The post card and book that was sent out to hundreds. Foto: Kolbjörn Guwallius
Right in the middle of summer, a mysterious book started arriving in hundreds of Swedes’ mailboxes. But no one knows who wrote it, or why it is being distributed. The Swedish journalists Jack Werner and Kolbjörn Guwallius unravel a mystery that has baffled the world for seven years.
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THE ARTICLE IN SWEDISH: Jakten på Joe K
We have just been out at the play ground, in the pouring rain. When we get back home I check the mailbox. Inside is a package, without any visible sender. My daughter wants to open it, but I tell her that she may not. I don't know what it is. I'm not expecting a gift. The package's weight implies a book, but the shape more closely resembles a box.
Within the first few seconds I subconsciously remind myself of a few things. I have recently published a controversial book that is uncomfortable for several people involved. The last few weeks I have received a few threatening messages concerning some few public statements I'd made about a right-wing extremist who calls himself an artist. This package could contain just about anything.
I go up the stairs, close the door behind me and carefully open the pretty packages. Inside is a box with a picture of a rat dressed like Sherlock Holmes. On the back, a personal dedication. An anonymous sender has sent me a box with a rat detective telling me not to panic.
I tear open the other package and find a similar box, with a printed dedication to a certain Alvar Ellegård. While I stand there comparing the two boxes, I think about everything from anthrax to the possibility that I received it all by mistake. The anthrax seems so far-fetched that I peek inside the boxes anyway. Weird, sealed books. I put everything back inside the packaging and put it away in my storage closet. On Twitter, I post (in Swedish):
”If someone has sent me books anonymously and expect me to be happy about it then the answer is no, please explain”
One of my followers quickly puts me in contact with the pastor Kent Wisti, who himself had gotten a copy of the package and knew of several others who had as well. Suddenly I feel calmer, but at that moment I'm still mostly upset and it takes me awhile to readjust from the threatening aspect. Not for a moment, then or later, do I ever feel ”chosen” in a positive sense. I do, however, become more and more curious about what lies behind it all, and start digging.
I soon notice that Jack Werner, whom I know as a skilled investigative journalist, has also received the book and started snooping around about it. I send him a message on Facebook.
”Have you discovered this bit about ’Ingvar’?”
The message in my Facebook chat interrupts my reading of the Swedish Facebook group ”Book package: Being or Nothingness”, created for the more than thirty Swedes who up until then had discovered a package of books in their mailboxes. I'm one of them. The white books are on my desk. One copy is directly addressed to me, with my name written in fancy, scripted handwriting, while the other is a facsimile of a copy that a certain Alvar Ellegård has supposedly received.
The book is short, only 42 pages, and half of them are blank and unused. It begins with a sort of story about the legendary giant rat of Sumatra, clearly inspired by Arthur Conan Doyle. The book's middle section is filled with quotes from several historical dignitaries, as well as a few from the book's own author – someone who calls himself ”Joe K”.
The book ends with a sort of biblical listing of the seven days that passed while the book was being written. It is a strange read, some would probably call it impossible to understand. This is quite apparent among those discussing in the Facebook group. They're mainly concerned with why they specifically received the book. Theories pop up like bubbles in a glass of carbonated water.
”I make documentaries and in 2009 the Swedish public television broadcasted a documentary I had made about three Franciscan friars. Thought about the link to priests?”
”To dismiss the theory with links to religion, I can tell you that I am a not very religious politician and farmer (albeit academic) from [the Swedish town of] Ystad and received to books yesterday.”
”I am a member of parliament from Gothenburg. Spoke on the local radio in Gothenburg yesterday. So radio and Gothenburg seems like a recurring theme.”
When I picked up my own delivery of the package I became not only one of these thirty people, but one of a great many more people who had also received this strange white book, entitled ”Being or Nothingness”, during the last six or seven years. There are, in fact, thousands of us. The book has arrived in mailboxes not only in Sweden, but in other countries as well: USA, Japan, Canada, Denmark, Israel, Somalia and India. Some have received several copies, some have been addressed directly to the recipients. And no one knows why.
