No Limits” (Grænseløs) is autofiction, a novel
of remembrance that chronicles the Sixties over four volumes in ten parts,
totalling 2,300 pages. The author, Arne Herløv Petersen, was born in 1943 and
has published almost a hundred books since 1962. The main premise is that what
we know as the Sixties – the flower power, hippie-era – did not arise suddenly
and spontaneously in 1967 or 1968, but existed in embryo from the beginning of
the decade. We start in Denmark
and move through countries all over the world as we proceed.
The narrator is on a long journey and has the most amazing experiences on the
way. In 1960 he is seventeen and goes to USA
as an exchange student in Milwaukee,
Wisconsin. Over 300 pages we hear
about an America
that is just about to lose the innocence of a Norman Rockwell drawing and
entering another era. For Americans it can be an eye-opener to see their own
society from the outside, like a glimpse through your own windows.
The narrator returns to his native Denmark
and goes on the study History, Russian and Chinese at the University of Copenhagen.
He also publishes a volume of poems and his first novel, is active in politics
on the left side and works as a journalist. He loves great parties, and his uninhibited
amorous adventures take up a great part of his mind – and the book. In 1965 he
and some friends buy an old sailing ship and plan to circumnavigate the globe,
but have to return after heavy storms in the English Channels. Undaunted the
friends buy a very old bus and go to Nepal, where they sell the bus.
After harrowing experiences in India
and South East Asia they reunite in Australia
and proceed to French Polynesia, from where
they are expulsed because of their close contacts to the independence movement.
As the decade runs out, the narrator has returned to his native Denmark, where
he learns that one of his books has been published in USA and returned a profit
which he uses to buy a city house with seventeen apartments in Copenhagen.
“No Limits” is a picture of a time what knew of no boundaries and could accept
no established rules. The motto of the book is taken from The Doors: “We want
the world and we want it now”.
“No Limits” was published in Denmark in 2014
to rave review. The influential newspaper “Politiken” wrote: “The descriptions
of young and playful sex are among the best in the work. In “No Limits” the
vagina and how it can be employed has been described more sensuously than ever
before in Danish Literature… Arne Herløv Petersen can call forth the past so
you can almost taste it”. “Arbejderen” wrote: “Sensed, registered and described
in a wonderful language by one who dared taste all the possibilities. With
roses – with and without thorns”. “Modkraft” wrote: “Fluently narrated and free
of the selfjustifying rationalizations typically seen in autobiographies”. The
Danish libraries wrote in their evaluation: “Arne Herløv Petersen can describe
the many humourous episodes with no false notes whatsoever. The book can easily
be compared to “My Struggle” by Karl Ove Knausgaard”.
This excerpt from the second part of the novel – “Riverside” about American high school life
1960-61 – has been translated by the respected translator Charlotte Barslund.
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