|Arts & Culture Archive|
Two weeks ago Anders Behring Breivik shattered the peaceful calm of Norway when he detonated a car bomb in downtown Oslo and went on to kill dozens of young adults at a political youth camp on the island of Utoya. The people of Norway, and the rest of the world, are still reeling from the events of July 22, which killed 77 people.
Last week, Jeffrey Brown spoke to Norwegian crime writer Anne Holt about the situation in Norway. Earlier this week, Art Beat talked with Norwegian poet Cathrine Grondahl, the author of four books of poetry.
Grondahl's collection, "Stark Raving Rhythms," won the prestigious Tarjei Vessas debut award, which is given annually for the best first work in Norway. Grondahl is also an attorney in Oslo, working in criminal law for the state. In Norway, victims of the most serious and grave incidents are provided a lawyer. She anticipates working with victims' families in the weeks and months to come.
We spoke with Grondahl about the mood in Norway after the attacks, the response from the art community and how she feels the attacks will affect Norwegian culture.
Listen to Grondahl read her poem, "The Law Is the Mediterranean," which was written before the attacks:
"The Law Is the Mediterranean"
The Law is the Mediterranean: Take long, slow strokes
Translated by Roger Greenwald
The Q&A is after the jump...
ART BEAT: How would you characterize the impact of the 7/22 attacks? What's the mood in Norway? Any changes you have already felt or seen?
CATHRINE GRONDAHL: I haven't yet tried to formulate the impact of these terrible events poetically. That will come later. Like all Norwegians I am deeply shocked and sad. We all try to understand how something like this could happen in our peaceful and spoiled nation. On a lazy summer day. These acts of terror have created a fear. Thunder in Oslo suddenly sounds like bombs.
But more overwhelming is the strong, uniting response from the young people who survived at Utoya and from our political leaders: We will meet terror with more democracy, openness and love for each other. We must stand together. This response can actually be felt as a new atmosphere in the city, a feeling of hope and solidarity. Shy Norwegians talk to each other. Muslims report that ethnic Norwegians are more friendly than before. I really didn't know that we had this in us. And I guess narrow mindedness, shyness and suspicion will come back to us soon enough. But we won't forget these terrible and optimistic days.
ART BEAT: How is the art community responding? Looking forward, how do you think the July attacks will change Norwegian art, literature?
CATHRINE GRONDAHL: Several authors have written articles and been interviewed in the newspapers. They discuss whether this massacre was totally unexpected or if it was something that was growing within Norway. They agree in their main reactions though, and all appreciate the community of the national reaction.
The major part of art community have been paralyzed. I expect that there will be exhibitions, literature and plays about the attacks in the years to come. Artists need time to formulate their responses. Now is the time for the commentators and pundits, the different experts and scholars, psychiatrists and lawyers to weigh in.
Maybe artists don't feel the urgent need to respond because of the way our political leaders have spoken to us. They have used a deeply humanistic, warm and "literary" language. They have managed to express, form and challenge peoples reactions, like artists try to.
Artist will have to deal with these attacks, like all Norwegians. There is an existential need to understand and live with this sorrow and new seriousness. The American report after 9/11 concluded the attacks hadn't been foreseen or prevented because of "a lack of imagination." The same is true for the attacks on 7/22, I guess. It is a challenge for Norwegian artists, to use our imaginations in this direction.
I think the entertainment business will have a difficult time ahead. Our culture has been dominated by young standup comedians and humorists. Nothing is really important to them. Irony is everything. They have suddenly disappeared from the newspaper. Maybe reality television will be less interesting when the reality outside the TV can be like this.
CATHRINE GRONDAHL: The roles compete with each other, because I don't have the time and the mental energy to be both at the same time, in addition to having two small children. I work full time as a lawyer and will be involved in this case as lawyer for some of the victims. It is good to be able to help people directly. On the other side, people reach out for poetry and art in times like these. The dual roles make me interested in the attacks on different levels; personally, legally, politically, philosophically, poetically.
ART BEAT: Can you describe "The Law Is the Mediterranean"? Has it gained any new significance after the July events?
CATHRINE GRONDAHL: I see that the poem is relevant. Anders B. Breivik considered himself a god, very much superior to human laws and human individuals. And he was in a war, eye for an eye. The image of the sea makes me immediately think about the young people at Utoya who tried to swim from the island. In the poem, I thought of the different people being connected by the sea. In Norway today, different people are much more tightly connected; there isn't a whole sea between them. Christian priests and Muslim imams lead funerals together for young, Norwegian Muslim who died at Utoya. We are together.
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