I Curse the River of Time

I Curse the River of Time by Per Petterson Page B

Book: I Curse the River of Time by Per Petterson Read Free Book Online
Authors: Per Petterson
Tags: Contemporary
outside my flat, just left of the letterboxes. My behind grew quickly cold, but it is the place I always sit down when there is something urgent I have to respond to and I thought this might be one of those occasions.
    Inside the A5 envelope was a postcard with an art motif on the front. On the back of the card a woman had filled all the available space in a handwriting that must have been formed some time in the Fifties.
    This is how the text began:
    On Saturday October 28th we passed each other at Oslo Central Station. A brief moment. I wore a black cap with multicoloured pompoms. Then I saw how much you look like your father, as I remember him. I grew up in Vålerenggata 5 – right across the landing from your family. I remember them well. Your father, your mother – her especially .
    She had signed her name, a name I had never heard of or seen, and below it in brackets she had written ‘née Frantzen ’.
    Vålerenggata 5! The square apartment building on the corner of Smålensgata and Vålerenggata, where the tram went past. I remember the old dairy there, with tiles on the floor, and walking past you could see through the archway to the clothes lines in the backyard where white vests were hanging like dead men, like corpses, while my father’s checked shirts swayed, always waving at me from the washing line. To the left after the entrance you reached the first stairwell with a door and a small window of safety glass and then up the stairs to the second floor with that special smell lingering between the walls, which I thought had something to do with my grandfather, his clothes, his brown jacket, the polka dot bow tie he always wore even when he had taken his jacket off, or his shirts, his brown shoes, something he had in his hair, something viscous in tiny bottles with snuff-coloured labels, but there were seven families living on that stairwell, including the caretaker on the ground floor, so surely he alone could not be responsible for that smell. For all I knew every single stairwell in Oslo smelled like that. They said he was a good man. A good Christian. Personally I could curb my enthusiasm. As could my mother.
    It said Frantzen on the door across from us. I recall the metal letterbox that opened out and not in and the spyhole way above my head. The Frantzens’ door was the first thing I saw when my mother and I came hand in hand up the stairs after a trip to the shops or a ride on the tram up from town, and our bodies felt a mutual resistance, like some electric current passing from one arm to the other and back again down our legs, that made them hard to lift, and thereason I have always remembered the nameplate was the ‘z’ – a letter I thought was used only by Zorro.
    The Frantzens’ door was to the right on the second floor and ours was to the left. My grandfather’s name was on our nameplate. His middle name Adolf had been reduced to an ‘ A ’, which was no surprise, in the years after the war. I am named after him, I have his first and last name and I have always hated them. But the Adolf in the middle I escaped because the vicar in our church put his foot down.
    Behind the door with the A in the middle lived my mother and my father, and two of his brothers and their father, who was my grandfather, and then my older brother and me. There were two rooms and a kitchen, and they were not very big rooms and the kitchen was not a big kitchen. The walls of the flat were dark in a way that today I would describe as murky, and the blinds were nearly always down. I do not know why. Someone must have thought that shutting the light out would keep the rooms cooler.
    I had no idea that my mother knew the people across the landing where it said Frantzen with a ‘z‘ on the nameplate. I never saw anyone coming out of that door or anyone going in, but of course I did not notice everything, I was quite small when we moved from there. Helter-skelter, I later thought, under cover of darkness, in a lorry

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