Sunday, February 20, 2011
When The Time Came
“When The Time Came,” by Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis. Copenhagen Noir. Edited by Bo Tao Michaelis. Akashic Press.
I wish this volume came out last year, before my family vacationed in Denmark. It would have made a nicely twisted guidebook. I may be prejudiced in favor of this particular story because it is set in Ørestad, the area where my family had an apartment, and the authors perfectly captured the inorganic brutality of the scenery.
The building looked like every other place out here. Glass and steel. He’d never understood who would want to live in such a place…. The other brand-new glass palaces were lit up as if an energy crisis had never existed, but there was no life behind the windows. Maybe nobody wanted to live this way after all…
Chaltu is a very pregnant African woman, desperate to make it over the bridge to Sweden where she can seek asylum and be reunited with her lover. Unfortunately contractions begin too soon and she is left in an unfinished building in Ørestad. As it happens three Iranian men have chosen the same night to loot fixtures from the empty apartments. On discovering Chaltu one of them calls the “okay secret doctor,” actually Red Cross nurse Nina Borg, the authors’ series character.
By the time Nina arrives the situation has gotten worse , in the form of a murder. (This deserted building seems busier than Tivoli Gardens.) She has to do some fast thinking to get out of the mess.
This is not a true noir story, as I defined it a few weeks ago. And it doesn’t exactly feel like a crime story, in spite of the fact that just about everyone in it is at least technically a criminal. They are breaking the law, but are they evil?
The story is in the book section entitled "Mammon," not the part “Men and Women,” which contains mostly stories related to sex, but in some ways this story is very precisely about men and women. The event of childbirth has a powerful sway over the character's actions and as long as Nina is presiding over the labor she can order the men around, but once the baby is born, “Nina’s reign had ended.”