Portræt af en forfatter,
Tea Bendix
By Nina Christensen, 2001

Tea Bendix (b. 1970) breaks with the convention of text as something primarily linked to the written word in her works. They make the reader aware that also sound, picture, and gesture can be part of a story. This is how her works come to appear as a peculiar kind of multimedia-performance in book form.

Tea Bendix has both written the text and drawn the illustrations in two publications. In her 1997 début, Skattekisten (The Treasure Chest), a picturebook, we hear about a tall lanky thief with a glint in his eye, who gets caught redhanded by the bank manager in the act of breaking open a safe.

The text only consists of comments said between the bank manager and the thief. The typography and graphic layout show the reader which words have to be stressed and intonated; thereby also becoming in part an aid to the correct musicality when reading aloud, and in part meticulously integrated into the visual expression. Then there is the precise portrayal of the characters’ facial expressions and gestures in the illustrations.

One gets the same impression of a thoroughly composed unity from Tea Bendix’ novel Vidunderbarnet (The Child Prodigy, 2001). A headpiece begins every chapter that also contains a full-page black and white illustration. As in The Treasure Chest, the illustrations are first and foremost portraits of the characters in the book. These people are depicted with a sense of the wry, the humorous, and at times the grotesque.

The Child Prodigy is both a sad and cheerful story of how a child experiences the meeting of, on the one hand, the world of imagination and the senses and, on the other, the world of reality and physical order. The reader follows Gustav, a boy who not only has a lot of sensitivity but who is also talented both musically and at drawing, through the eyes of one of his friends. Tea Bendix suspends the sharp division between reality and imagination in her description of Gustav and his friends’ lives.

This story about artistic ambition, of living up to parental expectations, and of the often confusing relationship between make-believe and reality is written with the-child-as-reader in mind. Among other things, this is achieved by his friends observing Gustav, so that the events are registered through the senses of a child in a child’s words, and woven into the modern everyday life of school, football matches, and talk about spaceships and UFOs.

Furthermore, Tea Bendix writes about sound, music, dance, and the senses so that these appear alive to the reader. The writer creates sound images in the text. In this way Tea Bendix’ description of the especially-talented, peculiar child’s sensitivity and daring also becomes and image of the writer’s own unfurled talent in relation to writing for children.

This is an abridged version of Nina Christensen's portrait of Tea Bendix. The full-length text is available under 'Articles'.

Translated by Ian Lukins