Posts Tagged ‘Norway’

Prison Island Bastøy in the fjord of Oslo

December 6, 2012

You judge a country by how it treats its prisoners. — Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Prison Island Bastøy in the fjord of Oslo, Norway is a penal colony, but a very unusual prison.

A novel by Orhan Pamuk in the prison library. Must be a very literay prison population.

A friend used Paulo Coelho with dangerous prisoners.

In this prison, those convicted of the most serious offences. To get into this prison, have to show a desire to reform.

Average re-offending rate for Europe 70%, for Bastøy 16%.

Filmed by a Russian film crew. For contrast, at the end a Russian penal colony.

No1 Top Story in Norway News (Friday 14 December 2012).

Scandinavian fiction

April 11, 2012

I read the Millennium trilogy a year or so ago, mainly following a recommendation from Paulo Coelho, as it was a series, a writer, I had not heard of.

I thoroughly enjoyed. I read one after the other. Having been in Sweden, knowing some of the places made it all very real. I felt Steig Larssen was writing about real issues, maybe he was.

What Stieg Larsson showed was that writing a thriller, does not have to be bad writing.

Once you have read the Millennium trilogy, it is difficult to read any other crime or political thriller.

Jo Nesbo was compared on book covers as ‘the next Stieg Larsson’. What a load of bollocks, but to be fair to Jo Nesbo, that was the cretinous publisher, not he.

No, Jo Nesbo is not the next Stieg Larsson, and if you read with that as the expectation, then you are in a for a grave disappointment.

That is not to say Jo Nesbo is not good, he is, but he is not Stieg Larsson.

The problem is the publishing industry, or at least that which can be termed fast publishing, always on the look out for the next blockbuster, the next best-seller, the next me-too copy cat of whatever was he last blockbuster best-seller.

With the success of The Da Vinci Code, the market, and that sadly is what it has become, a market with books reduced to a commodity, the market was flooded with me too Da Vinci Code books.

The same has happened with the success of Stieg Larsson, every Scandinavia writer has been promoted as the next Stieg Larsson.

Both Stieg Larsson and Jo Nesbo expose the dark undercurrents of Scandinavian society. Both have extreme violence, sexual depravity, but it is not a glorification of, not gratuitous violence, it is to shock.

I remember when Olof Palme was shot on the streets, the sense of shock. A killing that has never been solved.

There is a sense of darkness.

Last year we saw the massacre of young people at an island lake in Norway by a crazed gunman.

I was in Stockholm in the summer, before the country was mired and bogged down with the problems caused by mass immigration. It was warm, it was light, people were out on the streets.

I do not think I would do well in the cold, long, dark winters.

Rune Thomas Ege reporting from Oslo

August 1, 2011
Sunset over destroyed govt buildings in Oslo

Sunset over destroyed govt buildings in Oslo

Norwegian PM reading support messages on his iPad

Norwegian PM reading support messages on his iPad

Rune Thomas Ege, from the Verdens Gang newspaper, was one of the first journalists on the scene at Utoya. He has produced exellent reports from Oslo on twitter.

Slik har du aldri sett Oslo – se de unike blomsterbildene
My heart goes out to friends in Norway

Slik har du aldri sett Oslo – se de unike blomsterbildene

July 26, 2011
Roses cast by mourners float in the lake near the island of Utoya, Norway, on July 24, 2011. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

Roses cast by mourners float in the lake near the island of Utoya, Norway, on July 24, 2011. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

Oslo today – a city covered in flowers. — Rune Thomas Ege

So grateful that Oslo is filled with flowers and quiet, not barricades and guns. — Fredrik Matheson

Tonight the streets are filled with love. — Crown Prince Haakon

Hele Oslo sentrum er pyntet i roser til minne for terrorofrene. Over 200.000 mennesker ble oppfordret til å spre blomster over hele byen under mandagens rosemarkering på rådhusplassen.

Yesterday evening the people of Oslo carried out a vigil for those who had died on Friday.

