Lectures & Literary past

Virtual Panel — The Copenhagen Trilogy by Tove Ditlevsen

Tue—1-26-2021
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(L-R)—The Copenhagen Trilogy (Courtesy FSG); Michael Favala Goldman; Morten Høi Jensen; Rachel Kushner (Photo by Chloe Aftel)

TUE—January 26—7 PM

American-Scandinavian Foundation invites you to a virtual panel discussion on Tove Ditlevsen’s The Copenhagen Trilogy, in celebration of its publication in English translation by Tiina Nunnally and Michael Favala Goldman beginning January 26. In this event, translator Michael Favala Goldman and authors Morten Høi Jensen (A Difficult Death), Rachel Kushner (The Mars Room), and Ben Lerner (The Topeka School) will discuss this courageous and honest trilogy from literary icon Tove Ditlevsen, a pioneer in the field of genre-bending confessional writing, explores themes of family, sex, motherhood, abortion, addiction, and being an artist.

Tove Ditlevsen is today celebrated as one of the most important and unique voices in 20th-century Danish literature. Born in a working-class neighborhood in Copenhagen in 1917, Ditlevsen became famous for her poetry while still a teenager, and went on to write novels, stories and memoirs before committing suicide in 1976. Having been dismissed by the critical establishment in her lifetime as a working-class, female writer, she is now being rediscovered and championed as one of Denmark’s most important modern authors, with “Tove fever” gripping readers, and  The Copenhagen Trilogy (1969–71) is her acknowledged masterpiece.

Childhood tells the story of a misfit child’s single-minded determination to become a poet; Youth describes her early experiences of sex, work, and independence. Dependency picks up the story as the narrator embarks on the first of her four marriages and goes on to describe her horrible descent into drug addiction, enabled by her sinister, gaslighting doctor-husband. Throughout, the narrator grapples with the tension between her vocation as a writer and her competing roles as daughter, wife, mother, and drug addict, and she writes about female experience and identity in a way that feels very fresh and pertinent to today’s discussions around feminism.

Ditlevsen’s trilogy is remarkable for its intensity and its immersive depiction of a world of complex female friendships, family and growing up―in this sense, it’s Copenhagen’s answer to Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels. She can also be seen as a spiritual forerunner of confessional writers like Karl Ove Knausgaard, Annie Ernaux, Rachel Cusk and Deborah Levy. Her trilogy is drawn from her own experiences but reads like the most compelling kind of fiction, and has been hailed as “admirable and shocking” (Margaret Quamme, Booklist), and “mordant, vibrantly confessional…a masterpiece” (Liz Jensen, The Guardian)

The panel will take place as a Zoom webinar; questions can be shared in the chat or emailed in advance to info@amscan.org.

The Copenhagen Trilogy is out beginning January 26, 2021 from Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Learn more about the book and see how to purchase by clicking here.

Support has been provided by the Consulate General of Denmark in New York.

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About the Author

Tove Ditlevsen was born in 1917 in a working-class neighborhood in Copenhagen. Her first volume of poetry was published when she was in her early twenties and was followed by many more books.

These included the three volumes of the Copenhagen Trilogy: Childhood (1967), Youth (1967), and Dependency (1971). She died in 1976.

About the Panelists

Michael Favala Goldman is a widely-published translator of Danish literature, a poet, educator, and jazz clarinetist. Over one hundred of his translations have appeared in such journals as The Harvard Review, World Literature Today, and The Columbia Journal. Among his 16 translated books are The Water Farm trilogy, Farming Dreams, and Something to Live Up To, Selected Poems of Benny Andersen. His first book of poetry, Who has time for this? came out in 2020. He lives in Northampton, MA.

Morten Høi Jensen was born in Copenhagen, Denmark. He is the author of A Difficult Death: The Life and Work of Jens Peter Jacobsen and has contributed essays and reviews to The New York Review of Books, The New Republic, Commonweal, The Point, and The Los Angeles Review of Books, among others. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Rachel Kushner is the author of the internationally acclaimed novels The Mars Room, The Flamethrowers, and Telex from Cuba, as well as a book of short stories, The Strange Case of Rachel K. She has won the Prix Médicis and been a finalist for the Booker Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and twice a finalist for the National Book Award in Fiction. Her books have been translated into twenty-six languages. Her first essay collection, The Hard Crowd, will be published by Scribner in April, 2021.

Ben Lerner was born in Topeka, Kansas, in 1979. He has received fellowships from the Fulbright, Guggenheim, and MacArthur Foundations, and is the author of the internationally acclaimed novels Leaving the Atocha Station, 10:04, and The Topeka School, and an essay, The Hatred of Poetry. His poetry collections include The Lichtenberg Figures, Angle of Yaw, and Mean Free Path. Lerner is a professor of English at Brooklyn College.

 
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