SELECTED STORIES by Benny Andersen


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Six brief samplings from the fiction of Danish poet/playwright/musician Andersen--who seems most impressive in short, absurdist, almost Gogol-esque monologues that blend whimsy and suppressed rage. In ""The Pants,"" the narrator is supposedly driven to self-destructive behavior by the used pants he's wearing (but really, it seems, by a violently ambivalent attitude towards women). In ""A Happy Fellow,"" the cheerful monologist--a secretly seething but outwardly benign husband-and-father--takes ""a vacation"": a mini-festival of sourness and death-dueling aggression. And best of all is ""Layer Cake,"" in which a woman tells--with an infectious lack of logic--how her husband's unwillingness to eat layer cake led to the collapse of their marriage. The two longer selections, however, are less sprightly: ""Fats Olsen"" is a heavy, familiar parable of ""lynch mentality,"" narrated by a widower who is unfairly suspected of child-molesting tendencies; and ""The Speaking Strike"" (a chapter from Andersen's first novel, On the Bridge) is a 1940s-Copenhagen adolescent's tale of not-going-along with a best pal's arbitrary, anti-parent rebellion. (Parallels to the Danish reactions to German occupation may be intended here--but, in the sketchy excerpt, will be lost on most US readers.) Still, despite this unevenness and obvious translation problems when it comes to Andersen's chatty, slangy word-play: intriguing glimpses of a more comical approach to such characteristic Scandinavian preoccupations as existentialism and the society/individualism conflict.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1982
ISBN: 0915306255
Publisher: Curbstone Press (321 Jackson St., Willimantic, CT 06226)