Axel Jensen : biography
Axel Buchardt Jensen (12 February 1932 – 13 February 2003) was a Norwegian author. From 1957 until 2002, he published both fiction and non-fiction texts which include novels, poems, essays, a biography, and manuscripts for cartoons and animated films.
Apart from his first symbolistic novel, Dyretemmerens Kors, Jensen’s early novels mostly depict young men that attempt to break away from their social and cultural backgrounds. These novels include Icarus: A Young Man in Sahara (1957) (a new 1999 edition is illustrated by Franz Widerberg), A Girl I Knew (1959), and Joacim (1961). Some critics have argued that these early novels are influenced by Beat authors like Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William Burroughs. The reason for this is that the novel’s male main characters often try to escape from their obligations in a Western capitalistic society. Instead, they try to replace their former life with some sort of undefined spiritualism and fail miserably in their attempt.
Later, Jensen departed from the realism in his early novels and began to move in a new direction by writing science fiction, poems, essays, and manuscripts for cartoons. In this experimental phase, he produced manuscripts for the psychedelic comic-strip Doctor Fantastic (published in the newspaper Dagbladet between March and July 1972), the science fiction comic strip collage Tago (1979), the animated movie Superfreak (1988), and a manuscript for a comic novel which is a caricature-rendering of the life of the French playwright and founder of pataphysics, Alfred Jarry. In the same period, Jensen also published a poem-collection with a hindu theme called Onalila – A Little East West poetry (1974), an essayistic novel called Mother India (1974), and three autobiographical novels named Junior (1978), Senior (1979), and Jumbo (1998).
Jensen is perhaps most famous for having written the science fiction novels Epp (1965), Lul (1992), and And the Rest is Written in the Stars (1995), illustrated by Pushwagner. With these novels, Jensen created a dystopian vision of the future, much in the tradition of Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, and Ray Bradbury. Nevertheless, Jensen’s novels also differ from these authors since the tragic vision in his novels is supplemented with comedy, setting an ambiguous and absurd tone. In this way, Jensen’s novels are similar to the satirical and parodic novels of Jonathan Swift and Kurt Vonnegut.
Besides his fiction, Jensen also published a series of articles and essays which focused on three main political and social issues. His collection of essays, God Does Not Read Novels. A Voyage in the World of Salman Rushdie (1994), is a critique of the fatwa against Salman Rushdie and a defense of freedom of speech. Another political text is the article A Children’s Disease, published in the anthology The Collective Fairytale. A Book about Norway, Europe and the EU (1994). This article discusses Norway’s role as a future member in the European Union. The third main issue that was of great concern to him was how sick and disabled people are treated in a modern bureaucratic society. Two books containing articles on this subject was therefore published – The Deafening Silence (1997) and The Patient in the Centre (1998). All the articles are an account of how it is to suffer from ALS and at the same time not receive adequate help from the Norwegian welfare state.
Among his political writings, Jensen also found the time to write a biography on the mythical guru G. I. Gurdjieff which is titled Guru – Glimpses from the World of Gurdijieff (2002). In addition to this, Jensen co-wrote his autobiography, Life Seen From Nimbus (2002), with Peter Mæjlender.
Jensen received a literary prize from the Austrian Abraham Woursell Foundation in 1965 for his novel Epp. In 1992, Jensen was given the annual literary award from the Norwegian publishing house Cappelen for his novel Lul. For his essays on Salman Rushdie, he received the Carl von Ossietzky award from the International PEN club in 1994 and an award from The Freedom of Expression Foundation in Norway.