Read The Tsar's Dwarf (Hawthorne Books)

Read The Tsar's Dwarf (Hawthorne Books)
"A curious and wonderful work of great human value by a Danish master." Sebastian Barry, Man Booker finalist (Click on the picture to go to the book's Amazon page)

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Presenting My Novel 'The Egyptian Heart' - Magical Realism for the Spiritually Inclined (And It Doesn't Hurt If You Have a Sense of Humor)

After five years of hard work, my novel Det egyptiske hjerte (The Egyptian Heart) finally came out in Denmark in late October. Man, it's been a long journey. Since 2009 I've been writing on two novels at the same time going back between Danish and English, tearing the hair out of my skull every morning. Also, I went on research trips to Luxor, Egypt and my favorite city in the world, Venezia, Venice, Venedig (take your pick). I even got diarrhea but there's no limit to what a writer will do for his reader.

Det egyptiske hjerte is written in this strange tongue called Danish.  It's a sweeping, often humorous and love-affirming novel about reincarnation, eternal love and the stories we tell to make sense of our existence. It's an accessible and lively book for those who love history, spirituality, and thought-provoking storytelling about the inner connectedness of our relationships.

There are three storylines in the novel that intertwine: One in 12th century Italy about the Venetian Doge, Pietro Polano  (1130-1148) and one in contemporary Copenhagen with Zia, a historian who is writing a thesis about an Egyptian explorer, Frederik Norden. Zia and Pietro Polani are both emotional, impulsive, and zany characters who have had experiences with sexual abuse, mysticism, and fire. None of them is comfortable with dogmatic systems but have a strange fascination with Egypt and the Pyramids. Is Zia an incarnation of Pietro?  And is Frederik Norden Zia's guardian angel on her voyage into her past and herself?  The reader will have fun following the clues.

A lot of foreign publishers showed interest in The Egyptian Heart at the Frankfurt book fair so hopefully it'll be sold to a lot of countries within the next few months. If you're a publisher you can get a two-chapter translation in English by Mark Kline by mailing People's Press Foreign Rights Manager, Louise Langhoff Koch at


A few days ago I got a review to die for in Denmark's most important paper, Politiken. "I'm totally hooked," senior editor Bjørn Bredal writes. "The Egyptian Heart is one of the most charming, humorous, and clever books I've read in a long time. Peter H. Fogtdal isn't just knowledgeable, he's witty, has bite, and leaves the Dan Browns of the world in the dust." (I'd rather leave Jonathan Franzen in the dust but okay, I can live with that compliment)

Here is a great quote in Danish about the quality of my prose: "Man sejler igennem det hele, lystigt vuggende i Fogtdals sproglige gondol, som ikke giver en eneste mislyd i lagunen. Han kan skrive, kan han, og han har noget på hjerte om det store, det små og det onde i historien – verdens og romanens."  ("You cruise through the novel, gently bopping in Fogtdal's linguistic gondola ... He can write, can he and he has something important to say about the big and small issues and cruelty through the ages.")

For some reason the review isn't online at yet but should be soon. Not that I'm complaining about much right now ...

Signing books at Politiken boghandel November 4. I'll be at the Copenhagen Book Fair, BogForum Sunday November 8 at 1.30 PM and at Tranquebar boghandel, Borgergade 14 in Copenhagen, November 26 at 7 PM.  Cover, 50 DKK.


Thursday, October 1, 2015

Downloading a Doge - Fiction, Imagination or Visions? (As If There Was Any Difference)

The great thing about writing is that sometimes you download an Italian Doge and he ends up being a character in your novel.

That's what happened to me when I wrote DET EGYPTISKE HJERTE (The Egyptian Heart) that's coming out in Denmark October 27, 2015. Pietro Polani was the ruler of Venice from 1130-1148 and he fought the Pope at a time when the Church became more dominant on the Italian peninsula. I started dreaming about Polani a year and a half ago, even though I'd never heard of him before. Actually, I was never interested in the Middle Ages (I'm a baroque kind of guy), but now I think it's a fascinating time period, especially in gorgeous Serenissima, the Serene Republic, that became a force to reckon with in the 12th century.

