Klara Hveberg: Author and mathematician

Photo: Agnete Brun

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Magic trick with two Rubiks-cubes

Email: hvebergklara[at]

On longing:

In order to walk away from someone you love, every organ in the body must be notified. It is not enough for the brain to have made up its mind. Because the heart can make the body turn around. Just as the lips, the uterus, the diaphragm, the nape of the neck, the lobes of the ears, the eyelids, the back of the knees, the toes, the iliac crest — yes, even the navel — can make the body turn around. As can those treacherous spaces in between, where imprints of the loved one may be concealed. The gap between nameless toes. The distance between the chin and the base of the throat. The space between the labia. Come, my friends. Come with me now. I need each and every one of you.
And you must never look back.
Two lungs, leaving. Four chambers of the heart, twelve pairs of ribs, thirty-four vertebrae and a tailbone. Two dimples at the lower back, ten tender fingertips. Twenty-six feet of intestine, four quarts of blood, and twenty-two square feet of skin. All leaving, moving away.
Knowing this: Without him I have no one. Without him I am no one. Because without him I do not know who I am. And still forcing oneself further away. The spinal cord, the cerebellum — yes, the entire central nervous system — must obey this singular command: We will move on. And never look back. 

On chocolate:

There are two types of confectionary lovers. First, there are those who take their time studying the descriptions on the box in order to figure out which chocolate they want, and who then spend just as long looking for that particular chocolate, perhaps only to realise that someone else has already taken it. If so, they repeat the procedure while swallowing their disappointment at having to settle for a different kind. If the chocolate they wanted is still available, they then risk having such high expectations as to how it will taste that they end up disappointed regardless. The other type of confectionary lovers are those who take a random chocolate from the box without even looking at it, pops it happily into their mouth, and seem to enjoy a completely carefree existence. Sometimes people in the first category can infect people in the second with their behaviour, thereby complicating their lives unnecessarily. Jakob can no longer eat confectionary as effortlessly as he used to. It's Rakel's fault.

On the soul:

«So this is where the soul resides, between the shoulder blades,» says Jakob. «They should have known, all those who think that humans don’t have a soul. They must have neglected to look for it just there.» «The soul is only there when it clumps together,» says Rakel. «And where is it otherwise?» asks Jakob. «Otherwise it's fluid and much harder to locate,» answers Rakel. «Poor terrified little soul - we can give it a bit of heat treatment, so it can shift back into its fluid form,» says Jakob. «But right now, I can at least kiss you, right on the soul.»

On love:

Maybe being loved is like being zoomed in on. Like someone undertaking an endless journey into you, enabling you to see all the beauty you contain. That you are an entire universe of exotic shapes, with ever-increasing copies of yourself - only with a slight twist. Like fanciful variations on a known theme from viewpoints you never even knew existed. Everyone deserves to experience such a journey at least once in their life. It's the most beautiful thing she's ever known. Not only have new spaces opened up in her, but it's as if she's been drawn in an entirely new dimension. And perhaps one day she'll discover that this dimension is not an integer.

On mathematics:

Every complex number has a complex conjugated twin, which is inverted - a mirror image - along the x-axis, and has the same real part. Only the imaginary part is different: the equal-sized opposite. If you multiply a complex number by itself, you get a new complex number. But if you multiply a complex number by its complex conjugate, you get a real number.
So it's important to find your complex conjugated twin. And to multiply yourself by him – then the product will be real. Although you might find yourself waiting eight years to do so.

On ferries:

Ferries crossing on the fjord. Coming towards one another, each from its own side, meeting and becoming one before they slowly slide away from each other again. Pappa calls them crossing ferries and times how long it takes from when the ferries meet until they part ways. Had he known the length of the ferries, he could calculate the speed at which they are moving, and had he known their speed, he could calculate how long they are. Unfortunately he knows neither of these things, but he times them anyway. "Nineteen point eight seconds," he says, satisfied. Rakel calls them kissing ferries and hopes that they will last for a long, long time.

