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From silence we have come, to silence we shall be

Forfatter: Erland Kiøsterud
Forlag: Oktober (Norge)
… And only by silence can we be resurrected. 


In recent years, Erland Kiøsterud's literary work has revolved around themes such as the vulnerability of life, ecological awareness and the possibility of rebellion. So did his latest novel Revelation A continuation of Hender's work, published in 2015. Revelation is about Christian, who owns a boarding house on the Oslo Fjord with his wife Magda-Marie, and a group of homeless people who, at the mercy of the couple, get to live at the boarding house. 

What drives the action is a sense of the dissolution of things and the place. Something lurking in the background, has come back, overturned in the world. Life is lived in a state of silence. What is called style heathenism – is it a picture of existence as it is, with no inherent purpose, in a world that might as well be different? Is it also a picture of the wonders of life? On presence and intimacy? This basic chord of the book reads partly through the protagonists' bias toward their lost affiliation with the world, each other and everything living, and partly through a cynicism that, through economic expansion, called and carelessly eats into where a possible life could sprout. This culminates in a crushing scene where Christian and Magda-Marie's son Jonas turn out to have agreed to hand over the pension to an investment firm to take over their parents' debt, behind their backs. 


Is there a turnaround coming? Something may indicate that the protagonists' courage is gradually aroused – to listen deeply into the silence and actually discover life, a cohesion, a hope.

In both his essays and novels, Kiøsterud wonders if we have lost the sense of holiness and inviolability. The fact that today we are in fact destroying our earth, human life and the living basis of all living, has its cause in living apart from nature and our historical origins, he believes. 

Today, we are facing a change in human thought, a complete transformation of the human spirit. 

And yes, we are living in a time of struggle where neoclassical economics based on needs, resource utilization and demand must be replaced by an economy based on climate and environmental sustainability, a new division of labor and planetary consciousness. And just as new technology throughout human history has always led to a new economy and next revolutionized the human thought and symbol world – just think of the agricultural revolution 10 years ago or the industrialization of the 000th century – we are also facing a change today human thought, a complete transformation of the human spirit. 

If you study archeology and human history of evolution, you will find that our interaction with life since the earliest times has been a complex interplay between tools, technology, the meaning of objects and collective psychology. When paleo-anthropologist and evolutionary thinker André Leroi-Gourhans claims that technology, the use of the body (s language), graphic characters and image-creating behavior within a culture cannot be assessed separately, it says something significant about what we are facing. 

As opposed to Leroi-Gourhans, Kiøsterud makes symbols, consciousness and spirituality the primary for the development of society, thereby overlooking the bodily world. For Leroi-Gourhan, the movements of the hand were as much as the technology tools for storing memory; for Spinoza, all life and consciousness go through external influences, that is, the bodily: What shapes existence is not the inner, but the outer. Change of consciousness is an empirical practice and a matter of seeking out and being receptive to physical experiences. 

Life is influence

Development of existence therefore depends on continued interaction and interaction with other living bodies and organisms, on connecting us with forces – senses, the fabric of the earth, objects, works of art – whereby man learns other ways to enjoy and covet. Man is not already there, but is generated, not through the ideals of the state, but through the obstacles and crises of life. 

This is the way to break with our private, constricted consumer desires, so that we get an experience area that goes far beyond what we already know. Is it not such bodily experiences that are the path to a new consciousness and the rebellion Kiøsterud so gladly sees activated? Is our ability to take responsibility for life not precisely based on such sensitivity that creates a new sense of duty to the world? 

Have working ideology and bad habits created a way of life so marked by anxiety to lag behind in the competition and suffering for the short-term win that we are no longer wasting power? This is where the battle must stand – not to come up with a great synthesis of a whole new consciousness, but to enable exploration of new ways to enjoy which creates awareness and sensitivity to life's vulnerability through upbringing, education and self-discovery. 

Our common world

In his essay on community, Kiøsterud refers to American Alphonso Lingis. In the philosopher Tom Sparrows just released The Alphonso Lingis Readerwhich brings together the most important of Lingi's essays, we see how Lingis combines body phenomenology with a vital exploration of the world and life, not least through his many travels to foreign lands, places and people. He meets the world physically – people, cities, space, architecture, odd cultures (also his own, which he experiences equally foreign); he studies the ancient tales, myths and religions without considering these as something lost. 

Man's dealings with life have always been an interaction between tools, technology, the meaning of objects and collective psychology.

When these great stories no longer speak to us (cf. Kiøsterud), could it be because with too much prosperity and our imaginative understanding of sensation and enjoyment we do not bother to find new ways to use the tales? It is not a new, unfathomable metaphysics we need – to have found the truth and possession the) – but that Soge it, in a continuing exercise in experience and opening of mind. 

The revelation

In his famous essay "The Narrator" Walter Benjamin reminds us that telling is a special interaction between soul, eye and hand. Narrative art belongs in the craft and the relationship the narrator has to his substance, human life, the raw material of experience. Here is the common store. Also the predecessor to Revelation, Hender's work, is about the hand as the source of tenderness, humanity, listening – the touch with the substance and the world. Maybe that's what Kiøsterud is trying to say – that Hender's work also becomes the work of thought, by getting in touch with both the other and the great outside. The sight needs the hand – not the eloquence and the exaltation, but the body. For the sight and the body are of the same substance; the visible and the seeing are followed. You can also see Kiøsterud's pursuit of silence – and beauty – as a belief that the stories can teach us to see the world and each other in a way that silences the misty affairs of our confused emotions.

Alexander Carnera
Alexander Carnera
Carnera is a freelance writer living in Copenhagen.

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