Theater of Cruelty

A city between hands

The unique book series Oslo Road Book gives us the city we want – car-free and on rails.


[case prose] Then it is in the mailbox with my address on the envelope, the newest book in my favorite series. This is the Road Book for Oslo, a delicious, multicolored series in the format of 9,5 x 21 centimeters. Sent free of charge from Sporveien, perhaps a half-secret remnant from the time of Poor Norway, when the community generously harvested its slender crate.

The book I carefully pull out of the envelope "applies from April 30.4.2007, XNUMX" and follows the same design template as the previous one. The picture on the front is a tableau in "The Tramway's History Cavalcade", and shows the Railway Square full of trams and buses when Hotel Viking was newly built. However, a slight difference between the front pages makes me uneasy: In the previous book it said “Do you subscribe to the route book? Remember to renew your subscription! ”. This text has now been removed, along with a two-color ad with the same request on the first page of the book. A warning that the time of generosity is in luck? Gods forbid.

My Matrix

Rutebok. Between my hands I keep an entire city. And not only the center with its upper and underground grid, its highly tangible matrix, but this whole marvelous city that extends towards Hakadal to the north and Moss and Mysen to the southeast.

Take the ferry to Gressholmen with one clip. On the way to Hakadal you can sit like a Jørgen Moe and experience a night in the Nordmarken from the train window. If you take the "Orient Express" to Holmlia, you may want to count 13 languages ​​on one cart, and feel that everything is diverse and very well. But if you travel to Røa on a Friday night, the silent roar of the silence shatters in your delicate ears.

It is the car-free city that takes shape where you browse. Without screaming it out, the text announces in a slightly more old-fashioned way than Al Gore's vital message: Some have put rails on me, some have combed out bus files and dug into the bus pockets, just to produce the flexi card.

The fold-out maps, or "web forms", are celebrated by their mix of iconicity and symbolic use: Of course, there is no straight line between Carl Berner's Square and Vestli Metro Station. But in our heads, the city is like this: Rational and friendly. Some have not only dug and laid rails, they have thought of us, with us. Almost timeless engineering tanks that at sentimental moments send associations to the aqueducts of the Roman Empire.

The color choice is gentle. The yellow color is random, but all the tram windows are light blue in the completely tram blue way. That the night windows are on pink sheets, testifies to sophistication, may be hinted at young girl dreams: "In a pink helicopter I want to fly home to you". Or home in a red bus in the moonlight. But the pink department also houses the morning routes for workers who are going to get up early. Many of them are cleaning workers from Sri Lanka of both sexes. Rosa, de? No, maybe it's me, maybe it's the color of my nose after a long and humid evening that is hinted at, also with a certain discretion.

On the tram with Munthe and Egner

But not everything is equally discreet, because this book contains many different voices. In between all the rational route information is a wealth of framed notices. Most of them are in identical form around the book, probably both because there are deceptive readers who do not read the book throughout and because a good thing apparently can not be repeated too often.

Some notices belong in the tourist brochure genre: "Out to the forest and beach" this can be found in four places – on pages 235, 244, 342 and 345), "A trip outside the city limits", "Be a tourist for a day" and "In the city a week's time »and« Everything at Storo ».

Other notes are written in a wonderful, moralistic Margrethe Munthe style: “Where do you have your feet? On the floor, of course – not on the seat! ” or “Today's good deed? Offer your space to someone who really needs it! Or how about grabbing a roof when the pram is going in / out? » The following note could have been authored by a synthesis of tram driver Syversen and aunt Sofie:

When to go on and off

Some simple rules make traffic smoother:

Walk towards the door before the carriage stops. Those who are going in must first let those who are going out. Pull inwards in the carriage immediately; it hurts that more people do not come in due to crowding inside the doors.

If there is room for 3 on a bench, you do not need to spread over half the bench during rush hour. Show good sportsmanship and follow messages from the staff!

The first steps in a stylistic analysis of this prose poem had to be to point to the alternation between the formal and the informal ("staff" vs. "spread") and the use of italics ("in" and "out"), as traces of an educational style we all know. But does that mean the text is aimed at young people?

Hardly. There are many indications that the route book is for the well-adults. The young people are expected to use text messaging and the internet when orienting themselves in The Oslo Matrix. But be careful now, much of this unique book series is so valuable that it will never be transformed into a mobile phone format, even though it actually contains a number of "links", ie internal references.

One link leads to a separate tramway history at the back of the book, a pearl inside the pearl. Hear only about the year 1918: «1918. Grain transport by tram from Vippetangen (canceled 1967) ». A modern miniature cultural history! This is valuable non-fiction.

Despite the pluralism, the work is held together by certain stylistic features. But a marked break in style appeared in the previous issue when private capital was allowed to do so with an amateurishly designed, but centrally located advertisement. It was about Oslo City who said that "Everything is possible". Fortunately, this ad is no longer in the spring schedule. Everything? Of course, anything is possible, but not at all in Oslo City. Let us rather show sportsmanship with Sporveien and orient ourselves along the future-oriented matrix of the past than let ourselves be encapsulated by the shopping centre's conform control.

Reviewed by Johan L. Tønnesson, professor of non-fiction research at the University of Oslo

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