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Putting a spin on monstrosity

Like people all over the world, we Nicelanders are pretty stricken by the events that have come to light in Austria in the last few days. The media is busy chewing on the gory details and RÚV have sent their Europe correspondent to Amstetten to provide play-by-play coverage. Kastljós had an interview the other night with an Icelandic psychologist who analyzed Elisabeth Fritzl’s psychological condition from afar, and the other media provide the same details undoubtedly syndicated to all other media worldwide.

I have to confess that I’ve been lapping up every detail of this terrible tragedy with a morbid fascination. It just seems too insane to be real. Fritzl’s atrocities notwithstanding, it’s hard to believe that he got away with it for so long without anyone suspecting anything, and it’s equally hard to believe that his daughter and her children survived, incarcerated for all those years. The fact that they did gives me immense hope for the human race, and I have endless admiration and respect for them. Endless.

I’ve noticed that, in reports, at least here in Iceland, the children are always referred to as ‘hers’, not as ‘his’ or ‘theirs’. I suspect it’s a way for normal, decent people to deny the reality, it’s a coping mechanism, and if WE have to employ coping mechanisms just to deal with the news reports, imagine what THEY have had to do. The psychologist interviewed on Kastljós spoke about the immense personal strength Elisabeth must have possessed all those years. The fact that she got Fritzl to let [t]he[i]r daughter out of the bunker when she was ill, the fact that she then talked him into letting her and the other children out, and that she was ultimately able to speak to the police about her ordeal and to make them promise that she would never have to see her father again … all this speaks volumes. It means that he was not able to break her. During all those years, she kept a part of herself intact, she did not allow herself to be completely subjugated, otherwise she would have been unable to function, even when freed. To me, that is miraculous. It would have been so easy to go insane, to give up. To die. It would have been easy.

Imagine the terror. Living in a bunker, with nobody knowing of your existence, and if something happened to the old man – if he were hit by a truck, say – you would endure a slow, agonizing death. And not only you, but also your children. Having that reality hanging over your head for 24 years. And then there’s unfathomable monstrosity that is Joseph Fritzl, the complete absence of … what? Morality? Decency? – words fail. I don’t think words have been invented to describe the absolute moral blindness, the inhumanity at work there. It completely boggles the mind.

The Austrian authorities have now launched a campaign to improve the country’s image. In the midst of all the other stuff, that bit of news sounded completely absurd. But then who am I to judge – perhaps having a good image is essential in the grand scheme of things, at least that’s something the Icelandic authorities would have us believe – they’ve recently appointed a committee whose role it is to improve Iceland’s image in these troubled [financial times]. But that’s another story, for another post, perhaps.


And windy from the north, which is about as miserable as it gets, all that frigid Arctic air. We’ve had gale-force winds for the last 24 hours or more and while the temps are above freezing, it’s still pretty cold. Sun’s been out, though, mostly, and weatherman promises the wind will die down tonight. Right now 6°C [43F], the sun came up at 5.02 this morning, will go down at 9.50.



Comments on this entry are closed.

  • andrea April 30, 2008, 11:45 pm

    “Joseph Fritzl, the complete absence of …” I think ‘humanity’ works.

  • Anonymous May 1, 2008, 5:43 am

    Did he own a Bathmate?

  • Melissa May 1, 2008, 3:07 pm

    My heart aches for that woman and her children. Everything else was horrifying enough, but I didn’t think about what would happen if something had happened to him. I don’t need scary stories or scary movies, the stuff people do in real life is just terrifying already. Thanks for posting something about it. It seems like a lot of people are avoiding talking about it.

  • tk May 1, 2008, 3:16 pm

    If a word ever is invented that encompasses what this guy did, I don’t want to hear it. Please don’t spend too much time with this creep in your head. Celebrating the courage of the victim is the best thing anyone could do in the face of a story like this. I’m glad you did.

  • tk May 1, 2008, 3:23 pm

    Oh, and Happy Combined Labor Day and Holy Thursday!

    (I’d say that in Icelandic, but I left my dictionary at home.)

  • alda May 1, 2008, 4:43 pm

    Andrea, yes that does work. Thank you.

    Melissa, I guess it’s one of those things you don’t want to have to think about. But then NOT mentioning it also seems wrong.

    tk, not to worry, I won’t spend any time with him in my head. Like you say, I’m more in awe of the strength of the survivor. And I had no idea it was also Holy Thursday!

  • Anonymous May 3, 2008, 2:28 pm

    It was also Yom Whatevera (Day of Remembrance)

    a perfect opportunity for Nazis to take over a train :<