Until know. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.
”Have you discovered this bit about ’Ingvar’?” Kolbjörn messages me.
”Don't think so,” I reply.
I need to know who is behind this. I have understood that maybe, just maybe, there is a riddle to be solved as well, but that doesn't concern me. I think that the riddle in that case is some sort of gibberish with no value to me. My first thought is that someone out there with huge financial resources sent these books. But why?
The theories online are too numerous. A Swedish member of parliament who has received the books says that she has heard that it's all just a publicity stunt from the Swedish right-wing think tank Timbro. A few recipients have received the rhetorical question: ”Could it be that the welfare state is the anti-christ?” stamped on an attached postcard. But it seems way too bizarre to be true.
A few days after the package of books another letter arrives in my mailbox. The same handwriting, another book in wrapping paper. Why is he sending me another one? I have by this point clearly posted online about my research into the book's author.
A short excerpt from the book claiming that the author does not wish to be revealed is glued to the letter, along with a short handwritten note in English:
The new book is entitled ”Recipients of BorN The Collector's Edition”. It is an index of the first 699 of the book's recipients: Plenty of dignitaries from the fields of politics, science, literature, all of them white males – or at least an overwhelming majority of them. Listed are names such as Mikhail Gorbachev, Tony Blair, Tim Cook, Bob Dylan, Dan Brown, Lars Gustafsson, Tomas Tranströmer and Klas Östergren, but also Condoleezza Rice, the Dalai Lama, Salman Rushdie, Orhan Parmuk and Aung San Suu Kyi.
I laugh when I see that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has received the book. What did he think about being designated the number 666 in an anonymous book that contains bits of religious mysticism, if it has at all reached him?
I confer a bit with pastor Kent Wisti about the book on Twitter. He wonders as well, and takes an active role in getting people who received the book to join their Facebook page. He has his own theories.
”I think he believes that he has written an ingenious book, and it is possible that there is a riddle to be solved within it. But it can only be solved with his own special logic. I believe he feels a great deal of ambivalence about being revealed and remaining anonymous. He wants to be a part of the exclusive group, while at the same time staying raised above it. It makes sense in his world, where he is good. That's why he can't comprehend that someone would find the package disturbing,” says Kent Wisti who knows about my initial reaction to the package.
”At the same time I can't help but be fascinated. The world needs more of this kind of madness,” he says.
The incertitude is one of the reasons why the Facebook group was created, says pastor Ludvig Lindelöf of the Swedish church in Gothenburg, who took the initiative.
”We thought that it might be fun to discuss and share information about what we perceived as a riddle. There was also a need to calm what was considered as unsettling, since one of the books was dedicated to a deceased professor at Gothenburg university, Alvar Ellegård, who during his last years had a few troubling thoughts about Jesus. That it could have been a religious fanatic who sent the books to priests' and pastors' homes was at that point not excluded, especially since the books themselves had a strong religious and Christian theme,” says Ludvig Lindelöf.
More people write in the Facebook group about receiving the index book, but only Wisti and Lindelöf seem to have received the same wish about respecting the author's anonymity. Wisti feels that he as a pastor needs to respect this and thus stops his own research.
Myself, I carry on. I post in the Facebook group that I have received the author's wish for anonymity, but that I can't accept that quite so easily. He is not a journalistic source, but rather someone I'm researching.
But I realize that he must be reading in the group, so I ask him to get in touch with me.
”I never really understood what that book meant, or what happened to it. It's been six or seven years sing i got it, and I still have no idea why.”
Murilo Saraiva de Queiroz is now a hardware engineer at Nvidia, but in 2008 he was researching machine learning for his own company Vetta Labs. That was when he wrote a blog post about the book package ”Being or Nothingness”. After the book had landed on his desk, he scoured the web but found nothing written about it, so his post became the first.
