.

     It's best for you not to make any fuss, said the officer with the broadest shoulders. And get your ass up.

     I got dressed and followed them. My pockets were emptied and the contents put in a plastic bag along with my watch and I was locked up in an upholstered isolation cell.

 

911

Why am I here? I asked the warden.

     You should know better than me, he snapped drily. Nobody comes in here unless he has done something really gruesome.

 

912-996

In the isolation cell neither days nor nights pass. The lightbulb on the ceiling has stopped time. Time is motion. I sit motionless and stare at the light-gray wall. Yawn. Have no idea whether minutes, days or weeks pass between the yawns.

 

997

Two frowning men in dark-gray suits grabbed each of my arms and led me into a bullet-proof van which drove me to the courtroom.

     The prosecutor stepped to the bench, sighed, put on his spectacles and leafed absentmindedly though messy papers. Raised his voice.

     Your honour. In front of us is Magnus Einarsson, high school student, who has been charged with repetitive violation of everything that distiguishes man from animals. Magnus is a pig, who by his conduct has relinguished the right to be called a man. After the testimonies I expect Magnus to be sentenced to the heaviest punishment possible: Lifelong confinement to the filthiest pigsty in the country: the pigsty at Kolbrunarstadir in Rangarvallasysla.

     I call my first witness, Sigrun Thorgrimsdottir.

     Sigrun walked hesitantly up to the witness box and looked around surreptitiously. She clearad her throat. Had obvious difficulty saying what she had to say.

     I ... I dreamt Magnus and I were going to have ... intercourse. But ... But. I don't know how to say this. He ... But when I was ready to receive him and give him all the tenderness I have, then ... then ... he urinated over me.

     A hissing sound swept through the courtroom.

     What bestiality! people whispered. He really is a genuine pig.

     I call my next witness: Kolbrun Hrafnsdottir, said the prosecutor.

     Kolbrun walked decisively to the witness box looking neither to left nor right. Darkness in her eyes.

     I dreamt I was a flowerbed. I had decorated myself to the limits of my beauty, perfumed roses, violet and rose-red tulips, multicoloured lilies, orchards and dandelions, poppies and sunflowers. Then Magnus Einarsson came along and I filled his senses with a delightful scent, lured him to me with my abundance of colours, invited him to enjoy my company. But he walked blindly over my flowers, trod them into the dirt and pulled them up only to let them wither.

     The audience boiled with anger.

     How could such a pig exist!

     I call my next witness: Steinunn Kristjansdottir, said the prosecutor.

     I dreamt Magnus came to me at night, riding a white stallion. A cloak over his shoulders sporting elaborate clothes woven of silk, satin and velvet, wearing gold on his finger, silver around his throat. He drew the gold ring off his finger and gave it to me. He also gave me the silver necklace. Sang me a love poem. Elaborately and twinkling with sweet words he recounted all the dangers he had had to overcome to meet me. I gave him all the best I have, my love and affection undivided.

     But when I awoke the next morning in his arms I discovered that the gold and the silver which he had brought me were nothing but lousy plastic imitations. And the white stallion he had ridden was really an old, dirty boar. And everything he had told me about his dangers was taken word for word from the adventures of Sindbad the Sailor. He had woven around me a tight net of deceptions and lies.

     The audience was speechless with disgust.

     I call my next witness: Sveinbjorg Halldorsdottir.

     A young woman I had never seen before walked to the witness box.

     I dreamt Magnus Einarsson was drowning in a foul ditch. I stretched out my hand and pulled him out of the mud half dead. I nursed him and served him, fulfilled all his bidding until he was well. But he barely thanked me. Just shook my hand like a total stanger, greeted me with a neutral gesture of duty and disappeared without looking back. And I was beginning to love him.

     The woman shed tears.

     But now I hate him! I hate him!

     There is no limit to that pig's bestiality, whispered the audience.

     I call my next witness: Bjarnveig Skarphedinsdottir, said the prosecutor.

     I dreamt my Magnus would be a doctor. Would have a beautiful wife and a house in the suburbs, two cars and even run for the county council. But his mind inclines towards other interests. I guess there is nothing to say about that, men are different, you know. I know that deep down my Magnus is no pig, although it might appear so on the surface. There is nothing evil in him. Of course he has his weaknesses like other men. And I'm ready to admit I dreamt he would be a girl. After all, girls are made better than boys. Not the burden that boys tend to be. I seriously doubt that Magnus is sloppier than most men. They tend to be pretty sloppy these bastards.

     Your honor, said the prosecutor and sighed. I don't think more witnesses are needed to testfy to the guilt of Magnus Einarsson. I call his defence, Gudjon Sveinsson, to the box.

     Gudjon walked smirking to the witness box, as if he looked upon this trial as one big joke.

     I think it's pretty strange if my friend Magnus is to be held responsible for the dreams of some neurotic females. As far as I'm concerned each person is resposible for his dreams. Magnus isn't more of a pig than I or the judge up there and I look upon this trial as a one big hysterical upheaval of the lowest sort.

     The court is adjourned, said the judge, wearily.

 

998

The judge put on his glasses and leafed for a long time through some papers lying on the table in front of him.

     Yes, he said and cleared his throat. After thorough examination of the case of Magnus Einarsson I have reached the following verdict: Magnus has been found guilty of insinuating himself into women's dreams and screwing them up with his inconsideration, deception and dishonesty. Since Magnus was in a perfectly sane state of mind when he performed these misdeeds, I hereby sentence him to the maximum possible punishment, life-long confinement to a certain pigsty mentioned before in these trials. The sentence is to take effect immediately.

     The case is closed.

     When the judge had finished his speech I could feel I had changed into a big fat pig. I was led squeeling out of the court room.

 

999

Even though I'm a pig, the stay in the pigsty at Kolbrunarstadir in Rangarvallasysla is almost unbearable. I have no stronger wish than to be executed and eaten.

 

1000

On the third day I'm completely merged with the stink in the pigsty. A certain numbness has overtaken me and made me immune to the surroundings.

 

1001

A cat has nine lives, learned men say. How many lives a pig has, I don't know. But today my life ended when the principal of Hamrahlid High School presented me with a matriculation diploma and a white tassled cap.

     Tomorrow, I hope that I will rise from the dead as an upright man.