Place writing in Denmark: stedssans

The Danish book market is very different from that in the English speaking world. For starters, it’s a very small market, receiving large cash injections from the state via 25% VAT on books, hefty grants for the fortunate and a high paying Public Lending Right Scheme. The dominance of a single Authors’ School, Forfatterskolen, rather than different flavours of creative writing throughout the higher education system, can be criticised for stifling creativity and producing identikit authors all writing the same thing in the same style. And for this UK reader, books are painfully expensive – no £7.99 paperbacks here, or three for two offers, tempting you to impulse buy. Danish books tend to the encyclopedic and the huge, perhaps to justify the cover price. Thank goodness for the excellent Danish library service.

Then there’s the lack of literary non-fiction, my genre of choice. This year’s winner of historical book of the year (Årets Historiske Bog), Ellen og Adam (news story), was praised for taking a ‘new turn’ in literature and being, perhaps, readable. More common is a new publication at  the other end of the scale, a four volume set of diaries written by a member of the Danish government during WW2 – a tad niche, surely? According to P1’s Skønlitteratur, itself rather more highbrow than your average R4 prog, this approach is due to Denmark’s educational tradition, based on the German, with history seen as a science – Wissenschaft – see #sagasandspace, rather than the more populist British approach, public engagement (aka formidling) and all. The Danish higher education system does come over like a mighty dinosaur.

So it’s no real surprise that there’s a lack of writing in the Sinclair/Macfarlane mould in Denmark. (Neither of these two have been translated into Danish, and there’s surprisingly little Sebald on offer). And with Facebook (and Instragram) being the Danish #some of choice, there’s no Twitter or blogging to tap into either. (The blogging thing is weird. Maybe it’s because writing a blog doesn’t make you an Author, plus it’s free in a country where everything has a cost.) Which isn’t to say there is no writing about place or walking, rather that it comes from a rather different…place.

Denmark’s two big cultural exports, Kierkegaard and Hans Christian Andersen, were both walkers. Rather less familiar is Ludvig Feilberg, Denmark’s philosopher of walking, and doubtless Grundtvig had a hand in it all too. A vandringsessay by Kim Skotte in Politiken illlustrates the issues perfectly. Coming in at just over 2K words, I loaded this into OmegaT as a translation exercise, the first time I have used a CAT tool rather than parallel columns in GoogleDocs. The essay was inspired by Frederic Gros’ book  The philosophy of walking, recently published in Danish as . Familiar issues from the start. For example, very short sentences. Alliteration which doesn’t carry over. And at the end of para 3:

Og mens vi går, indhenter vi langsomt os selv.

This is a Kierkegaard allusion. Never mind the spatial turn, this is the philosophical turn.

Turning to books on place, several approach the topic from the perspective of literature, reminiscent of the secondary literature I read on my first degree in German. It feels derivative and unoriginal, and TBH I’m unsure why would you want to read litcrit unless you were studying the lit. Odd.

Anyway, I’m now pulling together the main references on place writing in Denmark I have found – see Stedssans (a sense of place), with posts in the stedssans category.

Dan Ringgaard’s sense of place

Dan Ringgaard is a lecturer in Nordic literature at Aarhus University. He is author of Litteratur in the Tænkepauser series (review) and has undertaken some broader formidling aka public engagement, but as is typical in dansk highered doesn’t blog or tweet.

In an interview from 2013 with Limfjordlitteratur (a little gem!), annoyingly divided into numerous teeny tiny segments, he comes up with the rather fab:

sted = lokalitiet + menneske –> mening, fortællinger

place = a locality + man –> meaning, hi/stories

He also talks about the “national places” found in Danish literature during the 19th century, such as Axel Sandemose’s portrayal of Jante (aka Nykøbing Mors) and its småbymentalitet and Johannes V Jensen’s Himmerland, how place is represented (eg by description, by its interaction with character and plot etc), the resonance of places you know well and the sense of wonder at new places , seeing familiar places in a different light, provins as in umodern vs udkant, and other weighty matters. Good stuff!

He is also at the helm of the section on Literaturens steder from Litteraturens Huse adult education resource?), which also merits closer examination:

As well as all this we have Stedssans (2010; eReolen | review | another; won the Georg Brandes prize), made up of 19 essays in three sections (Pausen, Kloben, Kroppen, Rejsen and Kortet), concluding with Ti teser om stedet, the whole thing based round a critique of Heidegger’s Bauen Wohnen Denken.

