Monday, June 06, 2011

Author’s word - Dreams Belong to the Night



  During 1987 I started musing over a story I initially called, with heavy emphasis on irony The Great European Novel. It was only a working title, of course. I never intended to actually call it that, even though I played with the idea. It would have been even more beautiful irony and even sarcasm (and it was).
  I was writing on another novel at the time, of course, and knew I wouldn’t start on The Great European Novel for at least a year, so I had quite a lot of time when it came to developing this one.
  In those nights I didn’t write on a thousand projects simultaneously.
  There were just a few phrases and disconnected ideas. Sometimes I get almost the entire story in a flash. This wasn’t one of those times.
  I got the pieces one by one, really. It felt amazing as it happened and even more so in hindsight. I knew, as the months and years passed by that I wanted to do something More with this one, raising the stakes and do an EE, an Encompassing Everything story.
  In September 1988 I moved to London, and stayed there for five years. Ironically (again) it was on one of my trips back to Norway a few months later a friend of mine asked me to join him on a trip to Copenhagen. He was chasing a girl, and the girl wanted to go with him, but she wanted to have her girlfriend with her, so he wanted to have me as a balance, I guess. I was amused, but intrigued, and we Went.
  It soon came apparent to me that his efforts were quite hopeless, even though the reality of the matter didn’t seem to get through to him. You see, the two girls were lesbians and clearly intimate, and just weren’t interested in becoming romantically involved with a male at all.
  To make a longer history shorter we ended up at a gay bar called Pan in the Copenhagen entertainment district. While he attempted all night to get in the pants of the girl, I sat there and studied my surroundings. It was my first time in a gay bar and it was quite a revelation. Everything looked very similar to an «ordinary» bar, except that the couples dancing together and having intimate conversation at the tables were of the same sex. Everything felt casual, so perfectly natural. The place had a great mood and was a fantastic setting in many ways, very inspiring. It did feel slightly awkward when males checked me out, but I just smiled and shook my head. It just was no big deal. Any preconception or bias I might have had about homosexuality faded away that night, and with less prejudice my mind opened further to new possibilities.
  The book would have been a lot different if not for that brief trip to Copenhagen. It’s hard for me, in hindsight to even measure how different. I realized that I had never touched the subject of homosexuality before and that I wanted to. Homosexuality isn't really a main subject in the story, though. Some of the characters just happen to be homosexuals and bisexuals, no big deal, really, except for those haters who want to make it one.
  But with that visit to Pan and the two days and nights in the city came something more, the scenery and setting I had consciously and subconsciously been searching for. Copenhagen had been one of «my» cities for a few years, since I had first visited it as an adult in 1985, and I knew its streets and back alleys well. There was the entertainment district, there were its wide avenues… and there was Liberty City.
  BANG, the stage was set.
  I joined the Green Party in April 1989, first the Norwegian branch and then, later the British. Both were nascent organizations, given birth and momentum by the relative parliamentary success of the German sister party. I began writing Dreams Belong to the Night on March 1. Right from the start I wanted to make the book a kind of documentation of the process.
  You see, I was already well aware of the pitfalls of a political party when I joined, against my better judgment, but hope against hope, and yearning for Change in a totally oppressive and destructive society made me join anyway. During the next thirty months I had the pleasure of having illustrated the truth of Ibsen’s word on the matter almost constantly:
  «A party is like a meat grinder. It grinds all the brains into one stew».
  At first it was quite fun, or the fun lessened the aggravation. A lot of different people joined, everything from anarchists to true greens, like me, from people being in favor of legalizing all drugs to syndicalists. It was in many ways amazing, really, those first few months. As I shared my time between London and Bergen things proceeded in an amazingly similar manner.
  In the novel I wrote about how it should have been, while struggling to deal with the very disappointing reality. To make the story shorter again: The good people, as they deserve to be called either quit in frustration or were driven out. It happened quickly, during just six months or so. I held out the longest, in thirty ever longer months. It was an ordeal, at least the Norwegian chapter. Things were slightly more open and tolerant in London, of course.
  But my main lesson during my time as a politician was a confirmation of what I already knew: that the parliamentary system is an integrated part of the tyranny and can never be reformed, only destroyed. Democracy is the slickest tyranny in history, because it gives people the illusion of participation, on them being the part of the decision-making. If I hadn't spent months away from the circus I would surely have turned insane.
  I started doing my street theater thing with a bunch of like-minded people, in and around London, and in Europe, and I wrote Dreams on the derelict old typewriter I dragged with me everywhere. The script was in stark danger many times, in many a squatted house, but survived.
  My time with the Greens ended pretty much in September 1991. The novel, my Great European Novel and party diary was complete in August… When I returned to Europe and London in late September I felt totally wasted, used up, drained of energy. I felt like I was awakening from a nightmare, as I slowly realized that I had truly lived one. The members of the Norwegian Green Party were more like tea drinkers, doing their «rebellion» when they didn't have anything important to do, and they grew angry when anyone reminded them of that fact. They didn't want to change the world, but were perfectly happy with things like they were. They were small people, thinking small. Their British counterparts less so, but I pretty much drifted away from them, too, upon my return to the City of Cities, seeing the same horrible lack of desire for Change there. They were more red than green, stuck in a past that was never much to write home about. My life as a «politician» was over, and I rejoiced.
  All this, a thorough documentation of «failure» is in the novel, albeit mostly in the first hundred pages or so (or perhaps in the hundred, mostly untold pages before the Copenhagen part of the story begins), before taking off in a completely different direction. The book is from the start a rejection of established truths, a story about true fighting spirit in a global society almost devoid of it, about seeing through illusions in a world filled with them, about leaving those illusions in shambles, as the shambles they are, leaving them broken, without possibility of repair. It’s a guide for advanced rebels, for those who have rejected the deception and illusions of modern life and are ready to take the next step.
  Judith Breen, the main protagonist in the book is part myself, part Ulrike Meinhof and part anyone who has ever stood up and fought with razor-sharp claws and fangs against oppression, and totally rejected the «values» and validity of the established society.
  Put a bit simplistic Dreams is about politics, about radical politics and rebellion, while ShadowWalk, written practically simultaneously is about religion (and its vast antithesis rebellion and truly free and independent thinking), and the yet to be completed Phoenix Green Earth, the last book in the Janus Clan series… is about both.
  I saw Dreams pretty much as my masterpiece, because it is a self-contained piece «with everything in it», just like I intended. It took years before I believed I could ever write anything that great again. It was the first time I felt that I was competing with myself, a strange notion many artists experience eventually.
  I saw flashes of young boys and girls being initiated into the mysteries and joy of rebellion. I watched them clean their guns, saw them take their first nascent steps in a Norwegian forest and also in the streets and rebellious venues of Copenhagen, and I saw them as vastly different from a bunch of tea drinkers with delusions of grandeur, as people liberating themselves from all confines, confronting head on the vast corrupt forces ruling this world.
  This is a story for rebels, warriors in all forms. The proud leaders of our society and Joe Public and others «enjoying» average books will in all likelihood puke if they read it. It’s a kind of alternative history of the late Eighties and the Nineties, a parallel reality where scores of aware and passionate and truly rebellious activists and Human Beings run around destabilizing and creating havoc in the ever more modern day oppressive society. It’s what should have been real, should be real.

