The Atom Station

The Atom Station by Halldór Laxness Read Free Book Online Page A

Book: The Atom Station by Halldór Laxness Read Free Book Online
Authors: Halldór Laxness
know Nature hear it rather than see it, feel it rather than hear it; smell it, good heavens, yes—but first and foremost eat it. Certainly Nature is in front of us, and behind us; Nature is under and over us, yes, and in us; but most particularly it exists in time, always changing and always passing, never the same; and never in a rectangular frame.
    A farmhouse with a turf roof is not what it looks like from a distance some sunshine night in July; nothing is further from being a farmhouse. I had spent all my childhood in a farm opposite a mountain; it would be no use for anyone who wanted to paint my farm to start from the turf roof, he would have to start from the inside and not the outside, start from the minds of those who lived there. And a bird, I also know what a bird is. Oh, those dear divine birds! It may well be that this picture of a bird cost many thousands of kronur, but, may I ask, could any honorable person, or any person who appreciates birds at all, justify to his own conscience painting a bird sitting on a stone for all eternity, motionless as a convicted criminal or a country person posing for the photographer at Krok? For a bird is first and foremost movement; the sky is part of a bird, or rather, the air and the bird are one; a long journey in a straight line into space, that is a bird; and heat, for a bird is warmer than a man and has a quicker heartbeat, and is happier besides, as one can hear from its call—for there is no sound like the chirp of a bird and it is not a bird at all if it does not chirp. This soundless bird on a stone, this picture of no movement, no long journey in a straight line, might have been meant to represent the dead stuffed bird that stood on top of a cabinet in our pastor’s house at home; or the tin birds one could buy at Krok when I was small. But a picture of a dead bird is not that of a bird, but of death; stuffed death; tin death.

6. The mink farm
    One of the most promising mink farms in the vicinity had suffered a great loss: fifty minks had been stolen. When I arrived for my organ lesson in the evening, two close friends of the organist’s were sitting there, both of them policemen, the one self-conscious and other unself-conscious, both organ pupils. They had come straight from duty and were drinking coffee in the kitchen and arguing over this business.
    â€œWhat does it matter if fifty minks are stolen?” said the organist.
    â€œWhat does it matter!” said the unself-conscious policeman. “The rascals didn’t even have the sense to cut off their heads, the beasts are roaming around at large. A mink is a mink. It kills chickens. And destroys trout and birds. And attacks lambs. Do you want to have everything in the country stolen? Do you want to have your chamber pot stolen from you?”
    â€œPeople should have solid and immovable privies,” said the organist, “not loose chamber pots.”
    â€œYes, but what if you had a gold chamber pot? Or at any rate a silver chamber pot?” said the unself-conscious policeman.
    â€œSome penniless innocent manages, after violent efforts, to break into a small shop and steal some shoelaces and malt extract,” said the organist. “Or manages to remove an old coat from a vestibule, or sneak into a dairy through the back door and grab the loose change left over in the till the night before, or pinch the wallet off a drunken seaman, or dip into a farm hand’s travel box and collect his summer pay. It is perhaps possible to steal our tin chamber pots, although only by special dispensation of God’s grace. But it is impossible to steal our gold chamber pots, or even our silver ones; for they are properly guarded. No, life would be fun if one could just walk out and steal a million whenever one was broke.”
    â€œThere’s no need to go as far as saying they empty all the banks and the Treasury,” said the unself-conscious policeman.
    â€œI have two

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