Character in the Dock
Thomas no longer uses the surname Skade-Rasmussen StrÝbech. Following a ruling in the High Court last year, the name belongs to a fictitious person acting in Das Beckwerk's novels. This was what he tried to explain Danske Bank and the Copenhagen City Court yesterday.
Photo: Jakob Dall
Thomas claims that he is no longer Thomas Skade-Rasmussen StrÝbech due to a High Court ruling
30 March 2012
It is really about 197,721 Danish Kroner. This is how much Thomas Skade-Rasmussen StrÝbech owes Danske Bank. The bank wants a ruling in support of their claim. Thomas wants the District Court to acknowledge that he is no longer Thomas Skade-Rasmussen StrÝbech and thus not the proper defendant. He just wants to be left alone.
In the small courtroom 3 in the District Court a handful of spectators are gathered to witness the main proceedings in the case. Danske Bank is represented by lawyer Saeed D. Khanlo. He is dressed in a suit with case documents neatly arranged in plastic folders laid out in front of him. Thomas Skade-Rasmussen StrÝbech arrives a few minutes late – without a lawyer – and hurries to put his arsenal of annexes on the table: piles of transcripts, newspaper articles and novels by Das Beckwerk and Dostoyevsky. And a camera.
“Before we begin the proceedings, I will just ask you: “Are you filming with that camera? It is not allowed,” notes Judge Stine Andersen.
No more reality-based fiction is to be spun in the case of Thomas Skade-Rasmussen StrÝbech.
A Defendant called Thomas
It all began when Das Beckwerk published the novel The Sovereign in 2008, which carried pictures and detailed information about Thomas Skade-Rasmussen StrÝbech – without his consent. Thomas Skade-Rasmussen StrÝbech took Das Beckwerk (now known as Helge Bille Nielsen) and his publisher Gyldendal to court. Thomas Skade-Rasmussen StrÝbech lost the case in the High Court, and was subsequently beset by financial problems due to the sizeable legal fees.
Danske Bank's attorney begins his presentation with the one fact that the adversaries seem to agree on: “We agree that the defendant is named Thomas. But from there it seems somewhat unclear what the defendant is actually asserting.”
The lawyer refers to email correspondence and conversations between the defendant and his bank adviser, and he uses the defendant's identification to adduce that the “defendant is the proper person.”
Thomas uses a different kind of reasoning. He references last year’s High Court ruling, which found The Sovereign to be a fictional work.
“The copyright to Thomas Skade-Rasmussen StrÝbech belongs to Gyldendal Ltd and Helge Bille Nielsen. This is not just my absurd claim but a legal reality established by the High Court last year. Therefore I cannot answer for Thomas Skade-Rasmussen StrÝbech’s actions.”
But the lawyer does not appreciate this interpretation of the High Court's ruling.
“It's regrettable if the defendant feels that he has been deprived of his identity. But I must emphasise that the High Court has never said that Thomas Skade-Rasmussen StrÝbech no longer exists as a physical person.” He then goes on to address a question to Thomas:
“Now I would like to hear from you if you are able to remember anything from before the ruling in the High Court last March? Do you remember spending the money?”
“What I am trying to explain here is that I cannot speak for Thomas Skade-Rasmussen StrÝbech,” he responded despairingly.
“Today, I am the man without qualities, and I say with Herman Melville's Bartleby: 'I prefer not to.' In this context I prefer not to have to answer for another man’s deeds,” says Thomas, instead referring to Helge Bille Nielsen and Gyldendal A/S as the proper defendants.
After the proceedings, Thomas describes what he learned after going through two court cases.
“What you realise is that the individual is so radically alone with his truth.”
Today's hearing was a clash of cultures.
“I wasn’t sure whether to bring Bartleby into my final statement. Do you think the judge knows who Bartleby is? Well, now she has it in writing. There is always google...”
– What do you expect from the ruling on 27 April?
“I expect that justice will be done,” says Thomas and elaborates:
“This is a problem, which the court itself has created, and a problem only the court can resolve.”
- Do you intend to make art out of this case?
“Everything is art … I don’t really subscribe to distinctions between art and life.”