Title: When all the days have gone
Writer: Lars Boye Jerlach
Publishing House: Angry Owl Publishing
Date of Publication: November 1st 2017
Rating: 5 stars
‘’Where are you heading when nothing is moving and time is still?’’
Ambrosius Moerk’s profession has everything to do with time. And nothing. He is a grave-digger, responsible for the most permanent place of residence- in fact, the only permanent place of residence- where time and movement and change seize to exist. Living alone in a remote cabin, he has plenty of time to contemplate. An enigmatic man who preferred to work with the dead instead of a life spent on a fishing boat in his beautiful homeland, Denmark. When he is handed a series of nine letters written in Danish and addressed to his predecessor’s wife back home, a peculiar journey begins and its end is all but certain.
The beautiful, mysterious, haunting story takes place somewhere in New England, probably during the late 19th century. Time and place is far from clear and rightly so. Nothing is clear in this novel and there lies its bleak, unique, utterly perplexing beauty. Apart from Ambrosius, a deeply sympathetic man, we come to meet a fascinating array of characters and the queen among them is Victoria, a young lady with an otherworldly mind and beauty. She is alluring, wise, mysterious and ethereal, like a woodland spirit. A cryptic, mystical monk, cats, crows and other birds become characters in their own merit.
Lars writes in an elegant, eloquent, fascinating manner. His prose and dialogue faithfully depict the era, choosing words that may sound ‘difficult’ but are striking, adding a haunting musicality in the writing. There are quite a few symbols, each one with its own significance. The crows, the antithesis between the earth and the sea, the snow, the lanterns and the spades. The wilderness, the remote cabin and the cemetery. One of my favourite moments was the description of the gravedigger’s duties. Lars paints images images from the burial preparations that are grimm, haunting and extremely interesting in terms of technicalities.
Poe and Coleridge seem to be major influences. ‘’The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’’, one of the most enigmatic poems ever written, is heavily echoed in the vital presence of the albatross. Like the sailor in the poem, the letters describe weird encounters, visions and dreams where the supernatural, the attraction experienced by a restless mind, the fear of facing the unexplainable and the struggle to balance the longing for love and the unquenched desire for adventure. The albatross becomes the mouth of conscience (although, ‘’conscience’’ is fairly subjective…) and stands for innocence, purity and sin. Everything is abstract, dual and fluid in this striking novel.
I’ve had the fortune to read ‘’The Somnambulist’s Dreams’’ and it became one of the most unique reading experiences. ‘When All the Days Have Gone’’ can be seen as a continuation since there are motifs and themes similar to its predecessor. However, I loved it even more due to its bleak, dark, mystic, foreboding nature. And like my good friend, Thomas, has already stated, the end is marvellous. Utterly brilliant!
My most sincere thanks to Lars for giving me the opportunity to read his beautiful novel.
‘’Many of your dreams have been
Of spirits that plagued you so.
Seven feet deep they’ll follow you
To the land of mist and snow.’’