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April 15, 2024

18 Portraits of a Young and Beautiful Tove Ditlevsen, One of Denmark’s Best-Known Authors

Tove Irma Margit Ditlevsen (December 14, 1917 – March 7, 1976) was a Danish poet and author. With published works in a variety of genres, she was one of Denmark’s best-known authors by the time of her death.

Tove Ditlevsen was born in Copenhagen and grew up in the working-class neighbouhood of Vesterbro. Her childhood experiences were the focal points of her work. Ditlevsen was married (and divorced) four times.

In her life, Ditlevsen published 29 books including short stories, novels, poetry, and memoirs. Female identity, memory, and loss of childhood are recurring themes in her work. She began writing poems at the age of ten. Her first volume of poetry was published in her early twenties. In 1947, she experienced popular success with the publication of her poetry collection Blinkende Lygter (Flickering Lights). The Danish Broadcasting Corporation commissioned her to write a novel, Vi har kun hinanden (We only have each other), which was published in 1954 and broadcast as radio installments. Ditlevsen also authored a column in the weekly Familie Journalen, responding to letters from readers.

Three of her books, Barndom (Childhood), Ungdom (Youth), and Gift (meaning both poison and married), form an autobiographical trilogy. The first two books were translated by Tiina Nunnally and published in 1985 by Seal Press under the title Early Spring. The complete trilogy, with the third book translated by Michael Favala Goldman, was published in one volume in 2019 (with the titles Childhood, Youth and Dependency) and referred to as The Copenhagen Trilogy.

Throughout her adult life, Ditlevsen struggled with alcohol and drug abuse, and she was admitted to a psychiatric hospital several times, a recurring theme in her later novels. In 1976, she died by suicide from an overdose of sleeping pills.


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