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08.juli 2020- Benyamin Farnam Iran/Oslo

08.juli 2020- Benyamin Farnam Iran/Oslo

Hvordan er det å være på flukt eller i eksil når verden rammes av en pandemi? 11 forfulgte forfattere rapporterer fra sin hverdag i en digital dagbok. Bidrag nummer tretten er fra filmskaper, produsent og poet Benyamin Farnam fra Iran. Benyamin er nåværende fribyforfatter i Oslo.

One day out of thirty

By: Benyamin Farnam

Bilde buss Benyamin

It’s Easter Saturday, and for me the only thing that separates this evening from other evenings in exile is looking at this chance picture. A picture I spend hours alone thinking about. It looks like a normal picture of the inside of a bus, paused at a bus stop waiting for passengers. From the yellow light cast across its surfaces, one can suppose that the sun is sinking and that people are on their way home. That lady looking at the bus from a few metres away, for instance, perhaps she’s a saleswoman going home after a day’s work. Or those legs we can see to the right of the picture. And those people who aren’t even in the picture but who usually go to work in the morning – now they’re about to go home. So far everything seems as normal as can be, except for the tape fastened around the bus doors. They warn us that this is not a picture of normality! 

It was taken on 12 March 2020, the day I took my final Norwegian exam in a situation that was tipping into abnormality. A stranger had come to town to upset everyone’s daily rhythm. I went to Grønland, the last time I went shopping freely and fearlessly. On the way back I watched the doves and the gulls and the families that had rushed out to buy supplies. Among the bustle I heard voices speaking in Farsi behind me about “what’s going to happen”. I didn’t have to strain to understand everything they were saying. One of the quirks of being far from home is that the ear becomes attuned to one’s mother tongue. Something resembling anxiety was visible in people’s faces. This wasn’t a normal day. I walked on and this same bus, the 37, was the last means of transport to take me to St. Hanshaugen. I entered my apartment, closing the door behind me indefinitely. Then everything was shuttered, the city put on hold. People sought shelter in their own homes. The lonely became even more so, and sociable people came up with new ways to be together. Flights were suspended and public institutions were shut down, and the world was engulfed by a spectacle from the end of time. The speed with which it all fell apart could hardly be believed.

Tomorrow will be exactly a month since this picture was taken; the situation is still uncertain. I have been out shopping only twice, spending the rest of the time at home. All conflict, joy, cultural and sporting events, democratic struggles, literary challenges and everything else lives beneath the sinister breath of this soulless stranger. And the whole world is pregnant with an unfamiliar future. In the news there’s endless talk of ever-higher statistics, and expert analysts are no longer capable of stating opinions. My mind is hopelessly full of terrifying news and numbers, pointing towards uneasy days ahead.

I turn the TV off and walk over to the window. The lights from surrounding homes give inklings of happy families. Families taking pleasure from their holidays at home. I make out their clinking of glasses and their laughter. Is it possible that they have as much time to worry about the situation as I do? I look at my phone: except for two enquiries from the school, one from Norwegian PEN and two from the office, nobody has called me for twenty-eight days! And what is more terrifying than silence? I call my family. No one picks up. I get worried. I feel exhausted. I lie down on the sofa and am drawn into a dream. I imagine that if death should come, at least the sorrow of mass death is more modest. And I also think of all the lonely humans lying on their apartment sofas at this instant. I wonder what sense the battle to survive has for someone up to their neck in debt, or for people in prison awaiting the gallows’ noose. For them, are these godforsaken days fundamentally different from any other? What about that class of people whose means of survival is determined by the degree and the way in which we pursue the fight against coronavirus? I conjure unfounded hope for myself and try not to think of answers to these questions. They are more frightening than I dare to imagine.

As I look at this picture today, I think about the day I took it. I could never have guessed then that only a month later the world would be looking to the future with alarm. I wasn’t aware then that I am reflected in the bus’s rear-view mirror, just as I’m not aware now how many of those on that same bus are still alive and healthy. I’m in home isolation and the future is as yet unclear. But there’s one question still gnawing away at me: For a lonely human, is there really any difference between life in isolation and any other day, even as this virus-blighted spring is ushered in through the window?   


Oversatt fra persisk til norsk av Christoffer Ellefsen, og fra norsk til engelsk av Adam King.