THE LAUREATE: Johannes Vilhelm Jensen was born in a village in Jutland, Denmark in 1873 to a veterinary surgeon. He studied medicine at the University of Copenhagen, but gave that up after a few years to devote himself to writing. He deserves credit for introducing modernist forms and styles to Danish poetry: namely, the prose poem. He also wrote a vast novel attempting to evoke evolution for the common man, The Long Journey.
WHAT I’M READING: The Fall of the King, which is apparently Denmark’s most important novel.REVIEW: Parts of The Fall of the King are amazing. Jensen has quite an eye for the natural world. It’s unfortunate that he spends most of his time writing about how awful Danes were in the 16th century. The Fall of the King is divided into three sections, each centering around an event in Danish history. The middle section in particular is about Christian II’s massacre of Swedish nobles and the consequences that come from it. Our main character was Mikkel Thogersen, a spiteful, hateful man who starts as a student, rapes a girl near his village and then runs away to join the king’s guard. He makes friends with another soldier who happens to be the head of the estate near his home and who wanted to marry the girl Mikkel ended up raping, but who himself raped a Jewess (you know, because Jews only marginally qualify as people). The two offspring of these rapes appear unknowingly in the second section, end up married through a crazy series of pointless coincidences and then die. Mikkel himself dies before he can acknowledge his granddaughter in the third section. Also, there’s an actual homunculus, a little bonsai human with a computer brain. This book is kind of dumb.
RECOMMENDED: Sorry, Denmark, I don’t like your favorite book very much.
WHAT’S NEXT: Rudyard Kipling and his hilarious eurocentric bigotry, as showcased in The Jungle Book, or at least as much of it as is in this one partial collected works I have. Or as much of it as I can stomach.