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Ringgaard’s Ten theses about place (pn)

There’s a bibliography, but no index. It’s all a bit elitær again, based around litcrit rather than your average Guardian reading flâneur , but there are brighter points – chapters on an airport, an hotel, a big city, a palm island, a mining town which now survives via tourism, plus titles including Palimpsest. Here’s a gallop through the chapters from the outlines at the start of each (plus I’m going to give it another go shortly):

  • Paradisisk Begyndelse – a journey to Brasil (palmeøen), Audrey Hepburn in Rome, Stephen Greenblatt, VS Naipaul in England
  • Heideggers Hytte – discussion of Heidegger and critiques, Paul Celan’s poem Todtnauberg
  • Maigrets Ekstaster – crime fiction
  • Efterretninger fra Greeneland – ie Graham of that ilk
  • Transit, tourist – airports!!
  • Globalt talt – Foucault, Calvino…
  • Fra en stol i Minas Gerais – more Brazil
  • Byens fortælling, byens puls – the big city: Salvador, Brasil
  • Byvandringer – NB, but still litcrit
  • At holde et landskab gående – Morten Søndergaard and AN Other
  • Palimpsest – pot pourri
  • Rejsebrevprovinsbyen
  • Rejsens Sted – Thomas Boberg
  • Stedets VidneCarsten Jensen (closest DK gets to travel lit but old style), and others
  • Kort over Boipeba – palm  island, again
  • Litterær kartografi – Michael Chabon + the usual suspects
  • Korttegnere – novel by Per Olov Enquist
  • Landmålere – Lykke-Per and others

Hvor litteraturen finder sted: an encylopedia of place

Hvor litteraturen finder sted (2010) by Anne-Marie Mai is a three volume colossus covering Danish literature from 1000 to the present day. It’s a literary history from the perspective of the places where literature was written, read, disseminated etc: up to 1800 the cathedral, the herregård, the court and the akademi, from 1800-1900 the præstegård and the salon, and in the 2oth and 21st centuries the bladhus, the metropol and the Internet:

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from Udgang, vol 3 p393

This is an interesting concept, but is written in an encyclopedic style making it a far from inspiring read. Crucially, it lacks an index by place, favouring the German classics of Litteratur and Personenregister listings instead. For reviews see Litteratursiden | Berlingske | Politiken | Videnskab.dk. Accompanying TV series(!): Litteraturens åsteder, well worth a watch.

Anne-Marie is a lecturer in Danish literature at SDU, celebrated in a 346 page festskrift (those Germans again) with the title Litteratur på stedet in 2013. It appears that she was awarded DK 100,000 to compile her three volume masterwork, but the total price on the street is still around £100, and the scale of the thing is daunting. Who is the target audience? Is it meant to be a reference work? Who knows.

Danmark, Gurre, stranden: place in Danish literature

The literary turn…cue much excitement when I spotted Danmark, Gurre, stranden: steder i dansk litteratur (Saxo; published by U Press) by Jan Rosiek on my literary podcast (see below). 171 pages rather than numerous bind, published in February (reviews: Politiken 25 March | Weekendavisen 13 March, neither online):

Den nye interesse for steder i litteratur har ændret vores måde at læse på. Vi har bevæget os hen imod en større opmærksomhed over for de virkelige rum, som litteraturen foregår i.Topografi (‘steds-skrift’) inddrages ofte i dette nybrud, og for litterater burde der være noget umiddelbart tiltrækkende ved analyser af geografiske lokaliteter, der understreger det skriftlige aspekt i fremstillingen af et sted.For at afklare rummets og stedets status i litteraturvidenskaben sætter Jan Rosiek egne bidrag sammen til en anden forståelse af nøgleord og kategorier som rum, sted, stof og motiv. De har ofte spillet en stor rolle i analysen af fortællinger. Nu kan vi også begynde at forstå betydningen af rum og sted i forbindelse med lyriske værker. Gennem geokritiske læsninger fremstilles betydningen af steder som nationen Danmark, det kulturelle erindringssted Gurre og den topografiske lokalitet stranden. I bogens litterære udgravninger finder myter og erindringer sted på ny.

[quick gloss] The current interest in place in literature has changed our way of reading. We have moved towards a greater attention to the real space literature takes place in. Topography (‘place writing’) is often involved in this wave, and for those studying literature there should be something immediately attractive in the geographic locations which underlie the writing aspect of the presentation of a place. In order to illuminate the status of space and place in literary studies Jan Rosiek gives us his own contribution to a different understanding of keywords and categories such as space, place, material and motive. They have often played a considerable role in the analysis of stories. Now we can also begin to understand the significance of space and place in connection with lyric works. Through geocritical readings the significance of place is presented in places such as the nation of Denmark, the cultural memorial site of Gurre and the topographical locality of the beach/coast. The book’s unearthings finds myths and memory in a new place.

