Thursday, December 4, 2014

in charge of it all for the time being

What evidence we think we have of that obduration might be called character. Hamsun's early people try to avoid the fixative effect of character as it exists in the construction of books where a human being is thickened and slowed down, or slowed down then thickened so that the author can observe whatever they hope is there, Hamsun using that thickened, slowing, simplifying technique on himself in his memoir, On Overgrown Paths: behold, a stubborn, humble, deaf old man confronted by a whimsical bureaucracy, a man who is easy to understand, a decent prosaic man.

On the 14th of June I was taken by car from my home and brought to the hospital at Grimstad -- my wife had been picked up a few days earlier and and taken to the women's prison in Arendal. Now, of course, I could no longer look after the farm. That was very unfortunate, inasmuch as a mere youth was left in charge of it all for the time being. But it couldn't be helped.

(tr. Sverre Lyngstad)

They remove his pistols, they put him in an institution; they are unreasonable and he is tolerant. "Again, this [command] was surely not to be taken literally, but I would like to be an obedient probationary prisoner."

And when he disobeys them he is only being sensible, he is sane, and I think of Ruskin demonstrating his sanity in the Praeterita, these two men appealing to fairness and goodness; both of them are sure that it is there in the reader's heart: the reader is sensible, the reader will see, the reader is not a human displaced from them as the authorities are displaced; the reader, the reader, this friend the reader who can be trapped inside their point of view and not allowed out, behold this frankly predatory view of the reader, who will not immediately learn why the author of Overgrown Paths has been taken away from his farm, or why his two pistols were confiscated, or why his wife was removed to a prison, and so it seems dystopian inside the book, though outside the book he was being charged with treason.

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