The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Please welcome to the world … Hector Meinhof Three Nails, Four Wounds (Infinity Land Press)

Three Nails, Four Wounds
by Hector Meinhof

Hector Meinhof has written a book that is both beautiful and cruel. His poetic prose and the doom-laden pictures from his extensive collection of vintage photographs have bled into one tortured, corporeal unity. All these pictures have played a significant part in the writing of Three Nails, Four Wounds. Meinhof has used a tableau of chosen images to keep the narrative flowing, each chapter being concentrated around a specific set of photographs.

This is the illustrated scripture for the new dark ages, it will be read and beheld again and again
– Martin Bladh

On the outskirts of a small town, on top of the mound called Wolf Hill, lay the insane asylum. It was a neo-gothic edifice made of brick, with long winding corridors and a hundred and eleven rooms: sterile rooms, electric rooms, padded rooms, interrogation rooms with one-way mirrors, a kitchen, a large dining room and a photographic studio in the attic.

In conjunction with the asylum there was a small chapel, a mortuary, staff quarters and a barn. Behind the barn, beside a forest of spruce and fur, the patients’ cemetery stretched itself across the north side of the mound.

It was as though the area had been struck by a peculiar curse. Strange incidents kept occurring, acts of insanity, abuse of animals, unexplained disappearances.

In the grounds of the insane asylum, seven girls aged eleven were walking about…

Softbound with flaps, 238 pages, 103 illustrations, 148 x 180mm
ISBN 978-0-9927366-8-2


Extracts from Martin Bladh’s afterword:

Hector Meinhof (b. 1972) is a Swedish writer, performance artist, composer and collector of vintage photography, specialising in post-mortem, medical and religious themes. He has been a member of the critically acclaimed percussion ensemble Kroumata, and is a part of the theatrical music duo Hidden Mother. Meinhof took up writing at the age of eighteen. Surprisingly, it was cinema that first inspired him. Among the directors who had a significant importance for him he lists Bergman, Tarkovsky, Dreyer and Pasolini. He was then introduced to the literature of the existentialists and the surrealists, the work of authors such as Georges Bataille, Witold Gombrowicz, Unica Zürn, Paul Celan, Yukio Mishima and Antonin Artaud. Even though Meinhof has worked persistently on his writing – both prose and poetry – the novel Three Nails, Four Wounds, is the first text that he has ever submitted for publication. Meinhof claims that it took him about twenty years of constant writing and rewriting to find his own voice.

His attraction to vintage photography is linked to his subsequent fondness for nineteenth century photographers such as Lewis Carroll, Julia Margaret Cameron and Oscar Rejlander. Meinhof started to collect vintage photographs around the year 2005. Primarily pictures from the nineteenth century, but also from the early part of the twentieth century up to the 1940s. He claims to have been introduced to the concept of post-mortem photography while watching Bergman’s The Silence (1963), which includes a scene where an old hotel porter shows a young boy a photograph of a mourning family gathered around an open coffin. Memorial portraiture, the practice of photographing recently deceased loved ones, was a common part of western culture in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The photographs which were commissioned by the grieving families were often the only visual reminder of the deceased, and were among a family’s most precious possessions. Another category that fascinates him is that of the so called Hidden Mother photographs.

Other types of photographs depict religious themes – nuns, monks, priests, graveyards and monasteries – different medical settings, sick patients, asylum inmates, the dead – both those that died of natural causes and the ones who suffered violent, unnatural deaths – and especially those of dead children. All these images have played a significant part in the writing of Three Nails, Four Wounds. They have indeed been so essential that they cannot be separated from the actual text. Meinhof has used a tableau of chosen images to keep the narrative flowing, each chapter being concentrated around a specific set of photographs.

The title, Three Nails, Four Wounds, is an obvious reference to the theological concept of the Triclavism: that three nails were used to crucify Christ to the cross, which left four holy wounds on the Saviour’s hands and feet. In Meinhof’s novel these nails and wounds are represented by seven eleven-year-old girls who are roaming the grounds of an insane asylum, located somewhere within the parameters of the Christian world. But the title has a double meaning which is lost in the English translation of the original Swedish manuscript, where the plural form of the word nails, “spikar”, also means nailing, and the word for wounds, “sår”, means sowing, which suggests that the author also associates the title with a work in the making, or even the cultivation of a whole new society.

