Denmark Literature in the 1970’s and 1980’s Part II

By | December 18, 2021

After various experiences in the wake of the nouveau roman, Madsen has managed to conquer the public by exploiting the potential of the various types of traditional novel, used as linguistic models for ironic and sophisticated manipulations of different styles and languages ​​(from sentimental to adventurous, from pornographic to detective story, from fantastic to science fiction); but, at the same time, he does not neglect any of the elements that are easier to grasp for the less experienced reader, such as continuous twists, suspense, etc. Of his novels, we remember in particular Dage med Diam eller livet om natten (1972, “Days with Diam, or even life at night”), open to two different possibilities of interpretation; Tugt og utugt i mellemtiden (1976, “Verecondia and inverecondia in the middle time”) and the recent Slaegten Lavrans (1988, “The Lavran family”), where the character of Diam. For Denmark 2000, please check

EK Reich’s polemic against his own time (n. 1940) is more open and far removed from any intellectualism. Engaged personally in all manifestations of the youth revolt and particularly against the participation of the Denmark in the Common Market, Reich affirms himself with a very particular reinterpretation of the Danish past.

Frederik received great success on the first centenary of Grundtvig’s death . En folkebog om NFS Grundtvigs tid og liv (1972, “Federico. Popular book on the time and life of NFS Grundtvig”), which highlights the relevance of some teachings of the great Danish educator.

Happiness of style and national-popular inspiration also distinguish the historical novel Festen for Caecilien (1979, “The Eve of Santa Cecilia”). The most read and discussed works at the end of the seventies are in any case the passionate and controversial investigation by T. Hansen (b. 1927) Processen mod Hamsun (1978, “The trial against Hamsun”, the subject of controversy also in Norway) and the ” football ” novel Fodbold Engel (1979, “The Angel of Football”) by HJ Nielsen, returned to literature from sports journalism. Skillfully entering in the wake of the literary currents of the moment (autobiography, documentarism, confessional literature) Nielsen describes in this novel the bewilderment of the men of his generation, disappointed in the political and social fields, in the face of the unexpected economic crisis affecting Denmark and also unable to live the daily relationship of the couple according to the assumption of total equality of the sexes, which they themselves proclaimed.

Thus the triumphalism of much of the ” new women’s literature ” is called into question. The term was launched in 1976, the year in which T. Ditlevsen voluntarily put an end to her life after having given, in her latest works, a more painful and profound image of her life as a woman. Strengthened by a new political awareness, gained in basic feminist groups, young women choose, in prose and poetry, the path of a “ new female realism ” which is at the same time a document, a confession and an affirmation of new values, but also the search for new means of expression.

Among the most successful writers, in addition to Denmark Willumsen (b.1940), the first woman to be awarded (1982) the Danish Academy Grand Prize, we remember K. Thorup (b. 1942), Ch. Strandgaard (b. 1943) and B. Clod (b. 1946). More socially and politically committed Denmark Trier Morch (b. 1941), who borrowed the essentiality of style from her graphic experience since the first, short documentary novel, Vinterborn (1976, trans. It. Children born in winter, 1982), illustrated by herself.

The rampant search for the specific feminine and the exaltation of a new ideal of ” sisterhood ” is first opposed by E. Gress (1919-1988), who had previously denounced the subjection of the female world in Det uopdagede kon (1964, “Sex neglected”). The autobiographical novel Salamander (1977, “The salamander”) and the five volumes of memoirs testify to his unscrupulous judgment and his faith in a free humanity without difference of sex. Only partially involved in feminist movements is the writer M. Larsen (b. 1951), whose appreciated lyric collections have above all political value.

No commitment, other than to remove the last barriers between public and private with regard to sex, appears in the successful (and consumer) works of the same age V. Andersen and S. Brogger (b. 1944). The former is effective in her elementarity as a self-taught underclass, more aware of literary values, who knows how to embellish her prose with the subtlety of paradoxes and the elegance of style, and makes us forget roughness with ironic distancing, and the tenuousness of the subject matter.

In the last decade a new avant-garde of young people has come forward who, beyond the thematic and formal divergences, have in common an extreme individualism and faith in a single absolute value, that of the “poetic act ” conceived as a linguistic elaboration.

Theirs is a desperate, unequal, sometimes anarchic, sometimes ecstatic, often aggressive poetry, but always with a strong vitalistic and emotional charge, borrowed from the rock and punk world. The songs of B. Dylan and Denmark Bowie are no less part of their theme and language than Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Eliot and the Danish modernists of the 1960s. We remember FP Jac (b. 1955), the first to oppose the sloppiness of the social realist poetry of the seventies; M. Strunge (1958-1986), corifeo of this new wave and editor of Sidegaden magazine(1981-83); SU Thomsen (b. 1956), always looking for the “specificity of poetry” in lyricism and theory. Less closed in his individualism BG Jensen (b. 1955), also engaged in fiction and literary criticism. The linguistic elaboration in the ” female ” lyrics by P. Tafdrup (b.1952) and J. Preisler (b.1959) is more refined and praised. The former is committed, in her limpid and musical verses, to the search for unity between the movements of her own feelings and the transformations and tremors of her own body as a woman; the latter attracted and rejected at the same time by the destructiveness inherent in the loving act, the subject of much of her daring and refined lyrics.

After years of silence, in 1985 P. Hultberg (b. 1935) published the powerful novel Requiem, composed of 537 monologues of anonymous voices who lament, in an elaborate and pregnant prose, their pains and frustrations. Also worth mentioning are the novels and short stories by JC Hansen (1956-1989), greeted with astonishment by critics since his literary debut (1981) for his artistic maturity. Typical figure of Danish postmodernism I. Michael (b. 1943) who, abandoning the ecological realism of his essays on American Indians, amused the public with the grotesque realism of the medieval novel Troubadurens laerling (1984, “The apprentice troubadour”), where there are frequent winks alluding to the Divine Comedy.

Denmark Literature in the 1970's