Peder Frederik Jensen
Violence is a collection of the voices of violence, whether it be the victims or the perpetrators of its multitude forms. The narrator channels these voices through the young Danish writer, Simon, who travels from the lower end of Vesterbro in Copenhagen to inter alia West Africa, Mauritania and Senegal.
In his youth, Simon lived in an environment of both psychological and physical violence when he was a squatter and radical activist in Copenhagen in the 1990’s, but he found a way out of this world through an apprenticeship and a stable relationship. But Simon is stifled by the perceived banality of his existence on the upper end of Vesterbro and departs for a journey across western Africa instead.
Simon grew up in a large patchwork family of his own, and despite or perhaps precisely because Simon is a loner at heart, he often travels with a companion, whether it be an acquaintance like the Dutch seaman, Tjeid, his brother, his new girlfriend, Lavra, or the African man, Pape, who accompanies Simon on a journey across his own country, Senegal. It soon becomes clear that the restlessness of Simon’s mind is only exceeded by its curiosity and humanity; Simon constantly seeks to communicate with- and learn from- the souls he meets along his way. And, occasionally, he tries to impart some of his own experience, such as it is, to others. To this extent, Violence becomes Simon’s diary or traveller’s journal of his experience of western Africa and Europe, with special attention being reserved for his home turf, the red-light district of Vesterbro in Copenhagen, which is rendered in vivid – often sordid – detail. Writing and living in a part of Copenhagen that is predominantly populated by immigrants, social outcasts, prostitutes, drug addicts and sex tourists gives Simon the opportunity to hone his innate eye and ear for the under-belly of modern society; he voices the words and experience of people who are seldom heard above the din. Like Paul, a stooped man who lives in Folkets Park and collects empty bottles and cans in Copenhagen to provide for his family back home in Togo; or Aisha, the eldest daughter of a Senegalese family who bears the responsibility of her clan on her beautiful shoulders; or Rose, a plump, independent woman who risks ridicule and exclusion from society to open a restaurant on the border between Mali and Senegal; or, Soda, the woman Simon meets in Dakar and her numerous sisters from Africa or Eastern Europe who walk the streets near Copenhagen Central Station.
Peder Frederik Jensen’s narrative feels raw, almost entirely unfiltered, yet often virulently polemic in its criticism of modern Europe in general and the prosperous Scandinavian countries and former colonial powers in particular. Simon is ruthless in his criticism, if in nothing else. For, according to Simon, the world is everything but a child’s game; nothing is simple, and civilization is a myth.
Lindy Falk van Rooyen