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Opening speech 2020: the everyday

Eivind Senneset
Eivind Senneset

What is this “grey quiet day” that Olav H Hauge wrote about? Read festival director Teresa Grøtan's opening speech about the ordinary. 

Good evening and welcome to the Bergen International Literary Festival! I am happy and honoured to welcome more than a hundred authors, moderators and artists from 25 nations here in Bergen, Norway.

The voice you heard belonged to Olav H Hauge, one of our most cherished and celebrated poets. The title of his poem – Everyday – is also the theme for this year’s festival.

The word Everyday is translated to “kvardag” in Norwegian. But “kvardag” also means “the ordinary”. The concept of Kvardag includes both the routine and the feeling of the routine. Kvardag is the ordinary as opposed to the extraordinary.

Because it is not the extraordinary that makes up most of our lives. On the contrary, our human existence is rooted in ordinary, everyday life.

Exerting control over our everyday existence gives us the power to create, to write.

A key strategy for repressive regimes worldwide has been to hamper creative people by making their everyday lives difficult. In Norway, this has been felt by the Sámi, the indigenous people of Sápmi, a geographical area which includes northern parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia.

The goal of the Norwegian authorities was to assimilate the Sámi into a Norwegian everyday life based on Norwegian language and culture. The UN has found that the Sámi languages today are on the verge of dying out or are seriously endangered, and little doubt prevails about the way this racist policy has affected Sámi literature.

This piece of Norwegian history shows how political structures interact with people’s daily lives.

Reversing the social impact of laws and policies often takes much longer than changing these policies themselves.

Just think about how racism prevails worldwide, even though racist policies are no longer part of any national law. Or how girl children are considered less valuable in many countries, even though legislation no longer discriminate against girls.

I mention that last example because, later in this opening ceremony, you will experience a performance by Indian author and dancer Tishani Doshi centred on the daily threats of violence against girls in India.

Literature helps us to imagine something else. Reading helps us to change. Reading about others makes us realise the ordinariness of us all. Olav H Hauge, the author of the poem Everyday, hardly went far from the fjord he lived on. But, through poetry, he connected with the world and its people.

Reading gives us a feeling of a common humanity.

Let’s take the opportunity this festival offers to stimulate our imaginations.

The Bergen International Literary Festival will bring you everyday life from around the world. We will explore this theme from literary, artistic, political and historical perspectives. What is everyday life like for people in prison? Or people living through times of war? How are our everyday lives influenced by the changing climate, or by our relationship with nature and animals?

And what is this “grey quiet day” that Olav H Hauge wrote about? Grey is a resonant colour here in western Norway, where it rains more than anywhere else in the country.

Let me end this speech by congratulating the Sámi people, who are celebrating their National Day on this very day. I’m glad to announce that the final artistic contribution in this opening ceremony will be performed by Niillas Holmberg from Sápmi with his musical partner Miro Mantere from Finland.

Let us cherish the everyday, let us cherish the ordinary. 

 

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