Chapter 11


I wake up in the morning and find a word scribbled on the notepad which I always have ready on the table by the bedside. The word is written in big letters; VAINGLORIOUS!

            It is an oldfashioned word which has come to my mind sometime during the night. There are more words on the notepad; The Universe – a soap bubble and Mohammed and the mountain.

            But first vainglorious. I know what it means, and I know why I have written the word.

It is a reminder to myself that I am vainglorious.

            It is Thursday morning, the 17th of April. I draw the bedroom curtains aside and see small clouds adrift on a blue sky. It is going to be a sunny day.

            My life companion has gone off to work in Oslo. It is so quiet in the house that the birdsong from outside penetrates the inside atmosphere.

            I brew some coffee. It is a Swedish blend called Zoegas, dark and aromatic, out of Africa. I eat half a banana to go with the coffee. I find from a small box a portion of the General snuff tobacco – also Swedish – that I am dependent on after having quit smoking six years ago, put the snuff under my lower lip and give away a sigh of relief.

              The snuff I smuggle into Norway from Sweden. Smuggling is one of my lesser sins. One is allowed by customs to cross the border at Svinesund (Pork Sound) carrying a pack of ten boxes of snuff, each box containing 24 grammes. I normally bring four packs of ten. Snuff tobacco is much cheaper in Sweden than in Norway, but I do not smuggle primarily to save money. The snuff I use is of a special mild kind called ”Silver” which is not for sale in Norway. I doubt the customs officers would give me a fine if I am taken in a border control with my extra snuff. I guess they’ll just smile and wave me on.

             I save the environment by not going too often by car to Sweden to buy snuff.

             The European Union, EU, has prohibited the use of snuff tobacco. Sweden is so far exempted from the prohibition, since Sweden is the mother country of snuff. If a EU ban on snuff is imposed on Sweden, we may have a situation where snuff is smuggled from Norway – not a European Union member – into Sweden. Many good Christians would participate in such smuggling

             Already, good Christians smuggle cheap meat from Sweden to Norway. It has become a popular sport. The risk smugglers run is not great. One should carry a ton of pork across Pork Sound to be arrested and go to prison.

              Morning, and I take the pills I use to prevent thrombosis of the blood, Marevan and Albyl E. Having a mechanical heart valve, I am in the high risk zone for getting a thrombosis. I have to rely on the light blue Marevan pills and the white Albyl.

                Now to the English-Norwegian dictionary, ”Cappelens store engelsk-norsk ordbok,” edited by Bjarne Berulfsen and Herbert Svenkerud:

                vainglorious – brautende; forfengelig; kaut; oppblåst; pralende; skrytende; hofferdig; hovmodig.

                  It is a full pack of Norwegian words describing what one should absolutely not be. Vain and pompous and boasting. Am I really that bad? Yes, at times I am. I have to recognize that I have all those characteristics within me, that vaingloriousness sometimes overtakes me.  

            To give you one example from the last days: Young Mr Hareide called me. How did I respond to that? I licked his boots, didn’t I?

              In the old times – the red times of the 1970’es – I would have thought of Mr Hareide, the Schibsted manager of organization, as an element of the bourgeoisie (”borgerskapet”). Now I fawned on him. I wagged my tail like a dog.

              I am a dog after attention, as we say in Norwegian (”en hund etter oppmerksomhet”). When Hareide tempted me to come to Trefoldighetskirken by mentioning that the crown princess and the crown prince would possibly attend, I was flattered beyond normal limits, and almost embraced him on the telephone. What a shameless behaviour!

             I see myself in Trefoldighetskirken as the atheist clown of the evening, clowning for royalty. I shall say at the church jubilee that I investigate belief and disbelief, but do I really do that? I search on the surface. I do not go to the depths of the matter. I strike an attitude, a pose.

             I am an impostor. I swindle myself and my readers. What a silly old fart I am, and what a...

             Well, well. Well!    

            Dressed in only my bathrobe I go out in the garden, under the Blood Tree. I lean my forehead against the tree. The bark is grey like elephant skin. The biggest branches look like elephant trunks.

              I try to clear my thoughts and get out of the well of depression I just fell into.

             The white anemonas are no longer only a cluster under the Blood Tree. They grow all over the place, and a blue flower called scilla (”blåstjerne”) mix with the anemonas. Together they give me the impression of being at sea, a windblown, white-capped, blue sea.

              This picture of a sea made by flowers makes me less unhappy. I decide I shall not spend the rest of the day whipping myself for my sins as a vainglorious person.

               I go inside and do some typing.

              Once, in the 1980’es, I did a stunt as a freelance cultural journalist for the newspaper VG. I went on a trip to Los Angeles to make an interview with the actress Pamela Sue Martin.

             She was at that time very hot in Norway as a star playing the role figure Fallon in the soap-series ”Dynasty” (”Dynastiet”), which in record time had become extremely popular in Norway.

              I had previously been elected to the Advisory Board of the NRK (”Kringkastingsrådet”) by the newly elected Conservative (”Høyre”) government. A typical Norwegian paradox. A radical put in position by the Conservatives. Labour would never have elected me.

             At a board meeting, I spoke strongly against the Dynasty being shown in Norway by the NRK. My main argument was that the series was a vulgar affair which promoted the worst sides of American lifestyle. A heated public debate followed. The population was split in two halves. I was supported by grassroot conservative Christians who did not want American sin on Norwegian screens, and heavily attacked by liberals. NRK decided, against the advice of the Advisory Board, to show the Dynasty, and the first parts of the terrible series, a mishmash of stupid sexism and greedy capitalism, started to roll over the television screens in our small, innocent country.

