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Hux Book Blog 2022

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Start the new year with a BANG!!

 

Moment of Freedom (1966) Jens Bjørneboe

 

The bleakest, most depressing indictment of humanity I have ever read. And possibly one of the most powerful and brilliant books.

Where to begin with this? Well, it's part of a trilogy called 'The History of Bestiality' which includes Moment of Freedom, Powderhouse, and The Silence.' The books opens with a narrator who does not apparently know his name but works as a servant of justice. One day, he notices the judge is distracted, looking at something on his desk, and the narrator acquires the photographs in question and discovers they are of the town's most prominent members (including the judge) engaging in sexual acts with children and animals. Thus begins a journey through the depravity of the human race which takes in several cities and stories which detail (quite convincingly) the abhorrent nature of man. The narrator ponders on the children killed by the 2nd World war, the many prostitutes and pimps of the European cities, the devices of torture we invented and used without concern in the passing centuries, his ex Nazi friend whose only lament is that their great leader did not succeed, a destitute kitten, starving and ill-treated, roaming the streets, the small boy whose mysterious stomach illness is solved only when it is discovered that the barber he works for has been buggering him.

It truly is a vile and disgusting civilisation we have concocted. And the narrator (or Bjoernboe) points out that as much as we might like to believe this is a thing of the past, we are kidding ourselves. It manifests in new ways, takes root without fuss or notice, and spreads too quickly to be adequately dealt with. He too, is complicit and, with total apathy, tells us of a time in Italy when he had sex with a young prostitute while her five-year-old daughter (or sister) sits and watches.

Then the book concludes with Bjoerboe telling us about a new aspect of humanity which troubles him, something he clearly brings up because he believes this may be more than a mere passing fad. In fact, it may be a new means by which the rancid diseased human can express his bilious soul. He tells us of a series of young men who, apparently mild and quiet individuals, one day acquire a gun and begin indiscriminately killing people in the street. As though he knows (even in 1966) that this is the next logical step for humanity to most effectively demonstrate its evil nature.

Seriously, this book blew my mind. Sadly, the only copies I can get are by Norvik Press which aren't the worst but aren't the best either. This trilogy deserves something better. It is an absolute masterpiece of horrific nihilism.

 

10/10

 

Edited by Hux

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Powderhouse (1969) Jens Bjørneboe

 

Powderhouse (part 2 of Jens Bjørneboe's History of Bestiality trilogy) is possibly even better than part 1 (Moment of Freedom). It deals with the same bleak worldview but while Moment of Freedom felt like a collection memories and opinions with no real narrative framework, Powderhouse was far more coherent and self-contained. The narrator is now working in an asylum for the criminally insane in France as an odd-job man and, as a result, the book has a more conventional narrative which allows for other characters and themes to be brought together in a way that was lacking in Moment of Freedom. This book felt like a book, but still provided Bjørneboe an opportunity to explore his ideas regarding the evil inherent to humanity.

One of the plot points is that the chief physician encourages lectures as a kind of therapy. This allows for the narrator to give a lecture about the history of witchcraft and the various inhuman methods with which society dispatched of the accused. This is then followed by a lecture from one of the doctors about the history of executions and the executioners themselves, a portion of the book that was thoroughly gripping in its macabre detail. The fact that execution was often a family business, the various methods used, and the countless downsides to each individual technique. How long it takes to die, what is considered humane, and the incident where a doctor twice shouted the name of a guillotined man at his severed head and the eyes looked at him.

The book had a strange, almost post-apocalyptic feel to it, as it all takes place of the grounds of the asylum and the narrator often sits outside his home on those grounds drinking wine, giving milk to a hedgehog, or having sex with the young nurse Christine.

I would be more inclined to recommend this book to people than Moment of Freedom as it has a more digestible narrative but still affords Bjørneboe an opportunity to examine how deeply unpleasant the world is.

 

10/10

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