Gerd Kvanvig: The Day That Didn't Happen

Of Innocence and Aggression

"I could have begun this by saying it was an accident. Self-defense. [...] But it’s the aggression I remember most of all, and what I recognize. [...] The furious pressure. The automatic reactions – as if I knew exactly what I was doing. The killing left a sense of calm [...] as if I had never done anything else."

The narrator of the story takes the unusual approach of connecting the act of killing with evolving weather changes; the heat of late August breaking into September chill. I find this sometimes ambiguous but also enchanting to the point of being seductive; the story is written in a direct and at the same time elusive style, using raw and dreamy poetic language to give a sense of reality which is different from the exclusively human world. The writing allows the environment, the climate to interfere and sometimes overshadow the first person storyteller, a young girl and an adult woman reflecting on her childhood; the weather bleeds into and fills the persona which is the aspect of the book I find most unusual and rewarding.

A twelve-year-old girl is threatened, cornered, fights back. She undergoes a trauma in a very isolated home environment, her closest person being a detached and somehow dysfunctional mother, who leaves her to her own solutions. There are a few firmer points in her life to which she can pinpoint her struggle, relations that emanate love through which she is able to survive: the time spent with her granddad; her new neighbor, the investigator of the crime with whom she falls in love.

The frame of the story is simple and the repetitions provide new views of what happened, similar to how the weather changes; the clouds, the light, the sun, the rain, and the clouds again help to propel the story, making it possible to evolve, even possible to tell what happened: "And yet it seems to be this nothing between me and the rhythm of light and wind and earth that can make the incident clear, and possible to talk about."

Each time the narrator gets closer to the night of the incident, she tells about the increasing late August heat; "the air was so bursting with growth that, if it hadn’t been for the drought and the almost imperceptible hint of chill at night, the world would have opened and withered like a plant. [...] And that’s how the world was balanced, just about. The growth was held back." Then she makes a spin, another cycle, avoids telling what was 'cut out' of the mind of the child for her to be able to survive, but which at the time also compromised all her interactions with the world.

Until the cycling, the circling, the repetitions, and all the love in between, grandfather's love, the investigator's love make it possible to tell and to remember, to remember what happened. "And it’s my hands after all. That’s how it was. It was me."

The innocence of a child in this story takes from the weather; the skies, winds, rain, and heat are more than her connection with the world, they fill her up; a human being transparent toward the dark sky, nothing more than the blueness of the sky, the yellow of the sun, or of that thin, worn-out dress she wore that summer. A child and her grandfather taking in what surrounds them. Innocence is not good or bad, it is empty, and it can at times be filled with aggression or its close companion – passion. This reminds me of Ted Hughes' The Crow where evil is considered to be the counterpart of good, how they are always interconnected, one not existing without the other.

What can feel like a long spin within the repetitiveness of the events and climate in this basically short novel is also a pace and space given to a reader to reflect on the notion of self, innocence, isolation, violence, and the sprouts of love. On memory; and coming to terms with the killing that was erased so it would not take over the whole being, but which eventually needs to be told. "The feeling that he and she were one and the same. It was a clear and all-pervasive feeling that when she stabbed him, she stabbed herself."

The Day That Didn't Happen is a meditation about the forming of self; it cannot forever stay empty, with a free flow from the outer to inner world; the self eventually needs another being to relate to. It's the kind of writing that could feel as cold or self-absorbed if there wasn't so much struggle in it; if it didn't ultimately tell about love and safety; and how the world is.


(Translated by Wendy H. Gabrielson, Naked Eye Publishing, 2022)