It is always interesting when a local author is discovered by the rest of the world – which appears to be the case of the Danish author Tove Ditlevsen, who has been published to rave reviews in both the UK and USA.
Tove Ditlevsen is not a new author, but is one of those authors in Denmark, that everyone knows, and have read while in school. She committed suicide back in 1976, so it is interesting what has caused her work to suddenly be discovered outside the Nordic countries.
Anyway, here are some of the reviews about her works:
This notorious poet is required reading in Denmark. Her masterpiece is now out in the US. (VOX)
‘The Copenhagen Trilogy,’ a Sublime Set of Memoirs About Growing Up, Writing and Addiction (NY Times)
Tove Ditlevsen: Why it’s time to discover Denmark’s most famous literary outsider (Penguin)
In the Green Rooms excerpt from Dependency (The Paris Review)
Reality Under My Skin (Harper’s)
Most of the reviews talk about Tove Ditlevsen’s status in Denmark, but as with all such things, things are not quite as simple as presented. For a more nuanced view of how Tove Ditlevsen’s literary reputation in Denmark, see this twitter thread by Olga Ravn, who is someone who can talk about the subject with authority
It’s lovely to see Tove Ditlevsen gaining her deserved recognition in the world! But it is not true that she is unanimously celebrated in Denmark. She has always been at the center of a almost century long discussion of taste and literary quality. Thread@PenguinUKBooks @fsgbooks https://t.co/5kYeEjmdjm
— Olga Ravn (@OlgaRavn) February 1, 2021
I suggest reading the whole thread.
As someone who has grown up in Copenhagen, I have read Tove Ditlevsen’s works in both primary school and in high school. Though I was born around the same time as she died, I could recognize many things from her writing in the city I was a kid in. Now, living in the same neighborhood as she lived in her whole life, there is very little left to recognize. The area has been entirely gentrified over the last 25 years, and while (most of) the buildings are still here, the population and shops are nothing alike to back when she was living here.
This means that Tove Ditlevsen’s works are, for me, a glimpse into the city’s past, reminding me of a time where the population of Copenhagen was less well off, and where well-off families tended to leave the city. Do note that I am not glorifying those times – Copenhagen in the eighties was a long way from being the busy cultural hub that it is today. It was poor, schools and the infrastructure was falling apart, and there was an unhealthy level of pollution – and don’t get me started on how much the quality of food has increased since then.
A side note: Back when I went to school, Tove Ditlevsen was usually referred to working class literature. I wonder if this category is still used, given the fact that the classic working class has to a large degree disappeared.