In Vallende ster Bernlef takes the process of disintegration he described in Hersenschimmen (Out Of Mind, 1984) even further. The novella is the report of an interior monologue of an old vaudeville artist who is waiting to die in a hospital. For him the outside world no longer exists; nothing belongs to anything, there is nothing left to be named or designated.
‘The distance to. That is what I can see. Didn’t used to. Used to see the things as cohesive; an integral whole. Now what is in between.’ The only thing remaining is memory. Lines from the last role he played careen around inside his head: Pozzo from Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. Pozzo was constantly dragging around the slave, Lucky, by a rope. In the same way that the narrator used to be roped to his autistic brother Peter so that Peter would not run away. To Peter, words had no meaning, he could not make any causal connections between various events, could not understand the functions of objects. He was obsessed with everything that was round and could turn. After three months in an institution he refused to ever speak again. One evening he jumps from the roof, chair and all.
His brother utilized many of Peter’s peculiarities in his own clown act. During his acts he spoke as little as possible: humour, tension and poetry arise without words. Just as in Bernlef’s earlier novels the truth of this novella lies behind and between the lines: in the whiteness, in the blank space. Form and content are one.
Reality remains as enigmatic as the expressionless face of the autistic Peter, as unreachable as a falling star.