The time frame of the story is uncertain. It seems to take place in a setting sharing elements from the late nineteenth century up to the outbreak of the Second World War (directly corresponding to Meinhof’s photo collection). There are only two occasions, where a monitor screen and a television set are mentioned, which might indicate a more modern era. The asylum is a self-sufficient microcosm with its own farm, staff accommodation, hospital ward, chapel, mortuary and cemetery. There is no need for the patients ever to leave this enclosed compound. The seven girls believe themselves to be warriors sent on a holy mission, each of them provided with her own specific task to fulfill. There is a vagueness about what this mission is and how it will be carried out, but it follows upon a great catastrophe, an apocalyptic outbreak, which has already been set in motion at the beginning of the narrative; indicators include cruelty to animals, the disappearance of children, and people dancing madly around bonfires as though at a witches sabbath. In the first part of the novel, the girls are introduced to a prophetic text embroidered on a kitten’s stomach by a mentally disabled farmhand, which plays a significant part as the story unfolds.

The girls are agents provocateurs, who lead the other patients further into psychosis in their attempt to fulfill their mission and to make this prophecy come true. They indulge in daily acts of self-mortification, which include extreme fasting and blood rituals. They are very much aware of their abnormal mental state, their ‘disease’, but unlike the other inmates they have transformed this defect into an instrument of the will. They follow a strict moral code which they seem to have cultivated through the reading of scripture, the lives of the saints, and the interventions of the saintlike Number Eight. They share a great determination and work together as a unit. The reader can never be sure who is speaking in the course of their dialogues, nor can he assign any character traits or specific personality to any of these individuals.

Why this preoccupation with suffering, death, apocalypse, atrocities, saintliness, and Christian symbols? The leitmotif is obviously the sacrifice, but for what cause? In correspondence with the author of this afterword, Meinhof points towards times of widespread destruction and loss of life. How not all soldiers can return from the battlefield. The universe is a cosmic slaughterhouse. In short: blood must be spilled to change the face of history. He insists that his book is a portent, an intellectual preparation for the coming dark ages.

Maybe, parts of this preparation can be explained in the light of the writings of the religious Anti-Christian, Georges Bataille (1897-1962). How the killing of Christ is considered by all Christians to be an act of pure evil. But it is not criminals who are to be blamed for the deed, it is the whole of mankind that is guilty. Every time someone performs an evil act he crucifies Christ anew. Everyone is guilty, as we allow Christ to die for our sins, and faith in his sacrifice absolves us from our sins. So if we did not indulge in evil there would be no salvation and communication with the divine.

“In the elevation upon a cross, humankind attains a summit of evil. But it’s exactly from having attained it that humanity ceases being separate from God. So clearly the “communication” of human beings is guaranteed by evil. Without evil, human existence would turn in upon itself, would be enclosed as a zone of independence: And indeed an absence of “communication” – empty loneliness – would certainly be the greater evil.”


On the outskirts of a small town, on top of the mound called Wolf Hill, lay the insane asylum. It was a neo-gothic edifice made of brick, with long winding corridors and a hundred and eleven rooms: sterile rooms, electric rooms, padded rooms, interrogation rooms with one-way mirrors, a kitchen, a large dining room and a photographic studio in the attic.

In conjunction with the asylum there was a small chapel, a mortuary, staff quarters and a barn. Behind the barn, beside a forest of spruce and fur, the patients’ cemetery stretched itself across the north side of the mound.

It was as though the area had been struck by a peculiar curse. Strange incidents kept occurring, acts of insanity, abuse of animals, unexplained disappearances.

In the grounds of the insane asylum, seven girls aged eleven were walking about…


Dawn. The girls were furtively walking around the basement. They stopped in front of a metal door, which was equipped with a door viewer. They all stepped up and looked into it, one after the other.

‘They tie you to a stretcher. An iron bar pushes your jaws apart, they press in a medical muzzle and the skin-coloured rubber-tube that sticks out of the mouth is attached to a funnel and filled with everything that is needed for you to remain a human being.’

‘If you mix the primary colours, your result will be white.’

‘Which is three.’

‘And which is white noise.’

One of the girls pushed the rail to the side and opened the door. In the middle of the room, Girl Number Eight lay attached to an iron-bed with leather straps around her wrists and ankles. The girls walked over the threshold.

‘Watch your step. The floor is full of prayer traps, they could snip your toes off.’

