Chapter 25

Kirilov’s position, and my own

 In ”The Myth of Sisyphus” Albert Camus writes about Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s hero, the engineer Kirilov, here in my translation from Norwegian:

On a question from Stavrogin he (Kirilov) emphasizes that he is not speaking of a godly human. One might believe this is because he would not be identified with Christ. But in reality it is about annexing Christ. For a moment, in fact, Kirilov imagines that the dying Jesus did not wake up again in Paradise. He then understood that Christ’s sufferings had been in vain.

”The laws of nature,” says the engineer, ”let Christ live on a lie and die for a lie.” Only in this context does Jesus embody the full human drama. He is the complete human, because he has fulfilled the most absurd fate. He is not the godly human, but the human god.

And like him, everyone of us may be crucified and fooled – and to a certain degree we are.

              All of this is not perfectly clear to me. But what is clear, is that Kirilov does not believe that Jesus is the son of God. He sees the drama of crucification as a human drama, the same way I do. But I do not think that the fate of Jesus was absurd. In my opinion it was the fate of a spiritual rebel who met his death at the hands of the Roman conquerors of his country.

             Camus goes on:

The deity we are talking about is completely worldly. ”For three years I searched after the attribute of my god,” says Kirilov, ”and I have found it. The attribute of my god is independence.”

From now on, one understands the meaning of the position of Kirilov: ”If God does not exist, I am god.” To become god, is only to be free on this Eearth, not to serve an immortal being. One should obviously be aware of all the consequences of this painful independence. If God exists, everything depends on him, and we can not do anything against his will. If he does not exist, everything depends on ourselves. For Kirilov as for Nietzche (German philosopher Friederich Nietzche) to kill God, to oneself become god – that is to fulfill on this Earth the eternal life which the Gospel speaks about.

I am no God-killer. I do not want to become God. I have never said with Nietzche that God is dead. God could not be killed because he did not exist, and does not exist.

              Then I agree with Kirilov: Everything depends on ourselves. We have to realize our life on Earth. It is not an eternal life. We live very shortly. But life shall go on for – hopefully – hundreds of millions of years.

             Camus quotes Dostoyevsky’s hero:

Man invented God just to avoid committing suicide. That is a summary of the universal history until this moment.

It is extravagantly said. But I don’t agree. Most humans are not so intent on committing suicide as Kirilov was. I think mankind invented God as a mirror image of man, and as a deity that humans could rely on for their salvation of life, eternal life. In this invention I cannot believe. I think faith in eternal life is an illusion. If I should put it very harshly; it is a bluff.

             That is my position.

            All the contact I have had with Christians lately has not convinced me that I am mistaken. I have had to investigate my atheism, and my motives. Meeting the Christians, I have come out as a stronger atheist than I was before because I have had to defend my disbelief.

             Or isn’t it so? Is my newfound strength just something I fancy, an imagination?

             I think so much about this that I get headaches. It eat Paracet pills to cure my aching head.  

             The first days of May drift away like smoke in the wind, ”går som en røyk”. I write. I do my typing.

             The vegetation around the house explodes in green. The cherries and the bird cherries get their white flowers. Everything in nature happens at once, too fast. I sit outside in the sun. It is almost too hot.

             The newspapers Dagbladet and VG on days on end have had front page stories about a man in Austria, Josef Fritzl, who has allegedly kept his daughter prisoner in his cellar for 24 years, raped her repeatedly and made her give birth to seven children. I do not follow the Fritzl case closely. If the story is true, it is a demonstration of what capacity man has for doing evil. I am not in a mood to read about evil.

             I wait for the swallows to come. They are late this year. Has something happened to them in Egypt?

            Monday May 5th: The painters, Morten Harstad and Andreas Bergesen, arrive and start their work. It is eighteen years since the house was painted. It is good to see the fresh yellow ochre paint on the walls. I go inside and complete chapter 22 of this book.

             Tuesday May 6th: The swallows, the house martins, arrive! They immediately start repairing their clay nests.

              The leaves of the Blood Tree unfold. They are green, but in a few days they’ll take on their red-brown colour.

            I inspect the trunk of the Blood Tree. This spring the sad news reached me, through the NRK television news, that the Botanical Garden in Oslo had to cut down a fine copper beech. The tree was infected by a certain kind of fungus which thrives on copper beeches.

              On the Botanical Garden’s copper beech, young loving couples had inscribed their initials in the bark. The management of the Botanical Garden arranged the tree to be cut up in sections. Then the couples, if still couples, if still alive, could come and collect the section with their initials on. I thought this to be a lovely arrangement. But I do not know if any of the couples came to collect their section of the tree.

            Our tree seems to be free of fungi. The tree was, we suppose, planted in the garden when the house was built in 1880. The Blood Tree, thus, is 128 years old. But I think it considers itself a young tree. If not attacked by fungi, or hit by lightning, the tree will live on for another 128 years, perhaps much longer. No one really knows how old a copper beech  may get.   

            I go to the pool. I forget to take off mye wrist-watch, which is waterproof but has a leather strap. I go into the shower with my watch on. It’s an Alzheimer thing to do. I makes me worried, more worried than I should be.

             But my swimming goes very well. Fantastic speed. 14.52, 14.53! The best I have done since May 14th 2007. The best since before I got the cancer diagnosis. I’m back on track. I’m really cheered up. I think of myself as a man who fights his demons.

