Has Sigurd Falkenberg Mikkelsen from the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation NRK ever really been able to feel the fear of the vulnerable, or the violence of war? In connection with his new book, we speak with him about the rough reality of the Middle East, the value of journalism and what travels like these do to a person.

Truls Lie
Editor-in-chief, Modern Times Review
Published date: September 15, 2016

NRK correspondent Sigurd Falkenberg Mikkelsen recently published the book Arabisk høst (Arab Fall, Cappelen Damm, 2016), a collection of correspondent’s letters from the Middle East from 2011 to 2016. This book is the reason why the editor of Modern Times sits down with him, to look behind the scenes, and at the role of the reporter.

In his first letter, from October 2011, Mikkelsen travels to Libya. This is immediately before the fall of Gaddafi, and somewhat by chance, Mikkelsen ends up outside as storage house where a massacre has just taken place – machine guns, grenades, dead bodies being burnt. He writes: «Inside, there were the remains of over fifty people; a black mass of burnt human flesh, ribs, human ribs, poking out from everywhere, and the white skulls, I remember them as shiny and clean against the dark, messy mass. In several places attached to curly spines.»

He withdrew right before throwing up, this was not «a place for a living human to be», he writes. The worst thing he ever experienced, he tells Modern Times. Before this, his knowledge of the region was something he had learned, not directly experienced himself: «I felt like I stepped into a different world. It was dark, and the stench was horrible. I felt like I touched on something beyond human comprehension. This is something that comes from somewhere deep in our history. »

Into reality. Mikkelsen has travelled around the Middle East for 15 years. You may wonder what his motivation is. What draws him to the region? «For me, it’s the most natural thing to do. When the war in Afghanistan broke out, I wanted to be there,» he says. «It was a very deep-felt emotion. The same thing with the war in Iraq. And 15 years later, I’m still here.»

sigurd_dsc04535With an advanced academic degree from Sciences Po in Paris – the same institution that former Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre once attended – you may wonder why he is drawn to life’s harsh realities. «I chose not to continue my academic studies in Paris, I was simply too restless. I liked it, and those years changed me as a person, but I felt this urge in my body for something more, I wanted …

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