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They risk life for writing

Stories about courage
Regissør: Kari Klyve-Skaug

How often do we read writers who have had to flee from war, death threats, torture and prison? But do we really long for a kind of detachment from a safe, prosperous, sheltered society?


What can a native Norwegian say about writing when there are people who have been forced into exile because they wrote?

In the documentary Stories about courage we meet Mansur Rajih (Yemen), Asieh Amini (Iran), Philo Ikonya (Kenya) and Musa Mutaev (Chechnya) – they are writers and activists living in exile in Norway. In the film, they describe their own experiences with prison and torture, having lost friends and family in war, and having seen their hometown burn.

To top it all, they felt that the truth of these events did not see the light of day where they were. That all who tried to protest were silenced to death. That the authorities pretended everything was fine, while everyone was suffering. They felt compelled to seize the pen to tell of these abuses, while this act forced them to leave their homeland. They were punished for being told.

Freedom of speech

Stories about courage can potentially give literary Norway an alarm. In many corners of the world, writers still have to fight for security, freedom, equality and other things we take for granted. Literature is still capable of generating these privileges. Even today, on a safe, Norwegian basis, the four authors are actively working on the injustices that have taken place, and which are constantly taking place, in their respective countries of origin. Texts that measure temperature, analyze society and carry with it repressed stories. Texts that are not primarily about innovative language or metaphysical gymnastics, but which inform what is going on in the world around us. These authors assume the responsibility that should belong to a free press and democratic authorities.

The western directorial duo Klyve & Klyve (producers here are Audun Skaug and Odveig Klyve) are interested in the collision between geographical and cultural affiliation, traditions in the face of a changing society, and art – especially literature – as a form of protest. Their projects have been well received in a number of countries, and Stories about courage continues to tour the Norwegian festival landscape – usually followed by a conversation with the director and one or more of the authors. The Bergen International Literary Festival for Nonfiction and Fiction (Littfest Bergen, which will be held for the first time on February 14-17 this year) is among these, where Asieh Amini and Mansur Rajih will read poems after the screening.

The authors of the film show that they are willing to risk life by writing for whatever consequence. They open up discussions about war, authority and persecution. They believe in the liberating, revolutionary power of literature. Here we can also ask ourselves if we have lost this belief in Norway. Or have we forgotten that we once had it?

For at the time of writing, it is over a hundred years since the first entries of Ibsen's monumental settlement with a religious, patriarchal, bourgeois hypocrisy. It's been half a century since the Profile circuit and the 68th generation. Have we run out of problems to write about, or do we simply not dare discuss them in fictional literary form?

Today's debates around literature and society in Norway are not about the relationship that exists between the two, but rather about whether the relationship exists at all. If we look at writers who have had to flee from war, death throes, torture and prison, it might prove to us that poetic art Not only is it about understanding ourselves as individuals, but also how the individual has an inseparable responsibility towards the community.


After the release of Balzac and French Realism (1965), the literary theorist Georg Lukács has received a great deal of legitimate jealousy for his dogmatic turn from modernism to realism. As an Orthodox Marxist, Lukács believed that modernist literature was bourgeois and decadent because it was engulfed in form experiments, secluded from society and self-absorbed – the so-called "art for the sake of art". The contents were sacrificed on the altar of the mold. Only realistic writers, such as Balzac and Stendhal, were able to mirror society so that the reader would understand and engage with reality. Lukács's uncompromising tone may be difficult to accept, but parts of his thinking can serve as a wake-up call for today's readers in the Nordic region, regardless of gender, age and class. For the question is whether the literature has become self-absorbed again?

As a diverse population of avid novelists, literary students, magazine subscribers, bookseller collaborators, audiobook savers, author-renowned, procurement-promoting mammoth sales-bonanza writers, we need the seriousness of vitamin injection.

Kanskje Stories about courage touring Norway because we long for a kind of detachment from a safe, prosperous, sheltered society. While the Nordic sphere spews out pocket crime, the reality is beyond an intensifying march towards political and ecological doom. As a diverse population of avid novelists, literary students, magazine subscribers, bookseller collaborators, audiobook savers, well-known authors, procurement-promoting mammoth sales bonanza writers, we need the seriousness of vitamin injection in this reading hobby we find most satisfying to speak. Reading should not only be entertainment – it should give post-internet people a vigilant, formed status that is not impaired by the age of haste.

Misunderstand me right, the undersigned belongs to the latter category and can admit to having sat with their backs straight through book bath after book bath, for both pleasure and interest. But when Trump is elected president, I also think that literature should cling to the backbone, wake up and take responsibility.

Stories about courage tells that the literature er important. Stories about and against tyranny are both about and require courage.

The movie is shown on HUMAN International Documentary Film Festival,
25. February to 3. March 2019

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