Theories 1-23 on Yahya Hassan
Yahya Hassan is a book about Yahya Hassan by Yahya Hassan, a stateless Palestinian teenager living in Denmark. A book whose title seems to propose that it is that unaccomplishable feat: a complete portrait, a 3D image of a soul in 1:1 proportions. This book is not a book, it’s a person. This title is not a title, it’s a threat.
Yahya Hassan is a book of postmodern confessional poems for 21st century Denmark. For 21st century Eurabia. All the pain of Plath; all the bravado of Bukowski. Poetry whose greatest technical achievement is an ineffable and inimitable “voice”. Completely generic and instantly recognizable at the same time.
Yahya Hassan is a book you approach fearing that it will expose you as a bigot, racist, hypocrite and/or a conservative. Yahya Hassan is also a book you fear will expose you as childish, naïve and distrustful of the complexities in the world. Yahya Hassan is a book which accomplishes all these things and more.
Yahya Hassan is a book pregnant between the lines with its own knee-jerk responses. It willfully goads the reader into accusations such as “criminal”, “taliban”, “islamofascist”, “welfare-mongrel”, “scum” – a rhetorical device mostly found in online tabloids which profit on feeding our extremism and disdain. Yahya Hassan may only have a subconscious comments section, but its “imagined reader” may just be a faceless army of commenters.
Yahya Hassan is perhaps not as interesting as a work of literature as it is as a game of social reactions. The book sells, the poet has bodyguards, people send threats, the ground trembles (the book is reviewed by a person from a country with almost no muslims, but plenty of islamophobia, this too may be an interesting choice). All of which may imply the opposite: that the social space is where the worth of “true poetry” lies, and not in the metaphor or the deep philosophical meanings or what have you. Not “in” the book but outside it. That what we usually expect to happen “in” books is merely what poets use to masquerade a void – the Cagean “I have nothing to say/ and I am saying it/ and that is poetry/ as I need it” is then the utter (and equally honest) defeat which counters Yahya Hassans victory.
Yahya Hassan is a book which – in the social space, rather than the space of the page – either disrupts or is unaware of or confuses the difference between the qualitative and the quantitative, the difference between the personal and the social. This may eventually become problematic.
Yahya Hassan is the most important political happening in recent nordic literary history. It exposes a hegemonic (local) culture in fear of itself, in fear of its own dynamic, in fear of taking on a difficult conversation (and fearful for all the right reasons, the world is a place of half-foreseen consequences). A culture more accustomed to passing judgment than having discourse. Yahya Hassan exposes a culture which fears to grow – fears that social bravery will come at too great a cost and fears that showing caution will cause it to wilt.
Yahya Hassan is a book which begs to be treated like bomb about to go off. Yahya Hassan is a violent intervention into a conversation on the left side of political spectrum where we’ve so far presumed that whispering is the only civilized response.
Yahya Hassan is a book which feeds the right side of the political spectrum, feeds the hatred and the fear and the boatloads of populist nonsense. Whether it feeds it with honesty and truth, whether it feeds it out of necessity, may simply be irrelevant to the fact that it indeed does feed a world where screaming bloody murder is the only civilized response.
Yahya Hassan is an attempt to “change the system from within”.
Yahya Hassan is either a rageful fit wallowing in its individualism or a battle cry for solidarity. Does it ever explicitly say: you are like me, we are one and the same? Does it mean to? Does it need to?
Yahya Hassan is about a young man’s quest for freedom, as classically poetic as anything by the Rimbauds, the Ginsbergs, the Waldmans, the Saul Williams’. A roar, a howl, a book about standing up to your parents and their outdated values.
Yahya Hassan is a book of slam poems or formless hip hop lyrics whose basic poetic premise is that personal pain is material for performance, that the personal is not only political but a public spectacle, front-page interview sincerity, an ode as vapid as any reality TV show and perhaps as relevant as Primo Levi.
Yahya Hassan is the medium which is the message. Yahya Hassan is social progress in action.
Yahya Hassan is the message of the medium. Yahya Hassan is social degeneration in action.
Yahya Hassan is not a book of singular poems. It is a long poem with chapters, each of which bears a name trying to discern it from the other chapters, with little or no success. Like a horse pretending that it’s full of people pretending to be the horse. Yet it’s obviously just a horse.
Yahya Hassan may be the creation of a 53 year old member of Dansk Folkeparti from Silkeborg, a disgruntled former socialist who has grown tired of being looked down upon by his former comrades. A figment of his imagination. Nothing more.
What would that change?
Yahya Hassan is Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Salman Rushdie, Lars Vilks, Kurt Westergaard, Jesus Christ and Jean D’Arc all rolled into one.
Yahya Hassan is Athena Farrokzhad. Yahya Hassan is Susana Alakoski. Yahya Hassan is not Johannes V. Jensen. But there is some Knut in him. Some Hamsun. Perhaps it’s the hunger.
Today we are all Yahya Hassan. Tomorrow we will be Miley Cyrus once more.
Yahya Hassan is a book of personal disruptions, a one-sided attack on the private life of a defenseless family from a disgruntled teenager. Yahya Hassan is an author with as little regard for those around him as Karl Ove Knausgaard or the late Claus Beck-Nielsen.
An author must be cruel, must be relentless. His only duty is to the truth, whatever that truth may be.
Yahya Hassan is the self-hating other, an author performing a disdain for his otherness in order to appease the masses, thereby proving himself not an other at all, but a part of the great “western” masses and a performer of the seamless (liberal) whole.
Yahya Hassan performs not the seamless whole but an important corner of the multicultural tapestry, thereby filling out the frame of our postmodern civilization. The presence of his voice proves not only the plurality of “our” culture but “our” tolerance as well. We have now earned a pat on the back.