Alas, I know too little of Stig Dagerman. All I know is that he wrote a lot of short stories and poems during the fifties, and then killed himself. He considered suicide to be his statement of telling the world that he would not let life get him depressed and miserable anymore, it was his way of saying no to any more mental anguish and suffering. I'll add more information about him when I come across any. As for now, I'll include a fragment of a story and his perhaps most celebrated short story.
I leave solid dreams and loose connections. I leave a promising path, that has promised me self-despise and common recognition. I leave a poor reputation and the promise of an even worse. I leave a few hundred thousand words, some written in rapture, most written in boredom and for money. I leave a lousy economy, a wavering stand towards the questions of the day, a better used doubt and a hope of liberation.
I take with me on the journey a useless knowledge of the earth's globe, a superficial knowledge of the philosophies and the third party, a longing for extinction and a hope of liberation. I take with me, moreso, a deck of cards, a typewriter and an unhappy love for the european youth. I take with me finally the vision of an epitaph, raised in the desert or on the bottom of the sea and with the following inscription :
To kill a child
It is a fine day and the sun rests over the plain. Soon the bells shall sound, for it is sunday. Between a pair of wheat fields two youths have found a path that they've never trod before and in the plain's three villages the windowpanes are shining. Men shave in front of the mirrors on the kitchen tables and women slice bread for the coffee and children sit on the floors buttoning their jackets. It is the happy morning of an evil day, for this day a child shall be killed in the third village by a happy man. As yet the child sits on the floor and buttons its jacket and the man who is shaving says that today they shall take a boat trip down the river and the woman softly sings and serves the freshly sliced bread on a blue plate.
There falls no shadow over the kitchen and yet the man who shall kill the child stands by a red gas pump in the first village. It is a happy man who looks into the camera and in the glass he sees a small blue car and beside the car a young girl who laughs. While the girl laughs and the man takes the beatiful picture the gas salesman tightens the lid on the gas tank and say they will have a fine day. The girl sits down in the car and the man who shall kill a child takes his wallet out of his pocket and say they shall go to the sea and by the sea they'll rent a boat and row far, far out. Through the open windows the girl in the front seat hears what the man is saying, she closes her eyes and when she does so she sees the sea and the man next to her in the boat. He's not an evil man, he's content and happy and before he gets into the car he stands for a moment in front of the radiator which shines in the sun and he enjoys the shine and the smell of gas and bird-cherries. There falls no shadow over the car and the shining fender has no dents and it is not red with blood.
But at the same time as the man in the car in the first village slams shut the door to his left and starts the car the woman in the kitchen in the third village opens her cupboard and finds no sugar. The child who has barely had time to button its jacket and tied its shoes stands on his knees on the couch and sees the river winding its way between the trees and the black little boat that lies pulled up on the grass. The man who shall lose his child is finished shaving and is folding his mirror. On the table stands the cups of coffee, the bread, the cream and the flies. It is only the sugar which is lacking and the mother tells her child to run to Larson's and borrow a few lumps. And while the child opens the door the man shouts after it to hurry, because the boat waits on the beach and they shall row further out than they ever have rowed. When the child then runs through the garden it thinks all the time about the river and the boat and the fish who are swimming and nobody whispers to it that it has eight minutes to live and that the boat shall remain where it rests all day and many days thereafter.
It's not far to Larson's, it's only across the road and while the child runs across the road the little blue car enters the second village. It's a small village with small red houses and newly awake people who sit in their kitchens with their coffee cups raised and watch the car drive by on the other side of the hedge with a large cloud of dust trailing behind it. It goes very fast and the man in the car sees the apple trees and the freshly tarred telephone poles glimpse by like grey shadows. Summer flows through the windows, they race out of the village, they lie in the middle of the road nice and secure and alone - as yet. It's good to drive all alone on a soft, broad road and out on the plain it goes even better. The man is happy and strong and with his right elbow he feels his woman's body. He is not an evil man. He's hurrying to the sea. He couldn't hurt a wasp, and yet he shall soon kill a child. While they rush towards the third village the girl again closes her eyes and plays that she won't open them until they can see the sea and she dreams in harmony with the the soft bumps of the car about how serene it will be.
For so uncaring is life constructed that a minute before a happy man kills a child he is still happy and a minute before a woman screams with fear she can close her eyes and dream of the sea and the last minute of a child's life this child's parents can sit in the kitchen and wait for sugar and speak of their child's white teeth and about a rowing boat and the child itself can close a gate and start walking across a road with a few lumps of sugar wrapped in white paper in its right hand and this entire last minute nothing see except a long, shiny river and a broad boat with silent oars.
Afterwards it is all too late. Afterwards a blue car stands on the road and a screaming woman removes her hand from her mouth and the hand is bleeding. Afterwards a man opens a car's door and tries to stand upright although he has a hole of horror inside himself. Afterwards a few lumps of sugar lie randomly scattered in blood and gravel and a child lies unmoving on its belly with its face tightly pressed against the ground. Afterwards two pale-faced people who have not yet had their coffee run out of a gate and see a sight on the road that they shall never forget. For it is not true that time heals all wounds. Time does not heal a dead child's wound and and it heals very poorly the pain of a mother who has forgot to buy sugar and sends her child across the road to borrow some and just as poorly does it heal the grief of the once happy man who has killed it.
For he who has killed a child does not go to the sea. He who has killed a child goes quietly home and beside him he has a silent woman with her hand bandaged and in all the villages they pass they see not one happy person. All the shadows are very dark and when they part it is still under silence and the man who has killed the child knows that this silence is his enemy and that he will need years of his life to defeat it by shouting that it wasn't his fault. But he knows that is a lie and in his nights' dreams he shall instead wish his life back so he could make this single minute different.
But so uncaring is life against the man who has killed a child that everyting after is too late.
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