At the vigil a three-year-old girl asked the police: “Have you caught the bad guy?” Policeman: “Yes”. Little girl hands policeman a rose.

Slik har du aldri sett Oslo – se de unike blomsterbildene
My heart goes out to friends in Norway
Norway attacks: Mass rallies remember Breivik victims
Norway attacks: Flowers for the dead
Thousands mourn Norway attacks with ‘rose march’
Tragedy in Norway

My heart goes out to friends in Norway

July 23, 2011

One person with a belief is equal to the force of 100 000 who have only interests. — Anders B Breivik

Our answer to violence is even more democracy more humanity, but not more naiveté. — Norway PM

Back in Oslo. City center almost totally deserted. Large areas closed off. Police everywhere. Never seen Oslo like this. — Rune Thomas Ege

Soldiers guarding “key objects, possible targets” according to police. Not a usual sight in Oslo. — Rune Thomas Ege

Catched a glimpse of the Govment bldgs again. Without the people, blood, sirens and media, damage looks even more frightening. — Rune Thomas Ege

At least two buses carrying soldiers from HM King’s Guard close to expl site. Will replace police officers working since the blast. — Rune Thomas Ege

05.22. Sunrise in Oslo. People slowly waking up to ubeleivable news of at least 87 dead. Another day, but a totally new world. — Rune Thomas Ege

The first I learnt of the tragedy in Norway, was a message from Paulo Coelho quoting the Norwegian Prime Minister. But it was only later, hearing the news, a bomb blast in Oslo city centre, shooting on an island, that I fully understood the context.

Last night the death toll stood at seven killed in the bomb blast, around ten killed in the shooting spree on the island.

I listened to the BBC World News until the early hours of the morning.

I heard first hand accounts of people jumping into the sea and trying to escape by swimming to the mainland, of youngsters hiding behind bushes, tweeting to their friends, begging them not to call them back as it would highlight where they were hiding.

This morning I was shocked to learn the death toll on the island had risen to at leat 80! Then the Norwegian police said the death toll had reached 84. Later they said they expected the death toll was expected to rise as not everyone was accounted for. They also said a suspect had been arrested, he was described as a Christian fundamentalist.

I heard more eyewitness accounts. People lay amongst the dead hoping that would save them. It did not. The killer went over and blasted them in the head with a shotgun. One group ran from the killer and locked themselves in a cabin. Eventually the killer gave up and went is search of easier prey. To their horror they then saw an open window, luckily the killer did not.

What has struck me is how measured those who have spoken have been, not only those who directly experienced the horror, but also the Norwegian Prime Minister. I heard sadness, but no rage, no calls for vengeance, but a steely determination that this would not effect Norway as an open democratic society.

I have quoted Rune Thomas Ege because he gives a good idea of how Norwegians were feeling.

If this was England or America it would be used as an excuse to clamp down on democracy, to bring in ever more Draconian anti-terror legislation. If it was America it would be an excuse to bomb yet another country back into the Stone Age.

We think of Sweden and Norway as open democratic liberal countries. That is what I found in Sweden. It comes as a shock reading Stieg Larssen and Jo Nesbo to learn that both have a dark neo-Fascist underside. [see The Redbreast]

During the German occupation of WWII, more Germans volunteered to fight with the Germans than joined the Resistance. After the war they were branded traitors. It is easy to see them as collaborators or Nazi sympathisers. Many were, but many were not. They voluntarily joined the Germans and fought the Russians on the Eastern front. They saw Stalinist Russia as a greater threat than Nazi Germany. And less we forget, the non-Agression Pact between Stalin and Hitler had a secret appendix which divided up Europe. Russia invaded Finland and the Baltic States. After the war many were sentenced to death, others imprisoned. Even nurses who served on the Eastern Front were sentenced (despite pleas from the Red Cross). It is only in recent years the nurses have received an apology.

For some time I have been speaking out against Christian fundamentalists. I see no difference between them and Muslim fundamentalists. The only difference between the two is the latter use bombs and slaughter innocent people. We now see what happens when Christian fundamentalists have access to weapons and bombs.

