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The man with the ridiculous dilemmas

Would you rather eat a pill that doubled all of your emotions? Or halved them? Dilemmas galore in new book by Copenhagen student. We interviewed him

Last month Christoffer Stenbakken, a student of rhetoric at the University of Copenhagen (UCPH) released his debut book, ‘Would you rather?’ (‘Hvad vil du helst?’ in Danish).

The book consists of 50 dilemmas, all of them pretty ridiculous, which is the point, though some of them also touch on some very existential questions. Every dilemma is illustrated with comic illustrations – all made by Christoffer Stenbakken himself.

The University Post met up with him for a talk about absurd dilemmas and debuting as an author.

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It is Friday, and we are at Mågekroen, a dodgy-looking pub in the heart of Nord-Vest (Copenhagen North West). Christoffer shows up with a slight hangover – symptomatic for many a university student on a Friday.

“I wasn’t sure if I should postpone this thing. I mean, this is my first interview ever. It’s kind of weird,” he tells me with a smile as we sit down in the smoke-filled back room.

We sit and discuss mutual friends for a while until I ask him the first question that came to my mind, when I heard about the book.

Why write that book?
“Well, I had just quit a job in an advertising agency and really felt I had to make something of my own. I had only been with the agency for a few weeks before I realized that that definitely was not the way for me. At least for the time being. So then I came up with the idea for the book.”

Result of brain storm

And where did you go from there?
“I started out with four good dilemmas that I illustrated with the limited photoshop skills I had at the time. Then, I basically walked into my local bookstore and asked for a list of Danish book publishers, which they gave me. And then I just started sending mails to all of them with my book proposal and the preliminary dilemmas.”

The book industry has a reputation for being tough towards newcomers. Wasn’t it hard to get a foot in the door?

“Not really, as a matter of fact. I actually also turned down an offer from a smaller publisher. I thought I could probably do better than that. A couple of days later, I received an offer from Hovedland (Danish publishing house, red.), which I accepted. And then the work began.”

How was your writing process?
“At first, I just brain-stormed like crazy. I came up with about 500 dilemmas and then started sorting them out, until the best ones were left.”

“It took me about six months to finish the book. What really took the most time was the illustrations. I wasn’t very skilled in photoshop so I had to rely on YouTube tutorials and stuff like that to figure it out. Also, I had to find photos that matched the dilemmas, and it can be quite hard to find a free stock photo of a five-year-old mulatto boy squatting. So, I had to make some modifications to most pictures. It turned out.. Well, you be the judge.”

Can’t answer any of them

The illustrations are really strange and funny, complementing each dilemma perfectly. The result is an absurd journey through the mind of the author. One of my own personal favorites is: Would you rather be a mute except for the sentence, “That’s what she said!”? Or would you prefer to be a mute with the sentence, “It’s a miracle, I can talk!”?

Do you have a favorite dilemma in the book?
“I have a few, but my favorite might be this one.” He flips through the book and shows me a page that reads: Would you rather eat a pill that doubled all of your emotions? Or halved them?

“I like these existential dilemmas, where it’s really hard to answer. That was also one of my rules when I wrote the book. It shouldn’t be easy for me to answer any of them.”

Have a long think about this one

Do you have any advice for other young people who want to write a book?
“Yeah, definitely just get out there and give it a try. As long as the idea is good enough, you can always find someone who is interested. I personally didn’t know anything at all about the publishing industry before I started writing.”

Let’s sign off with one of Christoffer’s dilemmas:

Would you rather be together with the last person you kissed for the rest of your life? Or would you rather not be able to kiss the same person twice?

Take a look, and peruse, a few more of his dilemmas on the pictures below (Illustrations and dilemmas by Christoffer Stenbakken).

Feel free to add your own dilemmas in the comment field below!

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