Christina Hagen’s foray onto the Danish literary scene came fairly late. She was 28 and hadn’t previously littered magazines, newspapers or blogs with neither short stories nor clever observational punditry before releasing Sexdronning (Sex Queen) in 2008. Its satirical tone and explicit sexual content immediately garnered loads of attention, but mainly her talent for intertwining fact and fiction stood out. Said talent seemed to spill over and into her email correspondence, making communicating with her an entertaining and sometimes slightly disturbing game of rereading and second guessing. Well, apparently we guessed right more often than not, because she recently agreed to have us preview some pages from her new book Boyfrind in our magazine and it’s out there for you to find as we speak. Boyfrind is a gut-wrenching, toe-cringing account of relationships and prostitution, written in diary form and halfway comprised by some very graphic photos. It has that grueling can’t-look-can’t-look-away quality to it, and we were keen to find out more about its background and to understand how much is for realsies and how much is just plain make believe.
VICE: So, let’s start out with some basics. Why did you write this book in English?
Christina Hagen: Because I wanted an inept tone to it. I’m not a native English speaker so it seemed an organic way to achieve that, using a non-language. It’s meant to come across as fluffy and empty, devoid of any lyrical and emotional value. Also I like the idea of it being accessible to everyone.
There are a lot of pictures, half a book’s worth. How come?
Well, people often discuss what degree of my work is factual and how much is fiction. I guess, I just liked having these pictures as a sort of irrefutable truth. But it’s a scam, right? Pictures can lie as well.
Yes, if I understand correctly, the guy cast as Boyfrind is a model, right?
Yes, but this is where it gets a little hairy, because he’s actually a former lover of mine, too. So it’s not all that straightforward.
Oi vey, don’t you confuse yourself some of the time?
Yeah, but it’s all just fiction, isn’t it? I mean, that’s how I feel a lot of the time.
Ok, now you just sound nuts. Let’s change the subject. Who is boyfrind?
He’s an amalgamation of stories I’ve heard from different women mixed with my own relationship experiences. I used all sorts of inspiration like radio shows and tacky TV soaps. It’s very inspired by that whole American take on dating and relationships that you would find in, say, Beverly Hills 90210. I love that shit. I’ve really sponged up all the cliches. But at the same time I’ve also taken in a lot from a mentally ill girlfriend. She is psychotic and keeps falling obsessively in love with different men, and then she blurts it all out on Facebook before it inevitably goes wrong. It’s that kind of twilight zone where you start to feel a little bit uncomfortable, yet you can’t not look.
There are some point-of-view photos of you undergoing an invasive gynecological procedure. What about that?
Yes, that was all me, but there’s still a twist. In the book the narrator has the procedure, because boyfrind wants to come inside her without risking pregnancy, whereas the procedure I actually had was of a different nature. The doctor was not happy about me taking the pictures, especially because it didn’t go so well. I’ll probably have to black out her face.
Boyfrind is kind of a dick. Given that he’s loosely based on combination of your actual ex-boyfriends, aren’t you worried how your exes might react to this book?
It wasn’t written to hurt anybody and the details are fairly obscured and mixed together, so I don’t think it will be a problem. But I will probably be making a few calls before it comes out, yes.
So what type of girlfriend does that make you?
I’m pretty paranoid. I constantly think that my boyfriends will cheat on me or go to prostitutes, so that was a big part of me wanting to write this book. To understand myself better perhaps and explore this environment of prostitution that frightened me so much. It was therapeutic for me.
The therapy was going to Paris, Madrid and Thailand and paying prostitutes to have their photos taken and do all manner of odd stuff for you? Good fun?
It wasn’t, it really wasn’t, but at the same time it’s also worrying the way you get accustomed to things when you do them repeatedly. For example I had the male-prostitute in Thailand doing a lot of weird things, because by then, I suppose, I was kind of desensitised. It was a bit scary how you lose your inhibitions.
Did you get into any trouble doing this?
Yes, in Paris. The prostitutes there were not into it at all. When I asked them about it they started chasing me, threatening to kill me. Then one of them caught up with me saying, she wouldn’t mind me taking photos of her, but it turned out she was just luring me into a trap and then three of them jumped me in an alleyway walk-up and stole all my money. Luckily I got away with my camera.
So what did you end up taking from all this therapy of yours?
That it was completely different from the fears I had about it in connection to my relationships. I mean, it wasn’t hot or sexy. It was just really mechanical, like taking a shit.
Any other notes for the reader?
Hmm…I always have one song that I listen to perpetually during a project. A book soundtrack, if you will. For this book it was Sabrina’s “Boys, Boys Boys”.
All photos and illustrations by Christina Hagen