Academic journal article Michigan Quarterly Review

The Awakening

Academic journal article Michigan Quarterly Review

The Awakening

Article excerpt

A. You wake. You have no idea who you are. You're lying on a lawn, freezing. Above you there are twigs and leaves, and behind them a blue-grey sky. You're lying under a bush. You sit up and look around. You are in a park. You are wearing a loose-fitting shirt and dark blue jeans, dirty. You see the Royal Palace and realize you are in Oslo, in the Palace Park. Why are you here? And who are you exactly? You look through all your pockets for a wallet, a cell phone, something, and find a foldout map of Oslo, and, in another pocket, a notebook full of scribblings. You don't recognize the handwriting, but understand it may very well be yours anyway. On the map several spots are marked with circles and x's in blue pen.

You aren't afraid. You feel no panic, at least not so far. On the contrary, it feels like a kind of freedom; you could be anyone, anything-the possibilities seem endless.

If you would like to follow the clues from the notebook, go to section B.

If you would like to follow the clues from the map of Oslo, go to section

c.

B. You open the notebook and leaf back and forth. Shopping lists, contextless words, quotes.

You read: "After all these years I have come to understand that beauty, just like happiness, occurs often. A day does not pass when we are not, for an instant, in paradise. There is no poet, however mediocre, who has not written the best line in all of literature, but also the worst. Beauty is not a privilege reserved for a few, illustrious names. It would be remarkable if this book did not contain one single line worthy of staying with you to the end. J. L. Borges."

That's all well and good, you suppose, and you note that you know exactly who Borges is-the blind Argentinian who, with his short tales, created an entirely new genre, where fact and fiction slide into each other and make new patterns, new possibilities. But this doesn't help you in the moment, you have to find out who you are on your own.

You try to find concrete clues in the notebook. On one page there is a date and "remember Deichmanske Library." On another, "the House of Literature?" and just below, "Norii Bookstore, Universitetsgata." These are concrete places one can explore. You start walking toward Wergelandsveien and the House of Literature, seeing as it is closest. The pink sign on the building looks familiar. You walk up the steep stone steps and open the heavy doors. There are several people in the restaurant; in the bookstore to the right there are fewer people, but many more books. You try to get a feel for whether it is a place in which you feel at home, but this doesn't seem to be the case. The diners look at you disapprovingly, as if your presence makes them uncomfortable, and you remember that you are dirty and unwashed; maybe they think you are a drunk, or a beggar. On your way out the door you hear someone say something about "the importance of balancing the profitable with the perfect," a sentence that gives you chills. You exit and look up, then down, Wergelandsveien. You leaf through the notebook again. "The profitable and the perfect," you mumble, and ask yourself where you want to go if Deichmanske Library represents the perfect (E) and Norii Bookstore in Universitetsgata represents the profitable (D).

C. Karl Johan lies like a slack jump rope between the Royal Palace and Stortinget, and you stop at its lowest section, which is called Spikersuppa. You sit down on a bench and study the city map. You discover it's familiar, you know where things are, what streets and places are called. There's no doubt you know this city, you can't be a tourist or someone just passing through. But what is someone who knows the city well doing with a map? You watch the teeming crowds along Karl Johan and wonder whether you're the type who feels comfortable in large groups of people, whether the answer could be to let yourself get carried away and become a part of the city (F), or are you an individualist who uses the city as a canvas for your self-portrayal, a one-of-a-kind person who naturally stands out (G)? …

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