Fearful Symmetries

Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...

18 July, 2005

Prost Gotvins Geometri – Part 7

This is Prost Gotvins geometri by Gert Nygårdshaug. The translation was done by Roy Johansen. Nygårdshaug is a Norwegian author and the text has not yet been published in English. Roy is a friend of mine who recently moved back to his native Norway. He has translated a good part of the novel and I'm trying to convince him to finish it.

Here’s Part 6.

Father Gotvin's First Journey (continued)

I felt exhausted. The impressions, the splendor, God’s presence made my bones ache. I bought a bag of oranges, peeled two at once, and pushed the juice in between my dry lips. They would have mass tonight and I looked forward to it but how would I find her again? Lucienne Lopez? I knew I had to meet this woman again, she who had perhaps seen the miracle. She might be able to tell me. Wasn’t I here precisely for that reason – to investigate the circumstances around this miracle? Wasn’t that the reason I so abruptly had decided to make this trip? Despite the church council’s reluctance to have their minister make pilgrimages to catholic sancta, I never revealed my innermost motive to going: I wanted to examine the circumstances around this miracle.

I petrified.
My fingers squeezed the orange in my hand.
Yellow juice ran down on the pavement.
Didn’t I know this until now?

All the while I had been pondering on my motives for this trip without daring to supply the answer. The answer that had been there all along, ever since I read about the miracle in the newspapers. I had suppressed it. This was the cause of my unease, the shivering. I, an insignificant minister from a remote valley in eastern Norway, I was going to investigate one of God’s wonder. I would rise high enough to examine a sign from the Lord and, as investigator, I would also have the freedom to interpret, to doubt – to doubt! Had I become Thomas? Was I questioning God’s inscrutability? I kept squeezing the orange until there was no juice left to squeeze. A woman stopped and looked at me and stared down into the yellow puddle on the sidewalk. Her gaze rested a moment on my hand and the orange pulp, and hurried along, apparently relieved when she realized what was the source of the yellow liquid. “My sin is greater than I can bear,” Lord help me, take me away from this place! I heard voices from inside of me. I was standing there being small while something else grew.

The doubt!
And with doubt, anxiety was certain to follow.

But I was not afraid, not then, as I was standing there paralyzed, bewildered, for a moment, because I suddenly knew why I was here and what I must do. I had known all along, but had not dared letting that certainty surface. And suddenly I grew firm, determined, the Lord would grant me strength to complete this journey. This was His will. I was new, I had burned my old clothes. In Spain, in Galicia, Gotvin Soleng had, without batting an eye, thrown his relatively new jeans and t-shirt into the fire. Renewed, I would return to Vanndal and my dear congregation strengthened in my faith in God, my Holy Father. However, first I had to look into this miracle. That’s how it was.

I left. With determination I directed my steps toward the nearest sidewalk café, where I, in Spanish, ordered an ensalada de esparragos plus a beer and, in my mind, I drank a toast with Stormarkbråten, the entrepreneur, the factory owner, the chairman of the church council, and who owned the only business of any size in Vanndal, a factory manufacturing floughs, but in whose opinion beer was the origin of most sins committed by mankind. I drank to him without a trace of guilt or regret. This was a wholly new and strong sensation that immediately brought a smile to my face – the first one that day.

After the meal, the waiter gave me directions to the telegraph station. I had to call Margit Nederstuen, the wife on the neighboring farm. She had promised to look after my father while I was gone. After considerable effort to understand how to order, receive, and pay for international phone calls – why didn’t they have plastic cards here? – I could finally hear Margit’s voice in the receiver. Everything was just fine, but there were some problems with Kastor, my father, at night. He didn’t want to go to bed. He wouldn’t let go of this contraption, the metal detector, which he apparently was using from morning until late night. He was possessed by the idea that there was an old car buried in the field behind the barn; a green Hillman delivery truck, model 1934, he contended, which of course is pure nonsense. Margit Nederstuen could not remember anyone having buried any truck in any field. It was out of the question, no one had even heard of a vehicle of this type, but what was she to do? Kastor was stubbornly walking around with the metal detector for hours at a time and talking incessantly with himself. Wasn’t it time to put him in a nursing home? Yes, Gotvin had been thinking about that possibility, but as he was in Spain at the moment, there was nothing he could do. Margit just had to be patient with Kastor and, if he insisted on taking the metal detector to bed, by all means, let him. Otherwise there was no news. I hung up shaking my head. A 1934 Hillman delivery truck? Where was my father? In a totally different and strange world. I hesitated for a while then dialed a new number in Silkeborg, a town in Jutland in Denmark, to a Danish colleague of mine, Niels Ingeby, who every summer came to Vanndal to fish grayling. Luckily Niels aws in his office. Did the names Trellebor, Eskeholm, Fyrkat, and Aggersborg mean anything to him? What about the name Preben Hansson? They were Viking fortresses? Fortresses from the Viking era surrounded by circular mounds? Trelleborg was a Danish national monument, didn’t I know? No, I didn’t. Trelleborg, Eskeholm, Fyrkat, and Aggersborg were all great forresses from ancient times. Niels could tell me that the archaeologists did not exclude the possibility of them having been built on top of monuments from even older cultures, possibly cult sites from the Bronze Age. But he didn’t know Preben Hansson. Was he Danish? Possibly, I answered. I thanked him for the information and told him he was welcome to Vanndal in a month or so – he had it in for the Giant Grayling. So that’s how it was. Lucienne Lopez had drawn him Viking fortresses. Amusing. She probably considered him a Viking. Maybe she didn’t’ know much else about Norway and Scandinavia except that’s where the Vikings once lived. But why had she drawn it with such care? And why had she said what she did just before she left the compartment? ”If you decipher this drawing, you shall learn what truly is concealed in Heaven.” What might she have meant by this?

Back out on the street I again wiped sweat from my forehead. I had turned three o’clock; mysteries and miracles. I felt slightly excited but the time had come for some moments of devotion. I took out my prayer book and bowed my head for the Creator hidden from view behind a garbage container reeking with rotten fish and rancid oil

I was no pilgrim.
I was a snooping voyeur.
I was a doubter.
|| Palmer, 1:42 PM


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