On Thursday 22nd November 2012, the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs is hosting an event to celebrate the literature of Sweden. “Storytellers of Sweden” showcases the bright new talents in Nordic fiction. The Global Herald is publishing a selection of excerpts from top Swedish authors to give readers a taste of modern North European books:
“Me on the Floor, Bleeding” (HÄR LIGGER JAG OCH BLÖDER)
© Jenny Jägerfeld 2010
Published in Sweden by Gilla Böcker, by agreement with Grand Agency
Published in the US 2013, by Stockholm Text
Translation: Susan Beard
Excerpt from the book, pages 1 -3
“THURSDAY 12 APRIL
It was like I was forty metres under the sea. The pressure of thousands of square metres of water prevented any quick movements and made my body slow and sluggish. It was a quarter to one on Thursday the twelfth of April, one day before the unlucky thirteenth, or so people worldwide like to kid themselves, and I had just sawn off the tip of my left thumb with an electric saw.
I stared at my thumb − what was left of it, I mean − with its pale midwinter skin with the pinky-red stuff inside. The flesh. In a detached kind of way I thought I’d sawn it off quite neatly, that the edges of the cut were straight, which was good. Wasn’t it? I searched my mind for relevant experiences but it was blank. Empty. My knowledge of sawn-off body parts was clearly limited. Anyway, the cut was pretty difficult to make out because a massive stream of blood suddenly spurted right up into the air. Like a little geyser.
The saw fell with a violent crash to the floor. Perhaps I dropped it, perhaps I threw it away from me, I don’t remember. I grabbed my thumb with my right hand and held it tight, so tight my knuckles turned white. One second passed, then another. I watched as the saw jerked across the floor, its blade wildly vibrating.
Everything in front of me swam about like bad television reception and the first stream of blood forced its way out between the thumb and index finger of my right hand. As if on cue blood began pouring out between every finger and my right hand gradually turned bright red. I tried to squeeze even tighter but the blood kept gushing through. It dropped onto the white worktop at such a speed you’d think someone was spraying it with red paint.
Suddenly it felt as if my stomach was emptying itself of its contents, as if I was in a lift and the cable had just snapped, and instead of slowly travelling upwards I found myself freefalling down the shaft. I was forced to let go of my thumb and grab the back of the chair to keep my balance. That was the starting signal for the blood: it spiralled and poured and pumped out from what had once been one of my most important digits. The starched front of my shirt was sprayed red.
Shit. Dad’s going to be angry.
This ought to be hurting, I thought objectively. Why isn’t it hurting?
At that very moment a bomb detonated right in the middle of my hand.
And then another.
And then another.
The pain was red hot and hard. The pain was absolutely inconceivably agonising. I tried to breathe but I couldn’t. My throat had closed up. The oxygen had run out.
I looked around in mute panic. All work had stopped. No one was at the potter’s wheel. No-one was moulding plaster, bending metal or messing about with papier-mâché. They were just staring silently in my direction, in the direction of the pool of fresh blood on the floor. At my bloodstained hands and the blood-red hand print on the wooden back of the chair.
They were silent.
They had never been so silent. The only thing you could hear was the saw aggressively attacking the floor. The sound of metal teeth against stone.”