Ulf is a Swedish name that once meant Wolf. So, yes, Wolf Wolf, that’s me. I was born Ulf Ronnquist one snowy night in late October, in one of those northern Swedish towns that are little more than a clearing in the forest. Fast forward through twenty Swedish years, ten or so English ones, and another twenty-four in the US and you’ll find me in front of an immigrations officer conducting the final citizenship interview, at the end of which he asks me, “What name would you like on your passport?” And here I recall what a friend had told me, that you can pick just about any name you want at this point, and I heard me say “Ulf Wolf.” That’s how it happened. Scout’s honor. Of course, I had been using Ulf Wolf as a pen name for some time before this interview, but I hadn’t really planned to adopt that as my official U.S. name. But I did. I have written stories all my life. Initially in Swedish, but for the last twenty or so years in English. To date I have written six novels, four novellas and two scores of stories; along with many songs and poems. My writing focus these days is on life’s important questions (in my view): Who are we? What are we doing here? And how do we break out of this prison?
He Knowsby Ulf Wolf
This he knows: His name is Chandra. Is one of the things he knows. Many long days and nights ago he heard the name spoken, and it was meant for him, that he knows. His name. Spoken by a person he loved, remembers loving, remembers loving him, remembers leaving. To fetch food, she said, stay here. Please, Chandra, stay here. That was the last he ever heard her say.<… See more details below
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This he knows: His name is Chandra. Is one of the things he knows. Many long days and nights ago he heard the name spoken, and it was meant for him, that he knows. His name. Spoken by a person he loved, remembers loving, remembers loving him, remembers leaving. To fetch food, she said, stay here. Please, Chandra, stay here. That was the last he ever heard her say.
Chandra. That is his name. That is one of the things he knows.
Other things he knows: He knows what you can eat, and what you cannot eat. He knows what tastes good, what does not taste good, what will make you sick, what will not.
He knows: The pain that comes from lack of food. The pain that now is a constant companion. The pain he knows is called hunger.
He knows: His alley, the one that houses his shelter. He knows dust, he knows heat, he knows the suspicious eyes of strangers, he knows the satisfaction of water.
He knows: The sun rising is morning, is fresh hunger, he knows the sun sinking and sinking into dark is night, is sleep, is un-knowing, is freedom, where you can dream of food, no longer haunted by the painful shadow, though it never truly leaves prodding him from above or below—he never settles on which—just as a reminder that it is still there.
The sun, the monster sun, orange and gigantic beyond the rim of roof-tops and hot already, bakes the dream of food away and prompts him awake with unfriendly beams. He was eating: Fish, fried fish, crisp and dripping with spicy oil, a mountain of rice in his hand and fried fish, always eating in his dream, and most of the time fried fish with rice, good to put in your mouth, to chew, to swallow fried fish.
- Ulf Wolf
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