At the University:

There are twelve floors in the Abel building. Two hundred and fourteen steps. Rakel has counted them carefully. There are nineteen steps between each floor. Except at the ground level, where there are twenty-four steps. That's why the number of steps is not divisible by eleven.
She has always been fascinated by stairs. L-shaped, U-shaped or S-shaped. Helical, spiral or straight with a landing. Escalators too. When she was small she would pretend that the steps were piano keys and take stairs by playing songs with her feet. «Nøtteliten» on the way up, «Kjerringa med staven» on the way down. If the staircase was long, she would have to play several verses to make it all the way to the bottom. She played «Fløy en liten blåfugl» too. But the last long note was scary. She had to jump five full steps at the end.
Not many people whistle as they take the stairs of the Abel building. Rakel wonders whether Jakob Krogstad is a whistler. And which key he walks in. When she was little, she had imagined that everybody walked around with a particular tonality, some in a major key, others in a minor one. She had mostly ambled along in a minor key. Like the Violin Sonata by César Franck. Only when she decided to play the piece herself did she discover that it was actually called the Sonata in A Major for violin and piano, despite the fact that it was so sad. Imagine misjudging your own key like that.
The mandatory philosophy lectures will be held in auditorium 2 in the chemistry department. On the tour they were given by the student guides, they'd been led down into the basement of the physics department. A labyrinth of corridors wound their way to auditorium 2 in the chemistry building. Afterward, she had tried to walk this same route alone but ended up getting lost. She only just made it out again, the same way she'd come in. She'll have to do what Hansel and Gretel did. Sprinkle breadcrumbs after herself along the corridors so that she can find her way out. And should she still get lost, she can think of something funny. Until the cleaning lady eventually finds her.

At the book store:

Rakel stands in the basement level of the student bookstore. She's just tried to stack the twelve volumes of In Search of Lost Time in such a way that she'll be able to carry them up the stairs to the cashier and pay for them. And she's just discovered it's impossible. She can't carry all the books at once. They're on sale, the hardback editions, at fourty-nine kroner per book. It's a bargain. There's a risk the books will be sold out if she returns to buy the rest of the series later. She starts to count how many copies remain of each volume, so she can buy the volumes with the fewest left first and ensure the greatest chance they'll still have the ones she needs when she comes back. In the midst of her calculations she gets the feeling that someone is looking at her, amused. She glances up to catch sight of Jakob standing there, watching her. «Shall I help you carry them, so you can buy all the volumes at once?» he says. But then he adds, «These books are absolutely wonderful.» His eyes well up as he says it. She's always thought the word 'wonderful' too big to be used. She'd felt queasy when Ibsen's Nora told Helmer everything was 'wonderful' in Norwegian class in high school.

On music:

Pappa's hands. Rakel loves to watch them as they fly across the piano keys, filling the living room with Bach. Her favourite is the chorale prelude called "Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ". She gets to sit on Pappa's lap while they play Bach's two-part inventions. Rakel plays the hight voice with her right hand, while Pappa plays the low voice with his left. It's as if their hands are talking to each other, as if they are in agreement. Saying almost the same thing - first Rakel with her high voice, then Pappa with his deeper one. Then they talk over each other, but are friends all the same. This is the part she likes best, because their hands move closer and aroud each other, like butterflies. First she runs down after Pappa to tickle him. Then she has to run up again, so that he won't be able to catch her. It's almost as if they're playing a tickling game on the piano. Afterward, it's the other way around. Pappa's voice says something first, then Rakel answers almost the same, only with a slight twist. As if she's teasing him a little.
But the best thing about the notes is that they are never alone, even though it might sometimes sound that way. Pappa lifts the lid off the piano so she can see this for herself. When he plays a low C, there is a little hammer that hits the C string inside the piano, so that the string begins to vibrate. But Rakel can see that the high C string an octave higher up starts to vibrate a little too. It seems it simply cannot help itself. Pappa explains that the high C vibrates twice as fast as the low one. That's why they work so well together. And the G vibrates three times as fast. These are what are known as overtones. It's so nice that the notes are linked together in this way. That you're never as alone as you might think you are, here in the world.

Shorter quotes:

— Some of the best things in life are a result of misunderstandings.

— Perhaps medical students don't get taught what love looks like on a cardiogram.

— She can't be connected to someone at just a single point. She needs to be connected to the other person all the way.

— It's impossible to have an entirely dark view of existence while one's neck is being kissed.

— Before he leaves her, she needs a weight transfer.

— Once you've started to consider your options, it becomes difficut to stop.

— If you don't have friends among the living, you must seek company among the dead.

— In the arithmetic of the heart the difference between one and two equals the difference between one and infinity.

— While authors are poets in the universe of language, mathematicians seek the poetry in the language of the universe.

— Maybe she can write her difficult second novel before she's even begun her first?

— To stake one's heart on love is also a form of suicide.

Copyright © 2019–2022 Klara Hveberg