Saturday, 28 November 2009

Is our need for consolation insatiable?

I had a gift token for my local bookshop and my eye was caught this morning by a tiny ACTES SUD publication of a short essay translated into French by the Swedish author Stig Dagerman Notre besoin de consolation est impossible à rassasier - our need for consolation is insatiable.
It's a powerful essay on suicide and the absurdity of life, perhaps not the best thing to read at a time of depression.
Interesting that the English translation of the essay will only be published later this year - the French translation has been around since 1981.
Towards the end of the essay Dagerman reflects that the consolation offered by contemplation of the freedom of the sea is interupted by the reality of having "to turn back to the land and face the organisers of the oppression of which I am victim. And will be forced to recognize that human beings give life forms which, in appearance at least, seem to be stronger than the individual."
He ends by saying that his only consolation is "the memory of liberation which bears me up as on a wing towards a goal which gives me vertigo". (As these are fragmentary translations of a translation do try to quote the official English translation which should be out soon - see below.)

Is our need for consolation insatiable? Probably. Just like our need to be listened to, to be heard, to be respected, to be loved. We too turn back to the land and try to face the demands of life and differentiate between those which are absurd and those which are unavoidable! There is dark humour in Dagerman's essay, in the end neither humour nor the desire for freedom could hold him. He took his own life in 1954, the need for consolation overcame him.

Our Need for Consolation Is Insatiable / Vårt behov av tröst är omättligt … (1952). Translation by Steven Hartman, 2009.