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September 23, 2012 1:51 PM   Subscribe

Danish author Sven Hassel (Wikipedia, official site) has passed away at the age of 95. (Danish - Translation) Hassel fought for the Germans during WWII and became famous after publishing Legion of the Damned, a semi-autobiographical account of the war. He went on to write thirteen more books following the adventures of his convict battalion, incuding Wheels of Terror which in 1987 was made into the movie The Misfit Brigade staring Bruce Davison and David Patrick Kelly (clip). He will be remembered fondly by all who browsed the bookshelves of charity shops as young men.
posted by Artw (31 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Also the probable author of "SS Death Camp Criminal Battalion go to Monte Casino for the Massacre", Vyvian's reading material in the Young Ones episode "Flood".
posted by Artw at 1:54 PM on September 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


Read a load of these as a kid...good old yarns. Nearly as violent as the Action Man novels but with more prostitute fucking.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 2:02 PM on September 23, 2012


I had no idea he was Danish! I thought he was a post-war German author. For many years his were the only books found in my uncles' cottage. Always very didgy typography. I remember being aware of that even as a kiddo.

How did I not know he was Danish? Danes love to big up their vaguely well-known cultural figures and you'd think an author that was translated into several markets would have warranted some media attention.

Huh.
posted by kariebookish at 2:03 PM on September 23, 2012


Don't forget his children's classic: Peter Rabbit - Tank Killer
posted by ennui.bz at 2:03 PM on September 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


Between them and The Pan Books of Horror it was quite an education I got from the local Oxfam as a kid.
posted by Artw at 2:04 PM on September 23, 2012


Danes love to big up their vaguely well-known cultural figures and you'd think an author that was translated into several markets would have warranted some media attention.

Well, the whole "fought for the nazis" thing may have been a sticking point...
posted by Artw at 2:05 PM on September 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


The Jack Chick of war writing - I shall miss his lurid covers and slightly more wordy than commando book nonsense, or maybe I won't. What kind of idiot donates nazi pish to a charity shop anyway ? There's surely not a great synergy between charitable people and the type that like the trains to run on time.
posted by sgt.serenity at 2:05 PM on September 23, 2012


METAFILTER: Nearly as violent as the Action Man novels but with more prostitute fucking.
posted by philip-random at 2:05 PM on September 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ah, Pan Horror... and a load of ultraviolent early 2000AD.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 2:06 PM on September 23, 2012


How did I not know he was Danish? Danes love to big up their vaguely well-known cultural figures and you'd think an author that was translated into several markets would have warranted some media attention.

Clicking on his Wikipedia site, I can see why my fellow Danes might've ignored his 'literary achievements..'

"Hassel served with the 2nd Panzer Division stationed at Eisenach and in 1939 was a tank driver during the invasion of Poland."

On preview: tak, Artw. What you said.
posted by kariebookish at 2:06 PM on September 23, 2012



How did I not know he was Danish? Danes love to big up their vaguely well-known cultural figures and you'd think an author that was translated into several markets would have warranted some media attention.



Maybe they'll erect a little bronze panzer statue or something.
posted by sgt.serenity at 2:08 PM on September 23, 2012


A mermaid with a panzerfaust.
posted by Artw at 2:09 PM on September 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


On preview: tak, Artw. What you said.


oops -
posted by sgt.serenity at 2:09 PM on September 23, 2012


To be fair, anyone in his books who is particularly keen on being a nazi usually meets a particularly gruesome death and then the other characters all shrug and look around for anything to rip off, eat or shag before being forced into battle again. War is hell!
posted by Artw at 2:13 PM on September 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Aaaaand Godwin in 3, 2....
posted by GallonOfAlan at 2:16 PM on September 23, 2012


Just glancing at the covers puts that secondhand bookshop musty smell in my nostrils, so ubiquitous were they in the shops I would haunt as a youth.

Never actually finished one... they were a little full on for me, but the impression that I got from reading that I did manage that they were pretty much of the war-is-hell and the Nazis were idiots/bastards. There's a scene were a gung-ho bright-eyed loyal Nazi recruit dies from just falling from a truck and being crushed everybody is jsut 'what an idiot'. Though idea if that was the overall theme of his work. Showing anything from the German's side in the least bit sympathetic way was very rare back then so they were kind of subversive.

