By Inger Christensen, from The Condition of Secrecy. Christensen (1935–2009) was a Danish poet and writer. The book, a collection of essays, will be published in November by New Directions. Translated from the Danish by Susanne Nied.
When I was nine years old, the world, too, was nine years old. At least, there was no difference between us, no opposition, no distance. We just tumbled around from sunrise to sunset, earth and body as alike as two pennies. And there was never a harsh word between us, for the simple reason that there were no words at all between us; we never uttered a word to each other, the world and I. Our relationship was beyond language—and thus also beyond time. We were one big space (which was, of course, a very small space).
And right at that point in time (where there were no points in time), our school began teaching us about all the world’s points in time. We started studying world history. We’d looked forward to this step up, and especially to getting away from our dull, slow-paced Danish history class; it had been trying our patience for quite a while, and besides, Denmark was no longer big enough for us; in fact, nothing was big enough for us. We, meaning thirty more or less advanced schoolgirls, always wore dresses made of plaid rayon, which always had to be lengthened with rayon in a single color—and anyone could see that the dresses had never been intended to look like that—and thus that we ourselves had never been intended to look like that, either. We were growing at an absolutely wild pace—not only in height but in the most obvious other dimensions as well, and there just seemed not to be enough room for us, because we had only that one space to move around in.