Cover image for The silence: an anti-novel and absolutely the very last protocol
The silence: an anti-novel and absolutely the very last protocol
Bjørneboe, Jens, 1920-1976.
Uniform Title:
Stillheten. English
Publication Information:
Chester Springs, Pa. : Dufour Editions, 2000.
Physical Description:
201 pages ; 22 cm
General Note:
"The Silence" (1973) is the third volume in the trilogy informally known as "The history of bestiality" following "Moment of Freedom" (1966) and "Powderhouse" (1969).
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Originally published in Norway in 1973, The Silence (Stillheten) is the third and final book of what has become known as The History of Bestiality trilogy. Dufour Editions is very pleased to have published in the United States the first two novels in this trilogy -- Moment of Freedom and Powderhouse -- and now, with The Silence, to make all three novels available in English for the very first time. It will give readers a chance to experience first hand Bjorneboe's remarkable, fierce, and even savage fictional inquiry into what he saw as the nature of evil in the twentieth century.As with the first two novels in the trilogy, The Silence also rejects the traditional modes of fiction to posit instead an essay-like novel of ideas, philosophy, and argumentation. It is, in fact, even further removed from the loose fictional form of the two previous protocols, and owes more to the works of Foucault, Girard, and Sartre. Described by Bjorneboe as an anti-novel and absolutely final Protocol, The Silence was ahead of its time in its critique and discussion of the post-colonialist world. Here the inquiring narrator explores not just European history, as he did in the first two novels, but the crimes committed by Europeans against the rest of humanity in the name of expansion and conquest. Set in an unnamed country in northern Africa, the narrator is looking at Europe from the outside. With his friend Ali, an African revolutionary intellectual, he discusses in epic fashion the history of colonialism. Cortez' destruction of the Aztec empire and Pisarro's of the Incas were crimes of genocide comparable with Hitler's against the Jews, and Columbus's glorious discovery of America becomes simplyan act of colonialism. He engages in imaginary conversations with Columbus, Robespierre, God, and Satan. He becomes totally immersed in what he perceives as the world's wickedness. As he tells us: I don't believe that humanity is evil, nor that humanity is good -- I believe that a human being is partly evil and partly good. Which side shall be permitted to grow and develop depends on ourselves. On a planet where people have freely chosen to let themselves be burned alive for the sake of truth, the good must have great possibilities. The court sat, the charges were read, the witnesses heard, the evidence presented, humanity was found guilty. I kept the trial records -- these are the protocols, these three novels. This is the History of Bestiality. Now, is the silence. As Bjorneboe puts it in the third and final novel, there is a transformation in humanity brewing and whether it will result in total destruction or a redeemed humanity is unknown, but we do have the possibility -- the potential, the humanity -- of cooperating in our own redemption.Despite its presentation of horrors and man's inhumanity to man, and its grim portrayal of the narrator's long plunge into the tunnel of depression, The Silence does not depress. It praises man's immeasurable capacity for good; man is the destroyer of all things, but also the renewer of all things. Given what man has done to his fellow man in just these last few years, in Africa, in Latin America, in South America, in Eastern Europe, the twenty-five years that have passed since this novel was first published have not diminished its relevance or its urgency.

Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

Part of "The History of Bestiality" trilogy (following Moment of Freedom and Powderhouse), this is a riveting work of experimental fiction that the Norwegian-born Bjmrneboe (1920-76) completed in 1973. Over 25 years later, Mrer's flowing and eloquent translation proves that time has only sharpened its message. There is no straightforward plot. Instead, in an essay-like format reminiscent of work by Sartre and Foucault, the narrator and his friend Ali discuss crimes against humanity, such as Cortez's destruction of the Aztec empire and the genocide perpetrated against the Jews. The two friends reside in an unnamed African country beset with startling imagery that neither the narrator nor the reader can easily forget. At one point, the narrator finds a cat that has been run over lying by the road, its belly gaping and its organs exposed. An animal ambulance is called to take away the still-breathing feline and end its suffering. After ruminating about the cat's death, the narrator wonders if it symbolizes the whole history of bestiality, stating, "I simply want a rebellion against the whole world order. Something is wrong at the very bottom. There lies the root of evil." Bjmrneboe's work will continue to be studied in the literary world. Recommended for all academic libraries.DLisa Rohrbaugh, East Palestine Memorial P.L., OH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.