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Portrait of a writer

Christian Jungersen

By Anne Mette Lundtofte

Christian Jungersen’s body of work comprises of only two novels, but with Krat (Thickets) (1999) and Undtagelsen (The Exception) (2004) he has already made his mark on contemporary Danish literature. Both books are big, ambitious, bestselling psycho-thrillers of a particularly literary kind, which lend as much detail to description of character and place as to plot. The combination of suspense and realism has made Jungersen one of Denmark’s most widely sold and praised writers, rewarded with the popular Golden Laurels prize awarded by the Danish booksellers and quality-marked by the prestigious Government Arts Grant.

Stylistically and thematically Jungersen’s sensibility comes close to that of another literary suspense-writer, John le Carré. Like the master of the literary spy novel, Jungersen explores the way ethical dilemmas present themselves among people in a world, which is not black-and-white but consists of a tangled web – of “thickets” – of clashing perspectives and contradictory imperatives. In Undtagelsen Jungersen offsets the terrorizing that goes on between four, female colleagues against the organized and institutionalized evil, which defines their profession at a human right’s organization. In Krat a deep friendship becomes a longstanding enmity because the two main characters cannot embrace each other’s differences. The morally ambiguous universe, which frames Jungersen’s stories are reflected in the works’ many-sided plot structure – especially Undtagelsen which is told through different perspectives, inserted letters and fictive articles.

Jungersen’s style is precise and unadorned, and what is particularly noteworthy about him as an author is the way he handles plots. Every page in Jungersen’s books reveals just enough information to string his reader along, but it never reveals enough for her to guess its ending. This is a talent, which is universally translateable, and with the publication of Undtagelsen in 11 countries – including the US – Jungersen’s work is ready to make its mark on world literature as well.

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