When all the days have gone by Lars Boye Jerlach

When all the days have gone

When he is handed a collection of letters written by his predecessor, a gravedigger is rapidly immersed in a strange indeterminate narrative, that seems to overflow with mysterious characters and enigmatic apparitions.The most ordinary of lives suddenly accelerates in stream of enticing illusions and surreal visions in which he inevitably comes to face his own deeply hidde...

Title:When all the days have gone
Edition Language:English

When all the days have gone Reviews

  • Lars Jerlach
  • Jeffrey Keeten

    Ambrosius is a gravedigger. An unusual profession and, as it turns out, a lonely profession. The mourners do not want to see him as his very presence reminds them that he will very shortly be scooping shovelfuls of soil on their recently departed beloved. It isn’t like someone will say, “Oh no, we are short one for dinner. Let's invite the gravedigger” (personally I’d find Ambrosius fascinating). Although from our perspective Ambrosius is a lonely man, he doesn’t seem to be adversely affected by being so. Lars Boye Jerlach’s protagonist for his first novel,

    , is a lighthouse keeper who also has a lonely profession. I decided to ask the author about this lonely parallel between his two characters.


    , you had a protagonist who was a lighthouse keeper, and now in your new book

    , you have a gravedigger as your protagonist. Both are in situations where they spend a great deal of time alone. They both are stimulated by letters left by a predecessor. So talk to me about the impact of being alone on the plotting of your novels?

    "I believe I think about the idea of solitude/ loneliness a lot, not necessarily from personal experience, but more as a philosophical/ existential question of being. Deep down, I believe we are all alone, but that most of us have learned to either hide our solitude from others or live with others in our shared solitude. However, solitude/ loneliness is not only about being alone. I believe it’s a deeper, internal process and one that requires an internal exploration, a kind of forced mental labor, which can be uncomfortable, even sometimes excruciating. However, if you work hard enough, it does tend to become one of the most important relationships anybody ever has, the relationship one has with oneself."

    I also wanted to explore the fact that Jerlach writes about these seemingly simple lives. By their choice of professions, they have eliminated a lot of the social aspects that the rest of us have to deal with every day.

    Your protagonists in both of your novels live relatively simple lives. I get the impression that you, too, would rather live in a simpler time or have a simpler life. Are you projecting those desires onto your writing?

    "I believe there's an urge in everyone to somehow simplify their lives and to find relatively uncomplicated meaning in the chaos.....hence the prevalence for religiosity or indeed other non-theocratic belief systems. While I believe that there is really no 'simpler' time or even a simpler life, as the complexity of existence is entirely dependent on the internalization and analysis of the intellectual output, I do readily admit that I project my own enervated desires onto my writing. The inherent problem is that simplicity very often equals complexity, i.e: what qualifies as an empty space? The question seems simple enough, and yet it's very difficult to answer."

    Ambrosius finds some letters, left by his predecessor, that have a profound effect upon him. He can’t stop thinking about them, nor can he stop reading them. The letters are not only surreal but so strangely personal, as if Ambrosius has become part of the narrative. The letter writer meets a succubus in the course of his adventures, and in an odd parallel, a strange young girl named Veronica appears in the graveyard and starts up a conversation with Ambrosius.

    There are a lot of unnatural aspects to her, like being able to read the thoughts of a nearby cat, but she is so sane in her insanity that she is another puzzle for Ambrosius to ponder. She is so wise and erudite in her responses that it is hard to associate the mind with the body. This, of course, prompted another question for the writer.

    You have a succubus in your story, creating some sexual havoc, but you also have a precocious "girl" named Veronica, who is intriguing, beautiful, scary, and certainly confusing. There are a few overtones of Lolita as your protagonist scrambles to sort out the juxtaposition between her appearance and the wisdom enhanced conversations that are well beyond her years. Tell more about the evolution of this character and the relationship of you as a writer to the characters you create.

    "I deliberately wanted to create a series of adjacent characters that weren't necessarily bound by time, history, or place, but at the same time were interconnected conceptually and could merge with each other to create a more holistic narrative. I am, therefore, happy to hear your confusion with regards to the protagonist's relationship with the girl, who does indeed have a strong and calculated similarity with the succubus. Although 'Lolita' was not in the forefront of my mind when I started writing, I definitely began portraying 'Veronica' as enigmatically fluid to enhance the juxtaposition between her appearance and her conversational talent, but also to more succinctly link to the alluring succubus.

    When I begin writing, I generally have a pretty firm idea for each of the individual characters. I do, however, allow for the natural fluidity of the writing process to guide their development, and it's only natural that my characters grow as I write, and sometimes get themselves involved in unexpected scenarios.

    Though I often think I have a fairly clear idea of the individual and his or her traits, there were certainly some unanticipated surprises that arose when I wrote, “When all the days have gone,” and there's no question that I had to allow for a bit of flexibility in the narrative to appropriately accommodate the rather complex development of some of the characters. I knew from the beginning that Veronica would be a critical character and that she would flow in and out of the narrative throughout the novel, so I intentionally attempted to make her mysterious, enigmatic, alluring, intelligent, and wise to deem her unforgettable. As contrived as it sounds, I also attempt to give my characters enough time and room to breathe on the page so that they develop their individuality both naturally and fluidly. It is, as you well know, a very fine balance, and one that I'm still attempting to perfect."