Anyway, nice dog.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:17 PM on September 23, 2012


There was Hellman of Hammer Force and later Fiends of the Eastern Front, but yeah, at the time it was pretty rare to see that.

I suspect Warhammer 40K's whole fighting-grimly-on-the-side-of-space-fascism thing of influenced strongly by Hassel, especially when it comes to the Imperial Guard.
posted by Artw at 2:24 PM on September 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Filmwise there was the Desert Fox... but I think Cross of Iron was the breakthrough when you started having more revisionist cinema in the 70s
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:32 PM on September 23, 2012


The Keep of course.

My examples all seem to have vampires or space monsters or satan vampire space monster or whatever in them, or the Sovs... I guess because if you are goingto have reluctant Nazi heroes you need something just slightly worse than Nazi's for them to be reluctantly fighting against.
posted by Artw at 2:36 PM on September 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Whether he was an actual Nazi or not, 'The Bloody Road to Death' is one hell of a title.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:48 PM on September 23, 2012


"the funniest of all Sven's novels"
posted by Artw at 2:59 PM on September 23, 2012


My slightly older brothers picked up a bunch of these on a trip to England, I think, in 1973 or thereabouts. I read them when I was maybe 10, and maybe again a few years later. I recall them being really odd in tone -- exulting in the carnage and chaos of war while being rather bitterly critical of forces that drove working men to the slaughter. And prostitutes. Lots of prostitutes. But, overall, I remember being more puzzled than titillated.

There are another thing from my childhood I have no interest in revisiting. They would either be better or worse than I remember, and I would probably have to fight down the urge to punch my younger self or something.

Maybe they'll erect a little bronze panzer statue or something.

Please, lets not use the word "erect" in a Hassel FPP, OK? Nothing good will come of it....
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:10 PM on September 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Aaaaand Godwin in 3, 2....

I'm not sure it's a Godwin to compare someone to a Nazi on the basis that they, y'know, fought for the Nazi's.
posted by howfar at 3:12 PM on September 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


The Nazi's what is a story for another day.
posted by howfar at 3:14 PM on September 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Looking back on my comment, it's kind of a grammatical mess. I would like to blame it on a bad experience I had during the War, but that would be a lie.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:28 PM on September 23, 2012


What Hassel did during the war is highly debated, which is why the Danish Wikipedia page about him has two biographies, his own account and the one put forth by journalist Erik Haaest. However, as detailed in the English Wikipedia page linked in the post, Haaest is a bit of a shady character. Either way, one of the things "everybody knows" in the Nordic countries about Sven Hassel is that he made up his war career and was in Denmark the whole time. I'm no Hasselogist, so I'm not really qualified to say one way or the other. However, I find it interesting that an author who claims to write semi-biographical novels should have such a disputed biography.
posted by Kattullus at 3:57 PM on September 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yeah, Sven Hassels account of his life may or may not be to a greater or lesser extent bullshit. Which would make him a bit of an opportunistic shitbag, though whether that would make him more of an opportunistic shitbag than assuming he was completly truthful is hard to determine.

On the other hand I'm 100% sure that Erik Haaest's account of the life of Sven Hassel is total bullshit. Dude is a holocaust denier, FFS.
posted by Artw at 5:06 PM on September 23, 2012


My God... his books were massive at my school, back in the early seventies. They were - along with the Pan Horror collections - where we went for our teenage gore and nastiness fix. I had no idea he was even still alive.
posted by Decani at 6:55 PM on September 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I loved them because they were unusual in telling the story from the POV of ordinary German soldiers, which contrasted with most of the war stuff around when I was 11 or 12. At that age, I suppose I was less aware of the moral aspect, and more fascinated by guns and tanks and prostitutes.

There were also some great characters - ruffians and gangsters from St Pauli out on the steppes. I'm going to dig some of these out again.
posted by Myeral at 3:22 AM on September 24, 2012


My dad had a bunch of these on his bookshelves, so I dipped into a few after I'd worked my way through his Ian Fleming and Richmal Crompton books. Delightful amounts of gore and war for this bloodthirsty teen!
posted by vickyverky at 8:40 AM on September 24, 2012


Belated obit in the Guardain
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 10:00 AM on October 2, 2012


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