Bente Clod, novelist, poet, filmscriptwriter and writing teacher, author of 27 books, published her first novel in 1975 in her native Denmark. She was strongly inspired by the women’s movement and the new approach to gender roles. Her novels and poetry about women, love and sexual politics quickly gathered wide acclaim both in Denmark and in the rest of Scandinavia. Clod soon became involved in cultural politics in Denmark. She also was a co-founder of a women’s press, a foundation for women artists and helped start a women’s group within The Danish Writers’ Guild. In the 1980s, leading Danish poet and critic Poul Borum stated that
Bente Clod can write. If only she would write about something else. Today her books cover a wide range of genres, from stories about young people to two books about writing techniques. She has been awarded several prestigious literary prizes. Her latest award was a grant from the Ragna Sidén Foundation.
Bente Clod started teaching creative writing in 1986. She combined the techniques and approaches she learned while studying script writing at the Danish Film School, with the anti authoritarian approach and philosophy she had learned in the women’s groups. Clod’s emphasis is on nurturing each student’s unique voice so that they will be able to express themselves in a truly personal manner and style.
Among the techniques her students learn in her writing groups are power writing, the structure of story telling, how to create a character, and the way language can be used both consciously and unconsciously. They also learn that there is no
ideal way to write. The students exchange texts and critique each other in a non judgmental and mutually supportive atmosphere. The goal is not necessarily to produce new writers, but first and foremost to give the students the tools to express themselves with as much felicity of language as possible in writing.
A review of Bente Clod’s trilogy from 2002, Angel Power:
Life, death and love – is that not what it’s all about? Bente Clod’s first young adult novel was a smashing success and received a well-earned honorary mention when the Danish Ministry of Culture awarded its Children’s Book Prize in 2000.Lene Kristiansen, librarian, in the magazine Danish Children’s Literature, 2001. Translated by Jeffrey V. Lazarus. The lines from Ingemann’s hymn are translated by W. Glyn Jones.
Outstanding,intense,grippingandmovingwas how the critics praised Bente Clod’s young adult novel Englekraft (Angel Power). There was no lack of media attention, which for children’s and young adult books in Denmark is quite unusual, but Clod is no newcomer to the literary scene. In Angel Power, the central character is 18-year-old Mathilde, called Thilde. We first meet her sitting on a bench, freezing, on a pedestrian street in the center of Copenhagen, in the company of her boy friend Max, the 130 kiloHugger Boy. It is nearly Christmas and Thilde looks like a bum, scantily clad in old clothes, her head covered in braids, sporting a nose-ring. Three girls, who are caroling nearly, slowly awaken Thilde’s hidden ambitions.
Thilde has one great talent; she can sing. And when she recognizes one of the girls, an upper class control freak named Camilla, Thilde suddenly sees her chance. After several years of too muchsnow, hash, drinking and living in the street, she now tries to go clean, but with an addiction (desire?) that is tearing her apart. Max and a bunch of Thilde’s friends live in Christiania, where life is best experienced in a haze of smoke. But Thilde has moved into her mother’s little two-room flat. As if it has been ordained by Fate, she latches on to 17-year-old Camilla and an unusual friendship blossoms.
I Vilden Sky (Voice of Angels) begins four months later. Max has suffered a severe concussion being beaten up. He demands care above and beyond what can be expected, and the support and love he once gave to Thilde is gone. With small, cautious steps she slowly starts down the right path. The books’ strength lies in the world of music in which Thilde slowly allows herself to become enveloped in. Her demons are slowly disappearing and both life and death become easier to live with. She has more energy for Camilla’s control problems – and for love …
Bente Clod’s language is the secret behind the book’s well-deserved acclaim. Her style is characterized by short, staccato and pictorial sentences. New words are formed and old ones resurrected and with precise characterizations, affectionate, distanced and teasing, her characters form a puzzle of living images. The sensuality, intensity and music in the content and language can be followed and heard.
We are masterfully entwined in the past and present, with old motives and feelings playing a role in what has already happened and what is to come. The wide array of characters range from total losers to the upper class, from those who apparently have all the problems, to those who do not appear to have any.
Clod writes about real life people. She convincingly portrays the spacious, hazy and fragile communities of Christiania, where a piece of Thilde’s past is buried, and the rich upper-class neighbourhoods to which Camilla belongs, and where part of Thilde’s future may lie. And with Thilde as the central figure, there is plenty of respect and love for those around her.
Clod lets Thilde tell the story with an almost schizophrenic shift of perspective between Thilde as a first and a third person narrator. This is Thilde’s ploy to hold at bay her personal demons, among them her pusher, who almost broke her and who still appears to her in dark and frightening visions. We understand Thilde’s desire to escape into the realm of alcohol and dope. Thilde keeps a distance between herself and reality, and prefers to use formal names rather thanrealnames. The Danish poet B.S. Ingemann’s old hymn becomes a kind of mantra for Thilde, forging a link to the past and symbolizing hope for the future.
…The angel of light, all crowned in splendor
Issues through the gates of Heaven
Shades of night must now surrender,
To flight by God’s bright angel driven.
I chant the words, toneless and breahtless, but the angel will not protect me today. The light is too far away. Thilde’s knees give and she howls under the surge of the shower. She doubles up, shaking and looks stupidly into the air watching the faucet split in two. A repulsive hand reaches out after her, a black hand, she screams, I hear her scream, I jump up and hammer my flat hand into the mirror with eyes wide open, so that the picture comes into focus, the picture of me, the one I think I am. A kind of Thilde. The picture of the one, who HAS to score some points today. She has to. (Angel Power).
The books are true novels of the city. We smell, see and experience people and places. Bente Clod affectionately depicts a typical slice of Denmark with all the challenges of the year 2000: food disorder, AIDS, divorce, people losing their foothold, meaningless violence, the spirit of recycling and trendy alternatives. But she also portrays the strength and independence of the youth of the day. Willpower!
It is depressing, funny, tragic and heart-rending to witness Thilde’s life and trials, which only increases our expectations for the third and final book. We want to follow Thilde all the way to a hopefully happy synthesis of nothing less than life, death and love.
The triology about Mathilde Jensen received the Award from the Danish Ministry of Culture in 2003 as Best Children’s Book of the year. The film rights were bought first by a Danish film company, later topped by a Norwegian company, Opiam Films, which is now working on the movie about Thilde.
Foreign rights for the books: Høst & Søn publishers, editor Anne Mørch-Hansen, phone (+45) 33 38 28 88, e-mail: HSAMH@rosinante-co.dk.