Good morning, Madsen!

About See the Light of Day (Se dagens lys, 1980), by Svend Åge Madsen. Not translated into English, as far as I can tell.

Yes, this is an old one. But I just discovered it! And apart from the odd tape recorder and typewriter, it still works today.

Every morning, the narrator, Elef, wakes up. He looks at his wife, really looks at her. And then they introduce themselves to each other. “Judith.” “Elef.” Or: “Elef.” “Maya.”

And that’s it. We’re already smack dab into figuring out what the novum is.

The days are filled with new experiences. New home. New wife. New children. New job. New friends. People are influenced by each other. They are curious. Some processes last more than one day, like learning about a new topic and maybe making a suggestion to the right committee. But almost everything changes from day to day. And there’s a taboo against fraternizing with a former spouse.

So. What’s going on? And why? And how?

Some of the explanation is, that this is an alternative to the possessiveness of the past. They used to have the same wife every day! And so, if things went well, they were still a little bored, and if things didn’t go well, there would be jealousy e.g.

Very exciting, Mr. Madsen!

I am fascinated by the language. These people live in a very different world, and they think and talk differently.

It’s a short book, a fast read. And I am amazed it hasn’t been translated. I think a lot of people would like it.

Spoilers below. Highlight to see them.

There’s a system, where everybody is moved at night. Strong sleeping pill + a gentle way to transport people. There’s a system of written notes, both to communicate with your role (today the judge made these decisions, tomorrow the judge will continue this process) and your “actor” (today this person fell in a lake, watch out for the common cold). A computer decides where everyone goes. It’s possible to wish (I would like a family with a lot of children), but there are no guarantees.

Elef and Maya fall in love. It’s practically impossible to stay together. At first they are helped by the fact, that nobody suspects acts like hacking or stealing. But the system catches on. They try to flee.

The past didn’t just have boredom and jealousy. At its peak it had mass suicide. Through trial and error the new system was found. Nobody’s truly happy. Everybody’s shallow. But almost nobody are unhappy or suicidal. Is this a win?

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