I’m liking the concept here, three glances rather than exhaustive. Split new copy duly arrived via the library, languishing on my pile after my return from a city break to Sofia. Forced myself to engage with it before it was due to go back:

  • chapter 1: reprint of At finde sted: hvorfor er der et danskfag og ikke snarere intet?, a professorial lecture given on 15 June 2009 and published in Kritik 193 (2009): 2-11 with a shorter version in Politiken (Bøger 20 June 2009:8-9)m which I got hold of via the library FWIW
  • chapter 2: Danske digtere om dansk identitet. Fra Kok til Jensen – ie not about place or the spatial turn, rather on concerns about a ‘national’ literature
  • chapter 3: Vejviser til Gurre – more promising, but mainly litcrit of mentions of Gurre
  • chapter 4: Symboler og allegorier ved havet. Sted og figur i moderne dansk lyrik – more litcrit, in three sections: stranden, troper, digte
  • Efterskrift: Rum, sted, stof. motiv, topos – some familiar names here! explores psychogeog and related theory; no need for me to engage with this på dansk

Gurre is, it appears, a castle plus village near Helsingør, beloved of King Valdemar Atterdag (IV of Denmark, 1340-75), who reclaimed a hoard of lost Danish lands plus Skåne and was the first Danish king to rule Copenhagen, although he gave up Danish Estonia (yikes) and had less luck against the Hanseatic League. He employed heavy handed methods and was in favour of endless taxation…we’re in saga country now, a myth put into poetical form by JP Jacobsen, with a German translation forming the text of Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder. Is it known today? Much written about in the mid 19th century , as a symbol for a happy relationship, but too masculine and kongelig for today.

Jan Rosiek is a professor of Nordic literature at Copenhagen University. Previous publications include Romantiske veksler (2009) on Romanticism, Andre spor (2003) on modern Danish poetry and Figures of failure (1992) on Paul de Man. Much Hegel and Heidegger, so we’re back with the German problem.

Danish radio makes me very grumpy. Jan was (briefly) on P1’s Skønlitteratur on 8 April (an hour, around twice three times as long as it needs to be, get snappy, P1!), coming over as a tad elitist, along with a a discussion of a poem by Johannes V Jensen, who won the Nobel Prize in 1944 (På Memphis Station, 1906). Two poets have reinterpreted the poem in arty rag Hvedekorn for fun, right…with lots of oplæsning to fill up the hour.

According to Jan place is not special in Danish literature, perhaps because/in spite of the fact that the concept of Denmark has changed over time. He also stated that the significance of place has changed because of the Internet – people can be in a different place mentally than physically – for example if Jensen had had an iphone he might not have written his poem reflecting on being stranded alone at a station. But language can do more than simply reproduce a place, which is where his book comes in.

 

Ludvig Feilberg: Denmark’s philosopher of walking

Ludvig Feilberg (1849-1912; Wikipedia | Litteratursiden) was an engineer and philosopher. He was known as the fodtursfilosof (philosopher of walking), because he was so skilled at identifying the feelings and atmosphere encountered on a walk.

How known is Feilberg today? He does get a mention in Nu begynder det maniske, where Mikael Bertelsen tries to recreate the feelings invoked on a 500km walk in Spain.

Notes from a kronik by Per Lindsø Larsen on Feilberg, published in Politiken on 13 May 1989 and reproduced in Fodnoter (see Footnotes: rambling in Denmark).

