Nattens Lys (translated as The Light Of The Night)
is an interdisciplinary project based on the poetry of Gunvor Hofmo.
The project consists of three parts:
1) Recording of poetry readings. Recordings of readings made by persons who has an relationship to Hofmo poetry. During the spring 2014 more than 150 persons responded to the announcement in newspapers, radio and social media and came to the temporary sound recording studios. The studios were arranged in churches, museums, and litterature houses in Oslo, Trondheim and Bergen. The readers brought one, two, three or more of their favourite poems. More about this in Norwegian under “Innlesningsaksjon”.
2) An audiobook with new recordings in addition to recordings of the poet herself reading 14 poems. This was recorded in 1969 by the Norwegian Broadcast Company NRK. The readings will be composed into a musical composition for voice, organ and piano by Liv Kristin Holmberg. More about this in Norwegian under “Lydbok”.
3) A durative concert installation/ wake with music, the recorded readings of the poems and shadow theatre from sunset to sunrise in Jacob Church Oslo: Saturday the 11th at 20.00 till sunday the 12th April 2015. More about this in Norwegian under “Scenekunstforestillingen”.
Nattens Lys is initiated and lead by Liv Kristin Holmberg and Christina Lindgren and supported by The Norwegian Art Council, The Audiovisual Fund, The Norwegian Freedom Of Expression Foundation, The County of Oslo, Fund for Performing Arts.
About Gunvor Hofmo
It would be a great question, who has enriched the world more: the busy ones or those who suffer?
Gunvor Hofmo was born in 1921 and lived all her life in Oslo until her death in 1995. Her first poem appeared in print in 1936; early in her life she demonstrated and realised that the pen was indeed a strong weapon. She experienced the Nazi invasion of Norway and the way it affected people. She saw the effects of war in Europe. She witnessed how two uncles and an aunt were all identified as suspects, arrested and transported to camps in Germany. One uncle and her aunt died just before peace was declared, while the other uncle (Rolf Hofmo) was rescued and evacuated by the Swedish Red Cross in their Bernadotte busses operation. Gunvor Hofmo saw her friend, Ruth Maier, arrested, marched aboard SS Donau on 26 November 1942 and deported to Auschwitz. A time filled with fear of what humans were able to do to their fellow human beings and shock over what they actually did. Evil, betrayal, terror. Gunvor Hofmo captured all this with her pen and cried out in despair for justice and dignity.
She wrote mainly poetry, a total of more than 700 poems published in 19 collections. She is considered to be one of Norway’s foremost modernists. Jan Erik Vold, himself a poet and the author of Gunvor Hofmo’s biography (“Mørkets sangerske” 2000 ) calls her work “the strongest lyrical writings by any woman in Norwegian”.
Gunvor Hofmo spent 17 years of her life in the psychiatric hospital at Gaustad, where she was admitted after the war. In a time when society wanted to forget the horrors of war, Gunvor Hofmo found it impossible to forget. In a time when Norwegians saw themselves as victims and wanted to look ahead in an attempt to lick their wounds, she looked the evil of mankind straight in the eye. She insisted that this evil had to be met with its own counterforce: human dignity. In a time when the aim was rebuilding, Gunvor Hofmo feels that every single building block has been shattered. In a time when the focus is on material values, Gunvor Hofmo insists on reminding us of the responsibility we as human beings have for each other.
In the last year there have been a number of stage performances and concerts based on the life and work of Gunvor Hofmo. Nattens Lys is our contribution to this renewed interest and at the same time different in its form. Here it is not her biography, but the poems themselves that are the main focus of attention.
The public have been invited to contribute with their own readings of the poems (see more under Innlesningsaksjonen). The work of recording all these readings of her poems has shown us the power and ripple effects created by Gunvor Hofmo’s pen. Injustice and human pain and suffering remain a part of our world. That is why we still need to listen to her voice today.
I want to go home
I want to gaze towards the stars
over the night-shining sea
that is singing, singing:
Wonderful is the night,
wonderful is the day, not one of them will die!
