Åsne Seierstad has been here before. "The shock lingers for some time. But I remember the feeling of deep grief," the Norwegian author says of her homeland in 2011.

"I don't know if you feel the same, but there was a lot of talk of unity and solidarity and tolerance. And it was almost as if those words we usually hear in speeches on national days were suddenly filled with meaning," she says.

"Old poetry or songs, national songs, were suddenly simmering with meaning."

Seierstad, an investigative journalist and author, is talking on a bad line from Alabama of the immediate aftermath of the events in Norway on July 22, 2011. She had previously reported from Afghanistan, Iraq and Chechnya - writing The Bookseller of Kabul - before warlike horrors came home.

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An investigative journalist and author, in 2015 she wrote One of Us, a forensic reconstruction of the life and crimes of Anders Behring Breivik who on that day set off a car bomb in central Oslo, before driving to the island of Utøya and spending 72 minutes stalking and gunning down scores of teenagers at a political party youth camp.

The attacks saw 77 killed, more than 300 injured. And, as with what happened two weeks ago in Christchurch, the killer left a rambling manifesto calling for a fascist uprising, and a small country was left to grapple with hard questions of accountability and justice in trying to cope with the worst case of violence in generations.

"These things don't last eternally," Seierstad says the initial shock and grief. "That doesn't mean that it's wrong. But we can't live on the height of emotion. There's a limit to how long that lasts."

Mourners push the coffin of Bano Abobakar Rashid, 18, the first victim of the shooting rampage at Utoeya to be buried, at a church in Nesodden, near Oslo, Norway, in 2011. Photo / AP
Mourners push the coffin of Bano Abobakar Rashid, 18, the first victim of the shooting rampage at Utoeya to be buried, at a church in Nesodden, near Oslo, Norway, in 2011. Photo / AP

What comes next will be the trial of Brenton Harrison Tarrant, and official soul-searching over what could have been done to both prevent the atrocity and understand why it occurred. And also coming to grips with two men whose manifestos are chillingly similar.

The Australian-born gunman describes Breivik as providing his only true inspiration and references the Norwegian's claim - ruled a fiction by Norwegian courts - that their actions received blessings from a shadowy organisation called the Knights' Templar.

"The Knights' Templar is a fictional organisation. The Norwegian police tried, they tried, tried really hard, to find out whether these claimed meetings happened, but it doesn't add up. It just didn't happen."

"He [Breivik] said he had his blessing, and Tarrant said the same thing. They both know this group doesn't exist. It's more of a 'hi!' from Tarrant to Breivik."

At first glance, the choice of targets at Utøya and the mosques of Christchurch seem more than a hemisphere apart, but Sierestad sees obvious connections.

"Somehow they are very different, but not so different,"she says.

Official interviews with Breivik had him discussing targeting Muslims, she says, "but he was afraid if he goes straight to the target, they would get sympathy and that's the last thing he wanted".

Author Asne Seierstad says there are many similarities between the terrorist attacks by lone gunmen in Norway and New Zealand. Photo / supplied
Author Asne Seierstad says there are many similarities between the terrorist attacks by lone gunmen in Norway and New Zealand. Photo / supplied

Instead Breivik targeted the ruling political party which he saw as responsible for immigration.

Back to the courts in New Zealand and the upcoming trial where, as in Norway, there are concerns a self-represented gunman will attempt to use the dock as a pulpit.

Seierstad says these concerns were managed in Norway using existing court processes.

"It was very important to know that we were not going to change our rules or procedures because of him. Because if a normal criminal can speak in his defence at a trial for half an hour or so, but he should not? Because he's worse morally? Where do you draw that line?,"she asks.

"Norway decided not to draw than line, to keep calm."

Planning for the Breivik trial began early and was comprehensive, she says, looping in a committee of victims which helped shape the sorts of evidence that would be used by the prosecution to the extent that even photos of the dead were not admitted as evidence.

There were also restrictions placed on broadcasting from the court, with reporting limited to text and still photographs. Breivik's voice was - with one exception being a bootleg recording that led to court action against YouTube - never heard outside the courtroom.

Fears of being given a platform to speak in open court proved overblown, Seierstad says, with Breivik's turn to speak being decidedly anticlimactic.

"It was rambling. He'd written too much and the judge kept saying 'you have to wrap this up now, you're taking too much time'. The forceful lecture he hoped to deliver just didn't come out."

