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24 September 2003
Burnt child
Source : Elle magazine
- I meet many who say that they are dreaming about living my life. What they don't know is that I'm dreaming of living theirs.

It's a late morning about a year ago. Lene Marlin Pedersen has become twenty one. She is home in her apartment at Frogner in Oslo. It's been a long while since anyone has heard from her. She has been living an anonymous life. Been at home. Watched TV. Reading. Eating pizza from 7-eleven. Have been sitting in the sofa picking on her guitar, and perhaps been drinking some red wine. Been living a silent, ordinary life.

Lene is cleaning. Humming to the music from the radio. Then she hears the first chords of a song she recognizes. She has written it herself. The song is called Unforgivable Sinner, and on the great whole it's that song which is the reason she's standing just there cleaning, in a larger apartment far, far south of Tromsø. The song fades away. Lene halts. The girl on the radio says: That was Lene Marlin's hit single Unforgivable Sinner from 1999. When I listen to that song, I can feel I'm missing her a little.

This is what the girl on the radio is saying. And then she starts talking about other things. She doesn't know that there's a 21 year-old girl from Tromsø standing in an apartment at Frogner. Alone. With the washing cloth in her hand. And thinking that now she's strong enough to return.

It's a morning in August, 2003: With his back leaning against a wall in Kirkegata, a lonesome photographer is standing. He has been standing like this for several hours already, perhaps since eight o'clock. He's from Se&Hør. All the other photographers stood here yesterday and the day before that, but it could be that something extraordinary was to happen. Perhaps Lene arrived with the boyfriend Stian Barsnes Simonsen. Or perhaps it had ended, and she arrived together with somebody else. He should not be the one holding back, at least. The photographer looks around. Looking at his watch. Fiddling with the camera a bit. Looks at the watch once more. Suddenly he jumps out from his position. Presses the camera house against his forehead and shoots. Because, on the other side of the road, headed towards the building the photographer is leaning against, comes a small girl wearing sunglasses. This small girl has sold two and a half million copies of a collection of songs she sat and wrote in a flat in Tromsdalen. She bends down, turns her head away, and hurries towards the signal bell of the record company EMI. Lene Marlin gets to safety. The photographer checks the digital screen on his camera. Then he packs up his things and walks over the Stortorget.

It's the second day in what is about to become the most discussed come-back in the entire Norwegian music history. The press have gone totally off their hinges. They have had her on the frontpage every day for a week. It has been building up towards the great moment. The moment where Lene Marlin Pedersen is talking again.

- I did 25 radio interviews in one day, and after the last interview I went and bought a Grandiosa, put on a laundry wash, and threw myself on the sofa in front of the TV. Then I thought: Should I have come up with something clever? They had been waiting for so long, and there were all this fuss. I probably should have figured out something ingenious, but the only thing I wanted was to tell them about the album, the recordings, and how nice it was to be back. It tingled my stomach, I both looked forward to it and dreaded it, and was talking like a cascade all day. But in the newspapers it said mostly about how I had been depressed and had gotten help from a psychologist.

Lene Marlin shrugs indifferently. The last few years have been a strange time period, but it is history now. She had just moved into her apartment in Oslo. She had been living an incredibly extraordinary and changeable life, and traveled from country to country across the world and met hordes of people screaming her name, and who cried when she was on stage. And then, in the apartment in Oslo, she woke up in the morning and had nothing to do. She didn't have any job, and was too tired to throw herself into another record project. Lene had to learn everything anew, in a way. Learn to fill her days.

- It was a bit strange, says Lene and smiles cautiously.

- I hadn't decided anything for myself in almost two years. I had gotten messages about that in the morning, you'll be picked up by a taxi at Grand Hotel around seven, and at nine you'll be flying there, and then you'll eat lunch with them, sign records there, take a flight ahead to there, and be in a radio-show there. Well, yes, I said, and some days I could sit in a car on a highway, looking out of the window, thinking: Where on earth am I now? I'm in England, but where in England?

- And suddenly it wasn't like that anymore?

- No. I cut off completely. After the Spellemann awards. I just had to rest. And then life was changed, I'd say. I woke up, thinking, hm, what am I going to do now? Go shopping? Clean? Wash? Watch TV? Play PlayStation? Meet somebody at a café?

- What had happened?

- Yeah, what had happened. I had been everywhere, I had experienced totally amazing things. But I had not had any time to think, I had not been able to be happy about anything. An MTV award, stadium concerts in Italy, HitAwards, London, Japan, here and there all the time, and not once did I have the time to think yess!