I want to go home to the humans –
like a blind man
is transilluminated in the dark
by sorrow´s starlight
Orginally: Jeg vil hjem til menneskene. From the collection Jeg vil hjem til menneskene (1948). Translation by Howard Medland
On a wet evening like this
you can feel it is her,
a Jewish woman they killed,
the one whose corpse they have burned
along with thousands of others.
Acrid the smell rises from the beach
at low tide.
The birds already whimper quietly.
Someone laughs in the distant twilight…
The voice sounds so gentle
as if they had night in them.
You just know it is her
and see her without seeing
and feel her brown look
cover you hopeless sorrow
as cold as snow.
And your desire to scream,
rage, cry and pray,
just like a small child
gets its own way,
everything you had painfully kept secret,
melts away beneath it.
You hear the gentle voice
the way you heard it last time,
asking without complaining,
subdued and strangely sad:
Warum sollen wir nicht leiden
wenn so viel Leid ist?
Originally: Møte. From the collection Jeg vil hjem til menneskene (1946). Translation by Howard Medland
I know no words anymore,
I know no words anymore,
A deep flood of shining colours
a high, high silence of grey –white snow.
God the Father´s face
I see above,
God the Father´s shining face.
I know no words anymore,
but colours and depth
Originally: Jeg kjenner ingen ord mer. From the collection Fra en annen virkelighet (1948). Translation by Howard Medland
From another reality …
The cry for reality makes one ill.
Far too close did I get to things
so that I burnt a path through
and stand on the other side of them,
where light’s not apart from the dark,
where boundaries nowhere are set,
only a silence that casts me into a universe of loneliness,
oh of incurable loneliness.
Look, I soothe my hand in the cooling grass:
That surely is reality,
that surely is reality enough for your eyes,
I though am on the other side
where grass blades are chiming bells of grief and bitter expectation.
I’m holding someone by the hand,
looking hard into somebody’s eyes,
but I am on the other side
where each person’s a mist of loneliness and fear.
Oh, were I only a stone
where the weight of this void could be held,
were I only a star
where the pain of this void could be drunk,
but I am just someone cast out into the borderland,
and I hear the silence roar
I hear the silence cry
from worlds deeper than this one.
Originally: Fra en annen virkelighet. From the collection From Another Reality 1948. Translation by John Irons
Here some more information about Gunvor Hofmo from the homepage Nordic Women`s Literature: Written by: Unni Langås
Gunvor Hofmo was born and grew up in Oslo, where her father was a meter inspector, and she attended commercial school. She wrote twenty poetry collections, the first five between 1946 and 1955, the last fifteen between 1971 and 1994, and became an important figure in post-war modernism.
The first five collections should be read from the perspective of the destruction of meaningfulness and humanity of World War II. She was immediately regarded as the poet of her generation, but her work was eventually rejected as obscure, and the gap between the poet and her readers widened. Testamente til en evighet, her last poetry collection before a sixteen-year break, hints at a different theme from war. The main character here is the blind, lonely, and mute child to whom the poet gives a language.
Hofmo’s final phase of writing is characterised by serenity and mature reflection. Whereas passion and pain were prominent in her first poetry collections, she was later more resigned and meditative. Gunvor Hofmo consistently shied the public. Her poetry was like a voice from the dark.
Participants in the performance/ wake in Kulturkirken Jakob Oslo:
Puppeteer: Gisle Hass, Ragni Halle and Ella Honeyman-Novotny
Countertenor Hubert Wild
Majorstuen Children and Youth Choir with conductor Sindre Beitostølen and Julie Kleive
Composistion and sound design: Alexander Rishaug, Stefan Thorsson and Liv Kristin Holmberg
Lightdesign Marianne Thallaug Wedset and research light and shadow design Cecilie Graven Engseth
Hosts/ hostesses Morten Meyer, Toril Taraldsen, Ingalill Johnsen, Per-Øyvind Lindgren, Invild Hellesøy
Helpers Svante Løwenborg, Tormod Lindgren
Advisors Knut Erik Tveit, Sidsel Pape, Trine Falch