I've done a lot of research on Pietro Polani in Archivio di Stato in Venice, but the historians don't know much about him. The most "reliable" sources are from two hundred years after Polani's death. However, I got a lot of important information through dreams that helped me immensely.

Yes, that's right, this spiritual airhead claims he tapped into the collective unconsciousness where all stories  and events are available to us if we're sensitive enough to pick them up.  Artists, dreamers, clairvoyants, and other crackpots, who may or may not belong in insane asylums, have done that for centuries. We're all seers, if we can put our rational minds to rest. I have no problem with letting go of "sanity" since I believe that the universe is multi layered - a patchwork of stories, vibrations, and worlds that are accessible if we have the courage to reach out for them.  But as you know, history supposedly deals with FACTS... and silly little me got some of my facts meditating in a float tank, or while snoring in bed.

Needless to say, I don't claim to be a scholar. I'm just a writer who can get closer to the truth by listening to the waters flowing through the Venetian canals than by copying other peoples' PhDs. Why? Because no matter how much research we do, we all have an agenda and an ego. Egos don't vanish because of a degree or because the deceased are breathing down our necks feeding us information. No matter what label we put on ourselves, we see the world through our personal history, our prejudices, and our subconscious. That's why history isn't a science but a fascinating study where historians write as much about themselves and the time they live in as novelists do.

So if you ever read my Danish novel about an unknown Doge by the name of Pietro Polani, you'll read about MY Pietro Polani who strangely enough have some of my strengths and weaknesses. There are probably many reasons for that.  Could it be the usual author narcissism at work?  Or maybe we have known each other in the past?  I did feel the story was handed to me on a celestial platter. Or perhaps there is no separation between Pietro and Peter?  I'm not sure I have the answer to any of these lofty questions but my writing process was the most fascinating I've ever experienced, and I haven't even told you the best parts because I'm afraid you'll lock me up in the basement of the Doge palace if I did ...

DET EGYPTISKE HJERTE (The Egyptian Heart) is a novel about the stories we tell ourselves to make sense of our existence - and perhaps it's about reincarnation as well? It takes place in 18th century Egypt, 12th century Venice, and contemporary Copenhagen.

Foreign Rights: Louise Langhoff Koch, PeoplesPress will be at the Frankfurt Book Fair in October. Email:


Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Three Days With Sam Shepard That Changed My Writing Life

It happened on a hot day in the beginning of the Eighties.

Everybody was sitting at a long table waiting for the Master. And it wasn't just young students like me. It was professional actors and writers from Hollywood who were going to work on His play at the Padua Hills Playwriting Workshop outside L.A.

Sam Shepard entered, tall and shy, and threw himself into a chair. He wasn't much known as an actor back then but as a poet and playwright who'd just won the Pulitzer Prize for Buried Child. Everybody was ready to write down His words of wisdom, so we all could become instant artists and win the Pulitzer ourselves one day.

Sam Shepard looked us over and said: "So what do you want to talk about?" We all glanced at each other. What a strange thing for the Master to say. Wasn't He going to give us the recipe for greatness, the Keys to the Kingdom, the magic wand that could turn a tired cliche into a pot of gold?

A few started to ask Him about Buried Child and other of His plays, but the Master shook His head, "I'm here to talk about your writing, not mine." Then He sent us out into the hills with an assignment. "Write what you feel in your body."

We looked disappointed at each other and walked into the hills, hoping not to come across one of the coyotes or rattle snakes that roamed in the area. After an hour we came back, sat at the table, and read loud what we'd written. Sam Shepard was honest and soft spoken. There wasn't any "what a great sense of place" bullshit here. There was no "Gosh, I loved it, but ..."  Only a few crisp words from the Master to the dramatist students who now had been forced into poetry by the rugged hills.

We did this four days in a row. At every session the Master would praise two or three  pieces, never more. To my huge surprise, I got encouraging feedback twice and was very proud of that. But more was to come.

