Short summary - Lillelord - Johan Borgen

Scandinavian literature summaries - 2023

Short summary - Lillelord
Johan Borgen

Norway at the beginning of the 20th century. The hero - Wilfred Sagen, the Little Lord, grows up in the hypocritical atmosphere of a wealthy bourgeois family. The extraordinary nature of a fourteen-year-old boy is disgusted by the pretense of his mother (his father is not alive) and other relatives, their desire to protect him from real life. The hero does not allow anyone into his inner world. However, in an attempt to assert himself, Wilfred uses the same weapon that those around him despise - pretense. “He had another life <…>, not at all like the one they pictured for themselves.”

Waking up in the morning after a reception that his mother arranged the day before, Wilfred feels irritated, everything makes him sick: the room itself, its smells, the thought that you have to go to school. Taking advantage of his influence on his mother, he asks her permission to skip school and go to Bygdö: he hopes to find plants under the melted snow that are missing in the herbarium. When the mother briefly leaves the room, he unlocks the secretary and steals a crown and a half from her purse. Then he ascribes on the expense sheet in neat handwriting to the mother the amount that he has just appropriated. Of course, he is not going to Byugde. The purpose of his journey is one of the districts of the city with a bad reputation. Driving through these places in a tram, Wilfred feels the already familiar sweet chill in his body. In the gateway of one of the houses, using money and his ability to influence others, he finds one-day friends, in whose company he robs a tobacco shop. Of course, the hero does this only out of a desire to experience strong sensations, to feel power over people: he throws money from the cash register to the boys like a handout. Before leaving the shop, the Little Lord delivers a strong blow to the old shopkeeper. He, stunned, falls. Now Wilfred has another secret, a bad deed that he alone knows about - it's worth living for! In a state of blissful peace, the hero decides to bring joy to his mother - he writes a letter of thanks to her in the handwriting of the school director for raising her son.

The second, secret life of Wilfred day by day captures the hero more and more: the world in which he lives must be full of experiences, even if artificially created. Sometimes to cheer yourself up. The Little Lord visits a classmate Andreas, a boy from a poor family. Having enjoyed enough of the "boredom" reigning in this family, its beggarly life, the humiliation of Andreas, he returns to his rich house, rejoicing that his life is so different from the life of a school friend. This thought puts him in a wonderful mood.

That spring, Wilfred's last children's ball was held - here he had to pretend, sparing no effort. Being among peers, Wilfred saw only one way to protect his loneliness - to feel like a stranger among them. During the ball, another significant event occurs in Wilfred's secret life. At dinner, the hero goes out onto the terrace and suddenly sees Aunt Christina crying. Embarrassed, she approaches the boy, pats him on the shoulder. By chance, for one second, the teenager's hand touches the aunt's chest. He is suddenly engulfed in heat. Before he realized what he was doing, Wilfred put his arms around Christina's neck and pressed his lips to hers. She immediately pushed him away, but not angrily, but as if regretting the impossible ...

After the incident at the ball, all the thoughts of the hero are directed to Aunt Christina, who embodies the secret of adulthood, unknown to Wilfred. The teenager is looking for a meeting with her - and such an opportunity presents itself: she and her mother have a rest in Skovlya in the summer, Christina also comes to visit them. In Skovlya, Wilfred's childhood romance begins with Erna, his age. After the arrival of Aunt Christina, this sublime relationship begins to weigh on the Little Lord. Once in the forest he meets Aunt Christina, and “now their legs, their lips have merged not in the previous clumsy impulse: what was devoid of flesh suddenly gained flesh <...>, everything swam before their eyes, and they fell on hard grass." But fate wanted Wilfred to remain a virgin this time too. Only later, already in the city, Christina herself will come to him, and the Little Lord will experience what he so passionately aspired to.

