The End | Chapter 7 of 10 - Part: 1 of 134

Author: Karl Ove Knausgard | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 3911 Views | Add a Review

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PART EIGHT

In mid-September 2009 I went up to Thomas and Marie’s little retreat between Höganes and Mölle, he was going to take some photos of me for the forthcoming books. I had hired a car, a black Audi, and headed north along the four-lane motorway in late morning with an intense feeling of happiness in my chest. The sky was clear blue, the sun shone like it was still summer. To my left the Öresund lay glittering, to my right yellow fields of stubble and meadows stretched inland, separated by stone walls, streams lined by leafy trees, sudden woodland. I was struck by a feeling that such a day wasn’t supposed to happen, and yet there it was, an oasis of summer in the midst of autumn’s paling landscape, and the fact that it wasn’t meant to be like that, that the sun wasn’t meant to shine so brightly, the sky wasn’t supposed to be so saturated with light, tinged my joy with a sense of unease, so I tried not to think about it in the hope that it would pass of its own accord, sang along to the chorus of ‘Cat People’ as it came through the speakers at the same moment, and took pleasure at the sight of the town appearing on my left, the harbour cranes, factory chimneys, warehouses. These were the outskirts of Landskrona, gliding by as Barsebäck had glided by only a few minutes earlier, the nuclear power station’s characteristic and ever-ominous silhouette rising in the distance. Next up was Helsingborg, and from there it was another twenty kilometres or so to Thomas and Marie’s place.

I was running late. First I had sat for a long time in the multi-storey car park, in the roomy Audi’s temperate interior, wondering how to start the ignition, unable to bring myself to go back to the rental office and ask in case they took the vehicle away from me once I had revealed such towering ignorance, and so I sat and pored through the handbook, flicking backwards and forwards through the pages, finding nothing at all about how to start the engine. I studied the dashboard, then the key, which wasn’t a key at all but a card made of black plastic. I had unlocked the doors by pressing on it and wondered now if the ignition worked by some similar system. I searched the steering column in vain for a diagram. But there, wasn’t that a slot of some sort? Maybe that was it?

I inserted the card and the engine purred. The next half-hour I spent driving around the centre of Malmö looking for the right road out of the city. By the time I eventually drove down the slip road and onto the motorway I was nearly an hour behind schedule.

As Landskrona disappeared behind the low fold of the glacial ridge I fumbled for my mobile on the seat next to me, found it and pressed Geir A’s number. It was Geir who had originally introduced me to Thomas, they had met in a boxing club where Thomas had been working on a photo book about the sport, while Geir had been writing a dissertation on the same subject. They made an odd couple, to put it cautiously, but held each other in the highest regard.

‘Hello, mate,’ said Geir.

‘Hi,’ I said. ‘Can you do me a favour?’

‘Sure.’

‘Could you give Thomas a ring and tell him I’ll be an hour late?’

‘Will do. Are you on the road?’

‘Yes.’

‘Sounds good.’

‘It’s fantastic, for a change. But listen, I’ve got to overtake a lorry now.’

‘And?’

‘I can’t talk on the phone at the same time.’

‘Someone ought to investigate your multitasking capacity sometime. Catch you later, then.’

I hung up, changed gear and passed the long white articulated lorry, which swayed gently in the turbulent air. Earlier in the summer I had driven the whole family up to Koster and nearly had two accidents on the way, one due to aquaplaning at high speed, which could have ended very badly indeed, the other not quite as drastic, but frightening nonetheless; I had changed lanes in a tailback outside Gothenburg without seeing a car coming from behind, and we only avoided a crash because the other guy was so quick on the brakes. The angry blast of his horn cut straight into my soul. After that I went right off driving and felt a little fear every time I thought about it, which was probably a good thing, but still, even overtaking a lorry had become an ordeal, I had to force myself to do it, and any long drive filled me with anxiety for days afterwards, like a hangover. The fact that I had passed my test and was actually allowed to drive a car was something my soul cared little about, it lagged behind and was still living in the days when it had been a great recurring nightmare of mine that I got behind the wheel of a car and drove off without knowing how. Ridden with angst, negotiating the bends of Norway’s roads with the overhanging threat of the police catching up with me at any minute, I would be sound asleep in a bed somewhere with the pillow and the upper half of the duvet soaked in sweat.

I left the motorway and joined the narrower main road to Höganes. The warmth outside was visible in the air, something about the substance of light and sky, they seemed veiled in a way, and the glitter the sunshine sprinkled over everything. The world was wide open, that was the feeling of it, and everything shimmered.

Ten minutes later I swung into the car park outside a supermarket and got out. Oh, such a rush of well-being in the air, it seemed pervaded by the blue of the sea, though without being hot in the way the air is hot in summer, there was a hint of coolness and sedateness about it. As I crossed the asphalt towards the supermarket, whose flags hung flaccidly from their poles, the feeling the air gave me reminded me of smoothing one’s hand over marble on a sweltering hot day in some Italian town, that coolness, as subtle as it was surprising.

I bought a box of raspberries to give them, and a packet of cigarettes and some chewing gum for myself, put the raspberries on the passenger seat and started the ignition again. The narrow road, lined by the hedges of small whitewashed cottages, led down towards the sea only a few hundred metres from the supermarket. Thomas and Marie’s place was right at the bottom, with the sea to the west and a vast green field to the east.

Thomas came across the lawn in shorts to greet me as I got out and shut the car door. He gave me a hug, one of the few people who could do so without it feeling too intimate. I wasn’t sure why. Maybe it was down to the simple fact that he was fifteen years older and, although we didn’t actually know each other that well, had always been sympathetic towards me.

‘Hi, Karl Ove,’ he said.

‘Long time no see,’ I said. ‘What a gorgeous day!’

We crossed the lawn. The air was completely still, the trees stood completely still, the sun hung suspended above the sea, sending its scorching rays out over the landscape. And yet all the time the same coolness in the air. It had been ages since I had felt such calm.

‘How about some coffee?’ said Thomas as we paused at the rear of the house where the previous summer he had made a timber deck that stretched like the deck of a ship from its outer wall to the thick, impenetrable hedge that cast its motionless shadow a couple of metres back towards the house.

‘Yes, please,’ I said.

‘Great, have a seat and I’ll get you some.’

I sat down, put my sunglasses on again and leaned my head back to soak up as much sun as possible while I lit a cigarette and Thomas filled a receptacle with water from the tap in the little kitchen.

Comments

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Alice
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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