            For a cancer patient – or a have-been cancer patient! – the bodily functions are very important. Sometimes during the one year long process of cancer thinking, I have thought that the body is much more important than the soul. Cancer is in the body, not in the soul.

             I go to see my psychiatrist. Private matters.

             Back home I begin writing chapter 23.

             Wednesday May 7th: I have got my rowing machine back from repair, and do my routine indoor rowing and bicycling.

            The grass on our lawn has grown so fast in the hot weather that it has to be cut. I’m always a pessimist when it comes to starting engines. We have a motor mower. The lawn mower starts at first try.

             The air is filled with the smell of freshly cut grass and fresh paint.

|             I complete chapter 23, and start typing chapter 24.

             Thursday May 8th: I go to see my medical doctor (”fastlege”), Rikard Rupar, to do the monthly test to check my blood value, the test internationally known by its abbreviation as the INR-test. The test result is good. I can continue taking my normal dose of Marevan. I complain about my headaches. Blood pressure is checked. Normally I have low pressure, which is good for a man with a mechanical heart valve. Now the pressure is too high; 150 over 80.

             Worries, worries!

             Doctor Rupar says I should not worry my head off. The high pressure may be stress related.

             ”Are you in a state of stress?” he asks.

            ”I suffer from stress writing a new book,” I say.

            ”Take it easy,” says Rupar.

            ”It is not so easy to take it easy when you write.”


            ”I’ll do my best.”

            I go to the pool and try to forget about the blood pressure.

             14.59, 15.03. Excellent! I am not mad at myself for not going four seconds faster on the second round, so I could have gone below 15 minutes. I try to be satisfied with myself, to ”think positively”.

             The sun shines over Sarpsborg from a sky with no clouds. It is hot like summer.

             I drive directly to the beach at Botnerbaugen. I drop a thermometre in the sea, fastened to the bathing pier with a line. Three days ago I read in Moss Avis that the sea temperature was 13 degrees centigrade. I reckon myself to be no sissy when it comes to sea bathing, but I prefer the temperature to be at least 15 degrees. I pull up the thermometre. It shows a fabulous – for May 8th in the Oslo Fjord -16 degrees.

             Here we go!

             The first swim in the sea this year. It’s the most relaxing thing of all the things I do. I think I can feel my blood pressure sink.

             Joy, pure joy.

             But when drying in the sun I suddenly think: Am I a killjoy when I meet the Christians? Do I try to take their joy of faith away from them?  Should I rather put my atheism in a bag an keep quiet about it?

             Kirilov. All this kirilovism!

             What do I know about faith? Have I really tried to beleive in anything else than the Sun god and the Sea god?

             The beaches are empty. Norwegians tend to follow the calendar when they go to the beach, not to check sea temperature.

              No, I’m passing a too hard verdict on my countrymen. I can hear some children shriek with joy on the neighbouring beach.

             Then there are the birds. The eider ducks (”ærfugl”) are swimming in the bay, and are accompanied by some other black and white ducks whose name I do not know. The terns (”ternene”) are diving for fish. The oyster catchers (”tjeld”) are calling with their shrill voices. The big black-backed gull (”svartbak”) is sitting on the same rock as he sat on last summer.

             After two hours in the sun and the sea, I go back home. I make some corrections to chapter 24, and complete it. Start on chapter 25.

             Friday May 9th: I call Atle Nyhuus at the local data shop, BN Data at Halmstad in Rygge, to arrange for publication of my new book, the book you are now reading, on the internet. Atle did the technical work when I published ”Brev fra de troende” in February.

             I say that I plan to finish writing during the Whitsun (”pinse”) holiday, to have the manuscript ready for publication on May 13th.

             ”This time I have written a book in English,” I say proudly.

             ”No problem,” says Atle.

             And, of course, it is no problem for him to make the technical work on a book in English.

             I should not be boasting too much about writing in English.

             I say that I would like to have the book ready on the web on May 20th. That day The Office for Norwegian Literature Abroad, NORLA, celebrates its 30 year anniversary with an arrangement in Oslo. Authors, translators and cultural journalists are invited. It would be a good opportunity for me to present information about my new book.

             Atle says that if I deliver the manuscript by email on May 13th, the book will be on the web a few days later. We have to rearrange the website, but that is no big job.

             I should have discussed the price for the work to be done by BN Data, but I forget to mention it. I’m so eager to publish that I do not think much about the price.

             I go to Vinmonopolet (The Wine Monopoly) in Moss. We still have special shops in Norway for the sale of wine and liquor, operating under a government licence. We are so used to this that it is not seen as a problem by anyone except the most persistent right-wing spokesmen for market liberalism. I buy three bottles of Argentine red wine, ”La Celia” from the mountain slopes of Mendoza province, and a bottle of  Scotch, ”Famous Grouse”,  for Whitsun.

             The sun still shines like it should be summer. I go to the beach. Sea temperature: 15 degrees, rising to 15,5 during the afternoon. I do five short, very short, swimming trips.

             I go home to complete this chapter, number 25.

             How many more chapters will there be? Three, I think.

              I have to answer a question I often get from Christians: But don’t you think there is a force, a power, in the Universe?

             I have to ponder over some quotations from the Bible sent to my be a young woman.

             I have to reply to a letter I received a few days ago from a woman the same age as me, a former missionary, who prays for me.

       Chapter 24

Chapter 26