Readings — From the February 2013 issue

Oslo Discord

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From a twenty-seven-page letter by Anders Behring Breivik sent last October to corrections officials in Norway. Breivik is currently serving a twenty-one-year sentence in a maximum-security prison near Oslo for murdering seventy-seven people in 2011. Translated from the Norwegian by Julia Grønnevet.

I quickly realized that the rubber safety pen isn’t functional enough for extensive writing. I therefore asked for access to a pencil and a ballpoint pen. I was refused verbally. The rubber pen enables the writing of approximately five to ten words per minute and precludes editing. A pencil or ballpoint pen with an eraser enables the writing of ten to fifteen words per minute and allows for editing. A digital typewriter enables the writing of approximately forty-five words per minute. So despite the fact that I am a writer by profession, I have been afflicted with a serious practical handicap by being denied access to a functional writing tool. The rubber pen is ergonomically misshapen and causes pains in my hand after a short use. If it were theoretically possible to develop rheumatism I’m sure the rubber pen could cause this. It’s a nightmare of a tool, and I get very frustrated using it.

As a container of moisturizer is not permitted in the cell, moisturizer must be requested through the calling system. The container is not handed over; instead, the product is portioned out into a small plastic cup I may possess temporarily. The frustration is heightened by the fact that five to ten portions are poured into the cup even though I need only one. This means that the remaining four to nine portions go to waste. This is very annoying.

At mealtimes I must state the quantity of sandwich toppings I’d like with my bread as I’m not allowed packaged food in the cell. The problem is that the portion of butter is sometimes too small, so I have enough for only three to four slices of bread. This causes unnecessary irritation, as one finds oneself in a scenario where one either eats dry bread or feels guilty for requesting more butter through the calling system.

I am not allowed to keep my own clothes in my cell. This means that wardens must go and fetch clothes for me from the storage facility based on the descriptions I give them. As the cell is frequently chilly, I usually wear a heavyweight jacket-type sweater at all times. There are three garments I rotate for this purpose, and all of them are casual-wear items that see so much use they become very worn. There are often issues when I ask for one of these garments. For some reason they often bring me a dressy Lacoste sweater instead, despite the fact that I’ve informed them several times that I don’t want one of these, as they are valuable and must be treated delicately to avoid wear. I have sufficient self-awareness to acknowledge that I’m stubborn and principled in this area, and, like many Norwegians, I have an aversion to exposing luxury items to unnecessary wear and tear.

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