From Kari 1983
The sun was yellow and the sky was blue and summer was summer and Kari sat opposite that lake and that lake lay there in Sweden and it was 1983 and Kari thought about what the lake was doing and pretending and she thought about doing what the lake was doing and she pretended that it was as quiet as it pretended to be and she thought about it and pretended to be as still as it pretended to be and she thought it wasn’t doing what a lake actually did and she was certain that lakes were not so quiet and still and she couldn’t stand that the lake was doing what it was doing and so she pretended and then she rose up and it was the middle of August and Kari was standing on the ground and she hated all that water and it lay there and was a lake and Kari was breathing and she could hear herself and the birds remained in the pines and they hid and they hid and the owls sat inside the hollow trunks and the owls were birds and the birds sitting on the branches were not owls at all and Kari thought about finding out how dangerous that lake really was and she thought about actually taking it with her and showing it around and she thought that the lake couldn’t hold on and she pretended it was going somewhere and pretended that she couldn’t keep up with it and pretended that it was quiet and still and she thought that it was not at all what it really was and she wanted to know what it really was and the sun was yellow and it was round and the mosquitoes were flying around and they didn’t make a sound and summer break was almost over and Kari was waiting for that lake to show her how dangerous it really was and she thought it might be as dangerous as it possibly could be. The fish lay there in their piles and they smelled so sour and bitter and they smelled and smelled as heavy as they smelled and Kari was waiting for something to happen and the sky was blue and the sun was yellow and nothing was happening and the sky was blue and the sun was yellow and nothing was happening and that lake was there and was as quiet and as still as it was. Kari almost wasn’t afraid anymore and so she was disappointed and the heat was intense and the birds were sitting up in the pines and their heads moved a little and they sat there with their wings and those wings didn’t move at all and nearly all those wings were yellow and some were green and some were blue and that yellow color was actually light and then it glowed and the green color looked dull and the blue color just looked dark and then it glittered a little bit and the birds said nothing and the owls remained in the pines and they were sleeping. Kari stood opposite that lake and the pines stood there behind her and the birds said nothing and Kari stood behind them and the birds said nothing and Kari stood there on the ground and she looked at the lake and she waited for something to happen and yet nothing happened and then she thought about that lake having to go on pretending and pretending as much as it could and she thought she had seen enough of it now and she still thought that the lake was going somewhere and she pretended that it did and then she left. The sun was large and yellow and the heat was intense and heavy and Kari went to the place where the fish lay in in their piles and the piles were down on the ground and the fish were dead or they were almost dead and Kari wished she had a knife and she wanted that knife to be a real knife and she didn’t want one that was pretending to be a real knife. Kari walked beside the lake and it was the middle of August and the sun had all its rays and the sky was bright and the rays were yellow and Kari almost didn’t look at all that water that lay there in that lake and she thought those fish could lay down there on the ground if that’s what they wanted to do and she decided not to look at them anymore and she stepped on the ground and there was plenty of soil underground and the lake was water and Kari started with K and she knew something else that also started with K and it was knife and then it was kallbrand and kärlkramp and then it was kidnappning and kvävning and then kunde and there could be kanoner and kulsprutor and kärnvapen and Kari’s name was Kari and Kari continued along the lake and suddenly she saw someone standing in all that water and the birds were up in the pines and the soil was down on the ground and the fish were swimming around in all that water and the water was a lake and those fish that were swimming and swimming were as transparent as ever and some were big and some were a little smaller and many were very small and Kari knew the name of the first World War and the Second World War and the Winter War and the Thirty Years War and the Trojan War and the Cold War and Kari saw that there was someone standing there in all that water and then she stopped walking and she stood there on the ground and then she looked at whoever was standing in that lake and she was afraid and she wasn’t really happy at all. The sun was shining and shining and the heat was intense and Kari saw that it was a boy standing there in that lake and she thought there was no way a boy could be standing there and she was not very happy and she wasn’t unhappy either and the heat was intense and the mosquitoes were in the air and they were there with their wings and that boy was there just standing in that lake and Kari looked at that boy and she thought he might turn around at any moment and the sun shined and went on shining and shining and Kari thought about the boy who was standing there in that lake and she thought how could he possibly be standing there and she thought he might turn around at any moment and then she thought, what if he did, what would he think if he did, what if he was able to see her. The sun was yellow and the sky was blue and Kari went to where all those pines stood and those pines were a forest and Kari walked as quietly as she could and she even breathed quietly and the sky was up there and the ground was down there and Kari stood behind a pine tree and she just stood there and she tried to breathe so quietly that nothing could be heard at all. It was the middle of August and it was the end of summer and it was a Tuesday and there were some mosquitoes flying around in the air and the heat was intense and it was also heavy and there he was standing over that lake and Kari was pretty scared and not happy at all and she looked at that boy standing in the lake and he just stood there in the lake and then he did something and Kari couldn’t see what he was doing and what he had done at all and she thought about how he could even be standing there and continuing to do what he was doing and what was it he had done and the sun shone and it shined and it was shining and Kari thought about him, that boy, and she waited for him to disappear and she thought he was standing there in that water and she thought he thought he might be standing in that water. The heat was intense and the sun was round and yellow and the sky was blue and the pines smelled of pine and he was standing there in that lake and Kari thought about how much she wanted a knife, yet she didn’t have a knife and she looked at that boy and he was just standing there in all that water and he was doing whatever he was doing and Kari could see him doing it and she couldn’t see what it was he was doing.
Kari 1983 is the suspenseful story of a little girl named Kari who encounters strange happenings at a lake one summer in Stockholm. She wanders among insects and animals, trees and stones. After discovering hundreds of mysterious dead fish, Kari stumbles upon a strange boy standing in the lake. When she asks him what his name is, he answers “Kari”. This startling Anthropocene novel disrupts notions of city and nature, boy and girl, human and animal.
“kallbrand”(“gangrene”); “kärlkramp” (“chest paint” or “angina”); “kidnappning” (“kidnapping”); “kvävning” (“suffocation”); “kunde” (“could”); “kanoner” (“canons”); “kulsprutor” (“machine guns”); and “kärnvapen” (“nuclear weapons”).
Helena Österlund (b. 1978), a trained librarian, has written poems since her high school years in Eskilstuna. Her influences include Edith Södergran, Ann Jäderlund, Katarina Frostenson, Kristian Lundberg, John Cage, and Thomas Bernhard, among others. Winner of the Borås Tidning literary prize, Ordet och färgerna was her 2010 debut collection of a poetry. The first long poem of Ordet och färgerna was translated by Paul Cunningham as Words and published as a full-length book by OOMPH Press in 2019. In 2013, Österlund published her debut novel, Kari 1983 (Albert Bonniers förlag). Österlund received the Mare Kandre Prize for her 2015 novel, Självporträtt (Albert Bonniers förlag). Her most recent novel is Min sårbara kropp (Nirstedt/Litteratur, 2019).
Paul Cunningham (b. 1989) is the author of the The House of the Tree of Sores (Schism2 Press, 2020) and the translator of Helena Österlund’s Words (OOMPH! Press, 2019). He has also translated two chapbooks by Sara Tuss Efrik: Automanias Selected Poems (Goodmorning Menagerie, 2016) and The Night’s Belly (Toad Press, 2016). His creative and critical work has most recently appeared in Snail Trail Press, Apartment Poetry, Kenyon Review, Quarterly West, Poem-a-Day, DIAGRAM, and others. He is a managing editor of Action Books, co-editor of Radioactive Cloud, and co-curator of the Yumfactory Reading Series. He is a PhD candidate at the University of Georgia. @p_cunning