The fourth and final day Shepard was around I read my piece, Sam Shepard did something He hadn't done to anyone during His stay. He stared me down for a few seconds without saying a word. "Oh my God, what have I done?" I thought. Was America's greatest poet-playwright going to punch me in the mouth? There was a long pause, then He said, "You have an incredible sense of imagery. You should really cherish that." Pause. "Yeah, you should really cherish that."

There wasn't a sound in the room and I almost died of happiness on the spot. After all, I was just a foreign student and the only one out of twenty writing in my second language. And everybody had hated my funny stuff before Sam Shepard had taken over the workshop.

The next two nights I couldn't sleep. I felt as if I was high on mushrooms. I wrote a short play that later was produced at my school, Cal State Fullerton - and when I moved back to Denmark, I wrote an altered version that I sold to DR, our national Danish TV-station, and was broadcast in 1986. In a certain sense, my professional career started when those words came out of Sam Shepard's mouth. They became my antidote when I later got disappointing reviews for my first novels in Denmark; they protected me against self-doubt and inferiority complexes when people accused me of being a light weight. It hurt me but I knew it wasn't true. Sam Shepard had seen me for what I was. And what I didn't know at that time was that my best work was going to be my serious novels, Flødeskumsfronten  (Le Front Chantilly, O Paraiso de Hitler) and Zarens dværg (The Tsar's Dwarf, La Naine du Tsar, A Anä Do Czar) that reflected some inner truths, if not outer about myself. His words were a gift, and I won't forget them as long as I live.

So why am I writing this on my fluffy blog - to brag?  Well, that, too, of course, but mostly because I learned how important it is to encourage others, especially when you really mean it.

At The Padua Hills playwriting workshop, Sam Shepard wanted people to write about what they'd experienced themselves. He didn't want any bullshit no matter how poetic it sounded. Once he actually scolded a black girl for writing about the slaves coming over from Africa.  He did it in a very polite way but his point was, you've never been a slave, so how can you write that?

I was reminded of tis workshop more than thirty years when I saw Sam Shepard in Bloodline on Netflix as the old patriarch of a troubled family. I got goosebumps all over because my three days with him changed my writing life and also inspired me during the three years I taught Advanced Fiction Writing at Portland State University.

Be honest in your writing. If you're funny, be funny. If you're poetic, be poetic.  Write what you are; not what you think you should be!  Or simply, write what's going on in your body, be authentic. Let it come from within!

And remember to encourage beginning writers on your way when you see something in them that they might not be aware of themselves ...


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Floating - A Healthy Trip Into Your Mother's Womb and Your Own Twisted Mind

Floating is the new craze. Or if it isn't, it should be. It's the closest you get to tripping in a salty environment.

So you go to this place called Float On on SE Hawthorne in Portland, Oregon that looks like a gay sauna club from 1977. They have six float tanks, sell legal drugs over the counter, and if you don't watch your back they'll get you juiced up on herbal tea. Then you're put in your own saltwater tank that's the same temperature as your body. It's totally dark inside, no sounds reach you except for the beating of your heart (if you have one). After a few minutes you feel you're back in the womb of your mother or being embraced by stress-free archangels.

I've floated six times, and it's a great meditation unless you suffer from claustrophobia or a fear of imaginary sharks. The first time I got so bored I tried to drown myself though, but the salt keeps you afloat no matter what - and slowly you melt into the darkness like a humid little demon. Every muscle relaxes, and after a while your neck learns that the water isn't dangerous; it's your friend, your lover, your muse.

Some people get in touch with unknown anxieties when they float. Others have lucid dreams, or just empty their bladders into The Great Unknown. I've had two small flashes from past lives, and at one point I thought I'd invented the toaster, but when I came out somebody told me I was sixty years too late. I also DID empty my bladder, hoping it was a rite of passage because I don't want to be a Danish pig. But man, the water is SO relaxing, and the float hipsters clean it afterward with their state-of-the-art filtering system.

That's right, you get your own water to soil, including visions, longings, and ideas for your next novel or snack. Floating is not a trip down memory lane but a journey into
altered states you had no idea existed  - a scenic drive on the freeway of your subconscious. Or at the very least, you get saltwater in your eyes, which can be a religious experience, too.