Soon the comments section was flooded by other people who had received the book.
”Most were fascinated, and many believed it to be some sort of viral publicity stunt. Such tricks were very popular back then, Microsoft had just done one to launch their Xbox 360. So most people were curious, he says.
The comments section to Saraiva de Queiroz post became a place to which more and more people were drawn. The book had been sent to hundreds of people, from camera shy scientists to international celebrities like the Dalai Lama and Salman Rushdie . A discussion resembling the one we had in our Swedish Facebook group developed.
One year before Saraiva de Queiroz made the post on his blog, an article was published in the Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet. This was until now the only mention of the book in Swedish mass media. In it, the Swedish poet and critic Magnus Ringgren mentioned Joe K in passing, claiming that Joe K ”appears to be a quasi-intellectual high school student among a thousand others”. When I speak with Ringgren, he remembers the book.
”The culture section at Aftonbladet had amassed some rubbish, and sent it to me. I thought it was the editorial staff's idea, not mine. Who had received the book initially, I have no idea.”
I tell him about the new developments regarding the book, and his interest is piqued.
”That's exciting, man! I'm getting real chills, and it's been a long time since I got that, he says and laughs.
And so it goes on. In the list of recipients of ”Being or Nothingness” I search for people that I could realistically reach to comment on the matter. I speak with economist Johan Norberg and artist Lars Vilks, and both recall having the book sent to them, but not much more than that.
During the spring of 2009, however, a chain of events began that would eventually lead to the book getting more attention than ever. On if the few women to appear in the index of recipients was Deborah Telmi, a British doctorate in psychology.
At first she thought it was her superior at the university of Manchester who had sent it to her. But he said that he had nothing to do with it, apart the fact that he had received one himself.
”I asked around among all the Swedes I knew, I googled it, and eventually I had spent a whole Saturday researching it. That's when I realized that I had spent too much time on it – I need to outsource my hunt. So I contacted Jon Ronson,” she says.
Thus the book snared Jon Ronson as well. Ronson is a journalist and author, perhaps best known for his book ”The Men Who Stare at Goats”, adapted into a Hollywood film in 2009. In the first chapter of his book ”The Psychopath Test”, Ronson describes how Deborah Talmi contacts him, and asks him to examine the strange white book.
He becomes hooked and heads to Sweden to do research. In the book he describes how he finds his way to a house in Gothenburg, where he meets the supposed author of the book – a man he calls Petter Nordlund. The follow exchange takes place:
"‘I’m surprised you’re here,’ Petter said. ‘I hope it isn’t too unpleasant a surprise,’ I said.
There was a short silence.
‘If you study Being or Nothingness,’ Petter said, ‘you will realize that you will never find out the author.’
‘I think I know the author,’ I said. ‘I think it’s you.’
‘That’s easy to . . . ’ Petter trailed off. ‘That’s an easy guess,’ he said.
‘Is it a correct guess?’ I asked.
‘Of course not,’ said Petter."
For some reason, this conversation did not leave Jon Ronson thoroughly convinced.
After having read the chapter by Jon Ronson, I believe I have a rather credible explanation to who is behind the whole project. A quick search of the national Swedish library catalogue reveals that the name Petter Nordlund is feigned, but corresponds to a certain Per Norfeldt.
But soon afterwards I hit a wall. Per is not listed in the national registry. Jon Ronson introduces him as a psychiatrist. It is that lead that brings us more clues as to who he is. He has been an advisor for a venture company and a British bioengineering company.
There aren't a lot of people named Norfeldt in Sweden, only thirteen. No one uses Per as a first name. A 25-year-old is called Per, but as a second name. The Swedish Tax Agency confirms, however, without finding any traces of Per, that he must still be alive. Everyone deceased after 1991 is registered in their data banks. No Per Norfeldt is listed there. If he has demanded to be barred from the national registry, he still can't be found though. This is the most likely explanation.