  • Larsen notes the lack of people going for a proper walk, which he defines as a kunstart with its own krav and indre udvikingsforløb, which it can take years to become ganske fortrolig med
  • it’s a matter of much regret that fitness/running has pushed the art of walking out of our culture, not least because it represents a form of mental wellbeing not found in any other sort of physical activity
  • Feilberg’s scattered notes on how to take a proper walk deserve to see the light of day again, before the art of the walk completely dies out
  • the most essential and mandatory requirement is that you walk alone – and in areas and at times of day where you are least likely to meet anybody
  • being close to people results in etablering – even passing another person on an untrodden path in the woods pulls you out of your thoughts, meaning you have to samle, fatte, etablere sig, if even for a short moment, suffocating the inner thoughts essential on a hike (see quote starting “Det var en stille nat” in Information’s Fodnoter review)
  • there is something refreshing about skille sig ud fra den store masse og finde sig en lille afsides plet for sig selv
  • Feilberg was not a misanthrope and enjoyed going for a stroll in the company of his friends – he just knew there were some things best done alone
  • after 6-7km a barrier occurs which needs to be overcome – a certain nausea or physical bryd, which tempts you to stop, go for a coffee or whatever; if you don’t give in to this temptation you will be able to continue for several hours without further need for interruption
  • this barrier has nothing to do with tiredness or physical weakness – it’s just a question of laziness
  • real tiredness is characterised by a leaden feeling in the legs – in this case you may notice a light nervous shaking or trembling, followed by sweating and thirst – if you don’t give in to temptation these feelings will pass and you will be able to continue for many hours without getting tired; you may well notice a change in densification and are already vædret op til nye etager
  • the second barrier is of a quite different nature, mental rather than physical – it occurs gradually, appearing typically soon after the first
  • consists of your thoughts changing from being circular to a ligeløb – ideas from everyday life, small and large, going through your mind in relay? will become more difficult to catch hold of: tankerne flygtigt hæfte sig ved alverdens ligegyldige småting
  • four further phenomena of high mental value in this phase:
    • strakthed – the feeling that the soul is stretching out into the surrounding nature as far as it can and returning refreshed; not a supernatural out of body experience, more the simple result of the end of the closed circle, giving a feeling of ligeløb/equanimity?, openness and fresh air for the soul, likea snail emerging from its house after light rain and stretching up a blade of grass, extending a fine silken thread to be able to breath in the freshness…
    • frihedsfølelse – an almost euphoric feeling which can drive you to dance down a path with a inderlig trang to leap from stump to stump like a street urchin, if discreetly; too much kredsning closes and clenches a person, while ligeløb loosens and opens up; problems which seemed large and insoluble at the beginning of the walk become a mere bagatelle by the end
    • selvfødelsesværdi – expansion of possibilities, new ideas and thoughts come to mind, solutions like a bolt of lightning from a clear sky, with problems seen in a new light – why didn’t I think of that before?
    • hjertevarme – a peculiar feeling which overshadows everything – in winter even the most deserted villa can look so attractive that one is tempted to embrace them, every turn in the path takes on a loving form, every puddle smiles back at you  – a love of nature in its purest and precious form, revealed in all its glory – wake up, this is how life should be!
  • it’s preposterous that we believe we have to attain higher levels of consciousness through the accumulation of knowledge, or descend to lower levels of childish nonsence in order to find livsglæde – just go for a walk!
  • it will happen even if you don’t believe in it, although some experimentation may be required – no two walkers are the same; some prefer woods, some open landscapes; some walk at dawn, some in the twilight; as the man said:

Man skulle aldrig level anderledes end man gør på en fodtur: Levende, men forbigående. Så man til sidst kunne tage hatten af i forbigående: ‘Jeg skal ikke længere have den ære…’

The urban museum

Following on from #flmuseums here’s a look at urban museums, curators of the history and narrative of place.

Urban museums I have known

The MOOC started out at the Museum of Liverpool, opened in a spanking new building in 2011 and clearly on trend. In contrast, the Museum of Copenhagen currently occupies a building dating from the 1780s. This historic setting very much sets the tone – salon rather than living room, and a rather hokey website. When I visited the exhibitions felt a bit thin, although the city walks are rather better. Of note is Væggen (The Wall), a collection of photos, both historic and current, uploaded by museum visitors and available online and as a 12m long touchscreen in various venues around the city. Deemed a success in terms of creating an audience-centered museum where the public shifts from visitor to participant, but not very usable as a photo collection.

The museum is moving to larger quarters (dating from the 1890s) and hence is closing in October, yikes, reopening in 2017, when it will be sammenlagt with the council’s other museums (Thorvaldsens Museum and Nikolaj Kunsthal) as well as the city archives (Københavns Stadsarkiv).

Even closer to home is Forstadsmuseet, the “museum of the suburbs”, created in 2000? by local ildsjæle and archivist Poul Sverrild (story), and currently under the steer of Anja Olsen while Poul polishes off his PhD. Not officially recognised as a museum, in part due to its lack of a clear research profile but also its small size, and hence not in a position to apply for funding (story). I’ve never actually been there, but I’ve been on a couple of its walks and made copious use of its online resources, not least Historie i gaden and 52 historier fra Hvidovre. They also cover the neighbouring kommune of Brøndby, where they act as a mobile museum, with weekly displays in two locations.

