Seeberg, Peter

(1925-1999)
   A Danish novelist, short story writer, and essayist, Seeberg came of age during the heyday of modernism in Denmark, and his work is marked by modernist concerns. His literary debut was the novel Bipersonerne (1956; The Secondary Characters), which takes place in a youth labor camp in Berlin in the middle of World War II. Young people from several countries have been brought together in order to produce a film in which they will serve as extras, but they are also secondary characters with regard to the events of the war, as well as minor characters in their own lives, which are marked by emptiness and meaninglessness. Such existential themes become central in Seeberg's next book, the novel Fugls føde (1957; tr. The Impostor, 1990), in which the author Tom suffers from a major case of writer's block. Offered a large sum of money to simply write something real, he struggles to make the existential choices that would put him in touch with reality.
   The absurd and fantastic short stories in Eftersøgningen (1962; The Search) also deal with themes of identity and people's connection to the real world. In "Patienten" (The Patient) a man has gone through a series of transplants that have replaced all his organs and limbs, including his head. His identity stays the same, however, as recognized by his wife. Thus Seeberg states that people can maintain a sense of identity by allowing themselves to be embedded in a social fabric. Also, meaning is found in the process of searching for meaning. This is likewise the message of the novel Hyrder (1970; Shepherds), in which the human community is shown to provide a sense of meaningful existence for its members.
   At the core of Seeberg's oeuvre are three volumes that contain a variety of prose texts, ranging from the realist short story to the fantastic tale. Dinosaurusens sene eftermiddag (1974; The Late Afternoon of the Dinosaur) was followed by Argumenter for benådning (1976; Arguments for a Pardon) and Om fjorten dage (1981; In Fourteen Days), which garnered Seeberg the Nordic Literary Prize in 1983.
   The novel Ved havet (1978; By the Sea) tells about the different reactions people have to the ocean during a Sunday at the beach. The three novels Uden et navn (1985; Without a Name), Den sovende dreng (1988; The Sleeping Boy), and Frosten hjelper (1989; The Frost Helps) were all written for teenage readers. Seeberg's short story collections include Rejsen til Ribe (1990; The Journey to Ribe), Erindringer fra hundrede ar (1992; Recollections of a Hundred Years), Halvdelen afnatten (1997; Half the Night), and the posthumously published En enkelt afbrydelse (2001; A Single Interruption). He also published the play Ferai (1970) and Pa selve dagen (1978; On the Day Itself), the memoirs Hovedrengjøring: Stumper af erindring (1979; Thorough Cleaning: Fragments of Recollection), the essay collection Sla fritiden ihjel (1986; Kill Your Spare Time), and a number of children's books.

Historical Dictionary of Scandinavian Literature and Theater. . 2006.

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