[Marxism] Anders Breivik’s Rampage in Norway

Shantanu Majee majeeshantanu at gmail.com
Fri Apr 10 09:22:12 MDT 2015

On Apr 10, 2015 8:06 PM, "Louis Proyect via Marxism" <
marxism at lists.csbs.utah.edu> wrote:

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> NY Times Book Review, Apr. 10 2015
> Review: ‘One of Us,’ by Asne Seierstad, on Anders Breivik’s Rampage in
> Norway
> 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 mother.
> 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
> weapons.
> 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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