A longtime cult-classic in Denmark, this novel about dissolution and despair has been out of print in the US for over eighty years until now.
Ole Jastrau is the very model of an enterprising and ambitious young man of letters, poised on the brink of what is sure to be a distinguished career as a critic. In fact he is teetering on the brink of an emotional and moral abyss. Bored with his beautiful wife and chafing at the burdens of fatherhood, disdainful of the commercialism and political opportunism of the newspaper he works for, he feels more and more that his life lacks meaning. He flirts with Catholicism and flirts with Communism, but somehow he doesn’t have the makings of a true believer. Then he takes up with the bottle, a truly meaningful relationship. “Slowly and quietly,” he intends to go to the dogs.
Jastrau’s romance with self-destruction will take him through all the circles of hell. The process will be anything but slow and quiet.
About the Author
Tom Kristensen (1893–1974) was born in London to a Danish metal craftsman and his wife. In 1896 the family moved to Copenhagen, where Kristensen would eventually study Danish and English at the University of Copenhagen. His early works, the poetry collection Fribytterdrømme (Pirate Dreams, 1920) and the novel Livets Arabesk (Life’s Arabesques, 1921), were enthusiastically received, and in 1922 he embarked on a trip to China and Japan, which would inspire his next two books of poetry, Paafuglefjeren (The Peacock’s Feather, 1922) and Mirakler (Miracles, 1922). Kristensen served as the literary critic at the leftist daily Politiken from 1923 to 1927 and then again from 1931 to 1963; the first stint inspired his best-known novel, Hærværk (Havoc, 1930). He would go on to publish more poetry, including the volumes Vindrosen (Windroots, 1934) and Mod den yderste Rand (Against the Furthest Edge, 1936); an autobiography, Åbenhjertige fortielser: Erindringsglimt (Candid Concealments: Flashes of Memory, 1966); and several collections of criticism and travel writing. In 1955, he was named a Knight in the Order of the Dannebrog, and in 1960 he was inducted into the Danish Academy. Kristensen lived a notoriously dissolute life in Copenhagen until 1943, when his third wife, Gerda Westermann, died in bed after a night of heavy drinking. He married his fifth wife, Ingeborg “Bosse” Weber, in 1946, and the two settled in the small southeastern island of Thurø, where they lived together until his death. He is buried next to Bosse at a church in Thurø under a stone inscribed with a line from his 1927 poem “Grass”: “If I bow down as low as I can / my world grows high.”
Carl Malmberg (1904–1979) translated more than a dozen books, short stories, and articles from Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish, including Carl Erik Soya’s Sytten (Seventeen, 1961) and Leif Panduro’s Rend mig i traditionerne (Kick Me in the Traditions, 1961). A Wisconsin native, Malmberg was also the author of the nonfiction children’s book America Is Also Scandinavian (1970).
Morten Høi Jensen is a writer and critic from Copenhagen, Denmark. He is the author of A Difficult Death: The Life and Work of Jens Peter Jacobsen. He lives in Brooklyn.
"Havoc is one of the best novels to ever come out of Scandinavia. As discomforting as it is beautiful, it portrays the fall of a man, and it’s so hypnotically written that you want to fall with him." —Karl Ove Knausgaard
“The Ulysses as well as the Steppenwolf of Danish literature.” —Nina Rosenstand