Classic Author Focus: Tove Ditlevsen

Tove Ditlevsen

A writer in many genres, including poetry, Tove Ditlevsen was one of Denmark’s most famous authors at the time of her death. Ditlevsen was born in a working class area of Copenhagen. She led a difficult life, and her work often reflects the loneliness of living in the poorer regions of the city.

Not much information is available online about Ditlevsen’s life. She suffered from alcoholism and drug abuse throughout her life and was admitted to a psychiatric hospital more than once. Nevertheless, she managed to write 29 books of poetry, short stories, novels, and memoirs.

Her first volume of poetry was published in her early 20’s. In 1947, she achieved popular success with her poetry collection Blinkende Lygter (Flickering Lights). Then she accepted a commission from the Danish Broadcasting Company to write a novel, resulting in the publication in 1954 of Vi har kun hinanden (We Only Have Each Other). She wrote very personal works and was not part of any literary movement. She is best known for her trilogy of memoir, Barndom (Childhood), Ungdom (Youth), and Gift (which is translated variously as Poison, Married, or Dependency). Ditlevsen also wrote a column in Familie Journalen, in which she answered questions from readers.

Sadly, Ditlevsen committed suicide by taking an overdose of sleeping pills.

Dates: 1917-1976

Most popular works: Blinkende Lygter, Barndom, Ungdom, Gift, Barndommens gade

Other works: Lille Verden, Dommeren, Jalousi, Hvad nu Annelise?, Ansigterne, and many others

4 thoughts on “Classic Author Focus: Tove Ditlevsen

  1. Oh, nice to see Ditlevsen featured here! I read an anthology of some of her poetry last year which I really liked.

    “Gift” in Danish means both marriage and poison, a very appropriate title as the book covers her marriage with the doctor who facilitated her substance abuse.

    Not much information about her may be available online in English, but naturally much more is written in Danish. If anyone is interested in reading more about her I tested translating her Danish Wikipedia page using Google translate and a quick comparison indicated that the result was mostly readable and correct (although her second husband was a student, not a police as Google translate suggested).

    Liked by 3 people

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