Texts from Ulrika Nielsen´s book
BRIEF TEXTS ON THE OPEN AND UNSETTLED
Translated by Olivia Olsen
Trouble with the big questions
What is your greatest wish?
What event has most profoundly changed you?
Which was the happiest day of your life?
The smaller ones come closer
How do you take off your shoes? Do you put them away or just leave them?
Hotel breakfast, a lavish buffet. A man enters. He is slight, dressed in an exquisite suit, with a modest, well-trimmed beard and horn-rimmed glasses. He helps himself at the buffet: a pear. He sits at a table, places the linen napkin in his lap, and peels the fruit; the peel spirals down onto the plate, his fingers remain dry. He eats the pear with knife and fork. Then he sweeps an espresso, presses the napkin to his lips, places it with an easy and artful movement on the table, stands up, and leaves.
This was many years ago.
I think of him still.
How I want his pear.
TO MASTER REALITY WITH THE HELP OF TRANSACTIONS
Her father would make calculations several times a day. That was what the family called it, when he counted money. He made calculations on the backs of receipts, on letters and forms, in the margins of the daily paper. Here and there all over the home his straggling numbers would be found, arranged in strange formations, written in blue ballpoint. After his death they found calculations in his desk, written in pencil on the wood at the bottom of the drawer.
She never understood what operations he used, whether it was addition or subtraction or multiplication or an arithmetic of his own devising. The varying numbers and results confused her. Deciphering them was like reading a kind of hieroglyphics. After he had finished making calculations he would often sit very still for a while, and look out the window. The restless gaze as he lowered his pen, the light that fell over his heavy hands on the tabletop. Sometimes his lips moved slightly, as though he wasn’t quite done, but only in the next phase of an always ongoing process.
The problem with the calculations, as far as she could understand, was that they constantly had to be redone in the face of a constantly changing reality. Stock prices would suddenly fall. Interest rates would suddenly rise. His wife, her mother, would decide to make a significant purchase that in turn led to more expenditures that he hadn’t accounted for. She never quite knew whether the calculations moved within the space of smaller time or greater time; if they concerned themselves with the income and expenses of the current month, or whether it was her father’s financial life’s work, possibly his entire existence, at stake.
The calculations were inherited. She didn’t do them often, and always with only a part of herself, while the other watched, much in the same way she in childhood had watched her father’s almost mystical activity. In truth, she understood as little of the calculations now, even as she, herself, performed them. She did not use a pen and scraps of paper, but the computer and the calculator on her phone, and none of it left any trace and was immediately forgotten. After each calculation she was left with a kind of live anxiety that brushed up against the volatility of all existence.
PORTRAIT OF MY MOTHER
One day when I’d washed her windows and we sat on the balcony for a cup of coffee and a cigarette she said: One should never do things too thoroughly. Then she said: I’ll never stop smoking.
Each time a cab stops in front of our house I imagine it’s me coming home.
A COMPLICATED FATHER
Their father’s death was full of pain. When
finally he breathed his last, with large
amounts of morphine in his body, his lips
welled over with blood. They became
fixated by his death. Though he was no
longer alive they continued to go
see him. They visited him at the morgue,
the cool room there. An attendant followed
them inside, unlocked the cold storage
where he lay, pulled the coffin out and placed it
open on a table. They stood and watched him,
touched him. He looked so calm.
They wondered at this serenity that had
settled over their father. It was as though
he’d left that intractable “himself” behind
and sailed off. It seemed a miracle. They
looked closer: wasn’t it rather
death that had left him
behind, here? Would he soon again
get up and
head out to the bar?
A COMPLICATED FATHER,
THE SECOND AND FINAL PART
Later, at the grave, one of the sons collapsed.
His scream was all of time; all his
childhood and all his father’s
childhood too that in the space of a moment pressed themselves through
A SMALL CLOSE DISCOMFORT THAT SCRATCHES AT THE PSYCHE
Loose change in a bowl with buttons, rusted paper clips and dust…
A fainted weekday, and a family member chewing his feed…
Mother’s teaspoon, with dregs of loose-boiled egg…
Watching films as a child, she rarely made much effort to follow the plot. Perhaps she didn’t understand that was the point. Her focus fell, instead, on the light, the heaving fields, the words and how they travelled, voices, gestures, the heft and lightness of bodies, the honey-flow of clothing… Later in life she began to make an effort: it had to do with her newfound interest in normality and what it had to offer. She followed the plot. But every so often she zoomed out, disappeared a little, so to speak. A distraction of sorts. Perhaps she was pulled into a kind of deep, where she found nothing other than depth itself, and then – a path…
The sea cucumber will allow pearlfish to find shelter in its backside at night.
A single one can hold entire schools.
Whether it receives anything in return, I don’t know.
Could also be I remember it wrong.
Until now she’d never thought of the fact that she has a spleen.
It came to her, and she started, as at the sudden realization of something left on the stove.
Where is it? She pressed down on her abdomen, to the right, to the left.
What does it do all day?
TWO EXTREMES / AT OPPOSITE ENDS
To “choose joy” wasn’t really working.
Cultivating joylessness wasn’t working either.
There were times she couldn’t push into the day.
She’d drift about on its surface, like a bee unable to find its way into the hive, or out of it – she wasn’t sure of the direction.
She devoured a bowl of raspberries.
She trudged on in the whirli
等等 等等… …
小时候看电影，她从不费心去追随剧情。或许她不理解那才是重点。她把注意力放到了光线，起伏的田野，台词和他们如何旅行，声音，手势，身体的灵活与轻盈，衣裳的流动… …后来，她开始试着了解剧情：这和她新发现的对常态的兴趣及它能给她的东西有关。她追随者剧情。但她每每会拉远一些，会消失一点，这么说吧。某种分神。或许她被拉进某种深，那里除了深邃本身再无他物，然后—一条路… …