Per Petterson


It´s sinking, dissolving, hinges rusting so the door´s falling out, moss spreading on the roof, very slowly, very green. Where did the bonnet go. Every spring willow and birch will creep through the open spaces, unfolding their leaves where the dynamo used to be. Someone took it and walked away, put it in an Opel, is that possible. What is the decay span of a car, how deep into the landscape can it sink and still be called a car. The cars of my childhood are still out there, in the ditches, on the overgrown dirt roads, behind abandoned factories, behind rusty wire fences, they cannot run, but they are still cars, I will argue, they can never more run, but perhaps you can climb in, perhaps the key is still in the ignition, and when you turn it, silence will pour out, white, as milk from a jug. Through the silence you can hear the growling of the sixties, the whine of the fifties; did the car have the taxi-sound, was it a Mercedes Benz, were all taxis Mercedes Benz, and years later we suddenly realized it was the meter, not the brand of the car that made the sound we called the taxi-sound, the sound of travels; from the bend in the road where we lived, down in the ticking taxi to Vippetangen where the ship was moored with the hawsers tight, and when the bell rang for the third time, it was out, out through the fjord, to the ocean.

My neighbour had an Eisenacher. My neighbour died, it was a long time ago, he had four cows, two pigs and a tractor, but also a car put together in the GDR, an East German car from the Eisenacher Motoren-Werke, an EMW, a BMW copy, the last one produced in 1955. How did it end up here, in this field´s edge, hidden behind these bushes that were not here before, when the cows were grazing. One day maybe my neighbour drove his car right out into the pasture, up by the forest, leaving the door open, and never returned.

Why did he buy this one, was it very cheap, did someone advice him to, how many of them could actually be found in Norway. Not many. Was he a communist, was he red, but not dead. As he is now. Above all I liked the shiny logo with the wings and the red letters bolted to the the once so red varnish, varnis onto varnish, it seemed, red on red, but the red letters are no longer red, they too are shiny now, as everything else that once had a colour, but has been washed away by time, as blood is washed away. I only know they were red, I have read about it, seen pictures. I grew fond of this car and what was left of it. I always walked past there on my way to the woods.

The neighbour´s grandchild has taken over the place now; he thinned the forest, he cleared out the edges of the fields, he cleared out the edge of the forest, he cleaned up and carried away. One day my Eisenacher was gone. Grief hit me, or something resembling grief. I called the Directorate for Cultural Heritage, but they said there was nothing they could do, there was no penalty that they knew of for the mercy-killing of an East German car, and anyway it was too late. Adjust to it, they said. But it was not easy. I do not pass by that place anymore.

A friend of mine has had five Volvos during the time I have known him. Five of them, old, purchased in Sweeden; two years, and then another, two years, and then another. Now he has a Fiat. The Volvos are behind the barn, placed at an angle, close to each other, side by side with their flat tires and left blinkers on a straight line. This is no cemetery, there will only be five of them. To him it is a work of art. He does not use that word, but for him it is beautiful, special, and it is easy to agree. Sometimes we stand there together, watching them sink, each year a little deeper, each year more enclosed in a wreath of rowan and willow.

Per Petterson, novelist