Depressive European

Chocolate cigarettes, AIDS, and homes for battered wives. Hanna Hallgren conducts a critical, poetical search for the European identity.

The joy of work has survived against all the odds,
it is we who are the bearers of the joy of work now.

On Swedish literature

Jonas Thente
Literary perspectives: Sweden

Ida Börjel
European waistlines

Athena Farrokhzad & Tova Gerge
Manual for postmodern childrearing

Hanna Hallgren
Depressive European

Pär Thörn
We’re like a boat with water up to the gunwales and there are waves breaking over the sides the whole time!

Andrzej Tichy
The scream of geometry

The organs “liver”, “kidney”, “lungs” and “genitals” are metonymically joined, you say. But I don’t believe it. This society is striving for something else. Free-standing parts. Entities. Take concepts such as “knifing” or “committing suicide” which answer the assertion “We have safeguarded ourselves well and we could not become disembodied”, or two lovemaking women who are elastic. I can see the connections; can you see the connections? One clue might be that the organs lack lexical roots, but seem to have a directly structuring function. By not accepting the organs’ phantasmic geography I cause (I know you, you see) a breach of the conversational contract. You display wonder, distance and ignorance. You don’t try to put yourself in my place, so that we can seek out some common basic truth. i.e. some coinciding assumptions and points of reference that can work as a basis on which to re-establish, and thereafter maintain, meaningful communication. Let me tell you what you already know: affliction’s fiery furnace tests your cool and calm in earnest. Anarchy and unity are one and the same thing. In our society, squash sometimes tastes of sperm, but sperm never becomes squash. They tear everything to bits with their big sexual organs. They do it the world over.

I say rest your tired heart
In the dark of night, let a candle burn. You met with forgiveness and love, the moment you gave him your all. I had better give you medicine. You can also tell me about your phantasmic organ universe. Are they your organs? You have a disconnected, fragmented, injured body. Pulverized. You are living with a hideous, grotesquely distorted and macabre tableau-vivant. I say this because I feel something for you. I want you to know that. My idiolect functions for every conceptual activity and every linguistic production of meaning. I can walk naked without being raped.

Do you mean that I am also a human being or that I also have a harbour on?
Well, I can’t see that, but women can. Yes, yes, you are a human being.
But we all have harbours on. We all have skin, don’t we, or how shall I
put it, we all have skin on, or, yes, we do
It’s true.
Yes, we have. I don’t know how it has been for you, perhaps you have been ill-treated,
both in your work and, I don’t know, there can be so many things. And they
try to stop you from getting… I can’t say there are any limits
to everything that can happen to people from that side.
Now those are rather, I think, rather macabre thoughts you have?
Well, they aren’t thoughts, they are something real.
They are something real?
Yes, they are. You can look into it and check that I’m right.

Before my memories there was my mother and she didn’t think about me then. Then I wasn’t capable of parasiting or affection or even being conveyed as an absence. Nice and quiet for her, for me sensationless; I can’t see that as text.

There was something wrong with my eyes. Operations, toys, squash, the sound of the TV from inside the bandages, blindness can strike

Or the Song that angels once sang to shepherds in the night

At the same time, the women’s organizations in Stockholm were fighting for a Women’s House which led to a split between the Women’s House Group (the old organization) and Every Woman’s House. Social commissioner Mats Hult (Social Democrat) was involved, as well as a number of women politicians from the same party. The house the politicians had promised to the women went to the breakaway group Every Woman’s House and was to be a sort of centre for abused women, although there would also be special activities for women. A Gunilla Rudling had a leading role, and an Inger Segelström. They visualized it as a HOME FOR BATTERED WIVES. The Women’s House Group as a WOMEN’S CENTRE. Therein lay the conflict and that was where the name came from. The word separatism had made my father a) happy? b) sad? c) indifferent? “Why should the strong survive/ and only the weak not thrive?”
Because I can a) write and b) have power over the word.

(Imploded knots)
I am no polyglot, no linguistic nomad. I am white and calm. My family is white and calm, simmering
I have whiteness in my whiteness from the calm corner of home
Around such a non-castrated figure

Apathy and aggression are biological functions. We were here first
We were arbitrary in relation to the landscape cars, mopeds, EPA tractors
sausage and mash. L’immigrée blanche within ourselves / water / glassy corpses / self-identical with grandmother, her mother, the chickens in the yard, the Co-op, the chapel, the Sons of Temperance and old, fucked-up Social Democrat guys, old pear split lollies, other dung dung. The factory or this working class is stupid. The working class is dead. The working class is white in the face.
The working class has prejudices
Or gays are xenophobic or
I am a racist like my grandmother. Or I despise that working class I grew up with. I have whiteness in my whiteness from the calm corner of home
My mother has no mother tongue,
but the gift of other tongues. I want what is good and not evil and keep passing passing
Blood’s identity blood’s drop sconelets keep passing passing passing, run like rain
I am allowed to sit right at the front. Together with myself my history and it
is lovely and quiet: beautiful snow, ugly black sky, chocolate milk, Walnut Whips and black Magnum slave to love.