Left alone in Skkoblyu with his thoughts and feelings, the teenager painfully searches for answers to the questions that life constantly puts before him. Once, while swimming, the children suddenly discovered that Tom, the gardener's son, was missing. The company of teenagers is seized by the most terrible forebodings, everyone is depressed. Erna begs Wilfred to do "something". And Wilfred, concentrating with an inhuman effort of will, suddenly “sees” (this happened to him before) where Tom could be. He finds Tom drowned in a deserted place - the boy was swimming away from the company, because he did not have bathing shorts. Wilfred carries Tom's body ashore, performs artificial respiration to the point of exhaustion. But why doesn't he want someone to be there right now to help him? What if he can't do it alone? Would he really prefer that Tom die, but not resort to someone else's help? .. Cursed questions haunt, torment Wilfred,

Some time later, in winter, the same presentiment as in the case of Tom suddenly forces Wilfred to return to Skovlya. He goes to the house of Fru Frisaksen, a destitute, lonely "weird" woman, who, as Wilfred accidentally found out, was at one time his father's mistress and who has a son by his father, six years older than the Little Lord. In the house, he finds the corpse of Fru Frisaksen - she died, and no one knows about it. The boy falls ill: he loses the gift of speech (although his relatives suspect that Wilfred is pretending). There is a doctor, an Austrian, who undertakes to heal him. After recovering and returning home, the teenager again plunges into the atmosphere of lies and hypocrisy that reigns in his mother's house. Wilfred began to be noticed drunk, he is increasingly looking for oblivion in visiting taverns, restaurants, beer cellars.

Once, in a variety show restaurant, two people sat down with him and made him pay for the drink. Wilfred obeyed, they demanded more, a drunken conversation ensued. Two told a story that once happened to them: some barchuk - exactly like him - incited local boys to rob a tobacco shop, and then killed an old Jew, the owner of the shop. Only now does Wilfred find out that the owner of the shop has died. A certain girl appears with a wound in the corner of her mouth - similar ones he saw in the pictures in a brochure on venereal diseases. She invites Wilfred to take a walk with her... He woke up from a terrible pain in his arm - it was broken - covered in blood, naked, somewhere in the forest. From behind the branches of the trees there was a muffled giggle of children, a male voice - they were watching him. Trying to hide from people, he runs, not knowing where. Falls on the rails - the weight of the train wheels will probably bring relief. But there is no train, and the crowd of pursuers is already nearby. Wilfred runs to the sea, jumps from the pier into the water. But the pursuers untie the boats. One of them confidently says: “Now he can’t leave.”

Norway during the First World War. The time of the impoverishment of many and the fantastic enrichment of those who, hypocritically shedding tears for the dead, successfully speculate on the stock exchange. The hero has matured, now lives separately from his mother, in the artist's studio (in recent years, the artist's talent has awakened in him). The struggle between light and dark principles, between sympathy for people and indifference to them continues in Wilfred's soul.

The financial situation of the hero is getting worse day by day - he still does not know how to "make money", does not want to be like his former classmate Andreas, who has now become a successful businessman. And he has to spend a lot, especially on Sedina, a girl with a flawed past, for whom he has a sincere feeling - however, it seems, without reciprocity. Wilfred has to give up the workshop. He and Sedina live in some kind of shack in the mountains, and from time to time Wilfred skis into the city at night, like a thief, gets into his mother's house when everyone is asleep and fills his backpack with food. Once, returning from another grocery outing, Wilfred saw Selina on a bench right opposite the entrance. The lower part of her body was exposed, and blood was running down her legs. Nearby lay a lump, stained with blood and mucus: Sedina had a miscarriage. A tragic accident, or did she arrange everything herself and not have time to finish before Wilfred returned? This terrible question torments the hero.

Aunt Charlotte, my father's sister, died. In the crematorium, watching relatives, Wilfred is once again convinced that they have not been a family for a long time, everyone exists on his own. Uncle Rene leaves for Paris, with whom happy childhood memories are connected - it was he who introduced the boy to art. Standing on the pier, Wilfred feels that he loves this man very much, now something very important and expensive will leave his life ...

Wilfred plunges into the life of one of the underground "clubs", or rather, gambling and brothels in Denmark. He got here by accident - he rode with friends on a yacht, and in Copenhagen, on suspicion of smuggling, everyone was arrested by the police. Wilfred escaped this fate thanks to Adele, one of the organizers of the North Pole club: she "smells a good lover a mile away." However, Wilfred himself is not averse to playing this role: Adele is a beautiful, tall, strong woman, he is attracted by her blatant obscenity. He liked this life, because "the light left his soul and no longer wanted to light up."

