Theater of Cruelty

When politics becomes personal

If a novel is ever to be called an SV novel, it must be this one.



That is perhaps the first word that comes to mind when characterizing Endre Lund Eriksen's novel "It does not end". The book is about the SV politician Brage Olsen, the Storting's youngest representative, who in March 1999 votes for NATO's intervention in Yugoslavia, votes for bombing, for war, although he is really against both NATO and war, although he was always the one who mediated, defended, broke up battles in the school yard, although as a sixth-grader took almost half the class, at least a good part of the girls , on starting the organization Children for peace, for which he himself had the idea, and for which he himself carried out the only action, a bicycle action with the aim of closing down the military airport close to his home in Bodø.

But it's not just about Brage. It is about the Kosovo Albanian Ismail, whom the youth Brage and the rest of the gang help in church asylum after being denied his asylum application, Ismail who can talk about bottomless fears, systematic arrests and merciless police violence, and later mass rape, murder, ethnic cleansing , massacres. And about Alex, erratic, threatening Alex, who throughout his childhood and adolescence would like to make friends with Brage, even though Brage does not quite dare, not completely will, Alex who has a Norwegian mother and Serbian father and who certainly, or in At least maybe, now watch Brage outside the Storting office.

The distinction between good and evil

At the same time it is also about growing up, forming, point of view, principles. About being afraid, afraid of what you think can happen and afraid of what has happened. Afraid of what you don't understand, and even more of what you understand. It's about believing in the good and the bad. About what happens when faith becomes doubt. Can something wrong at the same time be right? What happens when the child's black and white perception of the world has to give way to a more murky understanding of society? What happened when you suddenly agree with those you have always regarded as opponents? Can it be justified to kill innocent people to stop the killing of other, just as innocent people? Where does the distinction between victim and abuser go, between good and evil, between truth and falsehood? And are there situations where the right, the moral, the good, are to turn away, lower your eyes, look a different way?

Endre Lund Eriksen's novel raises important questions, without giving any back end of the book. The truth is rarely absolute, neither in the history of one or the other, nor in this novel as a whole. Lund Eriksen leaves it up to the reader to make a point of view. Probably that's exactly what he wants; make us make a choice. And then to doubt the choice we just made. The novel throws us from one point of view to another, giving us again and again a new image, a new version, a new truth. All the time linked to a real event, a real time, a real political situation.

At a time when Norwegian literature – and politics, for that matter – has been accused of being navel-gazing, and bookstores are flooded with entertainment literature and feelgood novels, It does not end a never-ending surprise in this year's book harvest. A cross-through political novel is rarely seen in today's literary reality. And here, political decisions are not just a backdrop for a personal narrative, here politics is the very driving force of history, what kicks the action in motion and moves it forward, backward, sideways, and then forward again. Foreign policy becomes personal. Relentlessly personal, for Ismail, for Alex, for Brage.

An ambitious project, as I said. But Endre Lund Eriksen is doing well. The portrayal of Brage, both as a slightly paranoid adult and a dutiful, morally snuffy child, is believable, and the oral language builds up in both time frame and narrative voice. The chronology bounces back and forth, as do the stories, but it's always Brage who sees, Brage who interprets. With the eyes, understanding and language of the child, adolescent or adult.

Should one have something to postpone It never ends, it must sometimes try to embrace a little. Here are many stories, many people, many leaps back and forth in time, many contexts to be explained. And that the book contains just too many proof errors that it can be characterized as an accidental accident.

Anyone who remembers how riveting the debate around NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia was in 1999 will naturally have a special interest in reading Endre Lund Eriksen's novel. But equally, this is a novel that can be recommended to all voters, not least all the sofas who view politics as uninteresting, incomprehensible or irrelevant. It never ends shows the opposite: That politics affects, intervenes, has consequences.

That it is basically a matter of life and death.

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