Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
In case you ever thought of the Danes as modest, correct, workmanlike, handsome an restrained (except for Hamlet and Kierkegaard), you would have attended and at last departed the Danish embassy reception Thursday night with your notions intact.
Ambassador and Mrs. Otto R. Barch publication of three Danish books, "The Royal Guest," an anthology of Danish narrative, an anthology of "Contemporary Danish Poetry" and "Carnival," a collection of hard-to-find or hitherto-unpublished stories by Isak Dinese (who died in 1962 and was surely the last good woman writer to find it necessary to use a male pseudonym to get her works published).
The Danes, with only 5 million people, turn out endless printed words. As one of their leading literary critics. Torben Brostrom, put it:
"Whenever two Danes meet, they form an association or an academy and spend a good bit of time being president or vice president; and in the time left over, they write."
A leading poet, fiction and theater writer, Klaus Rifbjerg (who runs a French restaurant as well) looked quite American, and some say his schooling at Princeton gave him a somewhat Ivy-League look. He read his poem, "Hangover," in both English and Danish.
In Danish, it sounded like a soliloquy in a Bergman movie with the pale sun maybe about to come out on the tundra; but in English, it was warm, teasing, intimate - about two lovers who were recovering, somewhat, and dimly looking forward to a long Sunday in bed,
The President's choiceto be chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, Livingston Biddle, was there with his wife; and there were several representatives from the National Endowment for the Humanities and a staffer from the White House. The gusets, in general, looked as if they read books and thought about life many times a week.
Everybody stood up during the readings, as for the big Handel chorus; but mainly they stood because there were no chairs, none being needed for so brief and interesting an interlude. The embassy rooms do not loudly assert some stripped-down plainness, like those embassies that could serve as gyms, nor do they look as if a rococo ball is about to take place. The decor is unobtrusive, and you could imagine having a family argument, a wedding, an Arabian Nights or a new pup in place without having to change curtains.
It was too brief to get the full effect of story-telling or good poetry, arts that take time; rather, one would like to settle down there and let it build.