The prolific and eclectic Danish writer Suzanne Brøgger has more than twenty works to her name, most of which have at one time or another been labeled as provocative. Brøgger became an overnight celebrity in Denmark back in 1973 with the publication of her acerbically-titled book of essays Fri os fra kærligheden (Deliver Us from Love), in which she presents elegantly formed arguments that conclude, in a manner both logical and tongue-in-cheek, that the family unit should be abolished and that men should be temporarily barred from higher education. Deliver Us From Love was to prove typical of Brøgger’s style of writing, with most of her works blending fiction with non-fiction and including journalistic, autobiographical, and philosophical reflections.
Brøgger’s latest work, described both as a long narrative poem and as a lyrical novel, is called Sløret (“The Veil”). Partly set in a harem, the book tells the story of the beautiful slave Aziayadé, who becomes Sheik Jafar’s favorite harem girl because of her sharp wits and brilliant skill at narrative spinning. Behind her veil, Aziyadé is both tactical and devious, and as the story unfolds she develops into an experienced storyteller.
If this story sounds familiar, it’s because this is not the first time Brøgger has depicted a Scheherazade figure. In Jadekatten, the novel in which Brøgger’s fictionalizes her own unconventional family, some hope for the future is offered through the sudden appearance of a woman named Scheherazade who marries into extended family.
However, in The Veil, the Scheherazade figure Aziayadé goes beyond being a metaphor for artistic creativity. For Brøgger, The Veil is about recapturing the connection between the lyrical and the sensual through a personal exploration of the dynamics of freedom, subordination, and power play. Brøgger stresses that she wanted to do this while avoiding cheap sensationalism, to reclaim sensuality and romance from the market to its proper place in poetry: imagination and philosophical reflection.