Tales of Protection
Erik Fosnes Hansen
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Tales of Protection is a novel about people in different places in different epochs -- contemporary Norway, nineteenth-century Sweden, and Renaissance Italy -- whose stories are bound together by the author's original and searching inquiry into why things happen the way they do.
As the book opens, a dead man lies in his coffin reflecting on the past. Bolt was an eccentric scientist who devoted his old age to a vast research undertaking -- collecting random incidents from the history of the species and finding the underlying pattern that connects them. This kind of hindsight, after all, must be a kind of heaven -- or a kind of hell.
His reveries lead him to tell two other tales -- the tale of a doomed lighthouse keeper on a Swedish island and the tale of rivalry among Renaissance artists -- and finally to tell a startling tale from his own early manhood. All of the tales, in his exquisitely suspenseful narration, demonstrate his theory of "seriality," which is the opposite of causality.
Erik Fosnes Hansen's Psalm at Journey's End was acclaimed as one of the most original works yet about the sinking of the Titanic. In Norway, Tales of Protection has been called a "Blixenesque" masterpiece; it is a major new work of world literature, and a great leap forward for this gifted young writer.
this or that one was to be beaten for inattention, this or that one fired because of his appearance, this or that one degraded to stableboy because he had bad breath. So Fiorello had wholeheartedly supported the banquet idea and encouraged it in every way, because he still remembered Lorenzo’s banquets in Florence in earlier days, what they had been like, grand and beautiful and temperate (that’s how he remembered them now at any rate), with music and song, with noble speeches and conversation;
excuse for it.” The engineer listened to the voices, listened very carefully, but did not recognize any of them as the first voices he had heard above him in there. “Which of you was it?” he shouted. “Now, now,” said Knudsen. “We’re gonna be out soon. He’s had a shock, poor guy.” The engineer was about to shout something, but held his tongue; he could glimpse the light now, they would soon be out of the darkness. “Look!” said Knudsen. It grew light. They had come out into the side passage,
raised his glass. “It’s good to have you on your feet again. I must say you frightened me.” “Thank you,” she said, still just as softly. “Thank you very much.” “I hope you aren’t offended that I took the liberty. I was a little tired of—what’s it called—jeans, and men’s white T-shirts.” She blushed, could not help giggling a little, and looked down. “Yes, yes,” he said. “Whatever you call it. But I admit—yes, I admit the jewelry looked very nice on you in your T-shirt too. I must admit that.
extensive and … unusual … to be regarded purely as hobbies. The bees and the orchids, for example; earlier he was also very taken up with exotic animals. Didn’t he still have an ape?” “Jacob.” “Yes, of course. He used to have a complete menagerie. The entire garden was full. When people from the Animal Protection League came, he threatened them with an elephant rifle. The marmot in particular really bothered the neighbors. It never slept. He got involved with many other things too. But this
loves him; he can see it in the way she sets the food in front of him, senses it in the movements of her hands when she helps him into his sea clothing. There is tenderness in everything. But during the winters he can tell what she misses; she walks slowly along the windows pinching shoots on the plants, cares for them, feels the soil and roots with her fingers; her mouth develops a sad expression, and her eyes become distant and empty. Or she takes out her longing on the men; never has a rough