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, 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.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Learning Italian in Lucca: Calvino, Puccini, Vaffanculo. It's All Poetry To Me

During a short stay in Italy last month, I passed through Lucca in Toscana where it all started for me.

In the nineties I decided to do something I wanted since I was a kid: learn Italian. I suffered from depressions back then and since wine wasn't the answer, Italian had to be. Luckily I was right. The second I started to speak the most beautiful language in the world, clouds would evaporate in my head, beauty filled every cell in my body, and I came instantly alive, helped by the sun, the mountains, the penne arrabbiata.

After half a year I could almost read Calvino and shout vaffanculo. My writing became more vibrant, my digestion improved - how could it not since I was surrounded by saints, gelato, and the healing of language? Sometimes I would break down in gratitude, munching on words like melanzane and abbastanza, while getting high om condizionale. There was so much LIFE in Italy, so much forbidden fruit passing me on noisy scooters, so much dirty linen hanging from lazy balconies, so many signs: Campobasso, francobolli, caduta massi, all of them poetry to me.

At one point I dreamed of marrying Italy, but today I only want her as my mistress. I drop by as often as I can, knowing that all hilltowns, lemon orchards, and mountain lakes will be in my blood until the day I die.

Lucca is the prettiest town in Tuscany. Forget overrated Firenze, crowded Siena. touristy Pisa, ridiculous San Gimigniano.  They are all fine if you like Disneyland. No, Lucca is the real deal. It's quiet, sleepy, stylish, and magical at night when all the tourists have gone back to their cruise ships and their five star hotels in Florence.

The greatest thing about Lucca is that it doesn't have a single thing that snobs have to see, except for Le Mura, the walls around the old city that may be the greatest place in the world to walk your Schnauzer, or go for a jog.

 Lucca is a city for people who truly love Italy. But I'm only talking about centro storico. Everything outside le mura is uninteresting and drab.

I started learning Italian at Koine in Via Mordini in 1994, came back several times the following years, continued my studies in Feltre in Veneto and in Perugia where I survived the big earthquake and the chocolate. 

Around 2000 my Italian was pretty good; now it has deteriorated because I live in America and can't drop by as often as I would like. But literary as I am, I still read Corriere dello Sport and Stefano Benni's short stories. I also listen to Zucchero and Enrico Ruggieri. Italy is part of me and has given me so much inspiration. Four of my thirteen novels were partly written in one of the greatest countries on earth, the obscenely beautiful and delightfully dysfunctional Italia.

Back in those days where I only understood the football scores in the sports papers. *****

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Rescue of the Danish Jews in October 1943: My Grandfather Was One of Them

Seventy years ago today, my Jewish grandfather David Huda escaped to neutral Sweden in the bottom of a fishing boat. He went off from Gilleleje in Northern Seeland in the middle of the night with eight others. The rescue was beautifully organized, and seven thousands Danish Jews got away during October 1943. 
Denmark has always taken pride in the fact that we saved 92% of our Jewish citizens. However, one of many reasons we were so successful was actually because of the Germans. Most of them weren't interested in catching the Jews, since there wasn't much anti-semitism to play into in Denmark. So the Wehrmacht made the  calculation that prosecuting the local Jews only would create more trouble in a country that finally had started to fight back against the German occupation.
Two weeks after my grandfather escaped, my Christian grandmother, uncle, and mother followed from Kalkbrænderihavnen in Copenhagen. My half-Jewish Mom was ten years old in October 1943, deadly scared that Gestapo or the German soldiers were going to find them. But everything went smoothly. They met up with my grandfather in a refugee camp in Molle, Scania (Skåne) and stayed in seven different places in Sweden until Denmark was liberated in May, 1945 by British and  American soldiers.

Before the war, my family lived in Kibæk in rural Jutland. My grandfather was the only Jew in the  area, and definitely the only Christian Jew since he had been forcibly converted when he arrived from Palestine in 1906. 
In early 1943, my grandfather joined a small resistance group that hid English agents in their barns. He also was crazy enough to befriend a soldier from Vienna at the same time. Call it intuition because the German-Austrian soldier ended up helping my grandfather escape in October 1943. 
In 1998 I told David Huda's amazing life story in Drømmeren fra Palæstina (The Dreamer From Palestine). It was my first best seller in Denmark and was later translated into French as Le Reveur de Palestine (Gaia Editions, 2005). One day I hope it will come out in English and in many other languages as well.
Needless to say, I miss my whole family like crazy these days. They all survived the Second World War, but one of them died in June 1945. That story you can read as well in Drømmeren fra Palæstina. You can download the ebook (ebog) here from Arnold Busck in Danish.
My novelized biography from 1998 (Lindhardt & Ringhof) came out in five editions. The book sold out a long time ago, but it was re-released as an audiobook last year. You can download the Danish audiobook here and listen to it immediately

I presented the French edition at the book festival Litterature Europeenne Cognac in France in 2006. I still count that as one of my greatest moments as a novelist.  You can still buy the French edition on Amazon.

The French edition of my novel from 2006 (Gaia Editions). It's available on French Amazon as well.

 My mother Marie Søndergaard Huda in Dalarne, Sweden in late 1944. 
My grandmother Marie Angelique Søndergaard Huda and my mother half a year before the German occupation. 
 David Huda wrote his own life story in 1950. Funnily enough, my novelized biography from 1998 was much closer to the truth than his own autobiography, because my grandfather chose to leave out some of the most dramatic and painful events. I put them in which was important to my mother as well.
I partly based The Dreamer from Palestine on his book, my mother's  recollection, and most of all, my own imagination. There were so many holes and half-truths in my grandfather's story that I used it as a template to write an epic novel about one of 20th century Denmark's first immigrants. But I'm still loyal to what actually happened in Safed, Jaffa, Jerusalem, Kibæk, Herning, Copenhagen, and Sweden during my maternal granddad's 82 years on planet earth.
God bless you David, Erik, Marie, and Marie. I hope you read this blog wherever you are.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Homage to Indie Book Stores Everywhere. What Would We Do Without You?

In a small town on Spanish Ibiza, there's a small book store called Libro Azul. Earlier this summer, I went there with a friend to buy her a small gift. My first choice going in was Siddharta by Hermann Hesse, followed by The Magus by John Fowles, and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Murakami (Arundhati Roi's The God of Small Things or Olga Tokarczuk's House of Day, House of Night would be great, too)

I knew it was a long shot that a small indie store would have those books in English. I expected a bland soup of Da Vinci Codes, 1001 Shades of Gray, and icy Swedish thrillers where even the prose has been viciously beheaded. My friend and I walked straight to the small English section that consisted of about three hundred books, and to my shock this small independent book store in sleepy Santa Gertrudis on Ibiza had the first three!

That's right. Out of three hundred books in English, Siddharta, The Magus, and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle were all there!

"What a fantastic selection you have," I said to the owner, trying hard not to hug him to death and shower him with the kind of atrocious kisses you would expect from deranged novelists.

"I want people to read good stuff," he said with a shrug, "so when they ask for a bad book, I try to convince them to buy a good one." He picked up The Big Book of Pussy that was lying on the front desk for all kids to see. "With a few exceptions, of course," he added with a big smile.

A few minutes later we walked out of the store, with the firm belief that independent book stores will survive absolutely everything, including cockroaches and who knows, maybe even Amazon?

A young reader dreaming of Harry Potter and Pippi Longstocking?  What would she do in a world devoid of small indie book stores that prefer pulp from the sublime?  Even kids can't be online all the time. So I've been told, anyway.