Afterword to Works

From Afterword to Works, (Iverksatt) by Per Aage Brandt.


In the final poem here, she writes:

we are humble witnesses

to what we observe

we are responsible for what we report…


This is important; we do witness the world (fossil places…), and what we witness we can not escape being responsible for having seen; even though we can not help what we see, the sight itself makes us responsible; that is why there are things we do not want to see – for if we saw them, we would be the kind of person that allows lets such things to happen while we observe them.  Man’s sight as such is thus a merciless ethical mechanism.

Even more generally speaking, one may say that consciousness per se, as in mental ”seeing”, can only be consciousness of the world; what one is conscious of one is responsible for precisely because seeing ”permits the things (of which one is conscious) to happen.”  It is painful to be fully conscious.  Clarity can be dimmed so the things get blurred, unfocused, unclear; one can anaesthetize oneself and make onself not responsible.  But even dreams are sharp and clear when it suits them; we can not direct the course of clarity, it arrives on its own time: it strikes us.

That’s probably why there is a ’we’ in clarity.  ’I’ is ’we,’ when the responsibility of sight or of consciousness strikes me, for it strikes everyone, and is responsible to everyone.  We can not sense, experience, fantasize, think, love, etc., without being ’we.’

It is painful to know or to witness a world wherein man’s passion is to participate in the work of death.  Liv’s clarity is a song about this work and its conditions, and as with all art, it expresses the opposite of power: no one can stop the work of death, but the poet can inscribe it into a work of art, can inscribe the sight into a tone of voice.  Then it becomes clear, and that is the tone’s only possible clarity.  Perhaps clarity’s only possible expression is that of art and poetry.  Here we arrive at clarity, not because we search for it, but because it already haunts us, and we can bear it, and thus ’arrive at it,’ only by receiving it like a paradoxical sweetness, ’star-bitter’ or poking like an awl, as we endure love: this aesthetic pain which we call ’desire.’


translated by Susan Schwartz Senstad and the writer

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