Tove Ditlevsen

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Tove Ditlevsen
Born(1917-12-14)14 December 1917
Died7 March 1976(1976-03-07) (aged 58)
Resting placeVestre Cemetery (Copenhagen)
OccupationPoet, memoirist
GenrePoetry, Short Stories, Novels, Memoirs, Essays

Tove Irma Margit Ditlevsen (Danish: [ˈtsʰoːvə ˈtitle̝wsn̩]; 14 December 1917 – 7 March 1976) was a Danish poet and author.[1][2][3] With published works in a variety of genres, she was one of Denmark's best-known authors by the time of her death.[4]


Ditlevsen and Victor Andreasen as newlyweds, 1951

Tove Ditlevsen was born in Copenhagen and grew up in the working-class neighbourhood of Vesterbro. Her childhood experiences were the focal points of her work. Ditlevsen was married (and divorced) four times.[5]

In her life, Ditlevsen published 29 books including short stories, novels, poetry, and memoirs. Female identity, memory, and loss of childhood are recurring themes in her work. She began writing poems at the age of ten.[6] Her first volume of poetry was published in her early twenties.[7] In 1947, she experienced popular success with the publication of her poetry collection Blinkende Lygter (Flickering Lights). The Danish Broadcasting Corporation commissioned her to write a novel, Vi har kun hinanden (We only have each other), which was published in 1954 and broadcast as radio installments.[8] Ditlevsen also authored a column in the weekly Familie Journalen, responding to letters from readers.[4]

Three of her books, Barndom (Childhood), Ungdom (Youth), and Gift (meaning both poison and married), form an autobiographical trilogy.[6][9][10] The first two books were translated by Tiina Nunnally and published in 1985 by Seal Press under the title Early Spring. The complete trilogy, with the third book translated by Michael Favala Goldman, was published in one volume in 2019 (with the titles Childhood, Youth and Dependency) and referred to as The Copenhagen Trilogy.[11]

Throughout her adult life, Ditlevsen struggled with alcohol and drug abuse, and she was admitted to a psychiatric hospital several times, a recurring theme in her later novels.[12] In 1976, she died by suicide from an overdose of sleeping pills.[13]

Recognition and legacy[edit]

Ditlevsen was awarded the Tagea Brandt Rejselegat in 1953 and De Gyldne Laurbær in 1956. In 2014, she was included in the literary canon for Danish primary schools.[14]

Her poem "Blinkende Lygter", from the poetry collection of the same name, is referred to and namesake for the 2000 Danish film Flickering Lights, directed by Anders Thomas Jensen and often named the most popular feature film in its native Denmark in various polls. Her novel Barndommens gade was made into a film in mid-1980s and Anne Linnet released an album with poems by Ditlevsen, sung by Linnet. The music from the album was also used in the movie Barndommens gade.


Awards, prizes and grants[edit]

  • 1942 - Carl Møllers Legat
  • 1942 - Emma Bærentzens Legat
  • 1942 - Astrid Goldschmidts Legat
  • 1945 - Forfatterforbundets Legat
  • 1945 - Holger Drachmann-legatet
  • 1950 - Edith Rode Legatet
  • 1952 - Direktør J.P. Lund og hustru Vilhelmine Bugge's Legat
  • 1953 - Otto Benzons Forfatterlegat
  • 1953 - Tagea Brandt Rejselegat
  • 1954 - Emil Aarestrup Medaillen
  • 1955 - Tipsmidler
  • 1956 - De Gyldne Laurbær
  • 1958 - Jeanne og Henri Nathansens Mindelegat
  • 1958 - Morten Nielsens Mindelegat
  • 1959 - Forlaget Fremads folkebiblioteks legat
  • 1959 - Ministry of Culture's children book prize (Denmark) (Kulturministeriets Børnebogspris) for her Children's book Annelise - tretten år
  • 1966 - Rektor frk. Ingrid Jespersens Legat
  • 1971 - Biblioteksafgiftens top 25: 10 (She was number 10 on the top-25 list over library books
  • 1971 - Søren Gyldendal Prize
  • 1975 - Dansk Forfatterforenings H.C. Andersen Legat
  • 1975 - Jeanne og Henri Nathansens Mindelegat
  • 1999 – 23 years after her death, the readers of Politiken could choose a book as "Danish book of the Century". Ditlevsen's book Barndommens gade was number 21.[15]


  1. ^ Tove Ditlevsen - The Grand Danish Encyclopedia (in Danish)
  2. ^ Eberstadt, Fernanda (19 April 2022). "In Tove Ditlevsen's World, Happy Families Don't Stand a Chance" – via
  3. ^ "Tove Ditlevsen's Art of Estrangement". The New Yorker. 3 February 2021.
  4. ^ a b Petersen, Antje C. (1992). "Tove Ditlevsen and the Aesthetics of Madness". Scandinavian Studies. 64 (2): 243–262. ISSN 0036-5637. JSTOR 40919418.
  5. ^ Tove Ditlevsen (Kvinfo is a Danish encyclopedia about notable Danish women)
  6. ^ a b Busk-Jensen, Lise (20 January 2012). "The Labyrinth of Memory". Nordic Women's Literature. Retrieved 13 May 2019.
  7. ^ "Tove Ditlevsen". Penguin Random House. Retrieved 13 May 2019.
  8. ^ Sjåvik, Jan (19 April 2006). Historical dictionary of Scandinavian literature and theater. Scarecrow Press. pp. 49–51. ISBN 978-0810865013. Retrieved 13 May 2019.
  9. ^ Solis, Marie (6 May 2021). "The Brutal Transcendence of Tove Ditlevsen" – via
  10. ^ Eisenberg, Deborah. "Awful But Joyful | Deborah Eisenberg" – via
  11. ^ Jensen, Liz. "The Copenhagen Trilogy by Tove Ditlevsen review – confessions of a literary outsider". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 January 2020.
  12. ^ Syberg, Karen (1997). Tove Ditlevsen: myte og liv. Copenhagen: People's Press. ISBN 9788770552264.
  13. ^ Liukkonen, Petri. "Tove Ditlevsen". Books and Writers ( Finland: Kuusankoski Public Library. Archived from the original on 5 November 2011.
  14. ^ From Hoxer, Michelle (14 December 2017). "Tove Ditlevsen 100 år: Derfor skal du læse hendes romaner og digte" (in Danish). DR. Retrieved 13 May 2019.
  15. ^ (Danish Literature Prizes)

Further reading[edit]