A Norwegian Tragedy – Anders Behring Breivik and the Massacre of Utoya


A Norwegian Tragedy – Anders Behring Breivik and the Massacre of Utoya
By Aage Borchgrevink
Polity Press – £20.00

What happened in Norway (of all places) in the August of 2012, was a travesty of both human decency and moral behaviour.

That a very sad, and utterly brainwashed, myopic fool, would endeavour to indiscriminately kill so many of his own countrymen, beggars belief. That Anders Behring Breivik was so calculating and considered in doing so, surely beggars so much more. For one thing, it substantiates the issue of a certain philosophical chill factor of deeply ingrained, charitable understanding, having finally succumbed to an all time low.

A horribly perplexing nadir, from which there might not (ever) be a return.

The current, harrowing result, of which appears to have horribly and invariably manifested in the deplorable likes of Lee Rigby’s murderers, not to mention the equally squalid, even more recent antithesis of humanity, Joanna Dennehy. So this highly meticulous study of one of Norway’s darkest chapters, could, in a psychologically roundabout sort of way, just as easily have delved into the warped and deseased minds of said British patrons of butchery.

In fact, Aage Borchgrevink’s A Norwegian Tragedy – Anders Behring Breivik and the Massacre of Utoya, sheds a certain light on a subject that in all honesty, isn’t exactly a hundred miles removed from that of so many modern-day murderers. Whether it’s in the sky above New York, a railroad on the outskirts of Madrid, or a certain barracks in south London, is besides the point. As upon reading the following excerpt from Chapter Five’s ‘Morg the Graffiti Bomber – Anders Behring Beivik’s Youth,’ one will undoubtaldy recognise the symptoms of crass and contagious stupidity: ”Anders Behring Breivik encountered another side of Oslo when he started at Ris Lower Secondary School in 1992, aged thirteen […]. Hip-hop culture had arrived in Oslo in earnest, offering new opportunites to young people who previously would have been left out. The pig farmer’s son was reborn as a hip gangster, and the girls saw him in a different light […]. Teenagers started turning up and loitering in the West End of Oslo, on the lookout for snobs to rob and girls to chat up. The immigrant boys were feared and mythologized, and this fear descended on the school-yards when the gangs came in from the suburbs. This had the strongest effect of all on the taggers, who often allied themselves with what the Oslo rap group Karpe Diem called the ‘West End niggers’ – young people from minority backgrounds with links to the city’s gangs […]. For them, respect is about inspiring fear and exercising power over others. When this type of respect becomes a social value for which young people compete, it is a recipe for conflict[…]. The gangs derived their ethos from criminal cultures, even though they often referred to traditions from other home countries.”

Sound familiar?

This is just one instance of Borchgrevink’s sublime investigation: an investigation that burrows that much deeper, an investigation aligned with a focus one doesn’t often come across. Unless, of course, one’s referring to the recent tidal wave of superfluous tittle-tattle bollocks of the more thug’n’gangland persuasion. NONE of which even come into the equation (but for whatever reason, invariably and unfortunately do). It’s hardly surprising therefore, that A Norwegian Tragedy received the Norwegian Critics’ Award for 2012. Then again, this is the Norwegian writer, journalist and literary critic (who has worked as an adviser to the Norwegian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights since

1933) Borchgrevink’s fifth book.

It really is as Avishai Margalit – Emeritus Professor at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem – has written on the back cover: ”Breivik’s mass murder, coming of all places from Norway, shook the world. By a cool, clear and yet compassionate analysis, the book throws Northern bright light on the heart of darkness and succeeds in providing a rich context which helps us partially understand this wretched act of irrationality. The last chapter tells us a greeat deal about hatred. It is something we should all know about.”

I couldn’t agree more, it is indeed something we should all know about – even if it were to entail teaching right, from that of the potentially devastating wrong at school.

If we are to at least try and avoid the following (from the aforementioned fourteenth chapter, ‘Hatred’), it’s surely worth considering: ”One of ‘our own’ had attacked us. Some people discussed the destructive effect of computer games, while others thought that extreme right-wing ideologies and anti-Islamic doomsday rhetoric were to blame, that the Internet and social media could radicalize people, turning them into monsters, or that there was a hidden class of hateful male losers in Norway. Were there invisible rifts in Norwegian society that could reopen and spit out the glowing red lalva of hate again?”

It doesn’t even bear worth thinking about – which is why Borchgrevink’s book warrants to be embraced by sociologists and criminologists, not to mention all those who endeavour to subscribe to a better world.

David Marx


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