‘Vitalie Meets an Officer’ by Gunnhild Øyehaug translated by Kari Dickson

She loved the sentences in them. The way the sentences presented themselves as if what they said had actually happened.

Anna Bae the Younger is reading a biography of Arthur Rimbaud. Rimbaud didn’t give a fuck and that really appeals to Anna. It’s hard to separate the generosity with which Anna treats her objective world, from how she considers the life of Rimbaud. They bleed into one another. The ‘Vitalie’ of the story is Rimbaud’s mother and the narrative circles around precarity and chance. How Vitalie somehow managed to encounter a French soldier in 1852 fascinates Anna because the biography acts as evidence: yes, a counter-biography is possible. One can sit at home, adhering to routine and yet be interrupted by the unexpected. A companion story is crafted by Anna on her sofa while reading the biography and thinking about a Nick Cave song. Anna, like Ryabovich and Madame Loisel in ‘The Necklace’, is busy preparing for a life alternative to the one she’s living.

Collected in Knots, FSG, 2017

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