That a man should reduce his life to havoc in the hope of finding his soul among the ruins – such seems to the one course left open to the intellectual Ole Jastrau, living in Denmark in the 1920’s. Jastrau is tormented by a thorough disgust of his middle-class existence as a husband and literature reviewer. He is suffocated by correct attitude, meaningless conversations and celeb gatherings, where he most of all feels like a fool on show. He experiences the failure of all the nostrums men resorted to in the tormented time between the wars to cure the pervasive malaise of disillusionment. Religion promises him regeneration but offers instead the monotonous logic of a dogmatic theology. The great rebellion of the workers disintegrates into the comic spectacle in the streets of Copenhagen; and tired, disillusioned radicals retreat into their own intellectual circle to talk endlessly around the clichés of a failed ideology. “Beware of the soul and cultivate it not,” runs the motto of this novel, “for doing so can be a form of vice.” The feeling of emptiness increases and a visit from some friends of his youth strengthen his feeling of having betrayed his revolutionary and reckless youth as a poet. The frustration stimulates his propensity to alcohol and the havoc begins. While drinking himself to death, he bit by bit loses his wife, child and job. The come-down evolves as a kind of odyssey where we accompany Jastrau on the dangerous expedition through his desperate, fuddled and free-floating state of mind. His life and existence is a sinking boat and he is on it. Havoc is a sharp and intense psychological analysis of a self-chosen social and psychological collapse, a literary experiment where the course of life of the main character is written all the way down to an absolute zero. For Jastrau only complete chaos, havoc, remains. The progress of his degeneration and the sickness of the moral and intellectual milieu that provokes him to such an awesome self-destruction Kristensen records with detail so accurately observed, insight so ironic, and symbolism so powerful as to compel the conclusion that Jastrau’s course through the chaotic 1920’s, if disastrous, was the meaningful response of a sensitive man to a time that was out of joint. The book is however more than psychological reflections, gloom and drinking; the expressionistic aesthetics of Tom Kristensen is powerful, and in the aggression you will find raw and pure poetry.

Good to know:

  • Great English translation available
  • One of Knausgårds favorite books
  • Supported by Schwob
  • Great reviews (a 5 star review in Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant)

Rights sold:

  • Spain / Errata naturae editores
  • Denmark / Gyldendal
  • Norway / Cappelen Damm
  • Holland / Lebowski Publishers
  • Turkey / Aylak Adam
  • USA / New York Review Books
  • UK / Nordic Books


"Hærværk (Havoc) is one of the best novels to ever come out of Scandinavia. As discomforting as beautiful, it portrays the fall of a man, and it's so hypnotically written that you want to fall with him." Karl Ove Knausgård


We teamed up with Gyldendal, the Danish publisher of Tom Kristensen. You can contact either:

Gyldendal Group Agency: Jenny Thor • Phone: + 45 2517 8101

Lebowski Publishers: Oscar van Gelderen • Phone: + 31 6 46096823