Is your raiment spotless /
Is it white as snow / Are you scoured /
In the Redeemer’s blood

I smoke a chocolate cigarette and blow out clouds. Mum has her sewing circle this evening
I admire the Church’s charitable thinking. It is practical action, not so much talking. It’s bloody awful that society lets things go so far that someone else has to set up soup kitchens, but that’s how it is. The Church is getting out into prisons and providing cooked food. And you don’t have to be sober to get in. You have worth simply by existing. That obviously appeals to people who come from a fractured existence. God’s well-spring has plenteous water
Birgitta. Gunilla. Maj-Britt. Gunvor. Ingegerd. Kerstin. Lisbeth. Siv. Majken. Eva. Anita. Britta. Rigmor. Dagmar. Ulla. Elisabeth. Vera. Coffee and biscuits and piano playing and prayer. We are like blurred photographs. We are old or
the taste through death is called death. Elective homelessness expresses a kind of situated heterogeneity, but here we sit and know nothing. Crochet, knit, embroider for those who are worse off than us or have nothing. I say: Sweden has changed, hasn’t it? It’s not the same now as it was 20-30 years ago? Nothing is really like it used to be.
Forests, lakes, the vascular net of roads. Everything is in flux. My place of birth, as I remember it, is dead. Kiss miss all this are dead matter.

(Supersaturated stories.)
I’m afraid of saying the wrong thing, of being condemned for hate speech when I really mean love things.
I want to be able to say it all for love. White is the colour of purity, black is anguish and night
The truth comes to me
The truth loves me
This is the light of the soul
Jesus Christ died for our sins’ sake, and rose from the dead
Not all Muslims are terrorists, not all workers are stupid
Not all blacks have AIDS, not all men are rapists
Not all gays have AIDS
Not all women are afraid of being raped (?)
Not all lesbians are ugly and hate men.
Not all men buy sex, not all white men are turned on by children
Not all white women would like above all else to be fucked by a big black cock
We sit here white in our hammock and look out over the lake: Grandma, Mum and I, mother of a mother of a child. Cows are awfully intelligent, childhood a construction
We adults go to meet certain death, like the world we remember
We remember we the synchronous scar on the head, horizon of understanding and sun goes down
over the lake. To make another person happy. To feed with love,
but was she worth all that naiveté, her group therapy in whiteness? That she be allowed to walk
with sewn-up eyes on sewn-up streets. Sewn-up heart, lips
Hands sewn-up fingers. Her shame at the word nigger, which is no worse
than wanting to rape all men with iron bars, just things
that hurt as much; the asymmetry between different political categories
denoting cutting in different flesh. Red on the inside (what a colour, the colour of love) from transversal connections
This means that just as she has adopted the middle-classes’ neurotic illnesses,
they have no further role to play. This means eternal winter or summer

in a monistic system there is no need for hysteria, for berry-pickers, for
areas cordoned off for firing practice. The tanks roll winglessly. That is what I know of her Europe. A taut vein between anti- and alterglobalisation movements
A soft wild water along the coasts

Should sorrow yet indicate several dimensions. Burn it like simple grass
A crop rotation or burning for self-appointed archivists. Tangled glitterwhatnots. Being hurt is more complicated than being stabbed with a knife. Because the intent reaches right into the shawl. And is submitted to due process there. The knife-edged blade under the tap
To talk yourself well, how is it conceivable to act with your speech. E.g. to demonstrate against the war. To mail-bomb. The conceivable script should be that of your nails – the tips of your fingerfists –

What role does Schengen play in her self-production? The anorexics of her own generation. Misunderstanding between head and hand. She was there when the police came for a Somali man who was being deported. He spoke steady English. He was sick and wanted to do her harm. Then patients coupled freely anyway. There was no logic to it. The AIDS treatment was deficient and dementia patients died in psychiatric units. She washed her hands carefully. But that was in the 1990s, before antiretroviral drugs. Even before the psychiatric care reforms.

I don’t necessarily think human beings should go mad or resort to violence. But I can see no alternatives to medication/self-medication or faith in technological progress. As a seer, if you ask me. Neither Freud’s nor Lacan’s structures for language mean anything any more. Eating pearls and slops. Speaking of the construction of authenticity, the other is hard to say. Tell that to the dreams. I wake every morning with the words harm reduction. At best with a dog or a cat in my bed. I don’t want to be a burden to society, or to my nearest and dearest. Joy is a rose in your throat, says the rosesinger. Surviving our parents’ generation has become a goal, for everyone’s sake. I want them to be able to live at home as long as possible. I am thankful they live in a small place, because it means a slower turnover of staff. More continuity. It’s good if the staff can speak Swedish and keep the rooms looking nice. I would still rather take my life than die in great pain. Than die of some form of dementia. I think the Swedish law will change.

My father turns round, slips on the gravel. No, I wasn’t supposed to see that. I take his arm, we go arm in arm. Frozen greygravel, silent winter sky. “You ought to have crampons. Promise me you’ll buy a pair of crampons. The sort you strap onto your boots.” My brother and my mother walk in front. His wife and children. Dogs are not allowed in the churchyard. This morning I got a Beano in my stocking and a box of Quality Street. “If I could have my time again, everything would be different.”

Published 23 September 2008
Original in Swedish
Translated by Sarah Death
First published by Glänta 3/2006

Contributed by Glänta © Hanna Hallgren / Glänta / Eurozine


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