So friends, followers, health nuts, I can wholeheartedly recommend an anti stress floating to anybody who can stand their own company for an hour and a half. Most people can't, of course. That's why they get iPhones, but that's another story altogether.

(Check out here in Portland. However, they have float tanks several other places in the world)

This is a picture of the float I did this morning (it's me in the middle). Float On in Portland offers three kinds of rooms, two ocean floats, two oasis tanks, and two float pools. I like them all and they seem to like me.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Dammit, Why Did We Miss The Naked Bike Ride in Portland? (Sweaty Balls and All)

I'm still disappointed I didn't make it to The Naked Bike Ride Saturday night in Portland. All those bloated bellies and saggy balls flapping in the wind.

My Pale Beauty and I wanted to go, but as everybody knows it's hard work getting naked. First you have to take off your clothes, then you need to make sure that your genitals are behaving.

But if God has blessed you with a great body, you have a responsibility to flaunt it. We belonged in that race, and I wasn't going to wear a sissy helmet or a g-string like all the Germans I know.No, I was going to get Danish and dirty, ripping off my helmet and shouting obscenities at Volvos.

The ride is supposedly part of The World Naked Bike Ride, an annual occurrence in Portland, San Francisco, and several pornographic cities in Europe. I've heard they even have one at Guatanamo bay. This year thousands of Portlanders biked through downtown to prove that riding naked is the thing to do when it's 56 degrees and your nipples are as hard as kidney stones.

But as I said we never made it. My Pale Beauty and I had just stripped naked when we found a mouse in the house. The mouse raced through the apartment and hid under the sofa. I tried to get it out with a broom. When that didn't work I went New Age on the rodent. "I see God in you, so get the fuck out of there before I call Rent-a-Cat, okay?"

And it's true. I don't want to kill sentient beings; it's only people I feel like terminating. God, we did everything in our power to get rid of the mouse. First, we put on a noisy fan, then we ran around screaming like maniacs.

"No, we have to do something nastier than that," I said to my girlfriend and put on the latest Justin Bieber CD, but the mouse still stayed put. Later we found out that it had built a nest under one of the cushions. It was quite comfortable there, munching on tofu crackers and baba ganoush - the rodent even enjoyed watching Dancing with the Stars.

So yes, My Pale Beauty and I missed The Naked Bike Ride once more. And I wanted to go so badly - not to show off my ten inches (I have a long collarbone), but to teach people how vulnerable we cyclists are in traffic.

You see, The Naked Bike Ride in Portland is not about clitoris. I mean, nobody in their right mind would wank off to a middle aged man with fairy wings - or housewives from Beaverton mowing through intersections in Walgreen-bikinis. No, The Naked Bike Ride is an homage to naked cyclists who are killed every day - by truck drivers wearing too much clothes.

So it's high time that we take action - and Saturday thousands of cyclists in Portlandia made the kind of political statement that can bring world leaders to their knees - at least if we hand them a pair of binoculars.

This is a rewritten and updated version of my blog about The Naked Bike Ride in 2009. We still haven't caught the mouse, by the way.


Saturday, April 5, 2014

Denmark for Dummies 2014 - A Superficial Guide to the World's Happiest Nation (Unless You're a Giraffe, Of Course)

Winner of's International Blog Contest, 2009. Updated version, April 2014.

All Danes are blond and gorgeous. And every single of us have a cabin with a view of a lake. No wonder the whole world wants to be Danish, but don't get your hopes up. We're very protective of our gene pool.

You're smart.

You're planning to go to Denmark.

You've always wanted to visit our country because you know that it's the most exciting nation in the world. You tell yourself, "Why would I want to go to Paris, New York or the Himalayas when I can go rock climbing on Lolland?"

"Yes, I'm trendy. I want to visit Denmark because the Danes are so eco-friendly with their bikes, cuisine, and wind mills. And most important, they're the happiest and most trusting people in the world, always making the news for positive reasons, like killing healthy giraffes in their Zoos and letting their kids watch them getting eaten by lions."