Unless he has changed his name. Perhaps Ronson's interview scared him to change his name?
This is where Ingvar makes his appearance.
As mentioned, there aren't that many Norfeldt in Sweden. It quickly becomes strikingly apparent that all men who share this name have something peculiar in common: they all have the second name Ingvar. I think that he, too, must be called Ingvar, and that he perhaps kept this name. A search of all the people called Ingvar born around same time as ”our” Per returns only 14 hits.
I'm startled when I notice a man with Ingvar as a second name, and an English last name. It's a name without a registered address, designated to a post-office box. A mix of English and Swedish. Jon Ronson had written that Per Norfeldts wife spoke with an American accent.
What if he had taken her last name? It is further revealed that Per is married to a woman with an English first name and the same last name.
The Swedish Tax Agency confirms this story. Per changed his first name in April 2011, and a few days before Christmas the same year his change of last name was registered.
But there were further quirks. Per's most recently declared income consisted of 400 Swedish kronor (2012), approximately 60 US dollars. The last time he had a decent income was in 2010, when he declared 326 000 kronor (slightly less than 48 000 dollars), but on the other hand, in 2011 he declared an excess of his gains amounting to 3.8 million kronor (557 000 dollars).
His family is not at all poor, however. Per's brother, Sven Norfeldt, is a known billionaire and venture capitalist. His investment company Dunross & Co had a turnover of 9.3 billion kronor in 2012 (around 1,4 billion dollars).
The book claims to be printed in 2 500 copies. The unique, sealed limited edition, the numbering by hand and an extra copy of each book to each recipient must have cost at least a few hundred Swedish kronor per copy. Just the postage along with the boxes must then have cost at least 40 kronor each. The project in its entirety could well have cost between a half and a million kronor to complete (corresponding to between roughly 73 000 and 150 000 US dollars). Additionally, the book has been sent overseas since 2007, in a less costly edition.
An expensive hobby. And a sender who has changed his name twice and since gone underground along with his wife.
The questions keep coming. Is Per insane? Does he have other reasons to hide? Has he lost his home?
It turns out that Per has an impressive history, but the only company still active has a post-office box as its address. That company has also changed his name. It used to be called Glass Bead Game AB (Ltd), which is also the name of a novel by Herman Hesse. ”Being or Nothingness” is, in turn, dedicated to that book's protagonist. The fictitious game in Hesse's novel is a test of knowledge, of sorts.
I check the index of recipients once more. It contains a dedication: ”To my father who died March 21, 2006.” And yes, Per's father, Bernt Ingvar Norfeldt, passed away this very date.
Suddenly, it all becomes clear. The circumstantial evidence is just too overwhelming. But where is Per now? It's like he doesn't exist. I call and send mails fervently. I'm actually on vacation but this story is just too interesting to drop. I search all kinds of data banks.
I contact the company Atremi, who published the book. They're on vacation too, but I manage to reach publisher Per-anders Lundh on his cell phone. Atremi is a self-publishing company, letting most things through their systems. They have only denied pornographic and blatantly racist books, he says. But of course he remembers ”Being or Nothingness”.
”But I have no clues to give you. That's kind of the point,” he says. ”We have a deal with our client that he wishes to remain anonymous.”
Per-Anders is throughout our conversation careful about not revealing the client's identity.
”When we did this we saw it as a mix of fun and weird. I thought it was a fun thing to do, and it was a very ambitious publication full of exciting details. It's fun to work with that type of book.”
No conclusive answers can be drawn from the conversation. Per-Anders is on vacation and has no ability to try and reach Per on Metro's behalf. The same indecisive answers are given by the man who built the book's website, and the Swedish couple living in the US who are noted as owners of the website's domain. The latter promise us to at least transfer our contact info to Per, and let him know we are looking for him.
In ”Being or Nothingness”, the printing page has been cut out. It is still there in the recipients' index, though. Jack manages to reach James Eliasson at the printing company in the Swedish city of Halmstad, but he has never met the author either.
