From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Hans Scherfig (April 8 1905January 28 1979 was a renowned Danish author and artist, born at Oesterbro in Copenhagen, by unmarried Claudine Nielsen. Alleged biological father was Christian Diderik Scherfig, Oesterbrogade 3. At his baptism in the Church of St. Jacob April 8 1906, he was christened Hans Christian Scherfig.

Scherfig as an author[edit]

His most famous works of literature include the novels dk:Frydenholm, dk:Den forsvundne Fuldmægtig .Stolen Spring, Idealister, and Skorpionen, the last of which was published in over 20 countries. But he also expressed himself in other ways. Among thes works is a description of a journey to Kirgizistan, which looks upon the world through a filter quite different from the one many are familiar with from his novels. In sharp contrast this his novels about USA are extremely satirical and for the same reason considerably more interesting seen from an artistic point of wiew. They were written after a journey to the States in 192930, which made a deep impact on him for the rest of his life and nourished the feelings of social indignation, so prevalently present in most of his literary works.

Scherfig as a visual artist[edit]

Besides his literary production, Scherfig is also well-known for his distinctive Naivist lithographs which depict jungle and savanna scenes that owe something to Henri Rousseau, and various drawings and paintings with satirical, political, and biblical subject matter.

Being an artist was really his original way of expressing himself, but an eye-desease, which reduced his eyesight substantially caused him - according to himself - to give writing a higher priority. Still Scherfig is highly esteemed for his artistic works. By the end of the 1920's he painted some cubist pictures, but he is definately best known for his naivistic lithographs, - a characterisation he himself incidentally did'nt approve of (suggesting as it were, that he should be a naive person).

Sherfigs view upon the world[edit]

Despite his idyllic naive depictions of wildlife, the wild merciless jungle was not Sherfigs ideal, quite the contrary. He wrote an essay with the telling title The disorder of Nature, and in Teodor Amsteds encounters with nature in Den forsvundne Fuldmægtig nature is depicted as being chaotic, wild and unfair. For Scherfig communism reprepresented the opposite, the utopian dream of a fair society, where the weak ones are being protected against the harsh laws of supply and demand that exist in a liberalistic society, where everybody is fighting against one another, disregarding the fates of the poor.

Sherfigs political engagement[edit]

Scherfig was in the period from 1932 until his death in 1979[1] one of the prominent members of the Communist Party of Denmark (dk:DKP).

Because of this Scherfig was imprisoned by the Nazi German occupation forces in Denmark during WWII. During the Cold War, Scherfig intensified his critical attitude against the USA.

Scherfig as an (unaccomplished) scientist[edit]

In the 1920's he started studying biology at the university of Copenhagen, but abandoned this in favour of painting full time. During a period of 15 years he worked on a book abour Dragonflies, but he did'nt manage to finish it before his death. According to himself, that occupation was his most important line of work.

Understanding Scherfig[edit]

Scherfig was an intelligent and witty author, when it came to depicting the sociey, in which he lived and knew well, but at the same time he was strangely ignorant, when it came to depicting the Soviet Union. There is a small portrait film from the 1970's, where he, - maybe - , indirectly admits this as a blunder. A clue to understanding this apparent contradiction is probably, that he, not unlike many others of of his contemporaries at the time strongly needed something pure and noble to believe in, even though it was a naive illusion. And later, as this became rather obvious, his vanity[2] prevented him for openly admitting having been fooled. A wise man[3] once said this: If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.

Movies based on Scherfigs novels[edit]

Den forsvundne Fuldmægtig was made into a movie in 1971 directed by dk:Gert Fredholm and with Ove Sprogoe as the main character. Scherfig appears himself in the film, partly as a narrator, partly in a small statist role late in the film in a scene from the church at Vestre Faengsel (major prison in Copenhagen).

Stolen Spring was made into a movie in 1992 directed by Peter Scroeder and with dk:Frits Helmuth playing the main character as the almost sidistic professor Blomme.


Sherfig received in his later years a yearly salary provided for the rest of his life by the danish state in gratitude for his artistic and literary contributions to danish cultural life (a reward which is granted renowned danish cultural personalities on a regular basis)

In 1973 Hans Scherfig received The Danish Academy's great Prize.

Burial place[edit]

Scherfig lies buried at Assistens Kirkegaard in Copenhagen. The tombstone is nameless, well hidden and depicting a turtoise, created by the sculptor dk:Carl Otto Johansen in 1975.



Other books[edit]

Notes and external references[edit]