Danish literature in english

Danish Literature in English

Af Københavns Biblioteker
Are you interested in Danish literature but don’t know where to begin?

Look no further – at Copenhagen Libraries we have a wide range of Danish books in English translation and we have picked out a few to get you started; a classic, a contemporary work of fiction and a piece of provocative prose

"The Fall of the King" by Johannes V. Jensen 

Our first classic is unavoidable if you are interested in Danish (cultural) history and self-perception. The book spans a period from the end of the 1400’s to the middle of the 1500’s (although written in 1901). We follow Mikkel, a student-cum-soldier, whose fate is intertwined with and mirrored in the rise and fall of the Danish King Christian II. The reader is whirled through a virtual tour-de-force of historical events along with more experimental chapters of almost mythical character. The Fall of the King contains one of the utmost examples of language mastery and whit in a Danish novel. Jensen won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1944, so this is a great place to start when embarking on your tour of the Danish literary landscape.  

"This Should be Written in the Present Tense" by Helle Helle

Helle Helle is known for her concise, realistic, somewhat taciturn, prose and has published a wide range of both short stories and novels since her debut in 1987. Her stories often display the gap between small-town life and the everyday struggles in the big city. Helle Helle has an exceptional eye for dialogue and mundane detail and this novel is no exception. Dorte lives in the quiet town of Glumsø whilst pretending to attend university in Copenhagen. Really, she spends her days browsing malls and having random encounters with guys she has no interest in. The book offers no significant drama on the surface but focuses elegantly on the details of the quiet drama that is Dorte’s life. 


"Havoc" by Tom Kristensen

Now an acclaimed classic in Danish literature but mocked by critics and public opinion when it was published in 1930, Kristensen’s novel is the story of a once promising young poet, now literary critic who throws himself into an abyss of drink, sex, and jazz. Ole Jastrau leads a comfortable and predictable life with wife and child when his existence is upended by the visit of two young and ambitious communists and poets. Remarkably fast, Jastrau slips from respectable citizen into the darkest recesses of his soul. Nihilistic and immensely enjoyable, Havoc is a novel to be devoured.