For those wanting to take a peek inside our latest Norwegian publication, here are the first few pages of Little Lord, by Johan Borgen, translated by Janet Garton. The launch for the book is November 14, 2016 with details coming soon. If you like what you read, it is available to buy at all good book stores and online >
The uncles and aunts came in snorting from the cold. Their breath looked like smoke coming out of their mouths as they passed through the narrow porch, where the maid was waiting to receive them. Then they came in, stamping, to the large square hall with the elk’s head over the fireplace opposite and tapestries on all the walls. There it was warm. There it was inside.
Little Lord was standing on the carpet in the middle of the drawing room, listening to their arrival through the closed door. He was aware of exactly what was happening as they entered in turn and breathed in the aroma, an aroma of wood and carpets and the discreet hum of an imminent family dinner, asparagus soup, trout, venison steak. He knew where and how the housemaid Lilly would help them out of their overcoats, how Uncle René would say with mild coquettishness: ‘No thank you, young lady, I’m not that old …’ and walk over with his sable-lined coat and hang it in the cloakroom to the left of the front door, whilst tubby Uncle Martin – despite the fact that he was much younger – would let himself be assisted with straightforward pleasure: anything to make life easier … and the aunts, how they would say hello quickly to one another in front of the mirror, say hello to a reflection as it appeared – and then shake hands properly just after with the real person, and how someone would say something about the cold and that there was snow in the air. Little Lord could see it more clearly than if he had seen it and hear it more fully and richly in his imagination as he stood there in the middle of the room, exactly where he should be when they came in, to play the little host who just happened to be standing there when the housemaid opened the door a moment later. A ritual each time – so that Mother could then emerge as if slightly surprised from the interior of the house, just a moment too late, the busy housewife … He stood in the middle of the floor, enjoying it. A nervous pleasure at the festivities to come made him tingle. He heard the train pass – an outgoing train to Skarpsno – just below the windows facing towards Frognerkilen bay. On any other day he would have run to the bay window, which was a step higher than the rest of the drawing room, in order to see the shower of sparks from the tall chimney of the locomotive come dancing out into the dark winter’s afternoon, and slowly fade in the air or along the banks of snow on both sides of the railway line, often right into the garden, between the summerhouse and the old fountain with the walnut tree standing proudly beside it.
Not today, no sparks today. Nothing other than to be standing in the middle of the floor because that was where he should be, and because he enjoyed it, and someone would say ‘the little man of the house’ – it was Aunt Kristine who would say it: ‘the little man of the house, already at his post’, she would say, and there would be an intoxicating scent of cocoa and vanilla around her – or perhaps that was just something he imagined because she produced ‘home-made confectionery’ in her tiny little kitchen, and had her own shop in Kongens gate, and everyone said she was ‘admirable’; at one time she had played the lute and sung in elegant restaurants abroad, and once someone had said that she was admirable, but perhaps a little, you know … and then one of those quick sideways glances from Mother which indicated that there was a child listening. But Mother knew that the child knew that Aunt Kristine’s eyes became as soft as velvet after dinner, and her voice became melodious, and she quietly kicked off her shoes under the sofa and leant forward with her plunging décolleté.
And he could see through the closed door how Uncle René folded his thin hands which could disappear into each other as he came back from the cloakroom, and briefly inspected his moustache which was waxed at the points as he passed the mirror, and with a diminutive comb which appeared and disappeared in his magician’s hands – as everything could appear and disappear in those hands – smoothed his thin greyblond hair, smoothed it down across his forehead, with one of those lightning movements his hands were created for, and how a moment later he would be standing in the doorway on the point of entering, in order to – at the last moment and with exaggerated politeness – make way for Aunt Charlotte, who in contrast would come foaming in with the silken rush of her many skirts – and Uncle René would say ‘mon petit garçon’ and raise the dark brown eyebrows which Mother had once said he dyed, and twinkle down at him with a playfulness which didn’t really have any special meaning, but was agreeable, and formed part of the occasion as well …
After that Uncle Martin with his tight-fitting striped trousers, which spread out grandly from the prison of his waistcoat, would say his piece about ‘masculinum’; but that would not be until after Mother had come in.
Not until then – a good while after the others – and he knew it was in order to make a point of her lack of importance – would Aunt Klara come in, black-clothed and flat-chested, and excuse herself more and more, the more heartily Mother welcomed her …
Little Lord stood in the middle of the floor, listening to the sound of the train receding. Soon the incoming train from Skarpsno would pass, and for a moment throw its long light beams out over Frognerkilen, where the ice gleamed dully and there was hardly any snow. And this clamour from a world outside merely increased the tingling pleasure at being here, being inside, at the many people, at the smell of roast venison, at the memory of the gentle plop of the bottles of red wine which had been opened a good hour ago … at the shimmer of coloured light from the oriental lamps in the bay window. It flickered over brass trays and scary Bengal masks which looked friendly now – and dancers in Meissen porcelain, who stood gracefully frozen in the uneven light, dancing brilliantly to the end of time on the dresser, unremarked by the grown-ups who walked past them or glanced at them distractedly, but not by him who had made their flowing movements, poised to leap, identical with a movement in himself: poised on the brink.