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)

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Hope, Peace of Mind, and The Kind of Literature The World Needs


I was born without peace of mind. At least that's what it felt like, but what I know for a fact is that a huge part of it was taken from me when I was four and a half. The next fifty years was a struggle, but the terror inside was probably why I had to develop a sense of humor.

I've never needed medication for my anxieties. White wine was my medication. So was living in my imagination and unlocking secrets from the stars, but the last ten years I've almost become a grounded human being. Internally, my life has never been better than now and I'm actually grateful for the struggles I've had. I would have been a human disaster if I'd gotten everything I wanted when I was thirty-three.

The awareness I have now will change my writing in the future. Most of the fourteen novels I´ve written I wouldn't write today. The Tsar's Dwarf and Flødeskumsfronten, my World War II novel, have been my biggest successes and I'm proud of them, but they are too dark for me now. And my early novels from the nineties are probably too shallow. From now on I want to lift people's spirit but whether it will happen as a novelist, a screenwriter, a spiritual speaker, a poet, or just by being the village idiot I don't know.

When I was keynote speaker at the Book Forum in Lviv, Ukraine in 2017, I told the audience that the age of thrillers and intellectual masturbation will come to an end soon. In the future we're going to need a literature that speaks to the heart, a more upbeat one because we're heading toward troubled times with a lot of uncertainty around us.

Hope must never become a four-letter world, but in the world of literature and "serious" film it often is. We seem to be addicted to misery which is understandable since it's much easier to write and has more readers. Killing people on the page is a breeze. Making them breathe is a great deal harder. Perhaps the same goes for life, but a lot of people are waking up to the fact that every word we put out there is important.

Do we want to be human sewers trolling everybody we disagree with? Or is it possible to be agents of positive change without writing spiritual dross?

By positive change I don't mean we should go in Disney mode and sanitize ourselves. We still need dramas, tragedies, and edgy thrillers. Nobody in their right mind would want to "outlaw" zombies or police detectives, but the trick is writing them so we can learn something about the human condition instead of increasing the collective anxieties in our volatile world.

I can only talk for myself, but why would I consciously rob others of their peace of mind when I know how dreadful it is to live without it?

******

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Karen Blixen - Storyteller, Mystic, Witch, and Still Going Strong After Her Own Death



Believe it or not, this is a picture of my new best friend. Her name is Karen Blixen and she is considered the greatest Danish writer of the 20th century. When Ernest Hemingway won the Noble Prize, he said they should have given it to the wonderful writer, Isak Dinesen. Isak Dinesen's real name was Karen Blixen and Meryl Streep played her in Out of Africa.

Last year Karen began to appear in my dreams and meditations; then out of the blue, I was invited to talk about my own writing and hers at Charlottenlund Castle in Copenhagen. At first, I didn't really understand why I was chosen because I've only written two novels that are somewhat inspired by her, The Tsar's Dwarf and Skorpionens hale.

When I arrived at the castle, I was surprised to read in the program that "Karen Blixen would have loved The Tsar's Dwarf."  I don't know if that's true but the main protagonist in my novel, Sørine Bentsdatter is a wise witch, and so was Karen Blixen. A benign one, sure, but definitely not your average Danish Lutheran. "Real art must always involve some witchcraft," she once wrote and that seemed to go for her life as well.

At the event in Copenhagen, I talked about Karen Blixen, The Mystic - her relationship to religion, spirituality, and destiny. As a mystic myself, I share her world view and her deep respect for all gods and faiths. Perhaps that's why I feel she is with me when I read her. Blixen's worlds creep into me and refuse to leave me in a way I've only experienced with Rumi and Hermann Hesse. I simply sensed her presence when I re-read Out of Africa last fall.

Perhaps this isn't as strange as it sounds. The relationship between writer and reader is often a metaphysical one because even dead writers love to be read. Just like their prose, they live on and inspire who they can in this beautiful, magical, and enigmatic universe where nobody ever dies.

Recommended reading:
Out of Africa
Seven Gothic Tales (especially The Roads Round Pisa and The Monkey)
Winter Tales (especially Sorrow-Acre)