    Who is she exactly? What is she? Intelligence is always an attractive trait in a woman/girl/succubus, although, as we all know, intelligence is not a box that needs to be checked as an attractive trait regarding a succubus. By design they are everything you desire.

    Jerlach certainly explores a lot of ancient philosophical thought. Is the table really there sort of thing, but he wraps it all in this mystical tale that brings new life, new meaning to what we try to understand about our lives.

    You wrap mysticism around classical philosophical thoughts in your books. It can seem like an odd pairing, but both deal with what is real and what is not real. One may have more respect than the other in academic circles, but I get the impression that you, in your search for greater understanding, have embraced both mysticism and philosophy equally. For you, what is the definition of real?

    "The question about what is real and imagined is obviously one of the driving forces in writing the novel and in building the structure of the narrative. I believe my interest in mysticism can easily be seen as standing in contrast to the rationalist view under which one could argue that reason alone is considered evidence for the truth or falsity of some propositions. However, I am of the belief that anything you experience or reflect on, whether it be fantasy, imagined, dreamt, or tangible, past, present, or future, becomes an intrinsic part of the fabric of your individual reality. So in a sense, everything you have ever experienced and will come to experience, therefore, has to be regarded as real."

    There is one last aspect of this novel that I found very intriguing. Ambrosius is trapped in his house in a snowstorm. Every time he feels the call of nature, he has to shovel his way to the outhouse. The snow is up to the windowsills and continues adding more inches of fresh snow every day. He is a man who notices the way a blue sky looks differently from the bottom of a grave, or the beauty in a dead mouse, or the yellow designs left in the snow by a cat.

    One of the things I really liked in this book was Ambrosius's ability to see beauty in the mundane, dead rodents, cat pee stains in the snow, etc. I, too, have always tried to notice more than just the things we are supposed to notice as we gallop through life. I have a feeling you are the same way. Share about how those unusual things that others may not bother to notice influence your writing and your art?

    "Although I think we all have a tendency to observe the world around us as “the bigger picture,” it's probably somewhat unique that some people seem to pay closer attention to the smaller details in our daily life. I have quite a few friends who're artists/ writers/ other creatives, and it seems as if nearly all of us have an urge to highlight the insignificant so to make it significant. All the images, sounds, smells, touches we collate throughout our lives, no matter how small, are all just tiny fragments that together create the much larger, more complex whole. Although I am like everyone else, who most often look at 'the bigger picture' world around us, I am aware that I tend to be automatically drawn to the unobserved even when I'm not trying, so when I write about Ambrosius's tendencies, a lot of them come from my own personal experiences. I believe that the aggregate of qualities in the very small, often unnoticed, things are what gives the most unexpected pleasure to the senses and, therefore, exalts the mind and the spirit."

    I want to thank Lars Boye Jerlach for graciously answering my questions. As you can see, this short novel, 220 pages, is full of grand ideas and explores the relationship that we all have with the world around us. Some of what happens to us is not readily explainable, and I think we have to learn to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. What is real? What is surreal? Is one more substantial than the other? I can’t imagine any reader walking away from reading this book without being inspired to look at the world around them with a more discerning eye.

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  • Elyse

    .....A cat that reads minds....

    .....A gravedigger....

    .....a man who prefers to eat alone....who while usually a lot on his mind....tries not to think too much while he is eating. And why would a man who lives alone - spends most of his time alone - need to empty his thoughts while eating? Was he simply reflecting/ meditating? Perhaps he has silly or naughty thoughts that he feels won’t digest well with his cooking?

    .....A mysterious enchanting young girl, Veronica, ....with a beautiful voice...

    .....A cat that reads minds....

    .....A gravedigger....

    .....a man who prefers to eat alone....who while usually a lot on his mind....tries not to think too much while he is eating. And why would a man who lives alone - spends most of his time alone - need to empty his thoughts while eating? Was he simply reflecting/ meditating? Perhaps he has silly or naughty thoughts that he feels won’t digest well with his cooking?

    .....A mysterious enchanting young girl, Veronica, ....with a beautiful voice....humming something a cat was thinking earlier.....meets our mysterious gravedigger, Moerk, in the cemetery one evening.

    .....Ambrosius Moerk, was curious. He didn’t understand how Veronica could know a particular piece of music as well as she did. He knew it was by the composer Johannes Brahms.... and that she was humming the beginning bars to Requiem.

    Veronica had no idea who wrote that tune. Like she says: “ The cat was working through some thoughts, and the piece of music must have gotten stuck in my head”.

    Makes perfect sense, right? Ha! Does it?

    .....The conversation that follows between Moerk and Veronica is priceless.

