[Marxism] Anders Breivik’s Rampage in Norway

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Apr 10 08:35:46 MDT 2015

NY Times Book Review, Apr. 10 2015
Review: ‘One of Us,’ by Asne Seierstad, on Anders Breivik’s Rampage in 
By Dwight Garner

The Story of Anders Breivik and the Massacre in Norway
By Asne Seierstad
530 pages. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. $28.

The nonfiction horror story told in “One of Us: The Story of Anders 
Breivik and the Massacre in Norway” moves slowly, inexorably and with 
tremendous authority. It’s a sober book that smells like fresh 
construction, a house built from plain hard facts. You’re forced to 
bring your own emotion, and it pools beneath the steady sentences.

Asne Seierstad is a Norwegian journalist and writer best known for her 
2003 book “The Bookseller of Kabul.” In “One of Us,” she chronicles her 
country’s Sept. 11, the July day in 2011 when Anders Behring Breivik 
detonated a homemade bomb in central Oslo, outside the prime minister’s 
office, killing eight, before driving to a youth camp on the wooded 
nearby island of Utoya.

There, over the course of more than an hour, he methodically gunned down 
69 more. Most were teenage members of the governing Labour Party, and 
they were among Norway’s brightest and most promising young people.

“One of Us” is, at bottom, Mr. Breivik’s story. The author follows him 
from birth through his conviction at trial and imprisonment. He declined 
to be interviewed by Ms. Seierstad. But she puts us at crucial moments 
directly inside his head, his thoughts lifted from his own written 
statements and interviews.

Ms. Seierstad has read everything about Mr. Breivik and the case, 
interviewed everyone. (Her epilogue, about her methods, should be 
required reading in journalism schools.) She is determined to see Mr. 
Breivik, so much so that her steely approach put me in mind of something 
Roy Blount Jr. once said: “If you won’t talk to me I’ll write about your 
face. If you won’t look at me I’ll write about the back of your head.”

Many other stories are told here. There are profiles of several of the 
victims and their families. There is strong writing about Norway’s 
national character, its politics and its debate about immigration. “One 
of Us” slowly builds to a comprehensive indictment of the actions, that 
day, of Norway’s police and security apparatus.

How was this lone gunman able to shoot children, utterly unchallenged, 
for so very long? Ms. Seierstad isolates the mistakes in what she calls 
— paraphrasing the prime minister’s thoughts, for she avoids 
editorializing — “an odyssey of misadventure and terrible planning.”

Mr. Breivik, born in 1979, was raised in an affluent Oslo neighborhood 
by a single mother who had survived a blinkered childhood. She was 
psychologically unstable, and sometimes considered putting Mr. Breivik 
and his half sister into foster care. He was lonely as a boy, moody and 
sometimes violent.

He wore the wrong clothes, said the wrong things. He was vain, wore 
makeup and had a high, giggling voice. He found solace in hip-hop and 
became a graffiti artist, though he wasn’t accepted by his tagger peers. 
He dropped out of high school because he wanted to make money and get on 
with his life.

He had some successful business ventures, including one selling bogus 
diplomas online. He found Norwegian girls too liberated, and contacted a 
mail-order bride who arrived from Belarus. She quickly fled back home. 
At 27, isolated and feeling like a failure, he moved back in with his 

Back home, he essentially didn’t leave his room for five years. Any 
parent who has a child submerged too deeply in video games will read 
about what happens next with their hearts up around their ears. Mr. 
Breivik became obsessed with the online game World of Warcraft, which he 
would sometimes play for 17 straight hours.

He became a hermit. Inside the game, he achieved a kind of mastery he 
never felt in the real world. He became grandiose. Online he fell into 
right-wing politics and became obsessed with the threat of Islam and 
multiculturalism in Europe. Maxing out credit cards, he began to buy 

The section of this book in which he rents an isolated farm and begins 
to assemble his bomb and collect his armaments is so finely detailed 
that it reads like the most dire episode of “Breaking Bad” imaginable. 
You will learn more than you wanted to know about boiling sulfuric acid, 
weaponizing fertilizer pellets and handling liquid nicotine.

Then the attack itself is underway. The roughly 70 pages Ms. Seierstad 
devotes to it are harrowing in their forensic exactitude. She seems to 
note the trajectory and impact of every bullet Mr. Breivik fired. “I 
will kill you all, Marxists!” he was heard to say.

Ms. Seierstad does not write the kind of prose, in this fluent 
translation from the Norwegian by Sarah Death, that is easy to quote. 
But here is a snippet about that day on Utoya:

“He advanced steadily through the heather. His boots stamped deeply into 
the ground as he walked over harebells, clover and trefoil. Some 
decaying branches snapped underfoot. His skin was pale and damp, and his 
thin hair was swept back. His eyes were light blue. Caffeine, ephedrine 
and aspirin ran in his bloodstream. By this point he had killed 22 
people on the island.”

We are not spared the blood, vomit and urine. Nor scenes like a child 
holding her blasted jaw in place, or a boy touching his own brain 
matter, now outside his shattered skull. These scenes are balanced by 
moments of tremendous heroism, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t read 
the final half of “One of Us” with perpetually moist cheeks.

Was Mr. Breivik a political terrorist or simply a madman? This is the 
fundamental question weighed at his trial, and this book offers 
prismatic evidence for each view. Only in the epilogue does the strain 
of considering his life show in the author’s voice.

It’s said that exact detail is uniquely helpful when it comes to mending 
after terrible events. If it is true, as Stephen Jay Gould contended, 
that “nothing matches the holiness and fascination of accurate and 
intricate detail,” then Ms. Seierstad has delivered a holy volume indeed.

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