I return to a rare collection of poems. It is Franco-Norwegian poet Caroline Bergvall who, in the multilingual “Drift” from 2014, investigates a shipwreck and lost at sea. He is havelas the Old Norse word reads.
The text goes from straightforward English to syllables that Norse can understand in spots (“Kom ut av kursen hafville Secgan at come hafvillur ok darkens”) to book the pages completely without the vowels. The poem is a craft that goes awry.
“Let me talk about my own real life travels with real songs,” says the poetic self, then uses familiarity with multiple languages as a destabilizing force, to self-dissolve. Through connections with ancient texts such as “The Seas” and “Hávamál”, the work is placed in “the larger context of shipping on perilous seas—in which the human need for the elements and the ability to orient oneself and others is highlighted,” as literary scholar Karen Nyqvist puts it. Who is speaking? He is every man at sea at all times.
in the middle “Operation” means a real event in March 2011. A short part of the report tells about it The so-called left-to-die cause, A rubber boat carrying 72 migrants has drifted in the Mediterranean for two weeks unassisted – even though the boat was under visible watch. The refugees see the lights of other boats and on one occasion they encounter a military ship:
“We are watching them, they are watching us. We show them the dead bodies. And we drank sea water to show them that we are thirsty,” said an anonymous testimony. The crew takes pictures of the inflatable boat, and nothing else. “We knew we were going to die little by little.” A total of nine people are alive.
This happened twelve years ago, and people are still dying in the Mediterranean. Since 2014, more than 25,000 migrants have drowned or disappeared in the waves, according to the international refugee agency IOM. Last week, some sixty bodies washed ashore in southern Italy after a refugee boat capsized in storm-like conditions. He had at least twelve children.
The Italian Minister of the Interior blames the severe weather – the rescue operation simply could not have been dispatched in time. Sheer lies, say the locals who went out and helped people in the deep sea (DN 27/2).
while refugees Sinking Off the coast of Calabria, an MSF team in Sicily is also stuck unable to act – reportedly forced to remain in port due to an “administrative error” on a previous expedition (Aftonbladet 2/3).
Post-fascist Italy’s prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, blames the tragedy on people smugglers, but… he tells La Repubblica She feels “deep sadness”. At the same time, it passes a law whose primary goal is to block bailouts. In concrete terms, the law means that a ship may only rescue castaways from one boat at a time and must immediately return to port after each operation.
The law should also be seen as part of a larger European trend, in which aid is provided to refugees making it more difficult and incriminating in country after country. Solidarity must cost so much that no one dares.
In 2011, it was surprising that they only allowed drowned people to die very cold. A decade later, everyone who wants to go out and save lives on a voluntary basis is hunted down and punished. Faced with the absurdity of making rescues a crime, one can perhaps pretend that it is only the virtue of watching.
Then Europe drifts around, havel against his moral collapse.
Read more columns and other texts written by Christina Lindquist
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