Our Need for Consolation Is Insatiable (Vårt behov av tröst är omättligt)

Our Need for Consolation Is Insatiable (Vårt behov av tröst är omättligt, 1952). Translation by Steven Hartman, Little Star #5, 2014; www.academia.edu 2015

Stig Dagerman’s widely known autobiographical essay where he describes his desperate struggle with writer’s block and thoughts of suicide, and where he charts out a route toward transcendence and freedom. Dagerman wrote it in September 1951 and it was published in 1952 in a ladies' journal that had asked him to write “something on the art of living”.

This brief text has captivated readers in Sweden and abroad, where it has been translated and published in slim pocket-sized editions. Dagerman's essay inspires and many artists have used it in their artwork: theater, film, music, visual arts, dance.

Italian book cover of Our Need for Consolation Is Insatiable. French book cover of Our Need for Consolation Is Insatiable. Greek book cover of Our Need for Consolation Is Insatiable.

"Everything significant that I experience, all that fills my life with a sense of wonder—meeting with a lover, a caress on my skin, help in distress, eyes reflecting moonlight, sailing on the open sea, the joy a child inspires, a shiver in the face of beauty—all of this occurs beyond the bounds of time."

—Stig Dagerman, Our Need for Consolation Is Insatiable

About Our Need for Consolation is Insatiable

"Even before we sit down for our first meeting, she pulls out a thin and seemingly insignificant booklet from her handbag. It's one of those things that she always carries with her. The well-thumbed pages is Stig Dagerman's essay Our Need for Consolation Is Insatiable in French translation. Fatou Diome tells me that of all the thousands pages she has read, this small booklet has meant the most to her. - My books speak about Africa and Europe. I bring the two worlds into dialogue. The white, yellow or black don't interest me. Writing and literature are my only driving forces: to describe tragedy and human life trajectories. Then it's no surprise that I as a Senegalese writer have adopted Stig Dagerman as my inspirational fetish-writer, my dream being to make a pilgrimage to his place of birth. My greatest sorrow is to have been born too late to be able to meet him. He knew everything about loneliness and the struggle of life, and he had a humanity that has deeply touched me. The same humanity that I carry in me and that has helped me grow. Were it not for his book I might have met with the same fate as he did."

—Interview with Senegalese writer Fatou Diome by Birgitta Wallin (Karavan No. 3, 2011. Translated by Lo Dagerman.)

Film

DVD cover of Our Need for Consolation.

Our Need for Consolation (19 min, 2012)

Stellan Skarsgård in an on-screen performance reads excerpts from Our Need for Consolation Is Insatiable in this film by Dan Levy Dagerman that also uses dramatization and documentary imagery to bring Dagerman's words to life. Produced by Hammarstream Films and Lo Dagerman, and available in both English and Swedish. Trailer. Amazon download.

Festivals: Gothenburg International Film Festival, Sweden 2012; Palm Springs International ShortsFest, CA 2012; Big Sur International Short Film Screening Series, CA 2012; Rome International Film Festival, GA 2012; New York International Film Festival, NY 2013

Our Need for Consolation screened in 2015 at the Northern California Psychiatric Society’s Annual Meetings in Monterey, CA: As psychiatrists, we are aware of the difficulties and pain that depression causes its sufferers, but the words of Stig Dagerman evoked a depth of feeling more profound than most of us can convey. Stellan Skarsgård's reading further heightened the dramatic tension and impact. People found it very moving. - NCPS President Zena Potash.
Dagerman on the screen may be a classic - Swedish review.

Music

CD cover of Tetes raides.

Notre consolation est impossible à rassassier

Têtes Raides, 20 min reggae track on Banco, Mon Ship/Warner 2007, Tour 2008.

Interview with Christian Olivier, singer in Têtes Raides:

Q: The absolute highlight of your new album Banco has to be "Notre besoin de consolation est impossible à rassasier". How did you come up with the idea of setting this text by Stig Dagerman to music?

