“Torvegade was not only empty and dirty, but also disemboweled. A scalpel of violence had torn and revealed its innards, and a hand armed with hatred had armed had removed its guts, it’s organs, then it had left it in agony. Christianashavn would neither resurrect nor heal from this wound. Not only was there a mark on the whole city, but on the whole of Denmark, Europe, and the world. It was like a small, infected wound that spreads to the entire body and ultimately causes death.”
Man and I thought Alexander had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Jesper’s twelve hours in this short story could be measured with many others in fictional history. Presumably for the majority of the world your early teenage years are the best times of your life. You’re not yet ready to think about post secondary education and your main responsibility is earning spending money through a part-time job; there simply are no cares in the world. The rest of your day is spent playing video games, loitering at the local mall, thinking about the fairer sex, and playing sports until your dead: dead tired that is. For Jesper, that was the past, fire and destruction is his present, get to know it, the future is nothing but a doubt in your mind at this point. Wake up to the terrorizing sounds of gunshots and your sister’s deathly scream as she is caught in the destruction of the family home. Upon escaping barefoot you are saved by a neighbouring acquaintance that is shot in the head immediately after exchanging pleasantries and the establishment of a plan for escape was formed. That set the tone of the book for me; expect the unexpected and not the status quo. From past experiences you expect a Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn type voyage but that belief literally got shot dead early in the story and made the reader realize that anything goes. You are now alone in a world once delightfully familiar but now has become dreadfully foreign. Jesper’s fantasy world has become his reality; the lines of life and death have been blurred due to the burning of the residential safe haven known as Christiania. Your natural instinct is to follow the path of least resistance knowing that to get to where you need to go there would be insurmountable obstacles along the way.
“The world was ending. It had been nearing its downfall, and now it had finally started flying toward the collapse. Humanity had played with death, enticing it in so many ways that it had finally joined mother in marriage, and today it presented itself at the altar.”
Christiania is a city of free spirits located in the borough of Christianshavn in the Danish capital of Copenhagen. At the height of contention of this book is that the “totalitarian” political structure of the country is in direct contrast with the inner commune of free thinkers. From government issued sustainable living and political ideals to the protestations of the Christiania public there is seemingly one last thing to do. Some view it as a controlling protocol for overpopulation of non-followers while others view it as a communal extermination. Like all wars the lack of humility and the fault of man is the cause, forget the similarities, let’s now exacerbate the differences.
“The wind blew sheets of paper and plastic bags like an apocalyptic carnival devoid of any fun, any joy, or celebration. The noise had begun to make its presence known, but not like before. It was more muffled, farther away, certainly less threatening.”
Christiania is described as a modern fairy tale that from my perspective paid homage to the classical sense if you embrace the obvious symbolism as well as letting your own imagination take hold. Instead of your magical wonderland filled with talking animals, trolls and fairy godmothers the setting of Christiania takes place in present day Denmark during the onset of war which comes across as an apocalypse type environment for the residents that survived the initial attacks. Within the specified construct there is the ever-present quest filled with various characters, episodes, dungeons, chases, and rescues which are a fixture in many fairy tales. A donor of advice and support after testing the intentions of the main character often takes the form of an animal, tree, or fairy which happens in this story to take the shape of an old, homeless, and learned alcoholic. There was also the prevalence of hell fire and brimstone continually throughout the war zone which provided great imagery. Jesper also deals with vivid flashbacks, vertigo, and surreal moments that are common in fairy tales. The Swedish guards represent the monster theme that is commonplace in fairy tales. Jesper regards them as monsters due to their inhumanities, torturous behaviour and their facial makeup that depicts them as otherworldly.
“When he was captured in the channel, like a stupid trout, he had promised himself not to make any more silly moves. In order to do that, he had to grow that up, not only in attention and patience, but also in wickedness and cunning.”
This story was detailed, very dark and tragic but given the subject matter it was enjoyable in the sense that it was humanizing. Being situated in an end-of-the-world setting, the readers, while they are sitting in their favourite chair are subject to an event that seems possible, but hopefully never occurs. What at once was observed as an alien event seventy-five-years ago is merely foreign in today’s world. The story is not over the top and is very realistic which allows the reader to put their feet firmly in the shoes of the main character and slowly walk, peek around corners, crawl through mud and run when needed like Jesper. I would recommend this short story to anyone that is interested in apocalyptic realism and who is not easily affected by depravity, details, child torture and the utilization of other wartime devices.
“He took took the two steps that separated him from the ground at an unexpected speed. The city seemed like an exact mirror of his own condition: tortured, humiliated, and suffering, but still alive, pulsating, and wild.”