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One of Us: The Story of Anders Breivik and the Massacre in Norway (2013)

by Åsne Seierstad

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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4152243,855 (4.15)35
"On July 22, 2011, Anders Behring Breivik detonated a bomb outside the Norwegian prime minister's office in central Oslo, killing eight people. He then proceeded to a youth camp on the wooded island of Utøya, where he killed sixty-nine more, most of them teenage members of the country's governing Labour Party. In [this book], the journalist Åsne Seierstad tells the story of this terrible day and its reverberations. How did Breivik, a gifted child from an affluent neighborhood in Oslo, become Europe's most reviled terrorist? How did he accomplish an astonishing one-man murder spree? And how did a famously peaceful and prosperous country cope with the slaughter of so many of its young?"--Dust jacket flap.… (more)
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English (16)  Norwegian (2)  Swedish (1)  Danish (1)  Piratical (1)  German (1)  All languages (22)
Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
New Zealand, Charleston, the recent case of a coast guard officer who wanted to create a "white homeland". All gave shout outs to brevik. This is the hardest book I've ever read; the author makes you intmately familiar with the lives of both victims , their families, and brevik himself. The result is devastating but crucial ( )
  andrem55 | Jul 31, 2020 |
Åsne Seierstad has managed to interview a lot of people: survivors from Utöya, people who are family and friends and enemies of both survivors and the perpetrator, Anders Behring Brejvik.

What I like best about this book is, first, the space and pace at with the book feels around and grows; there's little room for drama-making, alotted by Seierstad. Breivik's thoughts plod as he's dreamt them up. Naturally, his retelling of events is flawed and quite possibly lied-up, due to his narcissistic traits, the flaws inherent to human memory, et cetera.

This is a beautifully told and recounted human tale, which swerves somewhat from Breivik's youth to just after the court case was finished.

Of his youth:

He was so intense, and he was cruel to animals. For a while he had some rats in a cage and would poke them with pens and pencils. Eva said she thought he was hurting them, but he took no notice. Anders caught bumblebees, dropped them in water and then brought them up to the surface in a sieve so he could watch them drown. Pet owners at Silkestrå made it clear to their children that Anders was not to come anywhere near their cats or dogs. Anders was often the only one not invited to come and stroke other children’s new puppies or kittens.

It's the perennial thing about many a serial killer - although Breivik was not a serial killer, but a mass murderer - and it's also found here.

It's interesting to see that Breivik fraternised freely with people from different backgrounds in a slew of ways, before turning into a self-proclaimed hater of "multiculturalism". He tried to be successful in the graffiti world, but disobeyed their illegal laws, tagging over other artists' works and also screwed up at home:

Is there anything worse than being rejected by your friends? Yes, perhaps there is. Being disowned by your father. After his third arrest, Jens Breivik made it clear to Anders that he wanted nothing more to do with him. His son had broken his promise to give up tagging. The decision was final. Anders was fifteen. He would never see his father again.

There is a long history of trying and failing miserably in Breivik's past; where other people learned from it, he often felt the faults were with society, not with him.

He was rejected by those who mattered. He did not fit in. He was patient and persistent, but he never made it to the top of World of Warcraft. He was never among the Top 500 on the servers that mattered, and thus was never ranked. He acted like a king, when he was only a toy.

Everything else was going to the dogs. When the 2006 accounts for E-Commerce Group were due with the auditor in 2007, board chairman Breivik was not contactable and the auditor resigned. The year after that, E-Commerce Group was compulsorily wound up. According to the bankruptcy report, the company had broken tax laws, share-trading laws and accounting laws. Outside his room, life was unravelling. But inside, the game went on. Because the game had no end. One night after a raid he stayed chatting to a player in his guild who was considering whether to pull out. He needed to get to grips with real life again, he said. Anders admitted he had thought the same. He was going to stop soon, he said. But he didn’t. He stayed in his room. It’s only temporary, he had said. But he stayed in there for five years.

As with most xenophobes, xenophobia provides an unparalleled, unabated way for him to expunge himself of self-hate:

Criticism was reserved for others: the state, feminists, Islamists, socialists and politically correct Western leaders. It was the injustices inflicted on Europeans in the past, it was the mass immigration in the present; it was beheadings and castrated knights, mass rape, the destruction of the white race. The massacre of the European people had to be stopped! He had found his niche. Again.

Breivik's manifesto, a mixture of plagiarism and craziness, goes against feminism quite some, for some reason:

One of the prominent features of cultural Marxism is feminism, wrote Berwick. It is ubiquitous and all-consuming [...] He went on: ‘The man of today is expected to be a touchy-feely subspecies who bows to the radical feminist agenda.’ It was great to sit there cutting and pasting. Lots of the stuff he had been brooding about, but had not put into concrete form, was all thought out for him. ‘Who dares, wins,’ he wrote at the end of the introduction.

