"Maybe this is the reason I have no intestines": Aase Berg, Lovecraft, Fan Fictions, Juvenilia, Guinea Pigs

by on Dec.26, 2012

I was really pleased to find Mattias Forshage’s online anthology of poems by members of the Surrealist Group of Stockholm, ranging from the early days in the 1980s until today. This group had a strong influence on me when I was writing in the 90s (through Aase’s books, through their journal, Stora Saltet), while I was living in New York. (Funny how “influence” works – I was living in NYC but felt no affinity to the poetry going on there.)

Anyway, since my translation of Aase Berg’s Dark Matter is now for sale on the Black Ocean web site, I thought I would translate a couple of Berg’s poems from that anthology. This also relates to my post the other day about my interest in “fan fiction.”

Here is Berg’s poem from 1993 (a few years before With Deer was first published), which is excerpted from an autobiographical piece in the journal “Mannen på gatan” (#2), and it’s overtly a fan fiction of one of Aase’s favorites, HP Lovecraft:

Lovecraft’s creatures on the opposite roof

The roofs have started to worry me. They belong to the wild. One hopes for innocence from the roofs – in these areas where nothing every happens. But why are there so many sickeningly slow creatures crawling on them? This happens every night, in the twilight when the lamps blink in all the rooms and I start to get nervous. They are part humans but part not. They have strange little gazes which glow sometimes, and which seem mindlessly empty. I often sit much too close and look at their twitchy silhouettes. If they saw me it would mean death. That’s why I don’t dare move. That is how one should handle the evil, earned that in childhood: remain motionless. Sometimes a strange odor enters the room when I look at them – a smell that is not part of the human sense of smell. They seem troubled by the light from the windows, but they do not seem to have any plans on breaking in. I actually realize that they live in another domain; they come from another world that stay on its side and that, as long as nothing unexpected happens will never converge with reality. If we confront each other we will be annihilated, but such a confrontation seems unlikely. And above all of this, above the creatures on the blue-purple roofs, hoves a nervous starry sky that does not look like the normal one.

And then there’s this early guinea pig poem that is obviously a precedent for guinea pig poems that are in the actual book:

The Guinea Pigs

The guinea pigs naturally live in the vents. Especially in those fluttering and unexpected moments when I look up and see a guinea pig there, looking bored. IN the kitchen there’s a vent and also in the bathroom. There is moss growing in the vents. There is thankfully a grate in front of the vents in the bathroom. The bathroom ceiling is suspiciously low compared to the ceiling in the other rooms. I have a feeling that it is in this between-space that the guinea pigs reside when I want to get a hold of them to use them for something. When I lay in the bathroom I can hear the senile thumps up there, as they happen to run into each other. Sometimes I wonder what they eat. I suspect tht they are eating their own bodies from behind and from the front. Further, I suspect that it is the guinea pigs that are eating me from within when I sleep. Maybe this is the reason I have no intestines.

Relevant might also be Mattias Forshage’s post about the connection between horror movies (“splatter” movies) and Surrealism (in English). Excerpt:

Partial in favour of horror? To this crime I plead guilty. Friends of mine have noted that I will seek out and enjoy odd remarkable scenes and atmospheres even in such movies that are quite obviously poorly done, poorly held together, largely banal, or quite despicable. There is an important overall lesson hidden here, in that surrealist appropriation of cinema is shamelessly hedonistic in the sense that it focuses on anything that manifests and stimulates the poetic spirit, regardless of the quality of the craft, the smartness and brilliance, the cultural value, sociological interpretations, deconstructivist interpretations, deliberate populism, cult value or irony. On the other hand, the banalities I happily endure for the sake of these scattered moments and aspects are dependent on my selective affinity for this particular genre – confronted with the same level of banality in action or science fiction, or especially comedy or porn, it won’t take me many minutes to give up the waiting for moments of poetic productivity, which are probably there in those genres too.

Nevertheless, I will argue that horror is one of the major forms of popular surrealism. It very often represents that necessary fundamental break with realist conventions, both in literature, film and other media, and in life experience. Indeed, in life experience such realist conventions are even more stifling than in fiction, by reducing everything to a banal version decided by the least common denominator, represented by the least ambitious or hopeful reconstruction of a normality, denying all deep ambiguity, the complex sum of possibilities and determinations, the entire sphere of the unknown… This entire sphere of unusual events, overdetermined and multilayered reality, significant chance, adventure and radical doubt, calling all conventional consensus views and all lazy dull habit into question, is typically labelled as “supernatural”, and, wherever the contrast becomes acute with the conventional reductive interpretation of things and thus the strategy of habitual work-consumption-rest treadmill, as “horrifying”. So all of this fiction, the popular representations of this entire sphere of events, the popular imagination about its implications, are typically grouped together under the heading of “horror”.

This of course is an interested comparison with “The Manifesto of Parapornography” by another Surrealist Group member, Carl Michael Edenborg, which we discussed a while back on Montevidayo (Action Books will soon publish the entire book).

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