the man formerly known as Claus Beck-Nielsen


In 2009 we were in Denmark witness to a rather unusual and spectacular literary incident. The Danish author Claus Beck-Nielsen declared himself dead in 2001. A year later he was resurrected as the nameless director of the art factory Das Beckwerk, the mission of which was to continue the life and work of Claus Beck-Nielsen. In 2003, accompanied by the performance artist Thomas Skade-Rasmussen Strøbech, he journeyed to Iraq under the name “Nielsen” with the stated aim of establishing democracy in the war-ravaged country. Their trip resulted in a series of newspaper articles and TV programmes. Subsequently, the man formerly known as Claus Beck-Nielsen wrote the book Selvmordsaktionen (The suicide mission, 2005) about the journey. In 2006 the pair travelled together again with a similar project, this time to the USA; Suverænen (The sovereign) was published in 2008, with Das Beckwerk credited as the author. The book, which is promoted as a novel, is largely about Thomas Skade-Rasmusse, and describes among other things elements of his friend’s private life. Skade-Rasmussen, who, to make things even more confusing, also works under a number of pseudonyms, sued Das Beckwerk in 2009; in his opinion, the man formerly known as Claus Beck-Nielsen had invaded his private life and made public sensitive and private information. Confused? With good reason. Essentially, a fictional character is suing the novel’s author! This has never before been seen in Denmark – and probably nowhere else either.

more from Andreas Harbsmeier at Eurozine here.