Stedssans: place writing in Denmark

Denmark’s – and Danes’ – sense of place…writing (and writers) about place, walking and related på dansk. All a bit of a mixed bag, most noticeable for how conservative and highbrow Danish publishing is.

See also posts in the stedssans category, in particular Place writing in Denmark.

And while we’re at it, nature writing is equally nebulous in Denmark. See Litteraturhuset’s cancelled event, featuring Andrea Hejlskov and Nanna Goul.


  • På tur i Danmarks historie (2017) – complementary output to DR’s Historier om Danmark, with 47 tours inc a rather unexpected tour de Hvidovre
  • Den grønne metropol. Natur- og rekreative områder i hovedstadsmetropolen efter 1900 (2017; excerpt | article | another | Kroppedal): another brick at 816pp, this one from planning corner, covering the growth of green throughout the capital region in exhaustive detail, with a focus on the Finger Plan, Denmark’s answer to the Green Belt (in lib at 71.966)
  • Byens hjerte – pladsens historie (2017; Politiken): Martin Zerlang’s latest on city squares through the ages, DK 399,95 to you
  • Markløs (2017): Malte Tellerup on Fyn; “titlen er en gammelt udtryk for at gå planløst over en mark, uden at følge stier eller skel”; reviews: Information | | Atlas | other moderne hjemstavnslitteratur; on Skønlitteratur, giving some hints as to what the issue is with place writing in DK
  • Bybilleder: kunstnernes og forfatternes København (2016) and Her er DK  (2017)
  • several chapters on Copenhagen in The urban lifeworld: formation, perception, representation
    (2001; eds Peter Madsen & Richard Plunz, in lib)
  • the first section of Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow (1992) maps out “an alternative and troubling map of CPH”, akin to  Chandlers’ LA or Ian Rankin’s Embra (literal or just metaphorical map?)
  • Paa Memphis Station (text) – Nobel Prize winnter Johannes V Jensen‘s 1903 poem must have place-related cred; three English translations exist and it has also been given a retreatment by an assortment of Danish poets (see Johannes V Jensen anno 2015 on P1)
  • Kristensens bolighistorie – Fire generationers boliger 1910-20 – a Danish house book! published in 2012 by KU sociologist Hans K and at one point free to download (in lib)
  • Emil Bønnelycke (1893-1953) – known for Asfaltens Sange (1918; Litteratursiden, prose poems inc Aarhundretet and Rådhuspladsen) and Københavnske Poesier (1927), plus, says Wikipedia, for firing blank cartridges after having read a poem in honour of Rosa Luxemburg at Politikens Hus
  • Christian Skovgaard‘s Picking up pieces: “a 62 page graphic novel done in airbrush and deals with loss and psycho-geography; how our environment affects us psychologically”
  • Leif Sylvester’s Danmark og mig, another example of the picture book tendency
  • advertorial in Politiken (Lørdags Liv, 2 June 2018) bigging up Carlsberg Byen’s cultural heritage (15% of the buildings will be from its former life), included the following:
    • Vi former vores identitet med det sted, vi bor. Et hjem handler om mere end blot et tag over hovedet. Det handler i høj grad også om identitet. Men kan nybyggeri bygges med sjæl og historie?
    • Hvor vi vælger at bosætte os fortæller en del af historien om, hvem vi er, om måden vii lever vores liv pa, og vilke værdier, der er vigtige for os.
    • draws on quotes from Hans Thor Andersen, Forskningschef at Statens Byggeforskningsinstitut, architect Frederikke Aagaard and PhD student in anthropology (Aarhus) Jonas Strandholdt Bach
    • also noted was the concept of the ‘generous’ district which gives something back, and the importance of public space and shared facilities, rather than “en masse fuldstændig ens byggerier”
  • Filosof om hvorfor vi er så vilde med at vandre i 2018: reportage on the Romantic conception of walking, with Politiken’s Erik Jensen and Kierkegaard expert Peter Tudvad, marking the Wanderlust exhibition in the Alter Nationalgalerie in Berlin; in short: hiking, firmly in the German tradition; Tudvad: “Man kan ikke vandre i en by”
  • Stedsjournalist Kasper Mikael Jacek (@kasperjacek), reviewed The Emigrants, responsible for Jacobs slum, writes for Baggrund
  • Gå tur: om glæden ved at sætte den ene fod foran den anden (Go for a walk; 2018) by Anna Skyggebjerg, who has also written a Zen for mødre and Introvert; mainly from lifestyle corner, although G Nicholson, R Solnit and R Walser appear in the selected reading. with namechecks along the way to Thoreau, Kirkegaard, Espedal
    • “Gåture har ry for at være en aktivitet for dem, som ikke kan andet.”: oh dear; at best presented as “en modstand mod altid at have travlt”.
    • includes the standard tropes of lists of synonyms for walking and how wo/man stood on two legs, plus sections on meditation and walking as a ritual; from another angle, it’s the same ‘all about me’ story seen in literary fiction
  • Alene i Danmark. Tanker om hus og hjem (2018; Litteraturhuset) by George Blecher (US), a writer and translator from Danish and Swedish into English (nowt traced), published på dansk only?, about his summerhouse on Præsto and “om familiens forskellige hjem rundt om i verden, af hvilke Blecher har forsøgt at flikke ‘et indre hjem’ sammen”; sounds promising but oh that cover…also Andre mennesker (2009)
  • Siri Ranva Hjelm Jacobsen has Faroses and Italian (explains the hair) roots, and tackles themes such as home and identity; known for Ø (2016; “barsk”; Atlas) and Havbrevene (2018), in which the Atlantic and Mediterranean seas are two sisters writing to each other
  • Hvem var nogensinde så ung?: eight years in CPH by Stine Engen
  • Hvem er Danmark?: 20 writers placed in 20 towns (inc Ishøj (see Digterens møde med Ishøj in Søndagsavisen, 7 May; Erik stayed with families in Gadekæret, a villa on Ishøj Strand and in Fasanskellet, concluding that Ishøj was reminiscent of an old style village…dropped Arken and the beach in favour of a walk through Ishøj Bycenter, Vejleå Kirke, industrikvarteret, Ishøj Dyrepark and Tranegilde Landsby, Store Vejleæ området and back; poem to be submitted by 15 May) and Albertslund), outputs to be made available over the summer and at Bogforum 2019
  • Zombierådhus: continuation of Pablo LlambíasRådhus (1997; Litteratursiden | Information), futuristic fiction set in each of Denmark’s 98 town halls, gosh…
  • Vide Verden: shout-out to these city guides, even if they are a bit dull

