Tone Avenstroup

© Natalia Reich

Tone Avenstroup (born in 1963 in Oslo) is a Norwegian poet and translator. She also works as a director and performer. She is co-founder of the theatre and performance collective BAK-TRUPPEN in Bergen, Norway. Since 1998, she has staged her own productions in collaboration with musicians or visual artists. Her Norwegian-German poetry and texts to intermedial production have been published by Peter Engstler among others. She has lived in Berlin since 1990. Website:

Recording by speech art trio sprechbohrer

Tone Avenstroup: Mare Monstrum
By Florian Neuner

Tone Avenstroup translates her own Norwegian poems into German. With “november im schlaf” (november, asleep) she also published a volume in 2019 in which German and Norwegian passages are interwoven. The piece for sprechbohrer contains Norwegian, German and English-language parts, with Norwegian appearing in two variants (South and East Norwegian). The title of the “Wave Piece” quotes the Albanian poet Arian Leka: Mare Monstrum – the verbalization of Mare Nostrum, the Roman name for the Mediterranean, alludes to the fact that this sea has become a mass grave for boat refugees. “Welle” (German), “wave” (English), and “bølge” (Norwegian) form the basic linguistic material for the surging wave movements, and the ten sections are assigned wind strengths according to the Beaufort scale, ranging from a “light breeze” (2 BFT) to a “hurricane” (12 BFT). In addition to the weather data (“a stiff wind sets in”), there are location data (“between Bodrum and the island of Kos”) and fragments of reports that indicate shipwrecks and drownings (“water penetrates the boat”). The material comes for the most part from the compendium Todesursache: Flucht. Eine unvollständige Liste (Cause of Death: Flight. An Incomplete List).

Excerpt from the score Mare Monstrum by Tone Avenstroup

The accidents are similar and repeated; only in one place is the image of the Syrian boy who was found dead on the Turkish beach called “the boy on the beach,” which has been burned into the collective memory. The fact that the water metaphor is also often used to portray the movement of refugees across the Mediterranean into the EU as threatening – there is talk of waves or flows of refugees, of a flood – makes Avenstroup’s surging textual fabric even more compelling and oppressive. The author refers to her piece as a “Mahnruf” (admonition). It does not specifically accuse individuals or institutions – but who in the countries that are the target of life-threatening escapes could consider themselves completely uncomplicated? A Norwegian organization that reports on the incidents in the Mediterranean is called “Messenger from Hell.” The sea has not calmed down by the end of Tone Avenstroup’s piece: In a stiff wind (BFT 7) the talk is of pushbacks; “we expect new messages.”