Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A Shout from Copenhagen: The Meeting with Evil

“Now more than ever, the world needs to be told about the extent to which men, women and children are being subjected to torture. Thomas Larsen’s book about Inge Genefke’s Meeting with Evil and her 30-year fight against it bears that witness”
-Tim Robbins, Star of The Secret Life of Words

“Fifty years ago, the Nobel Laureate Albert Camus said, ‘For every man tortured, ten terrorists are born.’ Inge Genefke and the organizations she founded are working to help the victims and stop the torture. What better way to wage the war on terrorism?”
-Julie Christie, Actress. Played Inge Genefke in The Secret Life of Words

“As Thomas Larsen says in his introduction to The Meeting with Evil, torture victims are the loneliest people in the world. Their tormentors inflict upon them excruciatingly painful abuse which they are helpless to defend themselves against and which can permanently damage or completely destroy their bodies and spirit. As the only Holocaust survivor ever elected to the United States Congress, and one who has personally experienced a concentration camp during the Second World War, I feel compelled to ask, Who will speak out for these unfortunate human beings in their loneliness and suffering? It is a comfort and reassurance to know that there is at least one human being who has dedicated the major force of her adult life to doing so. That extraordinary woman is the subject of Mr. Larsen’s book – Dr Inge Genefke, a Danish physician, an outstanding humanitarian, and a distinguished medical doctor who uses her training and compassion to bring healing to those who have endured the pain of torture.”
-Tom Lantos, United States Congressman (in his foreword to The Meeting with Evil)

I just dotted the last ‘i’ on the translation of a book which was at one and the same time terribly distressing and enormously heartening to work with. Translating it into English made the horrific things described in it seem to be unfolding in slow motion and the courageous fight against these things, also related in the book, awesomely heroic.

In English, the book – which is currently in search of a publisher – will be titled, The Meeting with Evil, and subtitled Inge Genefke’s Fight against Torture. The book was written in Danish by the distinguished political journalist, Thomas Larsen and published in Copenhagen in 2005. Its subject is a Danish physician by the name of Inge Genefke.

The book includes a foreword by Tom Lantos, United States Congressman (http://www.lantos.house.gov/) , himself the survivor of a camp during the Second World War, as well as endorsements by Isabel Coixet who directed a heartbreaking and hopeful film dealing, in large part, with the work of Inge Genefke, and Tim Robbins and Sarah Pally who starred in that film, The Secret Life of Words (2006), as well as Julie Christie, who portrayed Inge Genefke in the film.

Inge Genefke has devoted the past half of her 68 years fighting against torture and struggling to ensure that the world is aware of the terrifying extent to which torture is being employed throughout the world as well as to see to it that care is provided for those whose lives have been broken by these crimes against humanity and to fight against the continuing existence of this inhumanity.

Her efforts and those of her colleagues have resulted in a situation where undeniable evidence now exists to disprove the lies of those political and military regimes who seek to deny the fact that torture of the most heinous sort not only exists but is being widely employed. Employed – as Inge Genefke states – not to obtain information really, but to eradicate the personalities of courageous individuals taking a stand in society. “Torture,” she says, “does not produce reliable information. Under torture, a person will say anything to make the torture stop, will confess to crimes he knows nothing about, will sign blank pages to make the pain stop.”

Inge Genefke’s efforts and those of her colleagues have resulted in the establishment of two centers for rehabilitation and research against torture in Copenhagen which formed the model for scores of other centers throughout the world, providing treatment for hundreds of thousands of victims and gathering research for the treatment of the victims as well as evidence which can be used to prove that torture is in use and produced in court against those responsible.

The pages of Thomas Larsen’s book are filled with equal parts of horror and hope and contain a portrait of the woman who has had the courage and tenacity to fight for all these years against this ugliness. Inge Genefke provides the hope. It is encouraging to know that there exists a force in the world willing to confront this evil -- she and her husband, Dr. Bent Sørensen, and all her colleagues at Copenhagen’s Rehabilitation Center for Torture Victims (http://www.rct.dk/) and the International Council for the Rehabilitation of Torture Victims (http://www.irct.org/) and those throughout the world who have been trained and aided by them in their own fight against torture and struggle to help its victims.

Inge Genefke has received many awards and distinctions from many countries throughout the world for her efforts and has been repeatedly nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Her struggle is not political, but humanistic, apolitical. Her aim is to stop the torturers and help the tortured.

Thanks to the United Nations Convention against Torture – which is also analyzed in Thomas Larsen’s book – torture, for all signatory countries, is a crime without a statute of limitations and one which can be tried anywhere, not only in the country where it has been committed. And the effects of this have already been seen. Torturers like Augusto Pinochet are no longer safe to travel freely in the world, enjoying the profits they have reaped from their activities. There is no more immunity for such people. Torturers, from the top on down through the hierarchy, are no longer safe in their misdeeds. A soldier or military policeman or “special adviser” is no longer free to claim that he was only following orders. The UN Convention makes it clear that such orders are unlawful and that it is unlawful to obey them.

The distinguished, 70-year-old literary magazine, New Letters (http://www.newletters.org/),
published by the University of Missouri Kansas City and edited by Robert Stewart, beginning with its Autumn 2007 issue, will publish a series of articles with excerpts from Thomas Larsen’s book about Inge Genefke. For a preview of what will appear in the book, readers are invited to read those issues of New Letters. At the same time, a forthcoming on-line publication, Exploring Globalization, co-edited by Walter Cummins (who also edits The Literary Review, currently celebrating its 50th anniversary, http://www.theliteraryreview.org/) will include in its inaugural number an interview with Inge Genefke and Bent Sørensen. That interview is now accessible at http://www.gig.org/eg/

Readers with questions about this important topic, publishers who are interested in acquiring the English translation of this book and periodicals interested in articles or interviews are invited to contact me via this blog or my website (www.thomasekennedy.com).

Greetings from this ancient kingdom! Thomas E. Kennedy

See also http://www.copenhagenquartet.com/ for information on four independent novels about the souls and seasons of Copenhagen, each written in a different style and set in a different season and which can be read independently of one another or together in any order desired: Kerrigan's Copenhagen, A Love Story (2002), which is a novel disguised as a guide to the bars of Copenhagen, each chapter unfolding in a different serving house; Bluett's Blue Hours (2003), a noir tale about the deep dark of Copenhagen winter and the seamier sides of life in this beautiful capital; Greene's Summer (2004), about a Chilean torture survivor who comes to Copenhagen to be treated in a torture rehabilitation center and meets a Danish woman who has herself survived a violent marriage; and Danish Fall (2005), a satire about 12 people connected to a Danish firm which is being downsized. Also available, free of charge while they last, is a 29-minute DVD documentary about these books: “The Making of Thomas E. Kennedy’s Copenhagen Quartet.” Preview film-clips of the DVD can be accessed on http://www.copenhagenquartet.com/


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