Thursday last week, I attended Yahya Hassan’s first reading in Aarhus. Prior to that I read his self titled literary debut.
When I first learned of him, I was in Hamburg early October and doing my nightly Facebook scroll. I stopped at DR2’s post about a young poet reciting “Langdigt” (“Long Poem”). I saw/listened to the recitation and while I did that, death threats were being uploaded in the comments. And a fiery debate was going on. I was curious.
Yahya Hassan’s debut is a violent, scary and very real read. Kinda like Karl Ove Knausgård, much younger, angrier and in poem form and spiked with religious criticism. It’s currently being translated into English. But you can get an English excerpt here.
I don’t think I’ve ever been at a poetry recitation before. I’ve attended poetry slam, literature festivals and author talks, but never with a poet. And even though some of the talks I attended were with famous Danish authors, I have never been at a literature event with so many people, or guarded by police and PET (Danish secret service). It was like going to a concert with a well known band (with a lot of girl fans).
Last night, the young poet was attacked (fist in face) in Copenhagen when seeing a friend off at a train. But I doubt that we’ve seen the last of him. He might turn in to a Danish Salman Rushdie. Heck, I might even get into trouble for writing this post. But I think Yahya Hassan is worth a read. Not only for the media sensationalism, but for his lyrical qualities. And for understanding what it can be like, coming from another country and religion, trying to make a living in Denmark.