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About Dag Solstad's new book Swing chair

January 1968


How should a review occur? As far as I can see, a review means two things: First, one seeks to see the author's intentions and judge whether he has succeeded in his endeavor. Second, that one characterizes the author's book within the world that is valid for one's self. It is a two-sided simultaneous task.

“Before, we were dreamers and therefore blind. We read newspapers, world history, crime novels and did not detect the difference. But the years passed and we finally changed. ”

This is how Dag Solstad's new book opened swivel chair, a collection of prose texts. In the short quote we find a key to DS's world. The first sentence opens the settlement with his debut book spirals, is the settlement he previously gave in a lecture "Things and the world", printed in Profile # 2 / 67. It is a settlement of the esoteric poetry, a poem for an inner universe that projects its senses into the world.

The lecture stands to me as a personal testimony, the settlement is a settlement with his own poetry, not necessarily with the esoteric poetry as such. It is kept in a clear form that interests by virtue of a sober honesty. In the first sentence of swivel chair the personal experience has already received an unfortunate general formulation of a "we". Then the author immediately pretends more and is unnecessarily intrusive, almost like a doorman. In the last sentence of the quote, we recognize a program statement such as this first prose piece, "We Won't Give Coffee Boiler Wings" later saying: "We will not change our things for birds and flowers. We want the coffee pot to be the coffee pot and see it standing on the breakfast table, glossy with aluminum and filled with smoky coffee. "In article form, DS has formulated such a program statement in the said lecture and in Window no. 2/67, The dreamer is put on the boat, he did not make the world. The isolated man goes out into the world to see what it is like there and he writes about what he sees, because in what he names things he makes contact with them. It is an ancient magical act that gives man the power to be. The poet goes around and greets the world. DS says (as to himself): "A task for everyday literature must be to map the influence of weekly magazines and advertisements on our perceptions, actions and ideas, to the extent to which these banal factors play a role. And this must not be done as before by a downward and downward attitude, a ridicule, satire, as Norwegian writers have so far dealt with the banal everyday life. You have to take the banalities seriously, identify with them, but of course so that you know it is the banalities you identify with. "

Thus, DS's prose pieces become a form of sociological practice, he maps the society he lives in in order to awaken people to a relationship with this society. He accepts attitudes in society while challenging them to see themselves.

“Only by taking pops, banalities, etc. seriously, can one have the opportunity – I have no exaggerated hopes of too much opportunity – to work effectively, to help change the society we are doomed to be part of . "

It stands to me that DS has not reached the distance which is at the same time the present identification with things. He is bound to things as they have shaped his own way of life, and only rarely does he reach the freedom that drives his analysis into the "heart" of things. He does not fulfill his program because he is still a dreamer and no god power who both sees things and shapes things as if he were objectively present in the subjective place.

It must be a task for "the sociological trainee" to use words that stand there in concrete force. One must free the language from the stroke that the poetry of the times has derived and from images, statements, concepts that point to the actual prose text, for example. in metaphysical heaven. (It is undone here to see if it is possible). The words must be set with a presence in the text itself that avoids them demanding a more detailed justification. DS uses too many words, he uses "dream words" and clichés without these blowing himself up and he often sinks into a private world that is just a psychological prison. The lyrics are too slack, they don't grab, they don't seem necessary. They lack for me the tension that is an inner life in the poetry itself.

It may be that DS will not call itself poetry, but it is a form of escape. One can analyze our society and chart human life as a sociologist, but the sociologist requires science. When DS writes, he is as much discoverer, inventor, dreamer, builder as he is a scientist. DS writes, for him it becomes a being or not being whether he is able to redeem a world. The poet releases things. It does not mean that he redeems it from the earth, but that he redeems them in a functional context, he reveals the immanent meaning of the situation and uses his power to determine his life in every thing, as the pantheist says: God is in every thing .

This is not a traditional term for poetry, but the situation of the poet's being: The poet is the man who redeems the world in what he shapes the world in his image. To me it says that the poet's being situation is a three-fold relationship. Catching is the first thing, but the situation has not yet taken shape. The second is to give it shape, but still it is without color, shades, contrasts, fate. All this takes place at the same time, one another and in each other as a triple relationship. The poet must succeed in each of the components, each link must be completed in a release.

DS has a sense for the first: to capture the situation and abilities for the second: to formulate the form, but is bloodless for the third: to color the image and give the form a heart. It is possible that DS's attempt will fertilize other writers and that his theory will come to "form literature". But swivel chair is mostly a time-bound book that hardly survives time itself, the time it tries to capture. If time is a XNUMX-hour fly, DS's book is too. For me, DS's book is an attempt to survive in a rotten world, as a human being always tries to wash their hands, but it seems to me that DS is not yet clean enough to break down the world for the sake of the world. He is still stuck in his private situation and his way of writing solidifies in an ideological method. A phrase came to me during the reading: Easily the poet floats over the earth and reason is he.

Still, in a way I would not do without DS's book. I don't like his methodical style run, it's boring, but sometimes he succeeds in something, for example. in "Novelle" which is a sober reproduction of the everyday cycle, but with a devilish evil. I also find it liberating up in the methodical repetition to read "Moscow," a strange mix of everything: storytelling, article, portrayal, reportage, textbook, autobiography, criminal history, with invisible transitions that unleash a fabulous chaos. Otherwise, I like the short pieces best. One of those who seems to be redeemed and clarified: "Seek out once," at the same time, reveals the world the author himself is captive of:

"Seek out someone I knew once. Was bitten and treated with beer and sandwiches. I tried to tell something, but always told something else. I laughed a lot and was noisy. The one I knew laughed too. But while I was talking and laughing all the time and trying to tell what I was going to tell, I discovered that I had nothing else to tell anyone what I told. "

swivel chair might be called a time-needed book. But – what does that mean?

Day Solstad: Swivel Chair,
a collection of prose texts

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