‘He no longer wanted a steady job as a producer of opinions. Infinity—was that not what he was seeking?’ The English translation of Havoc by Tom Kristensen, a great Danish novel, has been reissued after fifty years. Quote from a review:
Doubts, but still wants to believe—how else to explain the generations of people, from twentysomething anarchists to aged professors, whose lives have been altered by Havoc? As different as these readers have been, they’ve all been drawn to the possibility that enlightenment can be achieved by abandoning the “normal” life whose ingredients include marriage, money, job security, friends, education. This possibility might seem naïve, self-indulgent, or just absurd: Havoc has borne all these insults, and others, and survived unscathed. Kristensen not only accepted but welcomed his detractors’ mockery, and in an era when a lot of fiction aspires to avoid criticism at all costs, that might be his novel’s timeliest virtue.
‘So you’re not interested in progress, Mr Jastrau. What *are* you interested in?’
It was so unreal, this way of thinking. And it was as if the unreality spread. The buildings on the other side of the street became gathering rainclouds; the oval table, the visiting-card bowl and the hat tree seemed like random pieces of furniture that had been put out on the sidewalk by the king’s bailiff; and there, in those chairs on the sidewalk, sat Vuldum and Father Garhammer, and suddenly it occurred to Jastrau how feminine they both were. Vuldum tall and unrelenting as only a redhead can be, and the priest short and dark, constantly biting his long lips, greedy for a new, bloodless, logical problem; but who are as grim and implacable as old virgins?
‘I’m only really interested in myself’, Jastrau replied cautiously, avoiding Vuldum’s cold smile. ‘That is, in psychology, in what’s at the bottom of the soul, and – well, I’m interested in how I can build up an objective world, a reality.’
— Tom Kristensen, Hærværk (‘Havoc’), my trans.