             VG caught upon the occation and sent me to Los Angeles, to exploit the shock effect of the meeting between Miss Dynasty and Mr Anti-Dynasty, an angel-devil confrontation. I knew in advance, before I went to Los Angeles, that Miss Martin did not like the Dynasty very much and wanted other, more serious parts to play. We met at a Beverly Hills teahouse. My report about the meeting became a front page story and a big hit, for which I was severely attacked by my radical friends.

              Rumors had it that I fell inn love with Miss Martin when in Hollywood. Those rumors were false. She was a sweetheart, for sure. But she was engaged to marry a Chilean millionaire and I had my obligations at home.

             Where was I? At typing. When in Los Angeles, I decided to do some serious work. I called the author Charles Bukowski and asked for an interview. Mr Bukowski was very friendly, but excused himself and said that he was too busy typing to make an interview.

             I was impressed by the fact that the world famous author called his writing typing.

             I’m at my desk doing some typing. I look at my bedside notes.

             The Universe – a soap bubble? I had this thought half awake during the night that our understanding of the Universe may be compared to how children understand the creation of a soap bubble. As a child I saw the frame for making soap bubbles being put into a box of soapy water. Then a membrane formed in the frame, in a mysterious way. A blow, and there was a new mystery, a beautiful many-coloured soap bubble floating in the air.

             We do not know what was before the Big Bang. It is as mysterious to us as the membrane to the child. What powers made an infinitively small point explode into the Big Bang and create the Universe?

             A breath of air, then a bubble is blown up. Soap bubbles collapse. So will maybe the Universe do, even if I have the notion that it will expand forever, cool off into a mass of widespread iron units and then be spread further in such a manner that all information is lost, and there is nothingness.

             Mohammed  and the mountain? There is a saying, which I beleive is an old Moslem saying, that if the mountain does not want to go to Mohammed, Mohammed has to go to the mountain.

             Thirteen of my books are translated into German, but only one, ”Orion’s Belt”, into English, way back in 1986. If English does not want to come to me, I have to go to English.

             I write in English. I know that my command of the language is far from perfect. I guess I have already made a thousand mistakes. Curious grammar, misplaced commas, wrong spelling of words, wrong use of words, ”Norlish”.

             But I am happy if I make myself understood.  

             In that sense I am not vainglorious.

              I sat outside in the sunshine, which was interrupted by drifting clouds.

            Now the sun is down. The night sky still is not very dark. It is a blonde Nordic night, here on 60 degrees northern latitude. But he brightest stars are visible on the sky. I see Capella high above the western horizon, a star easily recognized by its companion, a triangle called The Kids (”Geitekillingene”).

            To the south of Capella, the planet Mars is sending its red reflection of the sunbeams towards us. Mars has moved into the constellation of the Twins, and will sink below the horizon in early morning, according to my almanac published by the Institute for Astrophysics at the University of Oslo.

            I have stopped typing, and read about the saintly Katarinas in ”Store Norske”. I make a note about two possible other candidates, besides Katarina of Vadstena, who may have given Katarinahjemmet its name; Katarina of Alexandria and Katarina of Siena.

            Katarina of Alexandria is not spoken about in any sources of Greek-Roman antiquity. In Medieval times many stories were told about her. During a dispute she shall have made 50 philospohers convert to Christianity. The legend about her says that she was killed on the order of emperor Maximinus in the year 305. First she was tortured with a spiked wheel without getting any damages to her body, then her throat was cut.

            Her attribute in church art is a wheel or a broken wheel, a book, a palm or a sword. She is the patron saint of philosophical studies. Katarina of Alexandria was worshipped far away from the Mediterrenean area, also in the Nordic countries.

            Katarina of Siena, Caterina Benincasa, led a short life, from 1347 to 1380. She was a Dominican. She became famous for her visions and her mystical experiences. One such experience was that she was engaged to be married to Christ. She had influence on contemporary politics, and played an important role in the decision that the Pope should move from Avignon to Rome. She was canonized in 1461. Her festive day is April 30th.

            Nobel Prize-winning Norwegian author Sigrid Undset wrote a book about her, ”Caterina av Siena”, which was published in 1951. It is a pity that life is so short that I’ll probably not have the time to read Undset’s book.

            Am I flirting with the female saints? Am I flirting with religion?

            I really am an atheist. Most atheists do not give serious consideration to why they are atheists. I try to do, by comparing my disbelief to beliefs popular with Christians. One reason I am an atheist, is that I do not believe in mysteries such as the engagement of Katarina of Siena to Jesus Christ. No doubt Katarina herself had the idea in her head that she would be married to Christ. She might have seen the situation very clearly, and what a wonderful vision it must have been for her. She managed to convince others that her visions were real.

            But to me those visions are nothing more than movements in the mind of a human being. I oppose the thought of mystery. I cannot believe in miracles.

            Before I go to bed, I look up Brazil in my world atlas. Am I right that one of the states in the confederation of Brazil is called Santa Catarina? Yes, there it is, in Southern Brazil, on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, Estado de Santa Catarina. Its capital is Florianópolis, and I think the city is named after one of Brazil’s first presidents.

            Bedtime. I come to think of a movie where Ronald Reagan, later to become president of the USA, played a main character, ”Bedtime for Bonzo”. Regan’s co-actor was a monkey, a chimpanzee called Bonzo.

            My brain is spinning. I let it spin.



       Chapter 10

Chapter 12