The museum doesn’t do #some and has no English. It also has no objects, showcases or custodians – the collection is made up of local places, and its mission is to give local history meaning for local residents. In a paper, 15 years as an urban museum in the public space: learning, wondering, reflection, at this year’s Organisation of Danish Museum’s annual international meeting Poul Sverrild quoted a Danish mayor in the late 1990s who asked: What’s the point in having a museum when we don’t have a history? The response was a “novel key principle and outreach concept, turning a whole history-challenged area into a museum collection and literally placing the exhibition spaces in the public sphere”.

So much for my local museums – would I visit them if I wasn’t on my own particular quest? Of places I have lived, turns out that Huntly House in Edinburgh has been rebranded as the Museum of Edinburgh, like several other examples having evolved from history and local archive collections. Is this part of the much famed spatial turn? OTOH the Museum of London has been going since 1976, while Bristol, Newcastle, Manchester and Sheffield have skipped on the concept so far.

Less place oriented but still drawing on the local are ‘old school’ collections of random objects. I visited Coventry’s Herbert on a rainy day with a guest and it was pretty interesting, as was the Crawford in Cork, but these are a different animal from the ‘new’ museum of n, targeted at locals under the mantra of the museum as agent for social change, but in practice as much a magnet for idle tourists. From our last holiday compare and contrast Budapest’s rather dusty History Museum hidden in the castle with Vienna’s vibrant Wien Museum, based in a 1959 building on Karlsplatz with numerous exciting subsites. And it’s not like Budapest lacks excitement.

Urban history and the local museum

The ODM meeting included a dedicated stream on local museums, facilitated by Rainey Tisdale (@raineytisdale):

Municipalities expect local profiling and attraction of tourists. The state expects research at an international level and outreach as part of the museum’s social responsibility. At the same time the museum has to act in relation to other cultural institutions, event organizers and commercial players in the battle to offer experiences with cultural heritage content. Furthermore, the museum is also expected to have an opinion on current problematic issues. How can museums navigate in this and why are they relevant?

The session looked at different ways of being a museum in local society, exploring notions of place, rootedness, community and belonging. Sadly no coverage, but one paper asked whether the role of the local museum as an ‘identity marker’ for a community, rooting it in local history, is actually anachronistic in a globalised world, concluding though that focusing on what makes a community different can actually allow global perspectives to be expressed and explored in a local context, joining the debate and inviting dialogue on old and new stereotypes (see The Russian Current at the Perspektivet Museum in Tromsø, and also the Museum of Copenhagen’s At blive københavner/Becoming a Copenhagener).

A 2011 seminar in Aarhus’ Gamle By on urban history exhibited (vids) was even blogged! See Rainey Tisdale’s slides on trends in European city museums. Residents should be the primary audience and first priority of a city museum, whose primary concern should be curating contemporary experiences of the city for residents (but who is a resident? false dichtomy alert!). She explored apps comparing then and now, commissioned stories, residencies by eg chefs…activities should go beyond the museum and the city centre, with neighbourhood, hyperlocal and even one block projects. Forstadsmuseet on trend!

From the intro to the Journal of Museum Education 38(1) March 2013) on city museums and urban learning, with city museums defined as institutions that collect and interpret the history of their city and activities including:

  • collecting maps and street views
  • collecting objects and archival records documenting historical events, the city fathers, local industry, and major landmarks
  • mounting exhibitions about cities
  • providing lectures, walking tours, and school field trips
  • publishing educational materials
  • building modest but loyal constituencies

There is a clear area of crossover with local history societies. The expectations of audiences are rising with the inexorable growth of city life, the smart city, the green city, the global city, the comeback city, the creative city…while urban art museums tend to lead the field in collaborations with audiences and innovative programming, city museums need to broaden both their collections and interpretation to represent multiple socioeconomic groups and ethnicities.

History is no longer at the heart of what a city museum does. Rather it is a vehicle through which urban citizens actively engage with their city and connect with each other, exploring and reinforcing their individual identities through the musuem content, with room for memories and emotions as well.

The expanding toolbox: geotagging, pop-up projects, psychogeography, mobile apps, hyperlocal history…a multi-disciplinary approach centred round place based learning and a growing understanding of how people learn in free choice environments.