Lene is smiling.

- I would really have loved to turn back time and touch the incredible feelings. Taken my time. But I will never get those moments again. HitAwards, for instance, My God...

Lene disappears into herself for a moment.

- Standing there, she begins, and it's a little blurry if she's talking to me or to herself.

- Standing there, seeing what I'm seeing, hearing what I'm hearing. My God. When everyone is shouting Lene! Lene! Lene! I couldn't get to say anything. I ran off behind the stage, and threw myself around the neck of a friend of mine. She cried, and I said she had to stop, or else I would crack as well. You have to go out there again, she said, and I went out there again, breathing heavily with my stomach, and the people in the audience was screaming, and...My God. My God! - How old were you then?

- Good question. I don't know. I have no idea when it was.

Lene laughs and shrugs.

- I've been thinking a lot of times I should have let it be. That I shouldn't have done it.

- Done what?

- Signed that record deal when I was seventeen. If I hadn't done that, I would have been able to live in a collective, gone to girl's vorspiel and been crazy out on town and done the things my girl friends in Tromsø do. I wrote a small lyric about this once. Not a song. Just a poem in my book. About it being strange when people come up to me and say they'd wish to live a life like mine.

- Why is that strange?

- Because I'm thinking the same. That I would wish to live like they do.

- Do you have regrets, is that what you're saying?

- No! No! I get a little pissed off about myself when I'm thinking like that. You spoiled brat!, I'm thinking. You have earned a lot of money, you have traveled the whole world, you have met a lot of incredibly exciting people, you get to do just the things that you love the most. And then you're just 22! Don't sit here complaining! But then, it was someone who said to me that it's allowed to be sad anyway.

- Perhaps you're not made for this?

- Perhaps not, Lene says empty.

- Before I went for another round, I discussed it with my friends. About whether it was equally good to stay out of it. Write songs for others instead. And then they said: You can't let it go. You love playing for people too much.

One day a couple of years ago, Lene woke up with a subtle feeling that it had been calls for her phone all morning. She got up. It was her brother. He had been calling her several times to warn her. VG and a local Tromsø newspaper had her on their frontpage. The chairman of Tromsø was angry with her. Jørn Hoel as well. And a whole lot of others. Because, here they had given her the honour of a honorary award, and then she hadn't even bothered to pick it up. Lene Marlin behaves in disrespectful manner, said Hoel. Lene didn't understand any of it. She was sick. She wasn't allowed to travel. She wasn't allowed to show herself in public. She wasn't allowed to let herself be photographed. That was the doctor's order. She couldn't stand it, not yet, she had to rest. On top of that she had the infectious mononucleosis.

- I was incredibly happy about that prize. Incredibly happy and incredibly proud. Who wouldn't be? And then they were mad at me because I didn't take the time to pick it up. Time! If there was something I did have, it was time! I had the time, I had the wish, but I couldn't manage to do it, and...and...

Lene's sight wanders inside the meeting room. She fiddles with the coffe cup, and finally fixes her eyes on a spot up on the wall.

- I'm sorry, she says.

- It does hurt a bit talking about these things, it remains within me, I can feel it in my stomach whenever it becomes an issue. It was my home city expressing their gratitude about what I had done, and I had obviously a wish to explain to everybody how it was. It's not like they're saying, kind of, but I just couldn't do it, I couldn't manage it, what was I to say? That day was simply horrible. It was so incredibly wounding. I just sat home all day, together with a couple of friends of mine. In the afternoon, they discussed the matter at P4. I sat and listened to it. Is it correct of Lene Marlin not to pick up the prize?, sort of. Why isn't she coming? An editor from Tromsø said they were entitled to know why I didn't come. They were entitled to. That was what he said. I wish I didn't listen to the radio that day.

Lene Marlin still has her sight somewhere on the wall. She has her arms crossed in front of her.

- It's strange to talk about this now, she says quietly.

- It's strange reading in the newspapers about the sad, depressed Lene who was avoiding people and had to go to the psychologist. Because this is not a tale of my sufferings. It has been a rollercoaster, but everything I can feel inside of me now is a stream of enthusiasm. I'm so incredibly happy that I have made this album. I know in my heart that I have made an album that I'm proud of, that I know is very nice. But, but, she says, and her arms flap out.

- Perhaps it was for the better to get this out now. Then we can discuss music the next time.

Translation by Tef Johs


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