Peter H. Olesen
from the novel Korrekturlæseren [The Proofreader], published by Gyldendal (2008)
I am a pedant. An important quality in a proofreader. Cantankerous. I find other people’s errors and descend on them. I thrive on it. I take pride in identifying and correcting mistakes. I have a fondness for the red marker breaking the sacred black type. I have an eye for inconsequence and irregularity. As the good proofreader must. Fussy, small-minded, incorruptible. I am a sadist, says my ex. Son of an accountant.
We’re both adults, after all, I say to my ex in an attempt to sound reasonable and reconciliatory amid yet another heated argument over the phone.
And that’s coming from you, she yells. From you!
I’ve stopped brushing my teeth entirely. Not by decision, it just happened gradually. What harm could it do missing just the once, I must have thought one late evening, tired and exhausted, and then I suppose it just went from there.
Other banal, though by no means insignificant signs: Unwashed dishes all over the place. Laundry piling up.
One final example: I’m now having problems with composite words. It’s a deeply shameful discovery. The lady at the publishers has made me aware. It seems I’ve overlooked a number of errors in the last couple of jobs. Had I been Japanese with a sword within reach, humiliation would have been short.
As long as you’re still smiling.
Translated from the Danish by Martin Aitken
© Peter H. Olesen and Gyldendal 2008
Translation © Martin Aitken 2008