As a result, she says Breivik's trial never served as the propaganda boon he had hoped for.

"When you look at his followers of his, they go to the manifesto. I haven't seen anyone refer to the trial."

People gather for the two minute silence as a tribute to those killed Christchurch Mosque shootings at the Ponsonby Mosque, or Al-Masjid Al-Jamie, on Vermont St, Auckland. Photo / Herald file
People gather for the two minute silence as a tribute to those killed Christchurch Mosque shootings at the Ponsonby Mosque, or Al-Masjid Al-Jamie, on Vermont St, Auckland. Photo / Herald file

And the trial was thorough, examining every aspect of Breivik's life, from a dysfunctional childhood relationship to his mother, teenage bullying, and a withdrawal from the physical world to online chat rooms and computer games in his early 20s.

Outside of short opening and closing statements, Breivik was effectively rendered a spectator, she says, to an event that was cathartic for the nation.

"For ten weeks he basically had to sit there and hear everything from experts: On all sorts of ideological movements, which tradition he is a part of. His brain gets dissected, his social life gets dissected."

Breivik was found guilty of terrorism and on August 22, 2012 was sentenced to indefinite detention. He presently resides in a three-room cell isolated from other prisoners and with a prison staff member working full-time to censor incoming and outgoing correspondence.

In 2015 he sued the Norwegian ministry of justice alleging breaches of human rights. His complaints included having to drink cold coffee, that his prison-provided PlayStation 2 was outdated, and his recent habit of watching reality TV-show Paradise Hotel was evidence the conditions were causing brain damage. His case was lost in lost in the Court of Appeal.

"It's not typical. There's just a few, a handful of people," Seirestad says of the Breivik's prison conditions.

But, as with his trial, it is within common norms and this approach is also supported by victim's families.

"There was one mother who was the leader of the support group. Her daughter had been shot multiple times, terrible. And she said 'I don't want him to have worse conditions than anyone else, and I don't want him to have any better'," she says.

Answers need to be found outside of the courtroom, too. Jacinda Ardern this week announced a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the mosque shootings, mirroring a similar commission established in Norway post-Breivik.

That Norwegian report, released in 2012, was damning and catalogued a series of government errors - from failing to follow up official flag when Breivik purchased bomb-making ingredients, to the police's use of an inadequate boat that sank when trying to ferry officers to Utøya - that led to the head of police resigning and wholesale reform of the security services.

Seierstad is firm in her belief such inquiries need to be conducted in the open, and be unstinting in their thoroughness.

"Even if there is a failure it is better to have it out in the open, even if it is embarrassing for the authorities or police. Get it out there."

So what's changed in Norway in the eight years since? After lamenting her homeland at a literary festival in 2015 that "to some extent it wants to forget about it" she sees progress.

"We are more able to talk about it. I wouldn't say it's less painful, but also the parents want us to talk about this, they want this not to disappear," she says.

And life has changed in Norway. Police there are still not routinely armed, but more regularly present a show of force during periods of elevated alerts. Their commission recommended banning the public ownership of semi-automatic weapons (although this was not enacted until four years later).

Security around certain public landmarks and offices and individuals have been tightened, too.

"Well, practically we have more security now, we do. But mainly government targets. Now all ministers have bodyguards, before some had, not all."

A sudden need to focus on far-right extremists has thrown up difficulties Norwegian authorities - and presumably those in New Zealand - are still struggling with.

"There is enforcement focus on this, but the thing is the far right in Norway is so weak. It's nobody. They are much stronger in Sweden for instance, and Germany."

Seierstad says she's reported on cases of Islamic extremism which seem to involve some element of person-to-person social contact that was lacking in the case of Breivik.

"It seems when they radicalise, that's online. And when it happens online, it's not even country to country. It's a global thing. The internet has no barriers. It seems like they don't really need to march in the streets."

Part of tackling the problem is understanding it. Seierstad says then-Norwegian prime minister, as with Ardern's approach to the accused, also refused to speak Breivik's name. She understands the decision, but thinks it can't be applied universally.

"That's the difference between a Prime Minister and a journalist. He is a human being, and human beings have names. Those actions: It was a man that did it. If we want to fight this we can't just say they're nameless. Do we think they become less dangerous if we do this?"