We quite rightly tell Muslim leaders they must speak out against fundamentalists. Is it not time Christian leaders did the same? These bigots, these preachers of hate, who pervert the message of Jesus, who claim some will go to heaven (it always includes themselves) and others will go to hell. Whatever they are they are not Christians. [see Love Wins]

It was depreressing, though of no surprise, to find Muslims and Islamist apologists hijacking the Oslo feed on twitter.

In Olso everyone has been asked to unlock their wi-fi.

I have friends in Norway. I hope they are OK. They should be as they will be busy with their sheep. I want to call them but I think best not to clog up the phone lines.

My heart goes out to all the people of Norway.

The Law of Jante

January 22, 2010

– What do you think of Princess Martha-Louise?

The Norwegian journalist was interviewing me on the banks of Lake Geneva. As a rule I refuse to answer questions that are not relevant to my work, but in this case there was a reason for his curiosity: on the dress that she had worn on her 30th birthday, the Princess had asked them to embroider the names of some people who had been important in her life – and my name was among them (my wife found the idea so good that she decided to do the same when she turned 50, sewing in one corner of her dress the credit “inspired by the Princess of Norway”).

– I think she is a sensitive, delicate, intelligent person – I answered.

– I had the opportunity to meet her in Oslo, when she introduced me to her husband, a writer like myself.

I paused a little, but felt the need to add:

– And there is something that I honestly fail to understand: why did the Norwegian press begin to criticize her husband’s literary work after he got married to the Princess? Before that, all his reviews were positive.

It was not exactly a question, more of a provocation, because I already imagined the answer: the reviews had changed because people feel envy, the most bitter of all human sentiments.

The journalist, however, was more sophisticated than that:

– Because he broke the Law of Jante.

Of course I had never heard of this, so he explained what it was. I continued on my journey and discovered it is hard to find anyone in any of the Scandinavian countries who does not know this law. Although the law exists since the beginning of civilization, it was only officially declared in 1933 by writer Aksel Sandemose in the novel A refugee goes beyond limits. [see Jante Law]

The sad truth is that the Law of Jante is a rule applied in every country in the world, despite the fact that Brazilians say that “this only happens here,” and the French claim that “unfortunately, that’s how it is in our country.” Now, the reader must be annoyed because he/she is already half way through the column and still does not know what the Law of Jante is all about, so I’ll try to explain it here briefly in my own words:

“You aren’t worth a thing, nobody is interested in what you think, mediocrity and anonymity are your best bet. If you act this way, you will never have any big problems in life.”

The Law of Jante focuses on the feeling of jealousy and envy that sometimes causes so much trouble to people like Ari Behn, the husband of Princess Martha-Louise. This is one of its negative aspects, but there is something far more dangerous.

And this law is accountable for the world being manipulated in all possible manners by people who have no fear of what the others say and end up practicing the evil they desire. We have just witnessed a useless war in Iraq, which is still costing many lives; we see a huge abyss between the rich and the poor countries of the world, social injustice on all sides, unbridled violence, people being forced to give up their dreams because of unfair and cowardly attacks. Before starting the second world war, Hitler sent out several signals as to his intentions, and what encouraged him to go ahead was the knowledge that nobody would dare to defy him because of the Law of Jante.

Mediocrity may be comfortable, up to the day that tragedy knocks at the door and people start to wonder: “but why did nobody say anything, if everybody could see that this was going to happen?”

Simple: nobody said anything because the others did not say anything either.

So in order to prevent things from growing any worse, maybe this is the right moment to write the anti-Law of Jante:

“You are worth far more than you think. Your work and presence on this Earth are important, even though you may not think so. Of course, thinking in this way, you might have many problems because you are breaking the Law of Jante – but don’t feel intimidated by them, go on living without fear and in the end you will win.”

Posted by Paulo Coelho on his blog, originally published in Like a Flowing River.

I thought envy was a British disease. Now I see that it is not.