Beyond the Preening (Yet Another Angle on Edmund Ek)

My recent post on Edmund Ek has, as ever, attracted an abnormal level of attention. Several readers (two, for accuracy’s sake) have expressed concern at my ‘cynical acceptance’ of the theory that the ‘trouser theft incident’ was staged by the man himself.

‘Yet more fuel poured over the cruel and baseless rumour that Ek is, in your words, a “preening young writer”,’ observes one of them. She goes on: ‘when will you critics stop kicking chunks out of the poor fellow? Just because he is good-looking (an admittedly rare affliction for a writer) you insist on knocking down a peg or four. But ask yourselves this question: why would a mildly successful author willingly humiliate himself at a serious dinner party at a well-known East Coast university? The idea that Ek was seizing the opportunity to show off his astoundingly well-formed and handsome legs, is nothing short of ridiculous. This was an attack on Ek’s dignity, nothing less. Don’t try to pretend otherwise.’

Meanwhile, the other reader notes that Ek’s ‘so-called accomplice remains a complex and shadowy figure. One day he steps in at short notice to impersonate the writer, with unfortunate results; the next day he slips into a private dinner, hides under a table, and removes the guest of honour’s trousers. Who is this chap, and what’s in it for him?’

Both readers raise interesting points. As I have no doubt mentioned before, critics have always been guilty of prejudice in the face of Ek’s, well, face. His rugged good looks – tied as they are to natural talent of a high order – are certainly a sore point within the international literary community, thus the long-standing suggestion that he isn’t, after all, as talented as we thought he was; that he simply ‘got lucky’ when he penned The Incredible Expletive Shock! (to quote one critic: ‘he wrote it despite himself’). All this I accept. It is wholly undeniable.

On the other hand, the evidence does point, overwhelmingly, towards the fact that Ek enjoys (or has, in the past, shown a distinct fondess for) a good prank. This is not to say, of course, that his recent move to the countryside is one of those pranks; no, I uphold a man’s right to overturn his predilection for casual japes. When looking at Ek’s earlier career, however, one cannot ignore the frequency with which the Norwegian novelist sort to play games with his public. Trust me, a doppelganger and a case of missing trousers are the least of it.

As for the shadowy accomplice, I have nothing more to add. Rest assured I can think of many who would be happy to fulfill such a role. Writers will have their cronies.

[Further to the above, I think I promised readers an update on Ek’s current whereabouts. According to my Scandinavian sources (also known as Mildrid and Hans) he has ‘taken to the hills’. No word, as yet, as to what hills these are; whether he is still writing a graphic history of Buddhism; or whether his pet cat, Heidi, will be in attendance.]

[Further to the ‘further to the above’, this will probably be the last post on Edmund Ek for a while. One gets caught up in his ‘story’ every once in a while, without ever quite knowing why. For someone about whom we know little that is substantial, he remains a hugely compelling figure].

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