There is an expression in Norwegian that has always intrigued me.
It’s interjected into sentences, much the same way as Londoners use “innit” or Dubliners “you know what I mean.”
In Norwegian, it’s “ikke sant?”
Literally translated, it means “not true,” but Norwegians use it as a conversational question with the tone rising on the last syllable.
It’s a clever, almost passive-aggressive way of getting people to agree with you.
It is, it seems, a much more effective method of doing so than, say, terrorism.
It wasn’t needed yesterday though, as almost everyone was delighted that Anders Behring Breivik was found to be sane and criminally liable for the deaths of 77 innocent people – many of them children in the eyes of the law – and sentenced to 21 years in prison.
For the record, the chances of him ever coming out of prison are up there with Elvis returning to play 18 holes on the moon.
In their verdict, the five judges sentenced him to 21 years “preventative detention” and said that there was a very strong possibility that he would remain a threat to society even after his tariff is served; if he is, his detention can be extended for five years at a time.
He will never walk the streets of Oslo as a free man again.
The reaction on the streets was a mixture of fatigue and relief.
People are sick of being asked about him. Sick of hearing about him, and what he did. Sick of trying to work out what his actions say about Norway, and themselves.
But the relief now outweighs that. That Anders Behring Breivik wasn’t shot dead in the dirt of Utoya – like so many of his victims – is a good thing for the healing process in Norway.
If he had been, he would have been martyred for the cause of extreme nationalism, and we would never have understood what made him carry out such unspeakable acts.
But over the ten weeks of his trial we have come to understand him better – his callousness, his twisted logic, his hatred.
We have seen a vanity in him that would make Narcissus blush. And we have seen a total lack of empathy with his victims.
At times we have seen behind the facade – the obsessive organising of paper and pens before he answered the judge’s question about whether or not he accepted the verdict, quickly followed by the flash of darkness as he attempted to apologise to fellow extreme nationalists for not killing even more innocent children.
Most of all, we saw the smile as the verdict was announced. Breivik welcomed the verdict with something between a grimace and a smirk.
In his own mind, he was victorious yesterday in Court 250 of Oslo’s Tinghus, but it was the people of Norway that won.
And over the next 21 years, Breivik will have plenty of time to reflect over why his actions haven’t launched the war on immigrants he so longed for, and why the people of the blood he was so intent of protecting have rejected him, and all he stands for.
Oslo is a small city, and in the early afternoon I left the courthouse are to walk to the cathedral.
I watched as the German foreign minister laid a wreath at the large red heart that stands in memories of those killed by the hateful, pudgy, vain Breivik.
He, like the rest of the civilised world, rejected Breivik.
And on the way back to the courthouse the ordinary people of Norway spoke of how they wanted to put this behind them and start rebuilding the safe, harmonious society that was blown away by Breivik’s bombs and bullets.
And that is something we can all support them in, ikke sant?