And Other Stories

Klaus Rifbjerg (1931-2015)

By Dorthe Sondrup Andersen, master's degree in literature and culture writer, 2006


Its easy to get an overdose of aesthetics, fiction and good manners. Perhaps that was what made Klaus Rifbjerg write his collection of short stories called And Other Stories more than forty years ago. Here he takes the mickey out of almost everything and everyone, and even today some readers will think that Klaus Rifbjerg has an unusually dirty mind and a similarly foul mouth. But the fact of the matter is that hardly any other contemporary Danish authors write better literature. 

Rinse, please! 

Rifbjerg’s short stories may be about the most disgusting subjects, and the air is filled with snot and sperm, tits and farts, crap and puke, but his unusual talent as a stylist is immediately recognisable.

For example, to stick to the vomit, in the story Fear?(Angst?) he lets a young man puke “like a bubbling clogged-up drain where the waste, the filth, the world’s end of discarded humanity has piled up and is finally becoming unclogged”. 

New outlook 

As a reader one is fascinated, despite the sickening content of the short stories, for there are also truly wonderful passages that give you a whole new outlook on life. Perhaps a cottage in the dunes where the blankets being aired are seen as tongues flopping out of all the windows, or a father and a mother being observed from knee height by their little son. For example the father, very erect on his bicycle, using his legs like pistons and so tall that the leaves of the roadside trees brush against his head. An image that is contrasted with an adolescent boy’s difficulties with the bicycle rack at the public baths and an elderly Frenchman whose bicycle, besides being “strangely squat”, is also equipped with a saddle, that “had to be cutting its way slowly into the lower edge of his buttocks”.
Incidentally, it must have been the first time in Danish history that the expression ‘fuck you!’ appeared in print in a book. Today it is part of the vocabulary of just about everyone and his dog, but in 1964 it was pretty strong stuff. 

Helgoland Waterpark, 1955. Photo: Aage Sørensen. Det Kongelige Bibliotek.
Klaus Rifbjerg behind the typewriter. Photo: Bent K Rasmussen/Scanpix

Did you know?

Source: Nils Gunder Hansen: Digterkonge med knive i ærmerne. Berlingske Tidende, 2. oktober 2003, 2 sektion.

Klaus Rifbjerg has always been a provocator: He contributed to smoking hash at the Ministry of Culture's staircase together with Ebbe Kløvedal Reich as part of the youth uprising in 1968. In the same decade he also made controversy when he acquired a cream colored sports car for his art support and called it a "power extender".

The committee's justification

By the Committee for Literature, 2006

“Thank you Corinna, I say, and rise from her slithering body, thank you for your loyal gratitude and good luck with your new talk of beauty. There you lie, an old railway line with your two legs disappearing into infinity, your mound, your stomach and your breasts, and once again I say thank you and may God forgive me.”

Og andre historier is a collection of short stories which, in a feat of literary crafting, come together to form a kind of novel. Even though each of the 23 stories revolves around their own events and own cast of characters, there is a common thread that runs through the collection. Foremost is a story called “Bevidstheden” (Consciousness), which attempts to describe the moment where consciousness is formed for the first time in a very small child, and its language slowly develops. Thereafter the work moves on to slightly older children’s and young people’s experiences, concluding at the cusp of adulthood.

The work focuses particularly on the raw vulnerability of children on the brink of puberty, anxious and fascinated as they come to confront the mysteries of sex. The stories frequently examine the question of why some events are remembered and stored in our memories, whilst others simply disappear and are forgotten. The work recalls exciting events in the childhood of an Amager boy during the occupation, his first encounter with a so-called paedophile, the terrifying and mesmerizing sight of the many penises at the swimming pool, the experience of homosexuality in all its furtiveness and the irresistible, yet frightening, encounter with female sexuality and the mysteries of his first sexual relations. Provoking and bold, the stories incorporate the child’s and young person’s uncensored perceptions; they also tell of that which may seem repulsive or offensive, and which, at the time the work was published, challenged the middle class consciousness. 


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