Once, when Wilfred was first lucky in a card game, the club was raided by the police. In the general turmoil, Wilfred manages to stuff money into his pockets. In the "salon" Wilfred finds a baby abandoned by one of the prostitutes and takes him with him. He hides part of the money in the pantry. For a long time, he, posing as a Dane looking for an apartment, lives in the family of the famous writer Børge Viid, is fond of translations, writing stories. Børge Weed highly appreciates Wilfred's literary successes, publishes them by mutual agreement under his own name, and they share the money in half. A terrible incident happens to Wilfred: one day, while walking with a boy, he suddenly decides to get rid of him, throwing him off a cliff - what does he care about other people's problems! But suddenly surging childhood memories stop the hero. Wilfred is tracked down by one of the club's prostitutes, who says that they want to kill him because he took the money. The boy's mother died. Overwhelmed by an inexplicable desire to “revenge” the Weed family “for good”, Wilfred admits to the people who sheltered him that he is not a Dane and not the father of a child, leaves the boy in this family and leaves - betraying has become his habit. Having taken the money from the cache of the club's pantry, he is ambushed - he was followed by former "comrades-in-arms" in the club. Running away from his pursuers, the hero hides in the conservatory, where Miriam Stein, a girl who has been in love with him since childhood, is giving a concert. With the help of Börge Weed, she transports Wilfred to his homeland.

Returning home, Wilfred tries to understand himself, to explain his existence. Seeing no point in his life, the hero decides to commit suicide. Kneeling in the bushes near the railway, he is waiting for a passing train, and suddenly he realizes that he has no right to “cut off the beating of his heart” - this is what Wilfred's father once did - he must live to the end.

The Second World War. The persecution of the Jews began in Norway. A group of refugees, including Miriam, makes their way through the snow-covered forest to the Swedish border - there, in the promised land, nothing will threaten them. In the short moments of rest, Miriam recalls episodes from a past, carefree life. Together with these episodes comes the memory of Wilfred. She met him a quarter of a century ago, once saved him in Copenhagen. Then, in Paris, he gave her the happiest days; he chose many in his life, she - only him ... Suddenly, a group of refugees runs into an ambush of the border police. Miriam and several other refugees manage to cross the border, while the rest fall into the power of the police. Their commander is a tall, slender, handsome man of about forty - usually such handsome men turn out to be the most cruel. They are led somewhere for a very long time, then suddenly a strange thing happens: they find themselves near the border clearing, and the handsome man orders them to run. Then he quickly walks away from the border, takes out overalls and a sweater hidden in one of the woodpile, and changes clothes. The man's right hand is lifeless, a prosthesis. All this is seen by a woman who lives nearby. She, the former maid of the Sagens, recognizes the man who saved the Jews as Wilfred.

But there is another Wilfred - a friend of the German officer Moritz von Wackenitz. They are very similar to each other: cynics, both want something different from life than others. In long conversations between Wilfred and Moritz, the theme of betrayal often arises: Moritz is interested in how Wilfred should feel - after all, in the eyes of people, he is a traitor. Moritz knows nothing about the second, secret life of Wilfred, and the hero himself does not attach much importance to it. Yes, he had to save people, but it's "in the nature of things" when we save someone. In the same way, a few years ago in Paris, Wilfred saved a boy on a carousel - and lost his arm.

The closer the end of the war, the more ambiguous Wilfred's position becomes. There is talk that he secretly does some good deeds, but in general he behaves “ambiguously”, and in such times this is already treason. The hero himself seems to want to return to the sources of light, but with merciless clarity he realizes that it is already too late, that he is running towards a catastrophe.

And disaster occurs. After the suicide of Moritz, Wilfred realizes that everything will soon be over for him too. Tom, the man whom Wilfred once saved, also tells him about this. Tom hates Wilfred: he is sure that he saved him only to show himself a hero. Tom's son throws stones at Wilfred. They are chasing him again - just like thirty years ago. But now he is "free from hope." Again Miriam comes to help him, she alone understands him, knows that it was he who saved the Jews then. But Wilfred is convinced that fellow citizens drunk with victory will not want to understand him. He hears the sound of their feet, they are already coming here. Life is over - he pulls the trigger of the revolver. And he no longer hears how one of the pursuers who burst into the room says: “Now he can’t leave.”