”Oh that book, yeah, yeah. I remember the guy at the publishers' telling me about the nut-job who made it. There was a lot of trouble with that one, a lot of specifications. It was to be sent out to a number of selected people, very secretive. But that was all I got to know. We had no contact with the person behind the book, all I know is that he was a doctor.”
James Eliasson recalls the project as very strange.
”There were supposed to be stamps in the book and cut-outs in certain pages, you were supposed to find some code and stuff like that. I had a copy at my place for a while, but I had no idea what it was about,” he says.
I try to reach Per's brother, the billionaire Sven Norfeldt who runs the venture company Dunross. The receptionist laughs when she understands what business I have, but refers me to an e-mail address. We want to know whether Sven has helped finance the book. No immediate response.
Eventually I get a hold of a person with good insight on Per. They have had regular, personal contact with him for a long time and of course have their own copy of the book, since several years back. They confirm that Per is behind the book and he has written it himself.
”He wrote it, it's him. It's been many years since I got the book, I have it in both English and Swedish. It would have been very interesting to know what he's trying to say with the book,” the person says.
You don't know why he wrote it?
”No, that I don't know. He's a very special person. But he's still a head doctor in psychiatry or something like that. I always think he's so intelligent but that the line between genius and idiot is very fine. But it's been a long time since I last saw him.”
Wednesday July 16th is a frustrating day. You might say that Kolbjörn and I have gotten a flat tire. None of Per's relatives want to help us closer to our goal, give us a means of contact or even answer our attempts to reach them.
Sometimes we seem to get a breakthrough. A secretary at a British firm where Per used to work gives me an e-mail address, the first direct means we have had to contact him. But the e-mail bounced back. Everything bounced back. We didn't advance an inch.
We're sure that Per is the book's author, but it's not enough. The big question is why. Why do you spend years and possibly millions in cash on an international project without stepping forward? Why had we received the books? What does it mean? The same questions have been asked by everyone I've spoken to.
Murilo Saraiva de Queiroz in Brazil:
”Why did he stop sending the books? Did he plan a next step in the process, that never came about? I still have the same questions I did back then. It was all like interrupted intercourse.”
Deborah Talmi in the United Kingdom:
”I understand why celebrities like the Dalai Lama and Mark Zuckerberg got it, but why me? I don't understand how he found me, and I still wonder why.”
Levi Shand, an American living in Spain:
”The big mystery is who made this book. I still wonder: What was the point of it? It's not a story, not a list… What is it?”
And so on. But there we are, Kolbjörn and I, becoming more and more desperate. ”Should we pretend to invite him to some prestigious event? Should we drive down to Gothenburg and knock on his brother's door?” he writes to me on Facebook. I let out a sigh of surrender. It seems our article will end, without ever finding out ”why”.
My work phone has the peculiarity of me having managed to turn off its sound as well as vibration, without being able to reactivate them. It is in other words only by sheer luck that I notice its display lighting up, the sole remaining sign that someone is trying to call me. And this summer evening, when all seems at his darkest, I get lucky. The display lights up, and a number that I don't recognize materializes on the screen.
I pick up the phone. I answer. And I'm greeted with a peppy voice that introduces itself as Per Norfeldt.
”I'm not going to answer any questions, I just want to clarify that this is a project in which no one but me is involved,” says Per Norfeldt when Jack picks up the phone. Yet the call will go on for more than half an hour.
When I listen to the recording, I get the impression that it's Sven who has demanded that Per get in touch with Metro. He interjects several times during the conversation that his brother has nothing to do with the project.
It turns out that Per knows that we have been in touch with several of his acquaintances. Some of them have provided their name for various paperwork, but have nothing else to do with the project, he claims. That sounds reasonable. In addition, he says that he has followed the posts in the Facebook group.
”It was pretty obvious that the translator would be suspected of being behind the whole project. I clearly noted that right at the beginning. I pondered back and forth but felt that I could do that.
