Friday, July 29, 2011

Norway's fearful Friday

What a sad day!

I was in my car all day, driving home from friends in Sweden. I followed my plan to stay north of Oslo, and passed that area an hour before the bomb went off. I even drove by the shore of the lake where many youngsters were shot and killed two hours later. My radio was on all day and the continuous updates just turned more and more horrifying and unbelievable as I was driving westward. Now I’m back in my house. It’s just before midnight and I have seen the Prime minister and others giving their comments, condolences and reactions on TV.

This day is going to affect the whole nation in several ways and for years and decades. In the next few days we will find out who are among the victims, and in a small country like Norway so many will be personally affected. I also know people working in the buildings that were bombed in Oslo. I keep my fingers crossed.

That is Jan Hasselberg writing close to midnight, Friday, 22nd July, in the quiet of his home in Bergen, Norway.

By midnight and Saturday morning 23rd July he will have emailed that message to friends and acquaintances everywhere, including storyboard and many others in Papua New Guinea.

A sad day indeed for Norway, a country as small as ours.

Readers will remember Jan Hasselberg. He was among that little group of writers  gathered at the Tufi Dive Resort upon a weekend of March earlier this year (4-6/03/11). See The Literary Marvels of Tufi. Jan (pronounced Young) described himself then as “itinerant Tufi resident” when storyboard met him and as always was busy at his lap top in between conversations that sometimes touched lightly on the similarities of fjords in Norway and those of Tufi.
 “Is Norway as peaceful as our Tufi surroundings here?” storyboard asked Jan once. No, came the prompt reply, my country is just as bad as any story you hear about corruption in your country, and away he would go. There were the logging disturbances at Collingwood Bay, he would maintain; where is there peace anywhere on this globe for us sad writers and artists. Are we way out? Are we odd? He was a nice man to meet and strike up a conversation with. All the more nicer to hear that he is safe and sound where by this time the varying theories on this notion of the “terrorist” entity is further engulfing the norms of ordinary human concentration. And then again all sorts of questions are being asked and slung as weapons by one group of humanity against another, one religious sect against another, one extreme against another, and so on and so forth.

In Papua New Guinea we are not quite used to such threats of “unrestful silences” as Conrad would put it straight from the “heart of darkness”, or violence, if we can describe them as that. But oh, yes, we do have our own notion of civil or social differences, and nine times out of ten we deal with them successfully, almost every day of our lives – but not in as horrifying a manner as those bombings and wanton slayings as in Norway or elsewhere which, unfortunately for us, require a lot of theorizing. And these theories lead nowhere else but to utter confusion which the so-called civilized parts of the globe regard as rational thinking. One needs only look up the blogs, read the newspapers and view various channels of the TV box to see what all that is about.

When Jan Hasselberg sat down to write at his desk in the peace and quiet of Tufi in March earlier this year he felt he was far removed from the hum drum of intellectual noise that affects much of Europe today, at this very hour. We see a man carrying on with his life upon the age of retirement, going out to open sea, tasting the salt air, scuba diving or fishing, then coming back to a lovely evening and a dinner table laden with crabs and oysters. The only moment of disturbance he felt there and then was the way humanity began to meddle with ancient and ancestral land marks such as Keroroa (Mt Victory, so named after Lord Nelson’s battleship). He even wrote a nice coffee table type of article called “Keroroa is weeping” which covers much of the logging activities that go on around Collingwood Bay area.  A full text of that article will appear shortly in one of the storyboard blogs.

Some of the information regarding the tragedy of Norway mentioned here comes from Jan’s fellow Norwegian citizen, Aslak Sira Myhre (, Sunday 24 July 2011 13.25 BST). There we get into the inner workings of such modes of “unrestful silences”. That in turn forces us to wonder, as a very small country and far removed from the rest of the world, if what we hear about Norway will eventually reach our shores one day. Those premonitions we are not in the position to see, but we do have our own moments of uncertainty and doubt. And though we are often described as “the land of the unexpected” our choice of taking the middle ground of things seems to be adamant. But that should not mean we have a fate we will never know.

A further reading of Aslak Sira Myhre’s lamentation leads one to some sort of conclusion that Norway’s tragedy affects us all in one way or another. Those awkward yet indefinable moments of “unrestful silences” become our mystery as much as any other cultural group or setting. But as we read Myhre’s opinions as well as others we take particular note of the Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg’s remarks that what we all need in times like these is “more democracy and openness.”

Now as writers we should know how to interpret such a phrase: that we must talk about things that bother us; that we must be alert about the next step we take; and that in this modern age of hi-tech distractions, it is best we keep our fingers busy with every strum of the guitar chord, with every turn of the pen on paper. And out of all that comes the anticipated poetry and song. That is where the dance is.