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.


Books, essays, lists:


Elsewhere (unless otherwise stated, Udkantsdanmark):

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”


  • in the spirit of Flâneuse let’s note that all those below are male, so a shoutout for Henriette Klejs Engelberg who has two nice pieces in Ark Review (Street haunting | Calvino’s 56th invisible city) and one on reading in Netudgaven
  • Adam Oehlenschläger (1779-1850) – inspired after a 16 hour walk in July 1802 to write Guldhornerne, a 1200 page epic; statue in Søndermarken at the entrance to Frederiksberg Slot
  • Hans Christian Andersen (1805-75) – see HC Andersen and place
  • Søren Kierkegaard (1813-55): see Kierkegaard 2013: CPH and the walks
  • Ludvig Feilberg (1849 – 1912): see Denmark’s philosopher of walking
  • Herman Bang (1857-1912; letters) – for his journalism and Copenhagen set novels Stuk (1887;  portrays the Grunderzeit when CPH’s brokvarterer began to be built outside the old volde, a la Hausmann’s Paris, but made of stuk, ie without real substance; modern ambition spreads beyond the old city walls to still far horizons; links with HCA in outsiderness and restlessness) and Ludvigsbakke (1896), plus general flânerie; Punch made much fun of him as Hr. Manbang (RU sure); buried in Vestre Kirkegård
    • from Herhjemme ug Derude (1881): if the modern writer wants to understand his times he must “ud at færdes i Trængslen…denne Færdsel i Trænglsen lærer ham mange Ting”
    • for more about Det moderne gennembrud see Af et skrig fødes en sang, an article about writer Johannes Jørgensen and the founding of the journal Taarnet in 1893 in his flat on the corner of Kastanievej and HC Ørstedsvej
    • contemporary flaneurs: JP Jacobsen (biog), Henrik Pontoppidan (Nobel), Holger Drachmann, Peter Nansen and Gustav Esmann; 1890s: Johannes Jørgensen, Johannes V Jensen (Nobel)
    • Herman Bangs København (2007; Martin Zerlang) – places for flaneurie: gader and boulevarder rather than medieval stræder, eg Østergade (bottom of Strøget), where AM Hirschsprung opened a tobacco shop at nr 6 in 1841, Cafe a Porta, also Cafe Bernina on the corner of Vimmelskaftet and Badstruestræde, Søtorvet, on the edge of the brokvartere (from Flanøren som fremskridtsspejder, contribution by Martin Zerlang to Uden for murene, produced for Golden Days 2002)
    • om pengeneNervøsitetens tidsalder
    • features in Bent Haller’s Abelone på Bangsbo (2017), described by the Danish Literary Magazine as “Downton Abbey meets Danish modernists”, yikes
  • Tom Kristensen (1893 – 1974) – born in London;  for his Copenhagen set classic Hærværk (1937; trans: Havoc, 1968); met James Joyce; see
  • Dan Turèll (1946-93): see Last walk through Copenhagen (slumromantik?); also for Vangede billeder (1975)
  • Peter Olesen (1946- ; interview) – tireless author of countless popular books on Copenhagen’s cultural heritage, some translated
  • Knud Sørensen (1928- ): DR doc: ” har i et havlt århundrede givet stemmer til det, der i dag betegnes som Udkantsdanmark. Han har skrevet om de massive forandringer af landet og landsbyerne. Samtidig er han en guldgrube af viden om kulturen i sin nordvestjyske hjemegn. Mød ham her og hør ham fortælle om sit eget forfatterskab og om forgængerne JP Jacobsen, Johan Skjoldborg, Jeppe Aakjær og Aksel Sandemose”
  • Martin Zerlang (1952- ) – prolific writer about the city and its writers; see People vs place in Copenhagen
  • Søren Ulrik Thomsen (1956- ) – poet and urban curmudgeon; see People vs place in Copenhagen
  • Thomas Boberg (1960- ) – travel writer and more; his latest, Via Francigena (256pp, DK 399,95: Politiken), is the efterskrift to Erik A Frandsen’s graphic account of their five week walk on the pilgrim’s way from Switzerland to Italy

Other Scandi walkers/writers:


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