Yes, that's right. In 2008 and 2013 Denmark was named the happiest nation on the planet for humans. And I'm living proof of that. Right now this Danish novelist is sitting in cozy Copenhagen staring at the sleet, enjoying the 43 degrees of sloppy spring and his $10 latte.

Come and visit us, will you?

And please bring all your credit cards because God knows you're going to need them!

Here's a superficial introduction to my Southern Scandinavian Paradise. Enjoy. 

Name: Denmark (Danmark)

Inhabitants: 5.6 million

Capital: Copenhagen (1.5 million)

Ranking: Most livable city in the world (Monocle, British Magazine, 2008)

Other Top Rankings in the World That We Take Pride In:
a) Most trusting people in the world (April 2011)
b) Best restaurant in the world (Noma, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014)
c) Most Pork consumption per capita (not counting your neighborhood sheikh)
d) Best Government in the world (2014)

Language: Danish.

Government: Constitutional monarchy.

Currency: Kroner. (5.5 DKK to a US dollar)

Religion: No, thank you.

Name of Queen: Margrethe II.

Name of Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt. As popular as chlamydia, but somewhat prettier.

Size: The 8th biggest country in the world if you count Greenland. (Always count Greenland).

Weather: Not really.

Unemployment Rate: Rising

Hospitality If You're Not White: Falling

Crime per Capita: Fourth lowest in the world.

Corruption: Second lowest in the world.

Average Consumption of Beer per Capita: Fourth highest in the world.

Best Selfie of the Year by Far: Helle Thorning-Schmidt with two unknown pals.

Famous Dead Danes: Hans Christian Andersen, Søren Kierkegaard (philosopher), King Canute (conquered England), Tycho Brahe (conquered the universe), Isak Dinesen (conquered Africa), Karen Blixen (conquered Meryl Streep), Vitus Bering (explorer), Niels Bohr (physicist), Georg Jensen (design), Carl Nielsen (composer), Carl  Dreyer (film director), Victor Borge (comedian), Hamlet (Shakespeare's boy toy)

Famous Living Danes: Caroline Wozniacki (fading tennis star, known for her Sienna Williams' impersonations), Lars Ulrich (founder of Metallica), Anders Fogh Rasmussen (General Secretary of NATO; he'll be happy to bomb any country America tells him to), Helena Christensen (model, unfortunately not in porn), Peter Høeg (author), Jussi Adler-Olsen (like Stieg Larsson, just alive), Michael Laudrup, Peter Schmeichel (soccer players), Nicklas Bendtner (underwear model), Kevin Magnussen (Formula One driver), Lars von Trier and Susanne Bier (film directors),René Redzepi (chef)

Danes Who Ought to Be Dead: Jante.

Famous Half Danes: Viggo Mortensen, Scarlett Johansson, Ludvig Holberg.

Best Mads Mikkelsen:  Mads Mikkelsen

Danish TV-Series That Have Conquered the World and Perhaps Mars, Too:  The Killing (Forbrydelsen), The Castle (Borgen), The Bridge (Broen, co-production with Sweden)

Most Popular Danish Children Song of All Time: Barbie Girl by Aqua

Most Famous Danish Building: The Opera House in Sydney (Jørn Utzon)

Danish Imperialism: Lego, Maersk, Ecco, Vesta, Bang and Olufsen, Carlsberg, Tuborg.

Daily Smokers: 10% of population. (All of them will be sitting on your lap when you go to an outdoor café)

Obesity Rate: 22% of population.

Best Danish Food: Moss, lichen, and soil mixed with bone marrow from an animal you don't want to eat. (Noma, world's best restaurant between 2009-2012, 2014. You can now make reservations for January 2022)

Denmark's Claim to Fame in Spain, Greece & Cyprus: Blond girls with herpes.

Denmark's Claim to Fame in the Far East: Badminton.

Denmark's Claim to Fame in the Middle East: Cartoons.

Denmark's Claim to Fame in Great Britain: Bacon & The Killing (Forbrydelsen) starring Sofie Gråbøl and her sweater.

