Rifbjerg, Klaus

Rifbjerg, Klaus
▪ 2003

      Denmark's literary bel esprit, Klaus Rifbjerg, responded to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, in the U.S. and the pivotal Danish general election of Nov. 20, 2001, with a political commentary, “Tidsmaskinen. En rutsjebaneførers bekendelser” (2002). Rifbjerg's essay covered a brief span of time—the four months after the attacks until Jan. 7, 2002—and addressed what had changed, what had not, and where Denmark might be headed. In a Feb. 17, 2002, essay that appeared in the newspaper Politiken, he took the pulse of Danish society again with “Hvordan har vi det?”.

      Rifbjerg, who adeptly alternated between fantasy and realistic forms of writing, marked his 70th birthday in 2001 with a novel, Regnvejr, and a collection of prose poems, 70 epifanier. In addition, that year new editions of his work were published—Den søde kløe, a volume of journal commentaries from Information and Politiken; Rifbjergs digte, and Oven over alting—og andre noveller, a collection that illustrated Rifbjerg's talent for capturing moments at the heart of memory. In 2001 Rifbjerg also edited an anthology of essays, Den kulturradikale udfordring—en antologi, and he claimed the prize from the Mother Tongue Society. Ever energetic, creative, and prolific, Rifbjerg added Nansen og Johansen. Et vintereventyr (2002) to an impressive oeuvre that encompassed all genres and spanned nearly 50 years.

      Klaus Thorvald Rifbjerg was born on Dec. 15, 1931, on Amager, an island-suburb of Copenhagen. He attended Vestre Borgerdydskole, where he wrote plays and revues. In 1950 he received a scholarship to attend Princeton University; his one-year stay there led to an appreciation of American literature and influenced his decision to become a writer. Thereafter he worked as a reviewer for Information and Politiken.

      Rifbjerg made his mark as a poet with Under vejr med mig selv: en utidig selvbiografi (1956); the impulsive and innovative poems of the collection focused on life passages. Rifbjerg's first novel, Den kroniske uskyld (1958), dealt with puberty and became a modern classic. Later works included poetry, plays, short stories, journal articles, and novels, one of which, Anna (jeg) Anna (1969, Anna (I) Anna [1982]), won the 1970 Nordic Council Literature Prize. In the 1970s and '80s, he penned several romans à clef that were replete with abundant humour and irony. He explored his own life in poetry and prose in Huset, eller hvad der gjorde størst indtryk på mig i det tyvende århundrede (2000). Other literary awards included the Grand Prize of the Danish Academy and the Golden Laurels of the Danish Booksellers' Association. In 1967 he became a member of the Danish Academy. From 1984 to 1992 Rifbjerg served as literary director for Gyldendal Publishers. Though he and his wife resided in Málaga, Spain, they maintained a summer home in Kandestederne, Den.

Lanae Hjortsvang Isaacson

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▪ Danish writer
born Dec. 15, 1931, Copenhagen, Den.

      Danish poet, novelist, playwright, and editor.

      Rifbjerg first attracted public notice with an ironic collection of autobiographical prose poems, Under vejr med mig selv (1956; “Findings about Myself”). Efterkrig (1957; “After the War”) contains much of his earliest poetry. His first novel, Den kroniske uskyld (1958; “The Chronic Innocence”), is a further examination of his past and describes his school years while considering the loss of innocence. His later novels included Anna (jeg) Anna (1969; Anna, I, Anna), Tak for turen (1975; “Thanks for the Trip”), and De hellige aber (1981; Witness to the Future).

      Of great importance for Danish poetry of the 1960s were the poems in Konfrontation (1960), in which Rifbjerg attempted to create new forms of language. He used the same innovative technique in Camouflage (1961) and Portræt (1963). His Amagerdigte (1965; “Amager Poems”) was a collection of realistic poems about the island on which he was raised. Digte af Klaus Rifbjerg (“Poems of Klaus Rifbjerg”) appeared in 1986. Rifbjerg was editor-in-chief for the literary periodical Vindrosen (1959–63). He cowrote with Jasper Jensen a number of satirical revues for the Student Association in Copenhagen and also wrote for film, radio, and television.

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Universalium. 2010.

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