Klaus Rifbjerg (1931-2015) is one of the great masters of Danish literature. In this deeply personal and moving interview from 2013, the writer looks back on his life and literary career, reflecting on what it means to age – and to die.
“It would never be fun if it wasn’t serious.” Rifbjerg started writing because he didn’t feel represented by the contemporary literature and therefore felt the need to write his own. This sense of wanting to take the next step forward and to always speak his mind has been present in his work from thence, which also made him an avid social commentator.
Rifbjerg, who divided his time between Spain and Denmark, also contemplates what it means to be Danish. Though he is essentially proud of his nationality, he is not afraid to point out flaws and doesn’t pass up the opportunity to express his concerns and his contempt for the nationalistic Danish People’s Party: “The moment I leave the country the Danish People’s Party gets another seat. I can’t stand it! So I ought to have stayed at home, not that you can talk any sense into them – but maybe you could strangle some of them.”
Klaus Rifbjerg (1931-2015) was a Danish modernist writer, who authored an impressive number of novels, poetry collections, essays, short story collections, plays (for TV, radio and stage), film scripts, children’s books and memoirs. His breakthrough was in 1958 with the novel ‘Den kroniske uskyld’, which was made into a movie many years later in the 1980s. Other books include his debut ‘Under vejr med mig selv’ (1956), ‘Konfrontation’ (1960), ‘Camouflage’ (1961), ‘Amagerdigte’ (1965), ‘Anna (jeg) Anna’ (1969), ‘Tukama’ (1984) and ‘Knastørre digte’ (2009). Among his many honours are the Swedish Academy Nordic Prize, known as the “little Nobel” (1999), The Nordic Council’s Literature Prize (1970) and the grand prize of the Danish Academy (1966). Rifbjerg was also a renowned journalist, critic and editor.
In the interview Rifbjerg reads from the following works: ‘Edgar’ and ‘Skyggespil’ (from ‘Intet sikkert abnormt’ 2013) and ‘Den kroniske uskyld’ (1958). An extract of Danish actor Sofie Gråbøl reading the poem ‘Hjertets termometer’ is also featured.
Klaus Rifbjerg was interviewed by Marc-Christoph Wagner at the Louisiana Literature festival at Louisiana Museum of Modern art in 2013.