Most Important Danish Invention of All Time: The atomic bomb (Niels Bohr)

Denmark's Biggest Contribution to American Sports: Morten Andersen, the all-time leading scorer in the NFL.

Best Tourist Attraction If You're Into Knights in Shining Armour:  Frederiksborg castle, Hillerød and Kronborg, Helsingør  (Hamlet's castle) 

Best Tourist Attraction If You're Eight Years Old or Behaving Like It: Legoland.

Best Tourist Attraction If You're Eighty Years Old or Behaving Like It: Tivoli.

Most Overrated Tourist Attraction: The Little Mermaid.

This is the kind of abuse we Danes have to tolerate every day: Foreigners who fondle our national treasure. Shameless, that's what it is.

Time of Glory I: When the Danish vikings conquered England in the 11th century.

Time Of Glory II: When Denmark won the European Championship in football (soccer) in 1992 and the whole country behaved like a frat party.

Most Beautiful Cities in Denmark: Copenhagen, Helsingør (Elsinore), Ærøskøbing, Faaborg, Ribe, Skagen, Svaneke, and Christiania (if you still think that Che Guevara and bean bag chairs are cool)

Places to Avoid at All Costs Unless You Have A Secret Death Wish: Mørke, Ringsted, Brøndby, Fisketorvet.

Best Months to Visit the Land of the Danes: From late May to mid-September.

Best Month to Commit Suicide Because It's Dark, Dreary, and Everybody Wish They Were in Thailand: January.

Best Danish Traits: Tolerance, sense of humor, informality.

Worst Danish Traits: Intolerance, pettiness, self-satisfied grumpiness.

What You'll Miss the Most If You're an American Visiting Denmark: TV anchors with perfect teeth.

What You'll Miss the Most If You're Italian: Bread and Berlusconi.

What You'll Miss the Most If You're Norwegian: Norway

Most Beautiful Area of Denmark: The Silkeborg lake district in Jutland and the island of Bornholm.

Most Stupid Thing to Say to a Dane: Now, which part of Germany are you from again?

Second Most Stupid Thing to Say to a Dane: Sweden is my favorite Scandinavian country.

Enjoy your stay.  And tourists, please forgive Copenhagen for looking like Pompeii.  We're building a Metro that we don't really need ...

Copyright, Peter H. Fogtdal, Danish Accent, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014


Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Time-Share Muse (A Short Story For Geniuses)

I was thirty-three when I discovered I was God.

A late evening in August, I sat by the desk in my study, the moon hiding behind the clouds, the sound of tow trucks still in my ears. There was nothing on television that night, so I put my pen to the paper and words started to pour out of me—-words of indiscernible beauty, turning into sentences, pages, a narrative of unequaled genius.

None of this came from me, of course. The inspiration came from outside—-from my muse, gods, the spirit of Proust or Kafka, or a combination of both? A new channel had been installed to supply me with the insights and skills to write my own classic. As I sat there, I was taken over by a Light so strong it blinded me—and after a few minutes I was the Light. I kept on writing like a lunatic, the moon hiding behind the clouds, the sound of tow trucks still in my ears.

Somehow, I knew that I’d found my true home where everything was possible. I could write whatever I wanted: haiku poems, medieval sonnets, Swedish crime fiction —-I was, after all, the creator of the universe and every idea in the history of thought was available to me. When I finished writing, I let out a sigh. Outside, the morning was a lemony yellow, the sun shining indiscriminately on apple trees and lawn mowers. There was a raccoon in the garden munching on marigolds. I devoured a bagel with cream cheese, knowing that unknown worlds lived inside of me; eagles of beauty hibernated and laid their eggs inside of me.

Two days went by. I was sitting by my desk again, swallowed by the dark night; the moon was hiding behind the clouds, the sound of tow trucks still in my ears. I started to read the pages I’d written, with the humility you would expect from someone in the presence of Holy Writ—-and I kept on reading into the night, my mouth open and dry.