‘Does God not go through his traps at midnight?’

‘One can never be certain when He comes to this room.’

‘I like this smell!’

‘Think of how we first thought that she was one of us.’

‘She looks lifeless.’

‘At least she is moving her head now.’

‘I think she is trying to say something.’

‘Yes, her lips are moving.’

‘Press your ear against her mouth.’

‘What did she say?’


‘What is she saying?’

‘She is saying: “If a religion comforts, it is spurious.”’

‘Is there anything else?’ ‘

Yes: “The cross is the table by which I sit and feast, my lips against the holy wound. I am pregnant and the child I bear is the pain of the world.”’

Number Eight rolled her eyes. A sigh left her mouth. Her lips started moving.

‘What is she saying?’

‘She is saying: “The sin opens the wounds – the pain seals them. To abandon oneself to the pain, to cultivate and ingest it – is considered diseased in our society; but disease is alliance with God and likewise madness is an alliance with the Son on the cross. To become sick, to shamelessly show one’s own weaknesses and faults, to carry defeat like a medal on one’s chest. To lick the cross until your tongue bleeds!”

‘Number Eight says that there is a book under her pillow. Please, bring it here.’

‘Be careful!’

‘Found it?’

‘Here it is.’

‘She wants you to read it out loud. Page 12.’

‘Let’s see, page 12: Small as I am, I hold in my arms, The highest angel of all, Jesus Christ, Who hovers above the Seraphim, I eat him and drink him, And do with him what I want. Which even the angels cannot do.’

‘She wants to hear page 111 as well.’

‘Just a moment: Then the holy John took the holy lamb with his red wounds And lay it between the teeth in her mouth. Then the pure lamb lay itself on its own picture in her stable And sucked with its sweet mouth on her heart. The more he sucked, the more she gave herself to him.’

‘She liked that.’

‘Look at how she’s smiling.’

‘Shush, she is speaking again!’

‘She says: “Jesus came last night. I had a fever and there was no cool space left on my pillow. His cold fingertips were spreading out unknown constellations on my sore chest. He stayed all night. He held me in his arms. He cried. I undid my night plait and allowed my hair to fall over his face.”

‘Did he say anything about us?’

‘She says: “He wants you to continue.”’

‘And we will.’

‘We will.’

‘We will go on.’

‘We will go on.’

‘We will go on.’

‘Go on.’


The rain was pouring down. Inside the barn it was warm and dry. When the farmhand saw the girls his expression changed and he froze in fear. Madness pulled the corners of his mouth up into uncertain smiles, which were as quick as wing flaps.

‘Look at you sitting here, sewing in the belly of a little kitten’

‘Don’t be afraid. You have nothing to fear from us.’

‘Yes by all means, go on. Don’t allow us to disturb you.’

‘All we want is to watch you torture the animals.’

‘Think, there is a barn here in the hospital area.’

‘If there is a church there will also be a barn.’

‘The proximity of cattle is soothing to the feeble-minded.’

‘Look at how many animals you have in your ark: cows, horses, pigs, sheep and poultry.’

‘Please set a horse on fire.’

‘We saw the puppy hanging in the forest.’


‘Wait! Was that a sensitive topic?’

‘Sorry if we’re too forward.’

‘Relax. We understand why you do what you do.’

‘We know what you’re trying to prevent.’

‘But it happens to be in vain. Things will happen anyway. It’s too late.’

‘It’s too late.’

‘Look! There’s another dog hanging inside something that looks like a pillowcase.’

‘Or is it a cat?’

‘No, it must be a dog.’

‘Is it alive?’

‘Yes… It’s moving, isn’t it?’

‘Watch how it stamps around with its paws.’

‘Maybe it’s dreaming.’

‘And what’s in your cage, here? Is it a swallow?’

‘Yes, I do think it really is a swallow.’

‘I like the way they scream. They have a piercing, rolling shriek just like little girls when you tickle them.’

‘Show us what you do to the kitten.’

‘Let us watch. No, don’t turn around.’

‘What are you doing? Watch out!’

‘Watch out!’

‘The kitten is getting away! Catch it!’

‘Grab it! Come on!’

The kitten was trying to get away, but soon it was surrounded by the girls, who slowly came at it from all sides.

‘Come here kitty-kitty, come here!’

‘Come here!’


