When her father had to undergo major heart surgery, she was already well into novel writing. Josefine Klougart went home to Mols, the peninsula in eastern Jutland where several of her novels are also set. The operation went well and her father was about to wake up from the anesthesia. But the father’s gaze was empty. Several times he opened his eyes without being present.
— In a way, it changed everything, it was so upsetting, an existential experience of how fragile a life is.
Suddenly she also saw the meaning of her side story about the climbers who are going to climb the mythical peak Eiger Nordwand in Switzerland. As a visiting professor in Bern, Josefine Klougart had become obsessed with the idea of why people try to climb a concave mountainside which, in her eyes, “is only death”. When she read about a climber who explained that the sensation of falling lingered long after he had even completed the descent, the equation came together.
— I felt that this was the feeling with which the book should be written — a feeling of the presence of death which gives the other the greatest possible significance.
It has been almost ten years since Josefine Klougart was introduced in Swedish as Denmark’s new literary star. Three years earlier, her debut was nominated for the Nordic Council’s literature prize, which caused Danish critics to also comment on her appearance and age, in one headline she was compared to Bambi.
— – Fortunately, what some critics wrote then is unthinkable to write today, she states dryly.
In addition to being a writer, Josefine Klougart is an editor at the publishing house Gladiator, which she helped start and which also runs its own writing school.
Her seventh novel “All this you could get” has been described in her home country as her best so far. The frame is a family story of two generations and a depiction of a piecemeal magical childhood close to nature, not unlike Josefine Klougart’s own. The ambition has been to tell “with the greatest care about the different moments that make up a life”, she emphasizes.
“My criterion has always been that every scene should contain a revelation,” she says energetically.
— It is about our opportunities to be present in the world. Literature is this privileged place where one can grasp life experience and make it emerge. Fiction allows us to come into contact with the perfect experience, with existence.
Hear the nightingale
Klougart writes about the sisters Barbara and Sara who swim in dangerous waters and whose mother resolutely wakes them up so they can hear the evening song of the nightingale. But the father works hard to pay the interest and the mother, who works at home, mourns his absence. The idyll is marred by conflicts and wounds – none of the main characters have easy lives.
Barbara moves early to the big city but always has dirt under her nails. When she makes her debut as a writer, it almost takes the life of the mother who feels betrayed, but also, Barbara speculates, feels death approaching.
— This is not an autobiography, but I always think that I take my starting point from problems that I have myself. For me, literature is also a way to reflect. It has taken me five years to write this novel, and if I’m going to use five years, I have to investigate something where I also have a personal matter.
As a writer, Josefine Klougart is aware of the thousand different stories that exist just about her own life. In the novel, she has little sister Sara ask her big sister not to write about their childhood – the little sister is so afraid of forgetting it as it really was.
“Memories fade, instead it’s the scenes I’m writing about that I remember and suddenly I can’t tell them apart,” Klougart says of his own experience.
Read it out loud
In Denmark, the response has been strong, not least from the older generation who recognized themselves in the portrayal of the book’s parents after the sisters became adults. Before publication, Josefine Klougart traveled home to Mols and read the book aloud to her own mother and father. It took three days.
— I thought I owed it to them, and they were incredibly happy. They could recognize a lot, but it was also about the place in life that they are in now, says Josefine Klougart, who managed to surprise herself.
— That is what is so exciting about literature. When you enter those rooms as the writing is, you gain access to experiences that are not your own, but which are existential and which you understand even when you are 38 years old.