Notre besoin de consolation est impossible à rassasier

A: … a friend of mine lent me the book and it just hit me instantly. I believe there are moments when certain things need to be heard and I felt Dagerman’s text, which he wrote back in 1952, is just so topical now. The way I read it, his text is an anthem to freedom. It’s a song that’s absolutely vital now, despite the tragic fate of its author who committed suicide shortly after writing the book. There are some really powerful lines in it, both from a poetic and philosophical point of view. And, I have to admit, the idea of including a track that lasts almost 20 minutes appealed to us as a strong statement in an age dominated by speed, shortened attention spans and permanent channel-hopping. more…

Theater

  • Notre besoin de consolation est impossible a rassassier. Theatre de Vrai, France, 2012.
  • Notre besoin de consolation est impossible a rassassier. La Surface De Reparation, France, 2012.
  • A nossa necessidade de consolo e impossivel de satisfazer. Jorge Cardoso, Director. Arte Viva - Teatro Municipal do Barreiro, Lisbon, Portugal, 2009.
  • Notre besoin de consolation est impossible a rassassier. Theatre Poeme, Bruxelles, Belgium, 2003.
  • Notre besoin de consolation est impossible a rassassier. Compagnie Utopia, France, 2003.

Visual Arts

  • Typographic book by Laura Beretti. 2012.
  • Our need for consolation is impossible to satiate. Tulca 2009. Curated by Helen Carey. November 6-21 2009.

Dance

Ellipsis image.

Ellipsis – Inspired by author Stig Dagerman’s text written prior to his suicide, Ellipsis explores the subconscious when hope seems beyond reach, portraying the resulting dilemmas as a spiritual journey. Anthony Kurt-Gabel, Choreographer & Concept. Performed by Fish in a Bowl, London, UK, 2009.
Sidi Larbi Cherkaori (documentary 23 min, Germany Belgium 2014) inspired by Stig Dagerman's Our Need for Consolation Is Insatiable shown at the International Dance Festival in Bucharest.

Availability

Little Stars Journal of Poetry & Prose #4, 2014, www.academia.edu

Editions and Translations

  • Swedish: Vårt behov av tröst är omättligt…, article 1952 (Husmodern); In Vårt behov av tröst, 1954 (Norstedts); In Essäer och journalistik, 1983 (Norstedts); Vårt behov av tröst är omättligt…, pamphlet, 1993, 2001, 2006 (Stig Dagerman Sällskapet)
  • Arabic: حـا جتُـنا للعــزاء‎, 2012 (Samir Youssey, unpublished)
  • Czech: Nase potreba utechy je neukojitelna, 2010 (Mot komiks s.r.o.)
  • English: Our Need for Consolation Is Insatiable, 2014 (Little Star #5), 2015 (www.academica.edu)
  • French: Notre besoin de consolation est impossible à rassassier, 1981 (Actes Sud)
  • German: Unser Verlangen nach Trost ist unersattlich, 2011
  • Greek: Η ανα’γκη μαςγια παρηγορια’…, 2005 (Εκδοσεις, ΜΕΛΑΝΙ)
  • Italian: Il nostro bisogno di consolazione, 1991 (Iperborea)
  • Portuguese: A nossa necessidade de consolo e impossivel de satisfazer, 1992 (Fenda)
  • Spanish: Nuestra necesidad de consuleo es insaciable, 1998 (Etce’tera), 2007 (Pepitas de Calabaza)

Excerpt from Our Need for Consolation Is Insatiable

I have no belief and because of that I can never be a happy man. Because happy men should never fear that their lives drift meaninglessly toward the certainty of death. I have inherited neither a god nor any fixed point on this earth from where I can attract a god’s attention. Nor have I inherited the sceptic’s well-hidden rage, the rationalist’s barren mind, or the atheist’s burning innocence. But I would not dare to cast a stone at those who believe in what I doubt, much less at those who idolize doubt as if that too were not surrounded by darkness. That stone would strike me instead, for there is one thing of which I am firmly convinced: our need for consolation is insatiable.

—Stig Dagerman, Our Need for Consolation Is Insatiable, 1952