This book is a small piece of Norway. It is the story of a young Norwegian, wandering through life; it is a song about his doubts and his faith, about his insecurity and his hesitant longing, about the burden of disgrace and the dream of becoming someone great. (Vindland 1979: 5)
Gudmund Vindland’s debut novel Villskudd was published in 1979. It is a book that has meant a lot for many people, and the special place it occupies in Norwegian queer literature and culture became evident as the 25th anniversary of its publication was celebrated in 2004. "This is a book that gives the reader a sensation of tenderness, and joy – a feeling of not having to be afraid anymore", said actor Anders Rogg, hosting the celebration.
As the story starts, the book’s main character, Yngve Vilde, is a teenager. He is young, fit and happily in love. From a young age, he identifies as homosexual, and is not ashamed neither of who he is nor of how he acts. His friend Magnus is his counterpart. Magnus is so ashamed of who he is that it ruins his life. The differences put aside; society’s condemnation of homosexuality hits them both hard. As a young adult, Yngve is hospitalised for psychiatric treatment, while Magnus studies theology and gets engaged to a woman; his repressed feelings and self loathing changing him to the unrecognisable.
The story of Yngve is a coming out-story. It is a story about a growing homosexual identity. It is a story about isolation, but also about community and solidarity. It is a story about creativity, and about anxiety and depression. Sincerity and gallows humour follow side by side – and this combination may be why the book has made such an impact on so many people’s lives.
More than just being a portrait of a young man, the novel is also a broader description of homosexual lives in Norway in the recent past – lives that are shaped, lived and unfolding within a society that both discriminates against them and denies their existence. As readers, we meet the teenage boy who is overwhelmed by his growing sexuality and the young man full of shame. Christian communities where discrimination and double standards exist side by side, and joyful theatre groups using humour as a tool for expanding the limits of gender and sexuality. Literature and the meaning it can create in an individual’s life. Heartsickness. Friendships. The extraordinary feeling of being drunk for the first time.
Yngve finds his way into a gay community that offers friendships, lovers and laughter. He learns about the law that criminalises sex between men. He experiences homophobia, threats and violence. Meets a health care system that discriminates against him, and a military system that maintains that homosexual men are not suited to protect their country. Learning by doing, he gets to know how rich elder men initiate relationships to young men; provide for them, idolise them – and control them. He leaves for a year-long revelry trip to Italy. Experiences drug abuse, and prostitution.
High ambitions and dreams of becoming an artist. Intense and conflict ridden relations between older teachers and young writers-to-be. Alcoholism and mind blowing anxiety. The homosexual patient encountering the health care system. Villskudd has it all.
Yngve’s struggle – to be who he is, to love whoever he wants – is also the struggle of the gay movement. And the story of Yngve Vilde is, in spite of everything, a story of hope. In the last scene of the book, Yngve has left the mental hospital and returns home, in his own words – home to a place where he has never been before. A collective where Øystein lives – Øystein, the man who visited him when he was in the hospital; who sent a letter signed Yours – if you want me to be. Yngve finds the courage to knock on the door. And receives a hearty welcome.
The novel is subtitled The song for Jens. It is an honest and unsentimental tribute to Vindland’s friend, lover and mentor, Jens Bjørneboe. In a foreword to the 4th edition of the book, the author explains:
Villskudd is a key novel about Jens Bjørneboe. Even though his biographers have realised that he was bisexual, they have not come to understand how his sexual orientation was profoundly connected to his writing. (Vindland 2003: 7)
The Norwegian writer Dag Solstad wrote a review for the Norwegian newspaper Klassekampen when Villskudd was first published in 1979, using the following words:
... an extraordinary novel on an important topic. It has become an important book, crazy, raw, grotesque, repulsive, analytical, exciting. And rebellious. Yes, first and foremost rebellious. The book has taught me a lot about homosexual communities and homosexual experience. And about love. Yes, first and foremost I have read the book as a desperate analysis of the conditions for love. (Solstad 1979).
Villskudd has sold a total of more than 100.000 copies. In 1989, the sequel Stjerneskudd was published. Gudmund Vindland has also written two other novels: Tigerpuddelen Tilla Tidtrøye og hennes bestialske bibeltolkninger (The Beastly Bible Interpretations by Tiger Poodle Pastime-Tilla) and Korinternes gjerninger (The Korintians’ Deeds).
* Translated from Norwegian by Heidi Rohde Rafto
Bugge, Henriette. 2004. «Vellykket Villskudd-jubileum». Gaysir.no. Read February 29, 2016. https://www.gaysir.no/artikkel.cfm?cid=9210.
Solstad, Dag. 1979. «En rå, øm og opprørsk roman om forbudt kjærlighet». Review of Gudmund Vindland's novel Villskudd: sangen til Jens. Klassekampen 27/10 1979.
Vindland, Gudmund. 1979. Villskudd – sangen til Jens. Oslo: Forfatterforlaget.
Vindland, Gudmund. 2003. Villskudd – sangen til Jens (4th ed.). Oslo: Oktober