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Hvordan fatte New Orelans? Forfatteren Richard Ford forsøker i et essay å sette ord på det som har skjedd. Han kan bare antyde. De som skulle ha gjort det, er opptatt med å berge livet.

In America, even with our incommensurable memories of 9/11, we still do not have an exact human vocabulary for the loss of a city – our great iconic city, so graceful, livable, insular, self-delighted, eccentric, the one New Orleanians always said, with a wink, that care forgot and that sometimes, it might seem, forgot to care. Other peoples have experienced their cities’ losses. Some bombed away (sometimes by us). Others gone in the flood. Here now is one more tragedy that we thought, by some divinity’s grace that didn’t arrive, we’d miss. But not. And our inept attempts at words run only to lists, costs, to assessing blame. It’s like Hiroshima, a public official said. But no. It’s not like anything. It’s what it is. That’s the hard part. He, with all of us, lacked the words.

Bildene overvelder oss og lammer erkjennelsesevnen. Tenk om journalistene kunne våge å si at de kommer til kort, ikke greier å ta inn over seg det de ser? De første dagene snakket tabloidene og TV-nyhetene om «helvete». Det var før katastrofens omgang var kjent. Man tydde til klisjeene. Så rullet katastrofen frem i fullformat og ordene ble små. Det ble vanskelig å si noe som matchet bildene.

Richard Ford fokuserer nettopp på dette kritiske punkt i sin artikkel: Hvordan si noe vettugt, noe som er i nærheten av å beskrive det som har skjedd?

For those away from New Orleans – most all of us – in this week of tears and wrenching, words fail. Somehow our hearts’ reach comes short and we’ve been left with an aching, pointless inwardness. «All memory resolves itself in gaze,» the poet Richard Hugo wrote once about another town that died.

Alle minner oppløses når selve det fysiske stedet for minnene går i oppløsning. Ford henter frem egne minner fra byen, som han åpenbart kjenner godt.

I have a memory of a hot and breathless summer. It is many summers joined into one. My mother took me onto the Algiers Ferry, an open boat with cars driven onto the deck. Out on the great sliding brown river there was the only hint of breeze you could find anywhere. Back and across to the foot of Canal Street. Back and across, we went. She bought me pralines. I held her hand during it all, until the sun finally fell and the hot night rose. So, now, what of that river? And the Algiers Ferry? And Algiers? All memory resolves itself in gaze.

New Orleans var en spesiell by. Som tiltrakk seg en spesiell sort mennesker.

It is – New Orleans – the place where the firm ground ceases and the unsound footing begins. A certain kind of person likes such a place. A certain kind of person wants to go there and never leave.

Kanskje det er over nå. Kanskje minnene hindrer at man våkner til en ny virkelighet. Kanskje hukommelsen er blitt kortere.

From the ruins it’s not easy to know what’s best to think. Even the president may have felt this way in his low pass over that wide sheet of onyx water, the bobbing roofs peeking above the surfaces, the vast collapse, the wind-riddled buildings, that little figure (could he see who she was?) staring skyward. Something will be there when the flood recedes. We know that. It will be those people now standing in the water, and on those rooftops – many black, many poor. Homeless. Overlooked. And it will be New Orleans – though its memory may be shortened, its self-gaze and eccentricity scoured out so that what’s left is a city more like other cities, less insular, less self-regarding, but possibly more self-knowing after today. A city on firmer ground.

Det synes som om mediene lar det øyeblikk forsvinne hvor det gikk an å fange noe av virkelighetens uutgrunnelighet, som katastrofen åpenbarer. Vi lever i det vante, som begynner med boligen, nabolaget. Hvis noe skjer er det på det inviduelle plan. Her rammet det en hel by, ja, faktisk flere. Det er noe i sinnet som ikke henger med. Vi vil at de som ble rammet skal fortelle oss det, for som tilskuere er det enda vanskeligere å fatte.

Jeg tror seerne/lytterne gjerne vil ha en slags forklaring, uten helt å forstå hvor dypt den stikker. Richard Ford setter oss på riktig spor. Ian McEwan gjorde det samme etter 7.juli-bombene i London.

A City Beyond the Reach of Empathy

art. sto i dagbladet igår, men bør leses i original