    You’ll be so glad they became acquainted..... and that you became acquainted with them. These two characters are memorable— readers will remember them both long after finishing this short creative novel.

    .....Moerk is handed a collection of letters written by his gravedigger-predecessor—� he couldn’t rid himself the feeling that many connections between himself and the author of those letters —( although supposedly just imaginative fantasies), — were filled with similarities and coincidences.

    Lars writing is filled with images that stay bright in your mind- tangy smells in the air - temperatures- graphic details- from snow covered grounds - to lanterns, - a candescent glow - honey colored tea - hauling buckets of heavy clay - a mouse curled up on its side - lifeless rodents - sputtering faucet - creaking floor to the fireplace - etc. etc. His writing is both playful and reflective.

    This book is ‘quality’ writing....with juicy vocabulary words-and gorgeous detail descriptions. Simply outstanding!

    On every page - I could pause and reflect - often think about experiences.... those we have lived - and those we have imagined - and ultimately what’s the difference? I thought about the wandering souls - loners in our world who prefer to live in seclusion. What can I learn from them?

    “When All The Days Have Gone” is a compelling piece of work… an enlightening form of solitude that is both rich and nourishing.

    Here’s just ‘one’ beautiful excerpt:

    “When you look into the lake everything beneath the surface is as clear and as vivid as you could possibly imagine. In fact, it appears as if there is no surface at all, and that you are looking deep into an infinite ocean with a complete comprehension of what you are seeing. However, as soon as you begin to contemplate the things you discover, an infinitesimal ripple appears on the surface that ever so slightly obscure what you thought you already knew. So you attempt to concentrate on what recently escape to you, and by doing so you create more ripples, only this time the ripples are slightly larger than the last time and further obscure your view. The more you think, the bigger the ripples become, until the entire surface is in turmoil and you have forever been deprived of what you originally found”.

    Thank you, Lars.... this book is exquisite! You’re becoming one of my favorite writers....

    Sincerely! You have a rare talent - an artistic flair that is unique —� intelligent - and your writing is absolutely beautiful!

  • Jim Fonseca

    The author himself calls this a ‘desolate tale’ and we certainly have the setting for it. An immigrant arrives somewhere in New England near the Canadian border as a gravedigger. Since he traveled on a sailing ship to get to the US we assume this story takes place around the turn of the last century. He is alone and dreams of seeing his wife and child, apparently left behind for now.

    While digging graves he begins to be visited by a precocious 14-year-old girl with her black cat. She thinks abou

    The author himself calls this a ‘desolate tale’ and we certainly have the setting for it. An immigrant arrives somewhere in New England near the Canadian border as a gravedigger. Since he traveled on a sailing ship to get to the US we assume this story takes place around the turn of the last century. He is alone and dreams of seeing his wife and child, apparently left behind for now.

    While digging graves he begins to be visited by a precocious 14-year-old girl with her black cat. She thinks about why people do terrible things such as “…and the worst of it is, that all these terrible things are often powered by some form of dark self-interest that goes way way back, perhaps even to the beginning of time.” And she speculates “The question is: if solitude increases the perception of self and grants us something valuable, why is it then that we choose not to be alone?” The gravedigger never finds out where the girl lives or who her parents are.

    The girl claims to transmit thoughts from the cat: “It mainly has thoughts about art, ethics, religion and more complex thoughts about what it means to exist.”

    Winter comes. The girl leaves but the cat stays. This is Winter with a capital ‘W.’ it snows for days with bitter cold and each day the gravedigger has to shovel out the path to the outhouse, the chicken coop and firewood. I kept thinking of Orhan Pamuk’s book Snow.

    The cemetery director gives him a box of letters left behind by the last occupant of the house. They are written in a foreign language, which turns out to be his own – Danish. Each night he reads a letter the previous occupant wrote to his wife. (Why were they never mailed? There’s a mystery.)

    The story become hypnotic. With no grave-digging to do in the frozen ground, the main character lives in absolute solitude. Each day he shovels, gathers eggs, cooks them with a slice of canned meat, stokes the fire, feeds the cat, makes hot tea. Day after day, night after night.

    His dreams intertwine with the story he is reading and the story starts to intertwine with his life. The story and his dreams are laden with symbolism: an albatross, a friar on the ship who plunges overboard attracted by a voice, a black cat, a white cat, a lantern with strange symbols on it – left behind by the prior occupant and dangling in front of him as he reads. It turns into quite a philosophical tale.

    Some passages I liked:

    Father Fromm had had the most unpleasant tendency to hold on to his hand a fraction too long … he had nonetheless suspected that the grip from the hand of death itself would not be too dissimilar.

    About Greek urns on grave markers: It was more the strangely conflicting fact that so many Americans had chosen to have a draped urn standing on top of their earthly remains for all eternity since none of them, as far as he knew, were Greek nor had chosen to be cremated.

    A good read and I also enjoyed the author’s The Somnambulist’s Dreams that I have also reviewed.


    I appreciate the author sending me a copy of this book in exchange for a review.

    photo from barryfalk.com

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