Sunday, September 18, 2011

A note from Oslo Book Festival 2011

This weekend I went to the Oslo Book Festival. It was mainly held in the downtown Karl Johan with two main stage, one in Spikkersuppa and the other in the Opera building. After doing the saturday chores in the morning, I went downtown without any particular goal about the festival. I had read the programs, and didn’t find anything particularly
interesting. I just wanted to be around books and people who loved them. I must also admit that my urge to buy print books has decreased a bit after owning an iPad. Books that are not particularly good or important or timeless, I’d rather buy the digital version.

I arrived past midday, dropped by the information booth and picked up the complete programs. Browsed it quickly and a program caught my eyes: Black Metal-Bussen (The Black Metal Bus). A two hour program subtitled “The True Norwegian Black Metal Sightseeing”. (Has there been any fake sig
htseeing?). I thought this could make my day, although I don’t listen much to black metal. I am more into trash-metal and prog one. Then I strolled around the stalls of publishing houses and bookshops while waiting for the pick up time at 13.30 in front of the University Building, which is just the next block from the main festival venue.

Anders Odden, the musician from, among others, the band Satyricon, was going to introduce his book titled “Piratliv” (Pirate Live), to be launched in November. The presentation was about one chapter in his book about his life and adventures in the Black Metal world. A clever way to talk about bus-touring musician life in an actual bus.

The chapter described the Norwegian Black Metal scenes and life since its beginning. About the influence and philosophy behind the music, the historic events and places, the attitudes of the actors, and the atmosphere of this exclusive subculture.

The bus arrived on time. A woman of late thirties, dressed in tight and black greeted the participants and handed out some flyers. I got on the upper deck of the comfortable coach. Odden welcomed us while the bus started departing to Holmenkollen, a place known for its ski jumping events. I really wondered why.

He talked about the early days of his involvement with the music at the age of 13 and his relationship with the band Mayhem. How the musical communities turns into something rebellious with the church burnings and other extreme doings.

The bus stopped. We took the stairs to the dark, wooden Holmenkollen chapel. It was located on the top part of the hilly Holmenkollen. From below it looked quite dramatic, especially after we heard the stories related to the black metal scene. Some of the participants did look like die-hard black metal fans, so I can help thinking that we are acting like in some kind of “pilgrimage”. Odden led the group, we stopped when Odden continued his story. Seeing an Add Imageaging black metalist in person really reminded you of your own mortality.

We went circling the small chapel, passing by a group of people celebrating a wedding, rather awkwardly exchanging looks. At the back of the church there was a placate with an upside-down cross painted in black, another historical trace. The visit ended there and Odden said that the next stop was Helvete (Hell). Again, I wondered what it was.

Hell was now a coffee shop called “Vårt daglige brød” (Our daily bread) owned by a Vietnamese family in the Gamlebyen (Old City of Oslo). This used to be the place where blackmetallists hung out. Fortunately there was still a trace of the old days kept as much as it was. A grim basement which was better called a dungeon. It was a very small room with nothing but a small non functional sink changed into an altar like place where you put burning candles on. On the wall written the words “BLACK METAL” in black paint. Odden mentioned it was in the same condition as the old days except in some places peeled by foreign tourists. I could imagine fanatic black metalists would collect those like people do with the remains from the Berlin wall.

The Vietnamese coffee shop owner had been nice to the black-metal related visitors by giving them free coffee. Odden seemed to return the favour by giving us time and encouraged us to buy some refreshment for the coffee. I smiled silently watching this oddly sweet relationship.

On the way back downtown we passed the address Tøyengata 38. On the third floor, Øystein Aarseth of the band Mayhem used to live there. He was Odden’s hero and inspiration. On the August 10th 1993, he was killed with 23 knife stabs, two in the head, five in the neck and sixteen in the back. Varg Vikernes, of Mayhem and later Burzum, was the killer. This shocking incident did break Odden’s heart and his relationship with everything. It shook his faith in the black metal idealism. On that note, he ended the presentation and reminded us that it was just one chapter
of his upcoming book. Wait and buy! He played some songs from Venom on the rest of the journey. Before we left the bus, he said that he had a compilation of music played on the tour burned in two copies of CD. Those who wanted it should just come and ask. I ran to it and got the last copy. I shook his hand and thanked him

This is certainly not a usual book fair experience!