‘There! I’ve got you my little furry friend. There you go, let’s see what he’s done to you. You shaved its stomach and you… embroidered some text on it!’

‘Embroidered it with whiskers.’

‘What does it say? Can you please tell us?’

‘It reads: As the animal domesticated by man, After many trials and leaps masters speech, Lightning will strike a virgin with such strength, That she remains hanging in mid-air.’


There was a clearly perceptible smell of freshly cut toenails. Inside a room in one of the staff houses an anaesthetist was sitting at a desk, writing. The girls stood behind him looking over his shoulder.

‘How rude of you to write poison pen letters to the parents.’

‘So if we understand this correctly, the secret room should be behind that bookshelf? Did it take you a long time to do the soundproofing?’

‘We know everything!’

‘We’ve been to the playground and seen your witchcraft several times.’

‘A girl sits down on the swing and suddenly – she’s gone!’

‘How did you come to invent the ghost swing?’

‘And the girls. What exactly do you do with them?’

‘Why do you only take children from town?’

‘What sort of diet are you on?’

‘Do you remember when you unpacked the first girl? She was a 2.7 on the Tanner scale. She was so afraid she peed her pants. Question: Did you notice the little hooves that stomped inside her temples?’

‘Eight legs.’

‘You finished off by inserting yourself into one of her nostrils, which gave her a nosebleed. Then you took some sheets of paper and you used the blood to make Rorschach tests. Question: When you lie in bed at night studying these pictures, what sort of associations do you get?’

‘Their pouting mouths as you pull off the lips along with the tape.’


‘Pinioned with dried up tears that make their cheeks itch.’

‘Do you bring them up well?’

‘Do they help out with the housework?’

‘Do you teach them to poke down the pouch of the briefs when they fold your newly washed underwear?’

‘Do you teach them how to scream properly?’

‘A shrill and rolling scream, like a swallow.’

‘Your girls are almost as old as we are. Don’t you want to do something to us as well?’

‘Don’t tease him. Can’t you see that he’s blushing?’

‘All joking aside, we know your plan.’

‘We know!’

‘We quite understand that the bonds of blood must be severed to program the girls for their mission.’

‘We understand that you indoctrinate them to rattle little parrot phrases such as: Mummy and Daddy smell of gunpowder!’

‘We know why. You have a role to play.’

‘Don’t play it negligently!’

‘We don’t love out of true love either.’

‘We want to meet one of the girls now. Get one over here!’

The man lay his pen down, got up and walked up to the bookshelf. He stretched one hand out behind some books. A metallic clicking sound was heard as the bookshelf opened like a door. The man disappeared in the darkness and soon he was back with one of his girls.

‘Oh, look at what a sweetheart she is! She is only halfway through her seventh rotation around the sun and as naked and bare as the day she was born.’

‘Her body has closed itself up, it has encapsulated her in her first six years.’

‘She has been lifted out of the flow of time like a tin can.’

‘She struggles, life is lived inwards. Only two sounds remain: The singing nervous system and the blood that rushes through the veins. The heart beats somewhere else. The girl is searching for herself in order to strike back, like a shark sensing the heartbeats of a human being in the ocean.’

‘This is what we will do. Sit down in the armchair and have the girl stand in front of you between your knees. Good, go on! Just stop when your index finger reaches the crease of the girl’s buttocks. There, stop! Now lick three crosses on her chest. Can you hear the flame panting?’

‘The world is a dark place.’

‘You are putting out the forbidden light between their legs.’

‘Another one is being lit!’

‘And it is burning.’




HECTOR MEINHOF reading at Infinity Land Press + Amphetamine Sulphate event,
London September 2018



Hector Meinhof is a Swedish author and musician. He is a classically trained percussionist who studied at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm. Meinhof has worked with several orchestras and ensembles all around the world. He has been a member of the critically acclaimed percussion ensemble Kroumata, and is a part of the theatrical music and performance duo Hidden Mother. Hector Meinhof is also a collector of antique photography, specialising in post-mortem, medical and religious themes.

