European studies blog

06 May 2015

Woman in Green

In another guest post for European Literature Night 2015, the Danish author Naja Marie Aidt, appearing at the writers’ event, reflects on grief  and literature.

Naja Marie AidtNaja Marie Aidt

In late February I walked the streets of Manhattan and came across a small shop. A beautiful green jacket hanging in the window caught my eye. I went straight in and bought it even though the sleeves were way too long. Perfect for spring, I thought, and jumped on the subway, feeling uplifted and very happy. In March I suffered a terrible loss in my immediate family. Everything turned dark inside me and on the outside, the world seemed to disappear. In April the trees turned green, the cherry trees started blooming with a rich intensity, an almost vulgar pink prettiness. Nature had once again dug its way out of the long, cold, winter and transformed itself into a tempting scene of life: the sun was out, almost too bright, too clear, revealing my grief as a disgrace against the beauty of everything else. But grief is not a disgrace and it is not ugly. It’s heavy and it pulls the body towards the ground as if to bring you closer to the beloved missing person, burried deep in the wet cold soil. I walked the streets, blinded by the light, I dragged my mourning body onward even though it did not want to move. I tried to find my way back to the simplest activities: making coffee, showering, heating up a bowl of soup. I had forgotten about the before because this was the after and nothing would ever be the same again. I knew it when I looked up at the cherry trees and I know it now. Fortuna has played her sick game, just for the fun of it. The tragic coincidence that changed my life over night had no meaning, no purpose. I could almost hear the goddess laughing, and I hated her – hated the chaos of life, the unpreditable chaotic life that we usually believe we are in control of. But we are not. When we move through our lives, mostly uplifted and happy, we walk on invisible cracks and sometimes those cracks expand and make us stumble, sometimes they open up wide and swallow us. Simply by coincidence. I’ve written about those cracks in Baboon and in my forthcoming novel Rock, Paper, Scissors, but the difference between writing about getting hit by a car and actually getting hit by a car is obviously huger than huge.

One day in early May, grabbing a shirt from my closet, I came across the green jacket. I looked at it as if I had never seen it before and I realized that the pattern was almost identical to the image on Jordan Stump’s English translation of Marie NDiaye’s novel Self-Portrait in Green. There I stood, looking at the jacket,  thinking about Self-Portrait in Green, a remarkable mysterious story about repression and obsession where the dead mingle with the living and vice versa, and a certain type of woman – a victim, always unhappy, ghostly – is always dressed in green. I reached for the jacket and put it on. Perfect for spring, thanks to the too-long sleeves, as if in mourning seeking the ground.  I told Ms. Fortuna I didn’t give a shit for her spoiled, cruel games and went to the park with Self-Portrait in Green in my hand.

Naja book coverMaria NDiaye’s Self-Portrait in Green and the green jacket.

Naja Marie Aidt

Works by Naja Marie Aidt in the British Library

Vandmærket : noveller (Copenhagen, 1993) YA.2002.a.1404

Trilogi : digte (Copenhagen, 1995) YA.2003.a.30299

Huset overfor : digte (Copenhagen, 1996.) YA.2000.a.4948

Rejse for en fremmed (Copenhagen, 1999.) YA.2001.a.7331

Balladen om Bianca (Copenhagen, 2002). LF.31.a.1685

Rundt på gulvet (Gråsten, 2004.) YF.2006.a.7677

Bavian : noveller (Copenhagen, 2006.)

Åsted (Gråsten, 2008.) YF.2012.a.16708

Alting blinker : digte (Copenhagen, 2009.) YF.2011.a.14098

Sten saks papir (Copenhagen, 2012.) YF.2013.a.5872


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