nordkraft by Jakob Ejersbo (McArthur & Company), 409 pages, $24.95 paper. Rating: NNNN
Jakob Ejersbo reading with david bezmozgis , alan hollinghurst and david mitchell at Premiere Dance Theatre, Thursday (October 28). See Authors Fest listings.
Copenhagen - Try not to mention Irvine Welsh to Jakob Ejersbo. When Ejersbo's first novel, Nordkraft, was published in Denmark in 2002, many reviewers compared the book - about a group of aimless, hash-smoking young people in northern Jutland - to the Scottish author's Trainspotting.
"Let's face it, most reviewers drink red wine," laughs Ejersbo in his bright Copenhagen flat. "They don't know about drugs. There's one full-blown addict in the book. The others take soft drugs. It's an environment that's very common in Denmark or anywhere. All over the world there will always be groups of people who mess around."
Ejersbo, trained as a journalist, was stationed in Jutland during the early 90s. He saw the social situations in industrial towns where the industries had foundered. And he took notes, knowing he would capture it in fiction.
The idea of a lost generation isn't new, and Ejersbo's read his Hemingway, Camus and Bret Easton Ellis.
"Although if you mention Easton Ellis, people immediately think of the violence in American Psycho, and that overshadows the fact that he's a brilliant writer," he points out.
"If you're under 40 and you write a book, you're always pegged as writing about a generation. But it's pointless. The book takes place at a certain point of time and concerns a small part of a generation."
One of the more intriguing characters in the book is Hossein, a former soldier from Iran who's now a drug courier. The character gave Ejersbo a way to look at his country's attitudes toward ethnic difference.
"The integration of immigrants has been pretty badly handled," he says. "A lot of Iranians came to Denmark after the revolution and the war against Iraq. You got refugees and uneducated people taking menial jobs that a lot of Danes didn't want. Denmark has been very homogeneous, and people are shocked that it's changing. The government has failed to make sure everyone here feels a part of society and is not viewed as a stranger because of a different name or skin colour."
Despite the novel's success (it's been translated into a dozen languages, and a film version has just wrapped), Ejersbo refuses to write a sequel.
"It wouldn't be interesting," he smiles. "What happens to people as they get older is they get more settled. They start being more serious and focused. They start cooking and shopping and working and doing all that stuff. They lead boring lives, kind of like my own. That's not bad, but it isn't interesting material for a book."