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Then Støre had to have the last word

What happens when a top politician and former Foreign Minister interviews author Carsten Jensen who reveals the true face of the war and raises questions of responsibility and guilt? 


He is not shadow-scared, Jonas Gahr Store, where he takes the microphone to interview Danish success writer Carsten Jensen about the novel The first stone at the House of Literature on 2 March. Not many Norwegian, yes, Nordic, politicians would dare to stand up against the wall of deadly facts and stories that Carsten Jensen plunges us into. It is our racism, our xenophobia, ignorance and impotence in the cultural encounters in the mountainous country of Afghanistan, which Jensen wants do something with. Be a midwife who with the form of the novel helps to advance the truth through poems and lies that hit cruelly. Of course, it must also have hit Støre where it hurts the most. Where the word "guilt" pushes itself forward.
What is war? asks Carsten Jensen, making Malreaux's words a central theme: War is "getting small pieces of iron into the living flesh." The quote hits the reader on the first page, as it hits the audience at the packed Literary House this Wednesday night.

Jovial meeting

The meeting concept is resilient – a salute to the House of Literature: The former Foreign Minister, now the party leader, will interview the success writer. The roles are changed. Jensen, like Støre, has been to Afghanistan countless times. He knows the country. He knows the people. He draws vivid images of mind and society. He knows the war. Has smelled the blood and seen leftover meat for drones and road mines. Jensen operates miles away from the slick, propagandistic embedded-journalistikken. He paints the war, vulgarity and self-destruction. He draws the meaningless. He draws the blood traces of "the bad Samaritan," as Ha Joon-Chang would call it.
It will be a jovial meeting between the interviewer and the author. The reflected Støre (calling him foggy is damning to something as rare as a well-educated politician who invites debate and thinking) who eloquently approaches the content of a praised book. A glittering teacher who reads directly from the Gospel of John. I haven't even heard Kjell Magne Bondevik in public. It points to the book's title: "He who is without sin, he is the one to throw the first stone at her." Isn't our New Testament legacy of forgiveness and understanding so infinitely better than Sharia revenge and brutality? Does Støre suggest a "our culture is better than theirs, isn't it?" Yes, we no longer stone, Jensen replies, we use drones. Over 90 percent of the victims are civilians. He uses statistics carefully. "One should carry his research lightly," he has already told us. But it slams when he uses it.


It becomes clear that Støre no longer interviews optional manages to be interviews. Unable to let the narrator control the story. Støre's occasional long monologues facing the audience reveal that he must have had more than the interview role in mind. Maybe because we also see more than one interviewer in Støre? In meeting with The first stone Støre must also have met himself. Its political past – like the painful experience in the Serena Hotel in 2008, where the terror showed the true purpose of the war: "small pieces of iron penetrate living flesh". The soldier's vulnerability, which is Jensen's central motive, becomes the politician's vulnerability. It must have beaten Støre. We sense that as an audience. Unspoken, but intrusive.
Speculation? For this spectator, interviews Støre met the politician Støre, and his responsibility for what Jensen called "a series of catastrophic decisions". Because we as politicians must take full responsibility in the end, Støre assured. Can Støre displace that he has been involved in making sterile decisions to destroy "live meat", Norwegian, young meat?

The elephant in the room

Jensen liked what he heard. That Norwegian leaders are open, close to the people, far closer than Danish politicians dare it be, according to Jensen, controlled as they are by their make-up artists and media advisers. "I am moved by a politician who says that he is the one who must take responsibility," says Jensen. No Danish politician would watch this. Jensen believes that the climate in Denmark is similar to that prevailing in Eastern Europe, where all criticism is perceived as subversive, unational, treacherous. Now both Politiken and Berlingske have given The first stone roll of the dice 6. But the colossus of over 600 pages has given Jensen many enemies as well, not least among those in power.
The elephant in the room is the most painful and difficult thing that anyone – not least politicians – can experience: meeting the survivors, spouses, parents and friends of soldiers killed in a war that "is a series of disasters". How do you "take responsibility" then?

The speeches of thanks have been given, and the medals of war have been handed out – and one is left with memorials and graves, and a bitter conclusion: that the war one now takes responsibility for is not only a failure, but has become part of the problem, possibly also increased strife. It not only could, but should, have been avoided. What do you say to the bereaved then?
I want the last word, says author Jensen. I want to create a virus that breaks down the immune system that prevents us from absorbing the essence and truth of war: that we became a destabilizing factor in Afghanistan. But politician Støre could not allow this verdict to stand unchallenged. "I want to answer that, because there I have a different understanding," says the interviewer turned politician. He could not just let the true lies of fiction resound unchallenged in space. There are limits to responsibility. He has to put in another monologue – a defense speech? He could well have left it at that.

John Y. Jones
John Y. Jones
Cand. Philol, freelance journalist affiliated with MODERN TIMES

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