Håvard has invited a seasoned inspector to join them for dinner, partly to share his experience and partly for any “insider tips” he might have to offer. He uses air quotes as he says the words.
The inspector is already seated with a pint at one of the tables in the half-empty premises when they arrive. Håvard slaps him on the shoulder and appears thirty years his junior. She gives her name.
She doesn’t catch his name, at least not at this point. Only the day-old scent of the man.
‘Is this who you’re sending out with Arentz?’ he asks. He’s still holding onto her hand – she senses that his hand clasped around hers is intended to convey some kind of message – but he turns to face Håvard. ‘If that’s the case you’ll be needing a new job title. Inspectress! That would work.’
A little later that evening he tells her something about the man she’ll be sailing with, which also happens to be the only thing he says that isn’t about himself.
In the years that follow, she frantically googles herself with each week that passes
‘Peder Anker Arentz’, he says. ‘No, I haven’t been out hunting with him, but you know him, don’t you, Lange?’
Lange is Håvard’s surname.
‘A reliable chap. An expert on polar conditions. A researcher, too.’
‘Oh,’ she blurts out. ‘Where has he been published? I couldn’t find anything when I looked him up.’
The inspector casts an oblique glance at her over the rim of his glass, which he has placed back on top of the same damp ring on the table with each swig he has taken. ‘Published?’
‘A researcher surely needs to publish their findings somewhere?’
‘Perhaps in Oslo,’ the inspector replies.
It is hardly as if Håvard misses the signals. Old school, he explains on the way back to the hotel, though he made no mention of the fact that the inspector had emphasised never having actually hunted with Arentz.
There was no mølje to be had, either. Just monkfish with chorizo. Catfish and fennel purée.
In the years that follow, she frantically googles herself with each week that passes, she can’t let things go. It all comes to a climax when her report is first mentioned in the local press, and thereafter in the national newspapers, and eventually on television. During that period, she mostly sits at home; it is as if her fingers are permanently fidgeting and she feels compelled to nod her head a certain number of times if she wants to get up out of her chair. It’s much the same when the case goes up before the district court.
And it is here that he appears once again. She comes across the inspector’s name in a discussion thread about the case on a forum for hunters, where he regurgitates the same misogynistic bile that he had aimed at her that evening at the restaurant, though this time with increasingly triumphant zeal.
As a former seal hunt inspector (the first to submit a reliable report!), I naturally have a few opinions on this case.
Perhaps we ought to re-introduce a job title favoured back in the day – “inspectress”! This inspector was a woman, and clearly a young woman without a sense of humour – at least when it came to the male crew’s banter, which seemed to offend her so terribly!
The names of the inspectress and the skipper have been made public. The skipper is widely regarded as one of our foremost experts (and a researcher, no less) on polar conditions – on the contrary, I am unable to find any information about the inspectress, other than the fact she studied veterinary medicine and registered a company upon her return (unscathed, no less!) from her terrifying pirate voyage.
In all likelihood, this case boils down to one thing: it is all well and good that we require students applying to veterinary medicine to have good academic grades, but this alone does not guarantee that a (fresh) graduate has the proper knowledge and expertise of hunting in practice.
In the end, she googles this inspector’s name more frequently than her own.
Tor Even Svanes grew up in grew up in Tjøme, Norway. He debuted in 2006 with ‘Den andre sønnen’, a wide-ranging historical novel set in Sardinia in the years preceding the Second World War, and followed this up in 2011 with ‘Hotel Eldorado’, a novel in which various elements of post-war Norway are woven together. ‘To the West Ice’ is his third novel.
Rosie Hedger is a freelance translator from Norwegian into English. Her translation of Agnes Ravatn’s ‘The Bird Tribunal’ won an English PEN Translates Award in 2016, with the book selected for BBC Radio 4’s Book at Bedtime. Having lived in Norway, Sweden and Denmark, Rosie is now based in the UK.
Editor’s note: This excerpt from ‘To the West Ice’ (Til Vestisen; Cappelen Damm, 2016) has been republished with kind permission from the translator and the publisher. All rights remain with the original author.