Foreword by C Claire Thomson
Klaus Rifbjerg’s 1958 novel has become a constantly reprinted classic of twentieth-century Danish literature. It is the story of the unequal friendship between two teenagers, Janus and Tore, told from the point of view and in the schoolboy slang of the hero-worshipping Janus. Tore is a gifted student, mature beyond his years, effortlessly able to impress teachers and fellow pupils alike with his knowledge and charm. It is a foregone conclusion that he will fall in love at the school dance with the equally peerless Helle, and she with him; together they are the school’s golden couple. It seems they will achieve a perfect union; but there is a snake in Paradise in the form of Helle’s mother, fru Junkersen. Janus watches helplessly as the golden dream turns into a nightmare which destroys the two young lives, and he realises his own complicity in perpetuating an unsustainable myth. Rifbjerg has been a central figure in Danish literary life – as novelist, poet, playwright and cultural commentator – for the last sixty years, publishing works at an astonishing rate, around 175 in all. This novel, which was his first, is generally acknowledged to be his masterpiece.