His relationship with his parents, his father having left for France, is interesting. Some words on his relations with his mother, about the time that Anders Breivik discovered World Of Warcraft and isolated himself from the real world even more, that is, also physically speaking:

Some days she dreaded going home. Her son had started suffering from wild mood swings and he sometimes reacted so violently to little things, or he would be distant, abrupt and surly. He accused her of talking to too many people who could ‘infect us’. When he was like that he did not want to eat in the kitchen but asked her to bring his meals to his room, putting the empty plate outside his door afterwards. He put his hands over his face when he needed to leave his room to go to the toilet. At times he even wore a facemask. But then he would kiss her cheek all of a sudden. Or he would sit down so close to her on the sofa that she found it hard to breathe. At times like that she felt he was suffocating her, like when he was a child, when he was so clingy and could never leave her in peace. It was as if he was never really sure where to sit on the sofa and was sometimes too close, sometimes too far away. Wenche was now single again. She had thrown out the retired captain. When Anders found out it was over, he bought her a vibrator. ‘That’s taking consideration a bit far,’ she said, and told him her sex life was behind her now. But Anders kept on asking her if she had tried out the gift. Wenche often wondered if he was going to move out soon, but she never said anything. She put up with him. He put up with her.

There are glimpses of crude humor in all of this:

‘I just love Eurovision,’ he noted in the log on Saturday 14 May, awarding himself a night off to watch the final of the song contest. He had watched all the semi-finals. ‘My country has a crap, politically correct contribution as always. An asylum seeker from Kenya, performing a bongo song, very representative of Europe and my country … In any case, I hope Germany wins.’ Azerbaijan won.

At this time, Anders Breivik buys a farm and starts making a bomb. A big bomb, with instructions from the Internet. He paused by watching "The Shield" and also "Rome", "Dexter" and "True Blood":

Saturday 4 June. Six bags. Sunday 5 June. Four bags. Two more blenders fell apart. Monday 6 June. Bought two new blenders. That afternoon, he reached the end of the third sack. He had now crushed 1600 kilos of fertiliser pellets and soaked them in diesel. There was fertiliser dust everywhere. His green workwear had turned grey. ‘Surely I am going to die from cancer within twelve months as I must have gotten a lot of this crap into my lungs even though I used a 3M mask…’ he wrote in the log, adding: ‘Watching The Shield, a couple of episodes a day on average. I downloaded all seven seasons at the beginning of May.’

Some of the descriptions of the actual murder-spree at Utöya will stay in my mind:

Elisabeth ran along by the wall; she was calling her father again. Freddy Lie answered, and heard nothing but screams. His sixteen-year-old daughter was huddled down against the wall, crying into her phone, when Breivik came into the room. Freddy, who only a few minutes earlier had offered to come and get Elisabeth and her older sister, was in his car. He couldn’t do anything but listen. What was happening? Was she being attacked? Was she being raped? The line went dead. When he rang his daughter back, he got a message to say the phone was switched off or had no signal. The bullet had hit Elisabeth’s ear canal, seared through her cranium and gone right into her brain and out the other ear. Only when it got to the pink phone cover did the bullet stop. The girl fell sideways and Breivik shot her twice more. She lay there, no longer moving. Her long, wet blonde hair turned red with blood. Her grey jogging bottoms, her white T-shirt, everything was stained red. Soon her fingers would stiffen in their grip on the pink phone against her head.

Andrine felt sudden pressure against her chest. Her neck, her throat, her mouth were filling with blood. A bullet had entered her breast and stopped a few millimetres short of her spine; her lung was punctured. She lay in the shallow water, unable to breathe. She was drowning in blood. Her eyes were wide open. If I close them I shall die, she thought, fighting for air. She saw the man shoot everyone who had stayed by the pumping station. He went over to every single one of them and held his pistol a few centimetres from their heads. And fired and fired and fired. Then the killer stopped. He looked round. Surveyed the prone bodies, turned and went up the slope. Then suddenly he swung back round. He stopped, smiled and raised his weapon again. He aimed at her. He looked right at her. The shot went through her wellington boot and her foot. Bullets splashed into the water and ricocheted off the rocks all about her, sending chips of stone flying into her face. He took aim at her again. Now I’m going to die, she thought. It’s over. Breivik pressed the trigger.

