Better a contract with the Devil than the Danes

May 13th, 2013

This article is more than 10 years old.

It sounds like it might be the sequel to Fay Weldon’s ‘The Life and Loves of a She-Devil’, which is probably why I first picked up this book whilst browsing through Cafe Paludan on Fiolstræde.

And my curiosity was further aroused when I noticed that the writer, Stephan Attia, like me, is a fellow refugee of love – an international who moved to Denmark to encounter limited prospects of employment and vulnerability at home. Had somebody written an entire book specifically targeted at my situation?

Granted, the curious narrative style looked daunting: pages and pages of text without paragraphs – a stream of consciousness with nowhere to breathe. I paused, reluctant to read, but then I remembered my own leap of faith – the one I made when I moved to Denmark.

I plunged in … and I didn’t look back. It was nothing like I expected: while it spoke volumes about my situation, it delivered more, much more.

Because while it would have been easier for Attia to approach this subject from a more conventional angle – international settles in Copenhagen, is introduced to six-hour family parties and accidentally trips up and hospitalises ‘Olemor’ dancing around the Christmas tree – he does it allegorically, using the one entity in the history of mankind who should be more than a match for the homogeneity of Denmark: the Devil himself.

But things don’t exactly go his way – does it ever for an international moving here?

In a nutshell, the plot sees the Devil settle in Denmark to live with the tyrannical Catrine (sound familiar, Mrs Smith?), where he is accordingly brainwashed into the Danish way of life. He doesn’t stand a chance! Because while he has been reborn as a Dane, he finds it impossible to be accepted as one.

What follows are a number of hilarious episodes in which the Devil, despite his ability to resurrect the dead and wreak hell and damnation on one and all, fails to make the grade. He even becomes the perfect Dane, and is even called  ‘More Danish than the Danes’, but still he fails – and before you asked, he doesn’t have a red complexion, horns and a trident.

He is left with one option to succeed: reincarnation. But he is tricked into believing that all Danes are born out of the arse, and accordingly emerges from Mrs Jensen’s singing his own Danish birthday song and waving a Dannebrog.

Now accepted, he is faced with a rival for his mother’s affection, Jens Jensen, and the real fun can begin. Meanwhile, he discovers that the Danes are plotting to overthrow God and a Danification of the whole universe. He quickly signs up, but will he find that a contract with the Danes is worse than signing one with the Devil?

Overall, this satirical novel is heartily recommended for anyone who can relate to the difficulties that face internationals who move to Denmark. Be warned though as the humour, which is often facetious and sophomoric, might not be for everyone. On several occasions, I found myself being stared at by a carriage full of Danes for laughing out loud on the train. If only they knew!

‘The adventures of Catrine and the Devil II’ is available for purchase for 85 kroner at www.amazon.com.


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