Monday, 27 July 2009


By Catharina Gripenberg

Someone in my novel must die, reasoned Virginia Woolf.
So the minor character died in one line, and Virginia Woolf had to go out and drown herself.
V.W. in the flow of water.
She doesn’t manage to get up to the land, to the acid on the paper,
where her voice in the third person cries Virginia Woolf.

In the garden there are rosehips and poplars.
On the veranda stand the novel’s other characters
wondering where in their thoughts they should now put a comma.

Her central character survived.
She sits dry-shod on the steps, shakes the water from the sheets of paper
and tries to consider the view in the first person.


You mustn’t die, my central character
Don’t die on me in the first person
You shall have coffee, cigarettes, and a suit
For all the funerals.


In order to write one needs money and a room of one’s own, said Virginia Woolf.


I have your room. I sit at your table.
The chair at your writing desk creaks.
In the window a bee that says
“It’s August and I don’t want to die.”
Little bee, someone must die in this poem.


Virginia W.,
here you are only a character in a poem.
You are spared from slicing the day into paper, tearing the shore up after you
as you walk in your thoughts, seaweed.
You say “I have what I need: a death of my own, a room of my own.”

But in my poem you wouldn’t die.
I don’t have very much money. We would be poor.
It would be an adventure. You would gather pine cones,
stick them out through the bars and say “I’m wasting away.”
And a minor character would fill her pockets full of stones so as to find the way back
but the road would go over the river.
And who is it sitting here and smoking and drinking coffee?
Yes, I, my central character, am of course also here
though I can’t really afford it. Here you’ll get a little money
for more coffee and cigarettes, to keep you alive.
Behind us stand surviving characters from the novel. It’s September,
they’re lifting branches, picking apples in pails, and saying
that according to them, if we were to ask them, they would think
it’s September, and that the thoughts –, the hours –,
the pails –, the thoughts –

Virginia, come up out of the water
it will be the sort of ordinary day you never had: Living characters,
some dead ones, a room and meal breaks, a council pension.

translated from Finland-Swedish by David McDuff

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