Books, essays, lists:


Elsewhere (unless otherwise stated, Udkantsdanmark):

  • Aarhus – see Elsewhere page
  • Banedanmark (2014; LitteraturNuLitteratursiden) – by Peder Frederik Jensen
  • Daglejerne (1936) and De ny tider (1939) – socialist realism Danish style from Hans Kirk, set around the cement factories of Mariagerfjord; revisited by Atlas
  • Huset i Sønderhå (English) and Husumgade revisited – Bue Bredsdorff‘s self geography, mini-comics and posters about places he has lived, published as HJEM (2016), a graphic novel trilogy, in 2016 featuring his childhood home, a student house and his ideal home
  • Limfjordslitteratur – a wealth of resources for learners about six 19th/early 20th century authors from the area around the big fjord in Jutland
  • Opland (2014; Litteratursiden) – by Jens Vilstrup
  • Pendlerne (2014; LitteraturNu) – by Simon Fruelund; see also Borgerligt tusmørke (2006) on a fictional suburb
  • Udkanten (2014) – by Lasse Hjorth Madsen
  • Udkantsmyten (2015) DR | K Forum – by Kaare Dybvad

A 2014 article in Politiken (Provinsen? Lad os nu komme af med det lort!) looks at the growing interest by Danish novelists in ‘the provinces’, which portrays them either as unchanged or as a smoking ruin:

  • for Bent Vinn Nielsen (article) Danish literature has always been written by people from the ploughfield and is still a land of farmers/peasants – a quarter of DK’s population may live in the Capital Region, but many grew up in the provinces
  • Naja Marie Aidt, now living in New York, says her picture of Denmark has changed – it is a country præget of the provinces. a little country made up of little towns; suddenly more exotic, as everyone is moving into the city
  • Gyldendal’s Johannes Riis: things become clearer/tydligere when they are portrayed in the provinces, it’s easier to explain isolation, loneliness and togetherness when there is less going on; mentions Mærkedage (2007) about the vanishing Danish farmer culture and others who write about vanishing features of life in the provinces, cf Erling Jepsen, Knud Rømer. early books by Helle Helle and Josefine Klougart; elements of demonisation by those who have embraced urban culture and feel they have escaped from something…it was ever thus
  • Jens Smærup Sørensen doesn’t think the contrast is as big as it was in the 1950s – we all live by the same norms, all in some form of city, have the same goals and dreams, travel to the same places, whereas at the time Jeppe Ankær there were differences in views on life and death
  • Gyldendal man, brought up on Mors, disagrees – small societies live in a subdued way, don’t necessarily say everything they are thinking, becauseyour neighbour will still be there tomorrow and it’s not possible to live in a state of permanent conflict; this offers authors the option of ambiguity, where not everything is written and some things are left between the lines
  • Erling Jepsen: contrast between town and country has never been greater – now it’s the country which has an underworld, drugs and weapons, all the things which we previously connected with the city, now a place of security; he can’t recognise the boring lives protrayed by eg Helle Helle; real life is what happens in the country
  • publisher Steen Piper set up Hovedland (based in Gjern, pop: <1.5K, is this a town??) as a reaction to the dominant cultural class in the big city – real life takes place outside urban areas…”der bliver ikke givet plads til forfatterne, som skriver fra et andet udgangspunkt end Forfatterskolen”


Other Scandi walkers/writers:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s