  One more thing to note about SW and Dreams is the high number of females and/or people with a darker hue of skin. I got sick and tired of the one female, one Asian/African-American/European quota in films/novels and decided to go completely overboard in order to distance myself from it.
  It felt perfectly natural.

  And yeah, the following is one reason why I feel grateful for the censorship of the established publishers. If my first three novels, the first three books in the Janus Clan series hadn't been rejected, I would probably never have written Dreams Belong to the Night, and not taken yet another step forward as an author and Human Being…
  That was me being ironic and even sarcastic.
  With the rejection of the first three I saw no reason to start on the fourth, though, not then, or for a long time. So I started writing one book, self contained stories, and that brought me eventually to the circumstances described in this article.
  The reason I grew, also in this matter was because of my inborn stubbornness, not because I was encouraged to do so, in any way, except in the backward way it happened.

  This is basically a translated, corrected and revised edition of the Norwegian edition, published in 2002. It’s a strange thing to work on a novel I was very pleased with when I published it and see the need for improvements, now. During those nine years I've clearly grown further as an author and the demands I place on myself have grown subsequently. It is the same story, but those having read the original will notice the changes, and might also find them interesting.
  So, after an evolution spanning twenty years, this is the ultimate and final version of the book.

  The exterior and interior of the Gothenburg shopping mall Nordstan, with surroundings is described exactly like it was, June 6, 1997. I was there, that very day, making extensive notes.
  Except for this and other markers of time, names and events linking the main parts of the story to the late Eighties and the Nineties, it’s really a timeless tale.

2 comments:

Owl said...

Thanks for taking the time to provide your personal background to the new book. It was fascinating to read and provides a great taster for what could be hidden in those pages.

As always, I hope the book is a success, not just financially, but also for provoking thought within the readers and a piece of work for an independent artist/storyteller to be proud of.

Amos Keppler said...

Thank you. I'm glad glad you liked it and that it whet your appetite for more.

I'm very confident that this one will provoke lots of thought and reflection in anyone reading it... :)

It's almost inevitable.