But when I finished, I knew one thing for sure: my pages were absolute shit! What I had written was childish, stupid, and predictable drivel! How could I have been so wrong? Why hadn’t the beauty I experienced been channeled to the page? I pondered this for a while, as I paced up and down the floor of my study, banging my head against radiators. I thought of those strange ghosts that lived inside of me, and I wanted to honor their genius—-I wanted to honor my own genius, which was so much larger than anyone else’s.

So, I sat down again, the moon hiding behind the clouds, the sound of tow trucks still in my ears: New letters grew out of my pen and turned into words of bellicose beauty; crisp paragraphs rose like shiny cathedrals; paragraphs were catapulted from outer space and into my soul. However, this time something magical did happen—-my hand moved by itself. The prose was thorny and twisted. My letters were huge as morgues; the g’s suicidal bombers in baggy pants; the t’s pornographers lusting for cheerleaders. The air got cold around me, as if an unknown entity sucked the warmth out of my text. A Higher Power was leading me and I continued for an eternity floating through space.

When I woke up, I had no idea where I had been. Then I looked at the twenty pages in front of me. To my surprise, I had repeated one line again and again:

    I want to kill you with an ice axe, 
       I want to kill you with an ice axe, 
             I want to kill you with an ice axe, 
                       I want to kill you with an ice axe. 

I stared at the pages in front of me, sweat pouring down my face. What was my muse trying to tell me – or was someone making fun of me? Or worse, did I have a muse at all? Perhaps I’d been forced to share my muse with much lesser writers. Could it be that she was a timeshare muse, a slut floating around space, waiting to download her “art” to the first hack she ran into? Or was I the victim of some cruel, cosmic hoax?

For days, I considered never writing a word again. Maybe I wasn’t meant to be the new Kafka or Murakami after all—–or not even an accessible Proust? But in a rare vision, I saw the greatness of my own writing. I want to kill you with an ice axe, was definitely a simple line but a clear a reference to the artist’s worst enemy, the ego—-an ode to man’s eternal struggle against icy and senseless ambitions.

So what my text said was: don’t strive for fame, just get rid of your ego and write! After that brilliant realization, I got back in the flow. I closed my eyes, trusting that the words coming to me would be from the right source—-not from demons or tramp souls but from the finest muses available in the Heavens.

Once more, I lost all sense of time and space. A cloud drifted into me, filling me up with prose. This work was going to be my gift to the world. This book wouldn’t just help my career; it would be my gift to humanity and coming generations … and I closed my eyes, tears flowing down my grateful cheeks. My muse had tested me before, but now I was the medium I’d always wanted to be. The prose came to me in significant spurts: Faith is acceptance of which we imagine to be true, that which we cannot proveLife is full of secrets. You can’t learn them all at once … and I went deeper into the zone, deeper into the chore of the collective unconscious where all art, philosophy, and memories are stored … When a question has no correct answer, there is only one honest response … and I stayed there for several days or weeks, lost in the world of literature I was a co-creator of.

When I came out again, four hundred pages were lying in front of me. I sent the script to my editor, knowing that I had accomplished something unique. Actually, my writing was so special that I didn’t even need to read it or edit it.

My editor, reeking of mouthwash, received me in her lavish office. “I read your script,” she said. “You have copied The Da Vinci Code from start to finish.”

 I went pale, “What?”

“You have sent me a word for word transcription of The Da Vinci Code.” My editor threw the script at me, while all colors left my face. Then I went out of the office, the moon hiding behind the clouds, the sound of tow trucks still in my ears.  


The Time-Share Muse was first published in India's Four Quarters Magazine in August 2013. 

PS. A few months ago I finished my latest novel, a spiritual farce that takes place in India. It's my first novel in English but thirteenth overall. Needless to say it's a classic unless, of course, I stole it from someone else? (The Tsar's Dwarf  which is out in America is a translation from Danish)


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Course In Political Miracles: Marianne Williamson May Be High on Tofu But She Still Makes More Sense Than the Politicians on the Hill

Marianne Williamson is running for Congress in California's District 33. 

If you have no idea who she is, it's probably because you need A Course in Political Miracles. Marianne wrote A Return to Love and is one of America's finest spiritual writers and teachers. One of her many homes is The New York Times bestseller list where she often stays for months. She is also Oprah's advisor in matters of the soul --- and surely you have heard of Oprah?