Per also claims that his change of name has no connection to the book. It supposedly has to do with a previous patient of his whom he believes is stalking him. He is afraid that his current name will be revealed and that other members of his family will be held accountable for the book. That seems to be why he is getting in touch. He doesn't make any absolute demands, but we still choose not to print his new name.
”My 91-year-old mother doesn't know that I have changed my name. I go by Per Norfedlt with all my friends. A lot of people know of my ties to this project and it's nothing I'm ashamed of. But no one besides me believes that this book is of any value,” Per says.
Still, it has sparked some interest. People are wildly speculating in the Facebook group, several blog posts throughout the years have tried to comprehend. But it seems there is nothing to comprehend. Just a man who sticks to his story that he found a manuscript authored by Joe K, a man who supposedly is a metaphysical pseudonym for Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of Sherlock Holmes.
”I found the manuscript in an abandoned railway station in 1988–89 and translated it into Swedish. Then the original copy disappeared. Back then I already contacted a couple of publishers and sent them the Swedish edition. I no longer possessed the English one. But I did not author the book. I found the manuscript and translated it, just like the book says. Then I retranslated it back into English,” Per claims.
Per states that Bonnier Alba did wish to publish the book, but they wanted to meet Per. He wished to remain completely anonymous and the plan therefore never came to fruition. When Per's father died in 2006, he felt that he wanted to publish the book himself. He called himself a translator. That was his only real link to the project.
So Joe K is not a pseudonym for yourself?
”I have had the ability to study all this since 1989, and the way I see it's like this work has written itself. I know that I have written it in Swedish, after the English original.”
That corresponds with the choice of cover illustration, the two hands sketching each other. Everything out of nothing. A philosophical theory elevated to a historic fact.
The book contains several quotes from other authors, among them Douglas Hoffstader, born in 1945. Arthur Conan Doyle, who died in 1930, is according to Per still somehow the originator of the manuscript.
”Yes, exactly. It's very hard to explain how it all makes sense. Some of the quoted people didn't even live during his time. So you can't really put all the pieces together and I guess that that's the strange thing about the manuscript. You can't put it all together. But my own experience of the entire opus, after reading it a few times, is very intense. It has been for me at least. So intense that I spent a large amount of money on it.”
The project has indeed been costly. At least two million kronor (approximately 300 000 dollars) has throughout the years been poured into the project, not counting the work hours. The amount is not improbable. Per has left his career as a psychiatrist but does not wish to share how he makes ends meet today. All he says is that he gets by and that he has never demanded any financial aid from the government.
”It's my own money, not that of my rich brother. No one else has paid for this project. I'm not wealthy, so this does effect my economy. It's not free, this project. No one is buying it, no one is reading it. I have printed an edition for a whole lot of money and have put a whole lot of work into the artisanal crafting of the book. I have probably spent an hour's worth of work on each book.”
The books that Per has distributed among his friends and family have been met with silence. He is aware that the project comes across as bizarre.
”Most people to whom I have given the book have not wished to comment on it. They say that they haven't had time to read it. They get embarrassed. There's a lot of religious matter and strange quotes. I don't know many of family members have read it. I think Sven has read it, he told me so. But he hasn't commented on the contents.”
Many have speculated about the choice of recipients. Per claims that the book has been sent out to 1 540 different people only in Sweden. But there is no thematic connection between them.
”Imagine selecting 1 500 names of dignity. You obviously have to search about everywhere. I haven't discriminated in any category that I know of. The first 700 were at least my ranking of the 700 most prominent people in the world, as I saw it. It's a ranked list with David Deutsch at number one.
”The goal was to reach people who had the capacity to understand it. They are, amongst others, figures within science and culture. Names that I have found prominent or otherwise distinguished. It hasn't been about opinions, I have sympathized with some and completely disagreed with other.”