Martin Bladh is a Swedish-born artist of multiple mediums. His work lays bare themes of violence, obsession, fantasy, domination, submission and narcissism. Bladh is a founding member of the post-industrial band IRM, the musical avant-garde unit Skin Area and co-founder of Infinity Land Press. His published work includes To Putrefaction, Qualis Artifex Pereo, DES, The Hurtin’ Club, Darkleaks – The Ripper Genome and Marty Page. He lives and works in London.




p.s. Hey. This blog is eternally happy to take the opportunity to help usher one of the always fascinating, always physically beautiful books from Infinity Land Press into the world. I’m reading Hector Meinhof’s book right now, and it’s excellent to say the least, so I encourage you to investigate its evidence up there and think about making it your own. ** JM, Hey, man! Very good to see you! I’m good, what’s what with you? My hopes remain up for ‘TOSotW’. You’re not the only person whose opinion I trust who was knocked out by it. Take care. ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. She is greatly, greatly missed. And I don’t buy ‘The Shining’ as her inner workings’ fatal demon one little bit. ** James Nulick, Hi. Well, you’d spy on someone you know well enough to have the opportunity place an uninvited guest in their bathroom or who would like and trust you enough to start using some unknown shampoo just because you gifted them with it, which narrows it down. Unless you worked as a maid in a hotel or something, I guess. I have not done a Rosalyn Drexler Day, oddly, unless I’m blanking, and that’s a capitol idea, and I will get on attempting to make a Drexler post post-haste. Thank you. I suppose there could an argument pro-jetlag head, but I’m not the guy to make it. Tosh, If you see this, James Nulick is concerned that you might not have seen his response to your comment yesterday, just so you know. ** Steve Erickson, Oh, no, I wasn’t under the impression that you had any opinion on Diam’s stuff whatsoever. Well, I think there still are ‘spy stores’. There used to be a couple in LA, but they went out of business because, you know, the online shopping swamp thing. Sounds like an idea, iow. ** Keataon, My scanner’s broken. I need to get it fixed. (1) It wouldn’t look hugely different. Black doesn’t seem to be the big thing it was du jour. (2) Hm, no idea. (3) It would look like the crowds at Disneyland Paris but with only intermittent glass wearers? Huh. No memory whatsoever of the first books I bought. Strange. Strangely I remember the first three LPs I bought with my own money — The Mothers of Invention ‘Freak Out’, The Monkees ‘More of The Monkees’, The Rolling Stones ‘Their Satanic Majesties Request’. My work goes. Good? I don’t know. Thanks, though. And yours? I think an argument could be made that ‘God Hates Us All’ was the last completely great Slayer album. ** Dominik, Hi, D! Ha ha, no, unfortunately, until the TV script is finished, every day of my life will be oriented around either working on it or feeling frustrated and not working on it but feeling irritated that I’m not. So that ate my weekend. I did see Gisele, but, ha ha, to talk about the TV script, so that doesn’t count as an extra. Zac and I were interviewed about PGL. That was an extra. Well, its sort of nice that they asked you for another translation at least, right? You’re still coughing? Oh, man. I woke up with a head cold this morning, and I’m ‘praying’ the symptoms are a fluke. The Melissa Broder books I’ve read are ‘Scarecrone’ and ‘Meat Heart’, both of which I liked a lot. A most excellent week to you with continually disappearing and quickly history-based coughs! ** _Black_Acrylic, That little story you cooked up sounds great, man! Let me/us know how it was received. ** Misanthrope, I feel strangely so-what about being spied on by Google and beyond if they are. Maybe I’m a secret (to myself) exhibitionist or something. Mm, I’ve never written something where I didn’t fundamentally know what it was about, no. But sometimes I figure out later that something I wrote was also about other things too that I was making happen without consciously thinking too much about them while I was writing it. So … sort of. Furiously! That’s the spirit! Great! ** Corey Heiferman, ‘Immigrant absorption dorm’ has a really nice vowels-vs-consonants thing going on. Yeah, publicly available spy tech is sufficiently sophisto now that it’s hard to imagine actual spies can outdo us. Hm. Nice about the poetry reading and the lengthy stroll to (and fro?). But … so the old poet thought your poems were shit? Is that what you mean? I have a head cold, so it might be that I need to have things explained to me with infant-directed clarity at the moment. ** Right. Go back up there and see what Hector Meinhof is all about. Thanks. See you tomorrow.

1 Comment

  1. Mieze

    I have to say, I was lucky enough to be in the audience to see Hector‘s I’ve reading, and it was an exquisite and bitterly sweet opening to the ILP event in September. If you can lay your hands on a copy of this, do!

    Hi, Dennis… sending you all good wishes from a terribly rainy Switzerland.

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