What is stillness like when it is so great it cannot be grasped? When it has come gliding out of its own place and feels more oppressive than thunder?
It is only someone sailing out of the woods. Not so important, perhaps. Putting himself in order calmly and with strength.
The shining, tranquil river glides out with all its burdens. It comes as if from far away in the interior, and delivers its innermost secrets, on its way towards a distant ocean.
What accompanies it on the journey? Intense desires that have subsided. Nothing more.
More of this piece and a selection of exquisite short autobiographical works can be found in The Boat in the Evening, by Tarjei Vesas, translated by Elizabeth Rokkan, published by Peter Owen Modern Classics.
Vesas’ novel The Ice Palace (1963) won the Nordic Council Literature prize. A strange novel about a brief intense friendship between two adolescent girls, it is now a classic of Norwegian literature. His writing typifies the best of Norwegian writing – clarity and simplicity, a loving depiction of landscape, climate and daily life, and an honest if painful growing of self knowledge. Petterson, Heivoll and even Knausgaard walk in his footsteps.