It's more about the intellectual capacity. Perhaps one out of a hundred could comprehend the book's message. A message that Per does not wish to speak more about. He says that it differs for each person reading it, that there are plenty of entry points in the text.
”Some have tried to comprehend it. I have the advance lead of knowing about the book for 25 years. It was only in 2006 that I realized that I could get it out there, in a way where I wasn't considered the author.”
Per says that he understands that some recipients have found the book package threatening, but he is done with the dispatches now. Instead of revoking the entire edition he has had it sent out. He has a few copies left but feels he can no longer afford the postage.
”Enough is enough. I'm very happy and content and have done what I felt needed to be done.”
But what is the purpose of the book? A big ”why” is really all that remains. And Per fails to give us a clear answer.
”I have a feeling that if a convey my own interpretations, then people will cement their misconception that it is I who wrote the book. That takes away its entire purpose and my interpretations will weigh more heavily since I in some way am behind the book. I am behind the project in the sense that I have distributed it and had some help from friends to conceal myself a bit. Other than that I have only tried to spread this text that I found a long time ago.”
Per considers himself ”tremendously” religious, but doesn't attend church. He says that some people see a religious message in the book.
”But I suppose that that could be seen as a contribution to the debate and a questioning of both fundamental Christianity and our modern Christianity that doesn't feel serious.”
But you must realize that it does seem a bit incredible that you found this manuscript and didn't write it yourself?
”I completely understand that. But I can only stick to my story. It is exactly how it is described in the book. It gets totally inexplicable and defies all logic,” says Per Norfeldt before ending our conversation.
On Thursday morning I receive a short mail from Per's brother Sven, after one last attempt to reach him. I have wanted him to confirm that he was in fact not involved in financing the project:
Just wanted to let you know that I have no involvement in Per's dealings, whatsoever. He is my brother.
Have a nice summer!
Per Norfeldt returns to his life outside the spotlight. But he doesn't leave us with the sensation that he is a misinterpreted genius.
There is something melancholic and sad about it all.
What is loneliness? Is it not being able to contact other people, or is it seeing your attempts to reach them bounce back unnoticed? Is it to not be heard, or to not be answered?
In his hunt for more people who could understand the book ”Being or Nothingness”, Per Norfeldt often felt, as far as I can tell, lonely. And it was more likely due to the fact that no one answered him, rather than not being heard.
His books have been met with strong feelings across the globe. People have often read it as a riddle, and turned themselves inside-out searching for a solution. They have projected their hopes and expectations of a mystery designed especially for them on the white book. The answer to such a riddle can of course only be found in a mirror. That is why everyone stared into it, hoping to be surprised by something new.
All the same, the book does warn its reader of becoming too introspective. A small mouse shows up, claiming to be Arthur Conan Doyle's legendary giant rat of Sumatra.
The main characters are surprised to see how small it is, and doubt that it really is the giant rat. The mouse replies:
”’Yet that is precisely what people call me. I am what I am, but I have been thoroughly misunderstood and what men cannot understand they insist on discussing and so, little by little, a strange transition takes place. The more they talk about me the more I grow – in their imagination. Eventually I will be large enough to devour them,’ the mouse laughed.”
Devours them through hours of contemplation, perhaps in the form of a chapter in the book of a famous journalist, or in a handful of blog posts, or in forum threads upon forum threads. Or, for that matter, in a article tens of thousands of characters long on a Swedish new site.
And despite all this, an ex-psychiatrist in his fifties sighs at the other end of the line during our phone conversation. Not even while speaking to a journalist, who has spent days trying to get a hold of him, does he seem to feel that his project was a success.
”I am aware that this is just costing me money, and making a mockery of me. But I can live with that. I have a few more collectors' editions, but I don't have any more money for stamps,” he says, and laughs half-heartedly.
Then he adds:
”Throughout the years I have been disappointed by the fact that no one has ever really been interested in the book, but rather been occupied by related matters. Because the work is unfathomably grand, and you don't comprehend that before reading it through many times. Like I have.”
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