Academic journal article Scandinavian Studies

Uncertain Centers Cncertain Selves: Postmodernism and the (Re)definition of Feminine in 'Anna (Jeg) Anna' and 'Baby.'

Academic journal article Scandinavian Studies

Uncertain Centers Cncertain Selves: Postmodernism and the (Re)definition of Feminine in 'Anna (Jeg) Anna' and 'Baby.'

Article excerpt

Klaus Rifbjerg's Anna (jeg) Anna (1969) and KirstenThorup's Baby (1973) engage the problematics of a female quest for personal identity, and the (re-)creation of a self defined in terms of itself in a male-dominated paternalistic society and literary tradition. In both novels, the women interogate the discourses which structure and limit their lives. By means of their challenges, they are able to break through male-dominated modes of expression, write among them, and shatter the male projection of the feminine which holds the women imprisoned both in society and in the text itself. Although the works seemingly "center" on Anna and on a loosely knit group of women respectively, the narrative structures themselves challenge this concept of center. The female protagonists' seizure of the definition of the feminine from the tight grasp of the patriarchy is a violent and necessary action--a violence that is played out through and by the texts. In each case, the individual's need for identity is underscored, be it through the destructive acts of Anna which, through their very destructiveness, result in a constructive force or through the oppressive acts of a capitalist system ultimately leading to feminine self-assertion in the face of systemic anonymity and male impotency.

Anna (jeg) Anna tells the story of a woman whose identity has fractured under the oppressive stress of life as the wife of the Danish ambassador to Pakistan. At once terrified and fascinated by an over whelming desire to kill her daughter Minna, Anna finds herself on an airplane headed toward Denmark where she can be "cured." However, in a move away from the pon and fornuftig society which holds her imprisoned, Anna decides to change the trip's itinerary. She convinces the extradited drug smuggler, Jorgen Schwer, to follow her out of the airport in Rome, and so begins a slightly manic road trip back to Copenhagen. But now the trip is not dictated by the rules of Danish society; rather it becomes a journey of self-discovery (or discovery of self) for Anna. The unlikely duo is doggedly pursued by a relentless police inspector and, eventually, most of Interpol. Jorgen is killed in their daring attempt to cross over into Denmark, but Anna manages to sneak across the border in the ensuing confusion. The end is not an end at all: Anna abandons thoughts of suicide and turns back toward Norrebro and her proletarian roots.

Baby never affords its characters the opportunity to leave their working class milieu. Instead, the novel focuses on the interconnected lives of six women and six men. Thorup abandons the concept of linear plot in her novel and instead focuses on the relational aspects which govern or, rather, fail to govern her characters' (non)action. In Baby, the interdependence of the characters is foregrounded to an extreme degree. Cadett is married to Marc who borrows money from Eddy, a slum lord cum loan shark cum pornography distributor, who repeatedly attempts to win back Leni and, when he does, beats her savagely, and who employs two gay body guards, Ric and Ivan, who run off with Susi, who is in love with David, the rebellious son of a wealthy industrialist, who lives part-time with Karla, an impoverished factory worker, whose child dies because of the poor heating in an apartment she rents from Eddy, who is disgusted by the attack on a bureaucrat by Sonja, who meets Karla at the bathhouse near Triaglen on Osterbro, and Nova, a young heroine addict, who meets Marc at a bar while listening to Jolly Daisy, a transvestite, sing Lou Reed covers. The plot is circular and open-ended-just as the end of Anna (jeg) Anna is simply a beginning, the end of Baby is also a beginning. In fact, one cannot help but question whether Baby repeats itself indefinitely. In both cases, the concept of closure is eschewed, and the reader's desire for an end is deferred back to the beginning. But through all of the developments in the novels, a glimmer of hope shines faintly, since women have learned to define the feminine apart from the male-centered definition which has imprisoned them. …

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