Danish / Denmark
Alfred og gabestokken
(Alfred and the pillory)
Mortensen, John Kenn (illus.)
København: Høst & Søn, 2018. – 99 p.
Truth | Outsider | Belonging | Freedom of expression
Reading age: 10+
White Ravens issue: 2019
Few are as capable as Danish author Jesper Wung-Sung at writing books that continually resist fitting into conventional categories, as well as unsettling expectations levelled at children’s and young adult literature. He is tremendously productive and still consistently succeeds in portraying basic anthropological and existential themes in new ways, in the process alluding to well-known motifs and constellations. This time he writes about Alfred, who has been put in a pillory at the marketplace for having committed the offense of lèse-majesté. He stands there day in, day out, year after year, decade after decade, uttering truths in a direct, insolent, and commanding manner. At best, passers-by are inspired to reflect a little. This recalls children’s characters like, for instance, in H.C. Andersen’s fairy-tale “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. In contrast, Alfred suffers from his need to speak truth, which exposes him to mockery and brands him as an outsider. He would love to belong, but he cannot and will not submit to the rules, which govern society.