A different slant

But people no longer fit into nice, neat categories and have more complicated allegiances to place than before. Søren Bitsch Christensen (Dansk Center for Byhistorie; slides) asked whether city musuems really reflect what the city is today. The urban may be the central frame for modern life, but different conceptions of the city exist. We tend still to see a closed built-up area, think the tradition købstad (or Death Star Copenhagen?), when in reality today’s city is part of the networked society. The link between production and settlement is now less clear cut, the spatial less relevant (in 2011?). Today’s post-industrial urbanism, characterised by experience, the residential and architectural quality, all captured in a ‘snapshot’ paradigm of mobile and geotagging with the keywords of presence, belonging and identity, does not offer critical comment and lacks context. The personal and individual captured in stories, rather than collective. (Does this not ignore the fact that place may well be different for everyone?)

Paul van der Laar (Museum Rotterdam; slides) called for new heritage models and concepts (‘bonding’ rather than ‘nostalgic’ heritage), different urban storytelling methods and more imaginative strategies. City curators should expand their expertise beyond “classical driven collection based scholarship”. In the transnational (international?) city we need to avoid nostalgia (excludes those whose culture was not part of the story) and embrace different sorts of knowledge and dynamic interpretation, such as working memory, usable in the present day.

Again, the city as network, with a diverse population who do not necessarily feel a strong allegiance to a single country or place. The here and now, self realisation and representation are all of importance.

transnational city

cultural heritage

mental heritage

So, is there still an Us? Denmark/Danskere, with its homogenous self image and exclusive cultural values, has an issue here. Golden Days is going to be interesting…

Placing the author: the literary tourist

#flhouselit is running again from 29 June. On a slightly different tack is Placing the author (abstracts | reflections | more reflections@placingauthor), a conference on literary tourism in the 19th century (and today), which took place in Elizabeth Gaskell’s house in Manchester on 20 June. The conference blog has a post on Imaginary tourism, with students at a university in Florida mapping places and journeys in five novels and exploring one place in depth – see Wuthering Heights, the North Kent Marshes from Great Expectations, the London Streets in The Moonstone and  Thomas Hardy’s Stonehenge. Lovely. See also The Postcard Project (map), accounts of visits to sites such as birthplaces, residences, gravesites, monuments, museums and blue plaques:

To take part in the project, all you need to do is to send us a photo, telling us when and where the photo was taken, why you went (max 100 words) and what you got out of the experience (max 150 words).

See a visit to Freud’s house in Hampstead, Elena’s postcard from Prague, Poets’ Walk in the Hudson River Valley and Lucy’s postcard from Abbotsford, plus the Guardian gallery from Nick Channer’s Writers’ houses, random post on Kafka’s death house

Go on then…as a dedicated literary, or perhaps rather cultural, tourist I’ve loads to pick from, but let’s go for Trieste.

Why I went…

A fan of borders and edges (and the Austro-Hungarian Empire), I’ve had Trieste on my bucket list for years. In her book Trieste and the meaning of nowhere Jan Morris comments: “People who have never been there generally don’t know where it is…Visitors tend to leave puzzled and remember it with a vague sense of mystery”. Last autumn I finally made it, in a journey also taking in Venice, a popular magnet for literary tourists throughout history. Trieste, temporary home of Casanova and Rilke and locus of Claudio Magris, is rather less familiar and hence all the more fascinating.

What I got out of the experience…

Described by Morris as “a loitering kind of place”, Trieste is perfect for drifting. James Joyce, for me rather more accessible via his places than his writing, lived in Trieste’s seediest quarter from 1904-20, teaching English to businessman and novelist Italo Svevo, the model for Ulysses’ Leopold Bloom. Commemorated in life size bronze statues and plaques around the city, Jim and Italo share a museum in a hidden corner of a palatial building next to the central library. Despite arriving at closing time Claudio the curator was unperturbed, happily relating tales from both writers’ lives, such as Italo’s stay in Charlton from 1903-13, where he worked as representative and manager for the in-laws’ paint firm. The lives of Joyce and Svevo, plus those of two other Triestine writers commemorated in sepia tinted leaflets, represent the changing identity of the city in a nutshell, and, perhaps, of Europe. Unforgettable.

Onward…Denmark’s big hitters are Hans Christian Andersen, Karen Blixen and Hamlet, but let’s hear it for Nexø’s House on Bornholm. See also the Writing places project, “celebrating the rich literary heritage of the South West, Nicola Watson’s Literary tourism and 19th century culture (and blog post on dogs of genius) and Nigel Beale’s Literary Tourist, “a travel planner for book lovers”.