During a short trip to Southern California I went to a meeting for Marianne's many volunteers. (By the way, I'm allowed to call Marianne by her first name. Even her own website does:

The volunteer meet-up took place in The Source, a beautiful spiritual center on Rose Avenue in Venice --- the kind of area where hippies wear Armani and order pizza with vegan crust. When I walked in, I was delighted to see mandalas, smiling Buddhas, and about 150 levitating volunteers who wanted to help Marianne get elected. I doubt Mitt Romney's headquarters looked like this. Romney never seemed like a man who would get Yogis excited about anything.

The Source is an old historical church with a saintly and serene atmosphere. (In America any structure built before 1980 is considered historical). Normally it's used for meditations, sacred chanting, and all those things that make Shirley Maclaine excited. The Source seemed like the perfect venue for a woman who is staring a movement that's based on the best four letter word of all, love. MONEY OUT, PEOPLE IN, as it said on a hand-out. Which downward dog wouldn't agree with that? 

Since I'm a Dane from Portland who isn't allowed to vote in the U.S. (except for American Idol) I didn't know where to sit in the crowded church. All around me people were holding up signs, Santa Monica, South Bay, Marina del Rey etc, so I decided I belonged to Venice since I got drunk on their boardwalk once. Luckily I was graciously accepted into Venice's circle of volunteers, all of them sweet and enthusiastic.

When Marianne Williamson appeared, she impressed me. She was honest, passionate and didn't sound like any other politician. Instead of repeating the usual "Washington is broken" mantra, she talked about how WE are broken inside and how that affects the society we are part of. 

She also had a stern warning: "The American government is constantly chipping away at our democratic freedoms---one capitulation to moneyed interests at a time, one new gerrymandered district at a time, one government surveillance program at a time, one limiting of our voting rights at a time, one intimidation of journalists at the time, one Patriot Act at a time ... So at what point do we stand up to our own government and say, "hey, guys. Whose side are you on?"

This quote could easily have been used on Human Rights Day, December 10 when 562 writers from 83 countries (including Nobel prize winners like Umberto Eco, J.M. Coetzee, Orhan Pamuk, and little me) signed a petition called Writers Against Mass Surveillance that was printed in newspapers around the world, including The Guardian, Frankfurter Allgemeine, El Pais, La Repubblica, and Politiken. 

But Marianne Williamson went further at the meet-up in California. She promised to run an outer and an inner campaign, trying to raise consciousness everywhere, since we can't demand change from Washington if we don't change ourselves.

So from a spiritual  perspective we shouldn't just be angry with our government. We should see it as a frightened part of ourselves, obsessed with the fear of terrorism and love of control.
Well, almost everything Williamson said that evening made sense to a spiritual airhead like me. She did NOT come across as if she had overdosed on soy milk. She was NOT a new age caricature but argued well. And thank God, she doesn't run for the Democrats but as an independent who wants love and dignity for everybody "instead of a sociopathic economic system that operates without a heart."

"I would be the happy if all my readers would donate as little as $5 to this campaign. In that case we would have more than enough money," Marianne said, finishing the evening with the kind of prayer you won't hear in Congress too often.

But why should I go on about Williamson's Gandhi-like campaign? Go to her own website and see for yourself. Marianne Williamson is just one of many visionaries who knows that it's last call for humankind. Something has to be done about our fading democracy where money has such an obscene influence on what happens in Washington. Passing a decent law here and there isn't enough. We need a series of earthquakes to jolt us out of our self-absorbed empathy - you don't have to be Mamas & Papas to see that.

The question is actually simple: What is going to win in the end?  Love and trust, or fear and surveillance?  Most of the media and the establishment will definitely laugh at Marianne Williamson. But no matter what you think of a movement like hers, independent candidates are on the rise. How could they not be when Congress and Obama are fighting like toddlers? 

But perhaps Marianne Williamson could lead the way in America. Now that would be A Course In Political Miracles indeed.