My little room used to be my father’s study, where he kept all his documents and bills, most of which are now meaningless. There was a generic royal acknowledgement for something or other. We spent an hour sorting it all and putting it in the recycling bin. The next day we saw one of his old colleagues from the Foreign Ministry, who lives downstairs, cutting up his own documents with scissors in the courtyard.

   My room has a pull-out sofa, where I sleep, and a TV, which I hate. I turn it on the minute I get out of bed, so I don’t have to read. For whatever reason it’s a chore to read and think here, let alone write. I don’t like to sink into myself, to concentrate, at least not sober. I know what’s waiting for me there. I do my translations with the TV on, so I don’t have to think too much.

   This flat was transferred to my mother’s name after I moved in and my father fell in the kitchen and broke his hip. He was walking gingerly with his walking frame, to smoke on the balcony, when he went to grab the sink and fell. I was opening the fridge. I brought a chair over to him, tried to lift him up on it, and heard a sickening crack. It’s surprisingly difficult to lift the body of a big man who’s dead weight.

   The ambulance people came, he was operated on and was eventually moved from the hospital to the care home, where he lies in bed belittling the staff, as he used to belittle the rest of us.

   My mother, who is by turns tyrannical and in tears – they’re turning into children, my parents – has me help her with the insurance claim for his fall. She thinks they’re cheating her. And that’s the worst thing in the world, she says, being cheated. She seems pleased, as if she’s said something profound.

   After visiting my father I remember some of his stories from his time in the diplomatic service, before I was born, especially the one about the Russians. Soon after he was hired, while he was still in Copenhagen, he was invited to dinner at the Russian embassy, and was green enough to go. Caviar and all that, he said, and a young woman sat beside him who didn’t seem to have anything to do with the embassy. The day after he bethought himself and reported it to the security service. We know, they said.

   Who knows what they’re up to, S. and V. Not a day has gone by when I haven’t thought about them.

   This is my life now. My pitiful, wondrous life. The clearing means: we live with the most wondrous possibility of life in every moment. A pitiful life can be as wondrous as the most apparently successful one. The clearing is indifferent.

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