A boy leapt up. Andrine thought she was dead when she saw the boy jump forward. He took one bullet – two bullets – three bullets that were meant for her. The first hit him in the hip. The next went into his back and out through his chest. The third crushed his head. He slumped down; he was dead. He was Henrik Rasmussen from Hadsel in Nordland. Andrine did not know him. But he had been crouched on the slope, hiding, and had seen her hit repeatedly. So he jumped out in front of her. Henrik had turned eighteen that February. The last thing he did before setting off to Utøya was to lead an anti-racism event in his home district. ‘Hoho!’ cheered Breivik. Then he went. Andrine looked round her. They were all dead. Some were lying face down in the water, others curled into the foetal position. One skull had been cleft in two. The brain lay exposed. Andrine waited to die. She waited for all the blood to run out of her. She wanted a white casket at her funeral, completely white. But how could she let people know? She could not die. If she did, the sacrifice of the boy she did not know would have been in vain.

Reading from what happened, at the trial:

It brought no relief. Amputations. Projectiles in the body. Injuries to internal organs. Damage to the optic nerve. Extensive tissue damage. Cerebral haemorrhage. Open fractured skull. Removal of the colon. Removal of a kidney. Projectile fragments in the chest wall. Skin transplant. Fractured eye socket. Permanent nerve damage. Shrapnel embedded in the face. Stomach, liver, left lung and heart damaged. Removal of fragments from the face. Arm amputated at the elbow. Amputation of arm and leg on the same side.

The day after the mass murder:

[It] sucks to take human life,’ Breivik said suddenly. ‘But it sucks even more not to act. Now that the Labour Party has betrayed its country and its people so categorically over many years, there’s a price to pay for that kind of treachery, and they paid that price yesterday.

Ending statement via two psychiatrists at the trial:

This pair of psychiatrists concluded that Breivik suffered from dissocial personality disorder with narcissistic traits. He had a ‘grandiose perception of his own importance’ and saw himself as ‘unique’. He had a vast appetite for ‘praise, success and power’ and was totally lacking in ‘emotional empathy, remorse or affective expression’ vis-à-vis those touched by the acts he had committed.

All in all, this is a laudable piece of journalism, in a tidy book; Seierstad is the only person who has been granted interview time with Breivik, who actually commented on her "good looks" while e-mailing her, sneaking in a ";-)" all the while.

He'll most probably never be released from jail. From what I know, his latest tantrum is thrown over not being allowed an expansion pack for a PlayStation game. The irony here, being that last sentence is quite the analogy for his entire life. ( )
  pivic | Mar 23, 2020 |
On July 22, 2011, Anders Breivik set off a bomb, outside of a government building, in Oslo killing eight people. He then drove on to a youth camp on the island of Utøya, and methodically killed sixty-nine more, most of them teenage members of Norway’s governing Labour Party.
This was not an easy book, to read, but is an incredibly well-crafted. The author, an acclaimed journalist, does an uncanny job getting into the head of Breivik, (a very, very, scary place) mining his childhood and young adulthood, to try and understand the makings of a monster. She also shines a light on several of the victims, and how the shootings effected them and how Norway, as a country dealt with this tragic event.

Like many places in Europe, America is also seeing a startling rise of “hate groups”, encouraged by certain political figures and fueled by social media. This has all ready led to bursts of horrific violence. How many Breiviks are developing right here in the states? A shuddering thought...

If you can stomach the subject matter, I highly recommend this near true crime classic. ( )
  msf59 | Nov 18, 2018 |
grim but good. ( )
  annbury | Dec 29, 2017 |
A nifty read, hard to put down, more like one of the Scandinavian thrillers than a true story of a twisted right wing loser who kills 75 people in Norway. The story of this loser is told in his own writings, which are copious, rather than interviews which this jerk refused to give. The author explains in an afterword how she wrote the book and a gripping, honest read it is. ( )
  annbury | Aug 31, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
On the whole, Seierstad has written a remarkable book, full of sorrow and compassion. After spending years away from home as a foreign correspondent in Afghanistan, Chechnya and Iraq, bearing witness to the crimes of other nations, she has confronted Norway’s greatest trauma since the Nazi occupation, without flinching and without simplifying. The complicity of Norwegian society is unspoken.
added by ozzer | editNew York Times, ERIC SCHLOSSER (Apr 20, 2015)

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"On July 22, 2011, Anders Behring Breivik detonated a bomb outside the Norwegian prime minister's office in central Oslo, killing eight people. He then proceeded to a youth camp on the wooded island of Utøya, where he killed sixty-nine more, most of them teenage members of the country's governing Labour Party. In [this book], the journalist Åsne Seierstad tells the story of this terrible day and its reverberations. How did Breivik, a gifted child from an affluent neighborhood in Oslo, become Europe's most reviled terrorist? How did he accomplish an astonishing one-man murder spree? And how did a famously peaceful and prosperous country cope with the slaughter of so many of its young?"--Dust jacket flap.

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